IRL Rockets To Richmond
June 22, 2005 | 9:46 A.M. EST
This will be the IndyCar Series' fifth visit to Richmond , which has played host to the annual prime-time race since 2001. At .75 miles, the track is the shortest on the IndyCar Series schedule. With laps in the 16-second range, drivers are subjected to some the highest lateral g-forces they will see this season as described in the following first-person narratives:
Sam Hornish Jr. enters the SunTrust Indy Challenge as one of the most successful IndyCar Series drivers at Richmond International Raceway. Hornish, who is currently third in the series point standings, has three top-five finishes in four Richmond starts, including a win in the 2002 race. Last season, Hornish finished 13th, and led 76 laps.
“Richmond is definitely a place you can go and turn your season around. We're near the middle point of the season, so you want to go in there and have a good run.
“A lap around Richmond is 15 seconds at 170 mph. You go down a straightaway and get ready to turn for the corner and you never stop turning until you get back to the straightaway. On either line, you go from a flat part to a banked part It's like what I imagine dropping into a barrel would be like. You've see those guys who run motorcycles on the ‘Wall of Death' at the circus? That's what it feels like.
“Setting up the car is a lot about handling. You need a car that will run good on the bottom of the track, because it's the fast line, but also you also want a car that can run fast on the high groove because that's one of the few places to pass.”
Buddy Lindblom knows the unique challenge that Richmond poses to the mechanics and engineers in the IndyCar Series. As Panther Racing's team manager, Lindblom is responsible for the cars of Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge.
Lindblom also serves as Scheckter's spotter, and is placed at a vantage point, usually on top of the grandstands/tower in order to see all of the race track and provide information to the driver and team during the race.
“I think someone put it well by calling it a ‘Tiny Texas.' You race in multiple grooves and things happen pretty quick. So you have to have a car that handles really well. It's not necessarily all about power. It's more about handling and getting your power down coming off the corners as is traction control coming off the corners. Qualifying is always important. Have to be ready to run in multiple grooves and you'll be fine.”
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Firestone's race tire development team considers the configuration of each track as it chooses the tire compound to be used at each track. According to Firestone engineers, Richmond International Raceway requires a Firehawk tire designed for maximum grip due to the fact that the cars are constantly turning. The tire used at Richmond is similar to the compounds used at the 1-mile ovals at Milwaukee and Pikes Peak.