Rank Driver Points
1 Josef Newgarden 642
2 Simon Pagenaud 629
3 Scott Dixon 621
4 Helio Castroneves 598
5 Will Power 562
6 Graham Rahal 522
7 Alexander Rossi 494
8 Takuma Sato 441
9 Ryan Hunter-Reay 421
10 Tony Kanaan 403
11 Max Chilton 396
12 Marco Andretti 388
13 James Hinchcliffe 376
14 Ed Jones 354
15 JR Hildebrand 347
16 Carlos Munoz 328
17 Charlie Kimball 327
18 Conor Daly 305
19 Mikhail Aleshin 237
20 Spencer Pigot 218
21 Sebastien Bourdais 214
22 Ed Carpenter 169
23 Gabby Chaves 98
24 Juan Pablo Montoya 93
25 Esteban Gutierrez 91
26 Sebastian Saavedra 80
27 Oriol Servia 61
28 Jack Harvey 57
29 Fernando Alonso 47
30 Pippa Mann 32
31 Zachary Claman DeMelo 26
32 Jay Howard 24
33 Zach Veach 23
34 Sage Karam 23
35 James Davison 21
36 Tristan Vautier 15
37 Buddy Lazier 14
Rookie of Year Standings
1. Ed Jones 354
2. Esteban Gutierrez 91
3. Jack Harvey 57
4. Fernando Alonso 47
5. Zach Veach 23
Universal kit unveiling kicks off 'Future' of IndyCar
Old car with new clothes
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Josef Newgarden addresses the IndyCar media
For INDYCAR, "The Future Starts Now" - and it began today with the official unveiling of the highly anticipated car that will rule the roads, streets and ovals in the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018 and beyond.
A panel of dignitaries from within the sport and the automotive industry gathered at the North American International Auto Show to talk about the newly developed universal aerodynamic bodywork kit that will be affixed to the Dallara IR-12 chassis and used by all competitors in the 17-race season that begins in seven weeks.
The universal kit is the result of more than two years of discussion, design, simulation and testing. Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, told media attending today's presentation that reception to this point has been emphatically positive.
"This may be the public premiere," Miles said, "but there's been a lot of talk and we're having trouble finding a critic. It looks great and ... we believe that the changes that have been made will provide for great racing, more passing, more exciting racing. So we expect that to be great news for the ongoing growth of the series and we're looking forward to seeing this beautiful car in action."
Josef Newgarden won the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship driving a Team Penske Chevrolet in the last of three years of aero kit competition between Chevy and Honda. Those kits constantly sought ways to add downforce for higher cornering speeds - much of it generated by winglets and other aero attachments to the top of the race car. Going forward, the universal kit produces less downforce overall and most of it from the underwing on the bottom of the car.
Newgarden is all for that.
Mark Reuss - Chevy Boss
"We've tried to check the boxes on everything you need to with this car to make sure it's going to function well and give us what we were looking for from a design standpoint," said Newgarden, the 27-year-old from suburban Nashville, Tennessee. "INDYCAR is really looking to deliver on big promises. As you can see, it's bolder, it's more daring and really, we believe it has improved aerodynamics that are going to help the racing product tremendously, so I'm looking forward to that probably the most.
"We believe it's going to be faster, we believe it's going to be safer, it's going to provide better racing like we've talked about."
The universal kit was reverse-designed to start with an aesthetically pleasing look - sleek, bold and reminiscent of fan favorites from the 1980s and '90s. From there, the aerodynamic and safety objectives were achieved without sacrificing the appealing appearance.
Walking around the car on stage, Newgarden outlined the changes. He pointed out the smaller front and rear wings with fewer pieces that could create more debris in on-track incidents. He mentioned the redesigned undertray that will improve air flow underneath the car while helping diminish the wake of turbulent air behind the car, thus making it easier for cars to approach and attempt to pass a car in front.
Newgarden also highlighted the sleek lower engine cover, leaner rear tire ramps and improved safety with reinforced sidepods and moving the radiators farther forward to absorb side impacts. He added that removal of the rear wheel guards and other parts from the previous kit shifted the weight balance slightly forward, which will improve handling.
"The design has really been clear on what we're looking for," Newgarden said. "We want it to be an incredible-looking Indy car. We want people to come back to the IndyCar Series and love what we're producing from an aesthetic standpoint, but the message that we really want to push is that our racing product is going to be the best on the planet.
"Speaking as a driver, I don't think you're going to get a better race car out there to drive as far as an open-wheel car goes. You're really going to have a great racing product."
Newgarden's boss, Team Penske owner Roger Penske, also participated in the presentation and agreed with his star driver. Indy cars owned by Penske have won 15 season championships, 16 Indianapolis 500s and 197 total races since 1968.
Press Conference Participants from Left Frye, Reuss, Penske, Arcangeli Jr., and Andretti
"I think Josef gave you a good update on the vehicle," Penske said, "but the opportunity to showcase the drivers (with the universal kit) because the downforce was so high on the existing cars in '17 and before, this will give us a great opportunity. I know all the drivers that have tested it, both on the Honda side and the Chevy side, are giving us great reviews, so from a cost perspective, a competitive perspective and I think the look of the car, it's going to be a home run."
Mario Andretti, whose 52 wins rank second on the all-time Indy car chart, has been around the sport for more than five decades. The four-time champion applauded INDYCAR for developing the universal kit and what it means for the series.
"Our audiences today are more sophisticated than ever and they want more and more from us as far as the product, as far as action on the track, overtaking and so forth," the legendary driver said. "We have to give it to them because that's what we like to do, ultimately. I think this is the best way to achieve it.
"Like I said, this thing is beautiful as it is. It's just going back to what the pure open-wheel, single-seater should be."
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule consists of 17 races, starting with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC), anchored by the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 27 (11 a.m. ET, ABC) and concluding with the Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16 (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Mark Miles Josef Newgarden Jay Frye Mark Reuss Roger Penske Henio Arcangeli Jr. Mario Andretti Jay Frye Josef Newgarden
MARK MILES: Welcome, everybody, and thanks for being with us. I'm pretty sure I heard Roger Penske on the radio in that video saying push it, push it, and I'm sure the driver pushed it. Anyway, we're really glad you could be here with us today. Excited about the opportunity to be at the auto show here at the home of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, making it particularly appropriate.
I'm going to talk to you a little bit about our perspective on the growth of IndyCar the last few years, a couple of thoughts about moving forward, and we will have the treat of having our Verizon 2017 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden join us, and he's going to walk us through his view of the new car, which constitutes really its public premier here today, and then we have a distinguished panel of experts who will take some questions and talk to us a little bit about their perspective about the future.
The past few years have been a story of growth of IndyCar. We had a way of thinking about it a few years ago, which was taking back the heart of racing, and I think we're making great strides in doing that, and we get a lot of feedback from our fans indicating that that's the case.
By all measures, our fan base is growing, whether it's about TV, earned media, online, our social conversations, exposure on television, for example, over the last few years is up 38 percent. Our audience has grown 38 percent, almost doubled on NBC Sports Network, and that's not something we take for granted today when there certainly are some headwinds for live sports on TV.
It's not just on the screen but also at our races. Here at Belle Isle, for example, last year there was record attendance over their history that they were able to announce, a great crowd, great vibe at the track.
In Indianapolis, coming off the 100th a couple years ago, we've kept a lot of that growth, and so now our expectation is the base for attendance on race day at the Indianapolis 500-mile race is 300,000 people, over 400,000 for the period of May, and we expect that to continue to be strong and if anything to grow. Many of our tracks reported increased attendance at their races.
The championship schedule is really the foundation for this growth. The long-running events like St. Petersburg, Florida; Long Beach, California; Detroit; Toronto; Texas; Sonoma are the foundation for that. But we've also taken the opportunity to go back and add some tracks that our fans really care deeply about, and in a while we'll be back in Portland.
On the track the racing has been competitive. I think anybody who pays any attention to motorsports knows it's compelling sport, but it's also true that the way it works in terms of the championship has been compelling, and you see this slide, you can tell it says, for 12 straight years, the finale, the decision about who will be our champion, has come down to our very last race, and really just the last few laps of the year.
And this year we had the opportunity looking backwards to welcome and crown and celebrate a new Verizon IndyCar champion in Josef Newgarden, who you'll hear from in just a second. We've been talking about the arrival of this generation for some time, but now we can say they are here and are taking their place, and we think they give us enormous confidence for the ongoing growth and the popularity of IndyCar for years to come.
Looking forward, we are well into the process to make new media arrangements for the coverage of IndyCar Series beginning after the 2018 season, and I can just tell you today that we're quite optimistic that this will be an even stronger platform for more fans to take in IndyCar racing. We're looking forward to being able to make those announcements.
A sign of growth, and I think the vitality of the series is that we are welcoming four new team owners into the series this year, and these are not folks that are unfamiliar with us. They've been involved in racing. They've been involved in Indy Lights, and they're going to add great competitive dynamics to our racing.
Part of that is that they've ordered between them about 12 new engines at Dallara, are feeling the effects of this new investment, and then there's the car itself. I feel guilty standing between you and it because we think it's gorgeous. We think it has really excited our fan base. This may be the public premier, but there's been a lot of talk, and we're having trouble finding a critic. It looks great, and I think as Josef will tell you, we believe that the changes that have been made will provide for great racing, more close, more passing, more exciting racing.
So we expect that to be great news for the ongoing growth of the series, and we're looking forward to seeing this beautiful car in action.
In order to talk about that, I think it's important that we bring Josef up here, but first we're going to show you one more video to give you a sense of what you can expect from this new car.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Thanks, everyone, for being here today. This is really a great opportunity for us to showcase this new car, and it's an honor for me to actually go through it with you. I'm one of the drivers. I get to drive this thing not on a daily basis but pretty often throughout the year, so I'm really lucky to do that.
For us, this is called the universal aero kit, so it's a new era for us. This kit is going to be shared by all the drivers in both manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda. We're not going to have to worry as much about the aero design, but we're still going to have that engine competition between us and battling it out on the racetrack.
It's really the culmination of years of research of what we want to do with IndyCar going forward, and it's on the back of an extensive six-month testing program last year. So it's really been run through its paces. We've tried to check the boxes on everything you need to with this car to make sure it's going to function well and give us what we were looking for from a design standpoint.
IndyCar is really looking to deliver on big promises. As you can see, it's bolder, it's more daring, and really we believe it has improved aerodynamics that are going to help the racing product tremendously, so I'm looking forward to that probably the most.
There's quite a bit of engineering that's gone into the car. To me it looks more like an IndyCar should. You think about the '80s and '90s, the heyday of IndyCar racing, this is what you want to see from the product. We believe it's going to be faster. We believe it's going to be safer. It's going to provide better racing like we've talked about.
What I want to do today is show you the car. I want to go through it from the driver's standpoint. I'm not an engineer, but I work with a lot of engineers and I should know about the engineering behind this car. It's part of my job.
If you start with the front wing, it's been recontoured, reshaped. There's going to be less reliance on the front wing than in years past, so you're really not going to have to rely on the airflow that we've had in the past. When a car gets in front of you, normally it affects the front wing, makes the car harder to drive. There's going to be less reliance on this front wing. It's a beautiful looking front wing, and it's going to have that same adjustability that we're going to need going track to track. If you think about IndyCar racing, we're the most diverse racing series on the planet; got to go to high downforce, low downforce configurations depending on the track. You're just going to have that great adjustability from the front wing.
And then as we walk to the middle here, the car has actually been lowered, so as you can see on the screen here, this is Scott Dixon in the speedway configuration. We've actually lowered the car in speedway configuration, so we've reconfigured the floor of the car, or the underwing we'll call it, so that we can get the car lowered. It actually makes 6 percent more downforce from the underwing.
The side pods have been moved forward, so they were really swept back in the past. We've brought those forward again. Looks more an IndyCar, and then you get the added benefit of safety with that, as well. There's more crushability here, so there's more that has to go through this side pod now to get to the driver, so we're really happy about that, not from an esthetic standpoint but also from a safety, and really that's the biggest safety improvement that we're going to get from this new aero package.
Now, as you see from the top on this photo, you can see the car has a Coke bottle shape, so the airflow has been improved on the way we attach the air to the back of the car and feed it to the underwing. The kind of common theme is powering the floor of this car. We want the floor to be the most powerful thing on it so we rely on that downforce and less on the wing. It's got a great Coke bottle shape, improved airflow to help that performance of the floor in all configurations.
As you can see here, too, we've got the tire ramp still. The tire ramp is really critical, actually. We've got to keep the drag low on this car if we want to meet our qualifying speed targets at Indianapolis. If you want to do speeds of 240, 245 miles per hour, you've got to have a low drag configuration. You've got to have a coefficient that works to get you those numbers. So this tire ramp is a little bit leaner, it's a little sleeker looking, but it's still going to give us those drag numbers we're looking for to get the qualifying speeds at Indianapolis. So we're really happy about that.
Now as you get to sort of the back of the car, we've also got the engine cover. That's a big change from last year. The old engine covers were a lot higher, and it would actually feed the turbo chargers through the roll hoop. So now that's completely gone; it's a lot lower, a lot sleeker. We're actually going to feed the turbochargers through the radiator inlets now, so it'll be feeding in this direction. You get the engine cover a lot lower and sleeker, really fits the proportions of the car a lot better. I think it makes the car a lot more beautiful, too, so just kind of fits what we're going for from a theming standpoint.
As you come to the back of the car, you can see this is the oval configuration of the aero kit. It's more about what's gone than what's new. There's no beam wicker, there's no bumper pods anymore. Those all added up to about 35 pounds of weight, so taking those off the car, it looks a lot better in my opinion. It looks like an IndyCar, and it's moved the weight distribution forward a little over a percent. So what that weight distribution change is actually going to do is actually going to make the car more predictable. It's a lot easier in my opinion to drive, in my opinion, from a predictability standpoint, and makes the car a little bit more nimble in situations, too, so it's just going to improve the racing, improve the feel of what the driver has behind the wheel, and we're really going to like that.
With the road course wing, same story as the front. Less reliant on the front wing. We want the floor to do the work for us, so when I'm racing behind a guy at 200 miles per hour, I can get as close to his bumper as possible. I want to be able to race him. I do not want the air to disrupt what I'm trying to do when I'm racing a guy. We really feel the wings on this car are going to help drive the direction to the underwing so we can race guys closer, have better passing, have better battles on the racetrack, and I think you're not going to get that anywhere else in an open-wheel championship around the world. The design has really been clear on what we're looking for. We want it to be an incredible-looking IndyCar. We want people to come back to the IndyCar Series and love what we're producing from an esthetic standpoint, but the message that we really want to push is that our racing product is going to be the best on the planet. Speaking as a driver, I don't think you're going to get a better race car out there to drive as far as an open-wheel car goes. You're really going to have a great racing product. You're really going to have a great racing product. You're really going to be able to race guys as close as possible.
I hope you love look, I hope you love the racing in 2018. Thanks for listening to me this morning, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the auto show.
KEVIN LEE: Thank you all for joining us today. On behalf of NBCSN and our friends at ABC and NBC, we cannot wait to get started. We are less than two months away from the opening of the IndyCar season. ABC will have that on March 11th, and then NBC then kicks off their coverage on April 7th. We've got a great panel to talk about the season in the new car. I know it's not technically a new car, but for all efforts, it is a new car, so we refer to it that way with the common aero kit.
Let's welcome our panelists up on the stage. First, the IndyCar president of competition and operations, Jay Frye; next, the executive vice president from General Motors, Mark Reuss. Legendary IndyCar owner and motorsport legend Roger Penske is here. He had a nice short trip here to join us. Welcome to the IndyCar family, from American Honda, Henio Arcangeli, Jr., is joining us. He doesn't need an introduction, we'll do it anyway, four-time IndyCar champion and 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, motorsport legend Mario Andretti.
Jay, both Honda and Chevrolet have been fantastic partners for IndyCar for many years but also have expressed the desire for more competition. Might that attract more OEMs?
JAY FRYE: First of all, we'd like to thank Chevrolet and Honda for all their support. It's phenomenal. The winter of 2015 we started talking about the aero kits and the future and where we wanted to go collectively as a group. Simultaneously we started talking to some other OEM prospects, and based on all those conversations we really got to this point, so in March of '16 we come up with a vision of what it could look like. The vision was through collaboration of our OEM partners, our teams, our paddock, and the fans, so we're quite proud of where we ended up, and I think this will be the centerpiece of this five-year plan that we have in going forward.
KEVIN LEE: Looking forward to more competition and great racing. Mark Miles spoke about this, the television ratings are up, the attendance at track is up; how does that help Chevrolet grow its brand with IndyCar?
MARK REUSS: A few years ago when we sat down and put this engine program together again to get back into this sport, it was a little bit of a leap of faith, but I can tell you that the new crew here with Jay, C.J. and Mark have done a great job of growing the sport, and that's what we had hoped, and if you look at the buyers here that tune into this, 20 percent of those are millennium, the next gen. In that buyer set we've got about 20 percent higher opinion of Chevrolet in terms of reliability, durability and technology, and of course the twin turbo V6 is something that we take that technology like the fuel injection piece of that and the direct injection piece of that, we take it right into our passenger cars and crossovers, so there's a great engineering technical exchange. There's a great fan base we reach, and it's in a place that's now growing again, and I couldn't be happier for American motorsports and open-wheel racing.
KEVIN LEE: You have a home event coming up. There's a race in Detroit, actually two races, the only double-header on the schedule. It's the week after the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet is the title sponsor, the host. What does that event mean to Chevrolet and also to the city of Detroit at Belle Isle?
MARK REUSS: I'll tell you, when you go back to the crisis that the country and our company went through and you look at the birth of the Duel in Detroit during that time frame, I've got to tell you, that was a real part of teaching our company how to win again. So internally it means a ton, but it also brings a lot of money to the Belle Isle conservancy, and you can see that place year by year, race by race, turn into a place once again that is the pride of Detroit and of course our home office Terry Dolan and Jim Campbell drape the bowtie on the headquarters, which is always a great thing for us. Really no less than taught a lot of our company how to win again.
KEVIN LEE: We also have Roger Penske to thank for the IndyCar events here in Detroit, as well. Roger, you've talked before about the importance of consistent rules, cost containment. How does this common aero kit help in those areas?
ROGER PENSKE: When you think about costs, which obviously we're looking at that throughout all series today, I think the evolution of the aero kit has been terrific because we can take our existing chassis and put this aero kit on it and instead of spending 400,000 or 500,000 for a car, these kits are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000, and it gives us the ability to go to the next step, the look at the cars. The drivability, I think Josef gave you a good update on the vehicle, but the opportunity to showcase the drivers now because the downforce was so high on the existing cars in '17 and before, this will give us a great opportunity. I know all the drivers that have tested it, both on the Honda side and the Chevy side, are giving us great reviews, so from a cost perspective, a competitive perspective, and I think the look of the car, it's going to be a home run.
KEVIN LEE: Sponsorship is critical for all motorsports, certainly for IndyCar. You announced a new partner coming back in Hitachi here over the week. What are you hearing from your partners as far as the growth of IndyCar, the momentum, and this new car? How is that going to impact things?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the numbers that you saw today are obvious. Attendance is up. The interest for young people, we see the demographics now at these races. I mean, it's just amazing. They're real events, super events in some of these cities like here and Toronto and Long Beach and certainly in St. Petersburg, but from our perspective we announced Hitachi as a sponsor that has come here early on because they like the technology. They can be part of the engine build and be part of that, which made a big difference. We see more people knocking on the door today that we have in the past, and I'm not sure that's the same all across motorsports.
I think today the market is strong for us, and with the flexibility of the 500-mile race certainly at Indianapolis, you have Pocono and then you have street races, permanent road courses, this is the flexibility that we want. It's not just one series, one oval. We get that flexibility.
And another thing is that the series isn't 36 races. We can go racing with a reasonable budget and we can do it for obviously much less, and I think that's tremendous, and I would hope that Jay listens to me today. Let's keep it at this number so we can keep costs down, you got it?
JAY FRYE: I always listen.
KEVIN LEE: Henio is new fairly recently to Honda, so welcome to the IndyCar family. Honda is involved in virtually every form of motor sport globally. How does its presence and its work at IndyCar help the Honda brand and what you're trying to do?
HENIO ARCANGELI JR: Thank you, and good morning. Let me begin by saying that Honda is passionate about racing as well as the IndyCar Series. In fact, Honda has had a continuous, uninterrupted involvement in American open-wheel racing since 1994, 24 years. At its heart, Honda is actually a racing company. If you go back and look at the founder of Honda, Mr. Honda, he built a racetrack in Japan, Suzuka, before he ever built a production automobile. So racing is very important to Honda, and the IndyCar Series is very important to our motorsports strategy.
KEVIN LEE: Honda has had good success at the Indy 500, winning three of the last four. What are the chances for 2018, kind of starting all over with common aero kits?
Henio Arcangeli Jr.
HENIO ARCANGELI JR: You know, we're very hopeful. Honda has been able to power 12 winners over the past -- since the Indy 500 was created, and the associates who are involved in our racing program, every year their No. 1 goal is to win the Indy 500, and this year is no different. We're very happy with the teams we are working with. We think we have fantastic drivers, so I think our chances are very good.
KEVIN LEE: We want another driver's perspective on this, quote, new car. Mario, as a driver, as an observer, closely following what's going on, how do you think this is going to impact competition this year, and also what's your general level of enthusiasm for IndyCar as we move forward?
MARIO ANDRETTI: Well, I certainly don't lack enthusiasm, and I hear a lot of positives, and there is a negative in all this is I don't have a ride yet.
KEVIN LEE: Roger?
MARIO ANDRETTI: What's wrong with you guys? I drove for you, Roger. I'm only a little older, but you know what I mean?
ROGER PENSKE: I'll have a seat for you tomorrow, okay?
MARIO ANDRETTI: Now I feel better. But to answer your question, obviously kudos to IndyCar for really taking a big, big step definitely forward because we all know that since the inception of ground effects and the sophistication of aerodynamics, aerodynamics are always a blessing and a curse, a blessing because obviously you get the downforce that all the drivers love because you go quicker around the corners, and the curse is you're creating turbulence, you're paying the price. And there's always been this how do we get a balance, and it's been a forever argument as long as I know, and I think from what was learned in the past few years in the previous car, I think a big step is made now to achieve what all the drivers have been complaining about, and that is I just can't get close to the guy in front of me.
Let's face it, our audiences today are more sophisticated than ever, and they want more and more from us as far as the product, as far as action on the track, overtaking and so forth, and we have to give it to them because that's what we like to do, ultimately.
And I think this is the best way to achieve it. Like I said, this thing is beautiful as it is. It's just going back to what the pure open-wheel, single-seater should be. But the features here, by having more ground effect downforce and reducing the surface aerodynamics, which creates all of the turbulence, is a huge step forward. As I say, from here, I think we really have something to work with. And the beautiful part is also that more of a level playing field because there's a unit that was good across the board, but you always have to keep in mind the show itself and give the competitors a level playing field.
And I'll tell you what, this series -- even the veterans in our series are young enough to really be around a long time. I mean, look at Scott Dixon. I mean, he's coming up on all-time, breaking all-time records as far as performance, you know. And then you have young dudes like Josef behind us here, who comes on the scene strong as can be, is with a team now that's given him the opportunity to win. Boom, he wins, wins a championship, and here we go. Now we have the American contingent competing, obviously, against the international arena, and that's the best of all worlds. We like that. There's a lot of pride that goes into that.
We have all of that going in this series, and I can't wait for the first race, quite honestly, and like I said, if I get a ride, then I'll be over the moon.
KEVIN LEE: And Dixon is gaining on you, so you need to space that gap.
MARIO ANDRETTI: I know, I know, I've got to get back in it. I've got to defend.
KEVIN LEE: As Mario mentioned, great competition, wide fields, depth. 21 different winners in IndyCar in the last six. Coming up on April 7th, there's an open test to the public in early February in Phoenix, as well. Thank you to those that watched worldwide on IndyCar.com and here in Detroit, and we'll see you soon at the racetrack.
Newgarden and Frye
MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's INDYCAR media teleconference. Earlier today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, INDYCAR formally introduced the car that will race in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. We're happy to be joined by one of the gentlemen who made that formal introduction today, Jay Frye, president of competition and operations of IndyCar, and a little bit later we'll be joined by the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden.
But first we'll start with Jay. Welcome to the call.
JAY FRYE: Thank you, Arni.
MODERATOR: Jay, it was a year ago about this time at the auto show when you were showing off concept drawings for what would be the look of the future Indy car. Today that future is now. What has the roll-out of the new car been like for you and everyone here at INDYCAR?
JAY FRYE: Thank you. It's been a phenomenal team effort by our current OEM partners, Chevrolet and Honda, all the teams, everybody in the paddock, all our guys at INDYCAR and girls have done a phenomenal job to get it to this point. A very proud day. This process started early in December of '15 with I guess the direction or what could be the direction. By first quarter '16 we came up with a vision of what the car could look like and how it could possibly perform, and like you mentioned, we unveiled what it possibly could look like last January here.
It's been a long process, but it's been very rewarding and very, I guess -- it's done everything we thought it would do and then some, so we're really pleased and encouraged by where we're at.
MODERATOR: This version of an Indy car, every time you look out on social media and talk to fans they're excited about the car. It looks like the drivers are excited about the car. What does this version of an Indy car mean to the future of the sport?
JAY FRYE: Well, part of this, again, whole process we talked about, we've come up with a five-year plan, so the plan actually was activated and started in '17 by freezing the current kits and then having the universal car starting in '18, so this car will run in '18, '19, and '20. End of '18 we'll get together with a collaboration of people and come up with what our goal or plan is for '21 and beyond, so the plan is kind of a rolling five-year plan.
So so far, so good, and I think coming from a team perspective it's important to have -- that everyone understands the direction of the series, where we're going, what we're doing, what it's going to cost. All this is locked in now for the next three years, so I think, again, this all goes back to all the people that helped make this all happen, and it was a great effort by our entire paddock, by Chevrolet, Honda, Dallara. Firestone has been at all the tests with -- this car is probably going to need a little bit different tire than the '17 version, so it's been a great team effort.
MODERATOR: What has the feedback been from the teams and the drivers to you about the testing of the car?
JAY FRYE: It's been very good. Again, what's really good about it is it's really correlated. When we did our tests with Oriol (Servia) and Juan (Montoya), there were certain things they thought and said and felt, and then once it went to the manufacturers' testing that continued on, and now with the team testing it's continued on. The car has always correlated. It's done what we thought it would do from all the data that we collected on it originally from the scale model testing to the CFD, all the work we did. This car has correlated very well.
There's been some really unique and I think, kind of cool byproducts of the car, too. The drivers all feel like it has so much more horsepower. The car has so much less drag, they've all said this feels like it's got a lot more horsepower. That's a byproduct of what we have worked on, and that was something we didn't expect them to say, but they have, and that's been something that's correlated across the board, too.
There's unique nuances to this car. We're excited about it. Good day today. A lot of people saw it for maybe the first time here, so excited to have it.
MODERATOR: Josef, I know you've had the chance to drive one of the new IndyCars already in manufacturer testing. How excited are you to get your hands on this car?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Very excited. You know, I thought it was a perfect way to display the car today. Obviously people have seen the car over the last six, seven months. There's been a lot of testing that's been happening, and there's been stuff in the media describing what the car is about, why it's been developed and taken the way it is. But for me, this was great to get on stage and really talk about the car in depth, where the direction has gone, what we really hoped from the car, what it feels like as a driver. I thought Mario was the best. He was the most fun for me to listen to, just describing what he thinks the fans are going to see at home next year.
It's been great. I can't wait to get going on track with more cars. We've not had a ton of cars on track together. Normally it's just been two or three, so I think once you get a whole pack together, you're really going to see what this car is capable of.
MODERATOR: What does the car drive like? Compare it to the car you won the championship with in 2017.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think it depends next year on the tracks, so people are going to have to pay attention throughout the whole season to really see how it develops.
I think street courses are going to be the biggest difference. Any development that you've had setup-wise on street courses I think is going to be thrown out the window. I think we're all going to have to work really hard to figure out what this car wants. Essentially the car is more lively. It slides around a lot more. You have to be comfortable with it moving underneath you, particularly on corner entry. Drivers are going to struggle to find their footing on their braking and getting into the corner. The rear is really wanting to come around on you.
And then after that, it's really going to be about managing tires over stints. I think that will be difficult, which is a good thing. It's really going to make it hard on the driver to last through the entire race stints. And then the most important thing is just the following rate. With this new car and the way the aerodynamics work, it's all about powering the underwing. We want to make the downforce for the car mainly from the underwing, not disrupt the air to the car behind you. So I think the following is going to be a lot better. You're going to be able to be just right up on someone like a Formula Ford or a go-kart even.
That's really going to play into the hands of the drivers that like to race close, and the drivers that like to do that I think are going to put on a good show for the fans.
MODERATOR: Yesterday Team Penske announced that you'll be carrying the Hitachi colors in eight races in 2018. Two-part question: One, what will it be like carrying those colors that are very associated with Team Penske and your teammate Helio Castroneves? And carrying that No. 1 on your car and being a marked man, is there any extra pressure with the number, as well?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I was just speaking with some of the folks at Hitachi actually. We're just about to have a press conference here at the auto show, and secretly I was actually a little jealous of Helio over the last couple of years. I think Hitachi is such a wonderful brand. It's really fun to see how they're integrated within the sport. These guys are all about technology, innovation, helping practically in the real engineering world, both socially and in environments like IndyCar.
For us, they partner with Chevrolet, our engine manufacturer, and they help us build a better engine. There's a really fun tie-in for them, and to be part of their team and their culture, for me it's a real treat.
Like you said, to carry the No. 1, that adds a little bit more pressure, but the thing that I tell people is when you drive for Roger Penske, there's always pressure, so whether you won a championship or not, I think that level of -- not expectation but responsibility to do your job and represent the group well and trying to get the most out of yourself, I think that's going to be there the same as it was last year.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, after testing the concept and with it being rolled out in 2018, what kind of speeds do you expect to see at the Indianapolis 500 coming up in May? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, you know, I've not actually been on the speedway yet. Dixon, Hinchcliffe has been there, Montoya has been there, so I've gotten to talk with those guys a bit. I really think you're going to see very similar speeds to what we had this year, 240, 245 miles per hour. We really worked hard to drastically change the entire car but keep the top speeds where they were the year before. The drag coefficient, everything about the car, which is a lot of what we walked through this morning, I think you're going to see very similar qualifying speeds to what we saw last year.
Q. What about safety? Do you think the car is safer this year? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, absolutely, yeah, yeah. Really the biggest change from that is going to be the side pods. So we've moved everything forward. There's a lot more crushability from the side pod. It's more positioned in front of the driver on the side. That's probably the biggest safety advancement just from the aero kit side. Obviously we're always pushing for any development that we can have, and I keep talking to Jay about the screen that we've been working on, and it's exciting to see the level of detail that IndyCar has put into this and really the care that they've gone through to make sure that we're developing something that's going to be only a benefit and no negatives.
We're continuously looking for that. But I think with the new kit itself, the side pod moving forward, not just from an esthetic standpoint looking to me much more like an IndyCar and really good, but it's going to provide that crash structure that the drivers have wanted for the safety cell.
Q. Jay, you talked about the process the past couple years of development of the universal kit, and while obviously something like that is never flawless, were you surprised as smoothly as the process went overall? JAY FRYE: Yes, but I think part of it was that we had a -- it was a well-thought-out and good plan. If you go back to the whole process starting in December of '15 through coming up with a vision, kind of idealist in the first quarter of '16 to freezing the kits for '17, going through the process that summer to figure out what we wanted to do, and then even coming here last January where we unveiled some sketches and drawings of the car. I think in that time frame we also tested the '17 version car with some of the ideas we had for the '18 car, and everything came back from that. So this car is correlated throughout the whole process, whether it's scale model testing, track testing, anything we've done, and that's a huge compliment to everybody who's been a part of this, and we're really proud of where it is.
Q. What does that say for people like Bill Pappas and Tino Belli at IndyCar for the efforts that they've put in? JAY FRYE: Yeah, Bill and Tino did a phenomenal job, and them and Andrea Toso at Dallara did a phenomenal job. Chris Beatty was part of the process. The teams are part of the process, the manufacturers are part of the process. We're just really proud of this car. This is very much IndyCar's car, where we all had a hand in getting it realized. Even the fans, think about last year when we were here at the auto show when we did the renderings, we got the fans' input. We wanted to provide them something that they were looking for. I think when you've got a car that has a great historical feel, I think we got our identity back like Josef said a minute ago. There's some other things that we're going to be looking at. This is just the first step in this process, and then there's a five-year plan that started last year. The next three years we'll run this car, but there may be some little nuances that we do to this thing over the next couple years that could even add to and enhance the car and where we're going.
Q. And Josef, you talked about entering the corner and a little bit of instability there. This is part of the process of bringing the driver more back into the equation and relying on driver skill more, and that's what the drivers wanted, right? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, the drivers definitely got what they asked for. We wanted a car that was more difficult to drive, that really put it more into our control. That makes us valuable. I mean, teams pay us to drive these cars at the limit, and we want to showcase our worth to the team.
I think you're going to see that next year. You're going to see a car that just is constantly moving. You're going to have to become comfortable with that if you're not already. And at the same time, it's more fun to drive at the limit now. The car is more predictable with the weight distribution moving forward and all the other handling characteristic changes, it's actually more predictable to drive. I enjoy driving it on the limit, and I think there's a lot of good drivers in the field that are going to appreciate that aspect from the car, and like I said, it's going to be a challenge this first year figuring out how to set this thing up. That's the biggest thing that's going to change is what does it really need now to be driven at the limit.
Reuss and Penske
Q. And knowing that going in, I guess in addition to your teammates, who I'm sure you mentioned, who do you think are going to be your main competition for the championship this year? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I still think you'll find the guys that were towards the top last year. I think they're still going to be around, poking around for the championship and for an Indianapolis 500 win.
But someone asked me this question earlier. I think it's hard to discount anybody. I mean, the top teams if you want to consider the Penske, the Ganassi, the Andretti organizations as the really large organizations, they really struggle to find separation now. You don't get that like you got 10 years ago where there was big performance gaps. Sort of the mid-sized teams such as an Ed Carpenter Racing or Schmidt Peterson or the Rahal organization, it's very difficult to find big performance gaps, and with that just comes extreme competition.
A guy like Graham Rahal, he can very easily win the championship. He can win an Indianapolis 500. The Schmidt Peterson boys like James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens now, they're going to be very difficult to beat.
I don't know if I can really call out one or two people. I think you're going to have, absolutely, Power, Pagenaud, Dixon, those are going to be very tough guys to beat, but it's really the whole field you're going against, and that's sort of been the motto with IndyCar racing over the last five, six years, is our competition is pretty much as tight as you can make it.
Q. Jay, it appears the new car is going to race very well with the closeness, and by taking and making universal aero kit you wanted to open it up for more engine manufacturers to look at it. Is that making any progress? Have you got some engine manufacturers that do want to come on board? JAY FRYE: Well, first of all, thank you, and I appreciate that. It's been, again, a great team effort. There's been great collaboration on this whole process and project. Again, when we started it in December of '15, we did, and we continue to talk to other OEM's about our direction where we're going. We've made them part of the process. We thought about who best to -- we didn't want to come out with a five-year plan that no other OEM wanted to be part of, either, so we actually had them be part of the process, so they're aware of what we're doing. They seem to be enthused about what we're doing. Does that mean they're coming for sure? Obviously there's still a lot of work to do, but I think we've removed some hurdles going forward.
Again, this is just coming from a team perspective. I think it's great that we have a plan that the teams know where we're going the next three to four years. Everybody has been part of the process to get us where we're at today.
The end of '18 we'll start talking about what we're doing to do in '21, so it'll be a rolling five-year plan. I think this paddock is full of brilliant people. Our manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda are great partners, Firestone has been with us every step of the process, so the future feels really bright, and we've just got to now go execute and keep doing what we're doing.
Q. I understand that there's also a windscreen that's going to be tested to try and eliminate the driver getting hit with anything, to avoid that. When do you start that testing to see how that works, and will you use it in the coming season? JAY FRYE: We've been testing different applications over the last year, and whether it's the CFD, the simulation work, different materials, we've even quietly had little strips of products on the front of the side pods on a few cars just to see what it does abrasion wise. So we've been very thoughtful and going through a process.
We hope to have something possibly on a car at the Phoenix open test. This will be the first time we actually put it on a car on a racetrack. Again, it's truly to tell what would be next and when it would happen. We just want to make sure we do the right thing and we get it done correctly, and if that takes -- again, the car as it sits right now has a much more robust safety feature with the side impact piece, with the Coke bottle shape and with the side pods moving forward. We just want to keep going. We're not done. We'll hopefully have something to look at here in a couple of weeks.
Q. One of the things that I wondered about was the abrasion which obviously you're testing, and I understand that the product or the material being used there's no distortion with wrapping around, so that's apparently not an issue, and I certainly think you guys are on the right track using that as opposed to the halo system which to me doesn't look that great. JAY FRYE: This piece -- one of the things we always talk about is data doesn't drive, so so far we've had all this stuff, some of what the data says this and the simulator says this. The day we actually get it on a car, an actual race car and a race car driver driving the thing, that's the ultimate final test. That ultimately tells where we're at in the process and where we've got to go next.
That's something that we're looking forward to getting done here very soon.
Q. Josef, as a driver, mentioning about less downforce coming from the wings now and more on the floor and the corner entry, thinking about street courses such as Detroit, such as St. Petersburg, first race of the car with the bumps and all of you screaming down into that first turn, the first lap for the first race of 2018. Could you talk a little bit about from your point of view as a driver will you be reminding yourself at that point that you'll be in that brand new car with the new characteristics or will that be something that will be minute by minute? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, that's a good point. We probably should have that speech with the field before we go out there. I'm sure we'll be reminded by race control that we need to watch as it's a new car and it's going to be our first time running it in race situations. You can't predict all that stuff. I think there will be some guys that get caught out. Heck, it could be me even. I could get caught out in the first race. It's going to be different. The brake zone is going to be slightly different, the characteristics of the car, the way it attacks corner entry, the way it feels on corner entry, the way we're going to drive side by side, how close we can race each other, those are all going to be new things that we're going to have to figure out. In a way, that's exciting. The driver has got to learn something new. The fans get to watch that process. But it can also bring some risks. There might be some accidents to start the year, and that's all part of it. It's all part of racing and figuring out how we've got to race this car. To me it's an exciting thing. It's an exciting thing to go through as a driver, and as a fan I think it's an exciting thing to watch.
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