Texas Motor Speedway

Motorsports Insider: New aero kits have IndyCar drivers champing at the bit

Helio Castroneves tests the new aerodynamic package on his car at Barber Motorsports Park.
Helio Castroneves tests the new aerodynamic package on his car at Barber Motorsports Park. AP

Helio Castroneves and Ed Carpenter were willing to wait out the rain Friday at Texas Motor Speedway in order to test out the new aero package produced by Chevrolet for the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The weather, however, wouldn’t cooperate and they had to wait until Saturday to run through the tests. But that willingness shows how eager these drivers are to get behind the wheels of their new rides.

The new kits in the updated cars have essentially been designed to increase the downforce configuration on road courses and short ovals. On the bigger tracks, such as TMS, more consistent downforce.

That will produce more speed for the drivers and, in theory, tighter races with more side-by-side racing.

“It should be closer racing … in theory,” said Carpenter, who won last year’s IndyCar race at TMS. “But I’m all for going faster. I like the idea of breaking track records and things like that. It’s fun for us. It’s one of the reasons we love IndyCar because we want to race the fastest cars in the world.

“It should be great for the sport and more exciting for the fans.”

Castroneves agreed. He feels there are better days ahead for IndyCar with these new chassis.

Not only will there be more speed, but it also has allowed the manufacturers — Chevy and Honda — in the engineering rooms. Each manufacturer designed and produced its own aero kit, so there is a chance that one of them gained a competitive advantage over the other.

“Whoever did their homework in the off-season is going to be better off,” Castroneves said. “That’s why literally nobody knows right now. We’ve seen pictures from Honda, we’ve seen pictures from Chevy, but we’re going to find out here in the next few weeks about it.

“It’ll be great for fans to see the difference when they’re watching and I think that’s going to be really cool.”

And, as Carpenter said, “Honda and Chevy are two committed manufacturers who are here to win, which is good.”

Rain might have wiped out Day One of testing at TMS, but it’s evident the drivers were ready to try out the aero kits and get back into a car for the first time since the season ended.

The real test will come when the season begins March 29 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

“It’s great that the season is starting back up soon,” Castroneves said. “I’m thrilled to be here testing and can’t wait to get going. I’m sure my other colleagues feel the same way.”

SAFER talk

Ever since Kyle Busch was sidelined after a wreck at the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, there has been talk about tracks needing to install more SAFER barriers.

The barriers are designed to soften the blow and impact drivers feel when running into a wall, and Texas Motor Speedway has almost half of its track covered in them. But installation is not as easy as it sounds.

It takes time and money to do it, plus there are a limited number of manufacturers who make it.

“A fan can easily say, ‘Put it everywhere,’ but it’s just not that simple,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “The expert is NASCAR. We pay them to tell us these kinds of things. They’ve got the consultants and they’ve got the engineers and all like that. They’re everywhere that NASCAR’s told us they should be and if they tell us we need to add some here or there, we’ll certainly do that.

“The last thing you want to do is have anybody get hurt.”

He said it

“The first race I chose is the one at Texas. It is such a great track I wanted my first experience doing this to be at a track that had a lot of action and storylines and one that would give me plenty to talk about and to me that is Texas.”

— Cup driver Jeff Gordon on why he chose to serve as the analyst on Fox Sports 1 for the Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at TMS on April 10.

Telling number

5 Cup wins by Jimmie Johnson at Auto Club Speedway, site of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race