Road Trip – Penske Racing Museum

The outside of the Penske Racing Museum fits right in with the local desert scenery. The outside of the Penske Racing Museum fits right in with the local desert scenery.

There are many famous names associated with the Indianapolis 500 – Foyt, Unser, Mears, Andretti and now Castroneves as the latest driver to join the four-time winner’s club. However, one name stands above the rest and that is Penske. Roger Penske and his Penske Racing teams over the years have amassed 18 (as of March 2022) Indy 500 wins. Many of those coming from Unser, Mears and Castroneves. The Penske Racing Museum in Phoenix is a worthwhile stop if you happen to be in the area. Some of the racing car history highlights include: Al Unser’s yellow Cummins/Holset/Miller March 86C that was being used as a show car in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel, when Unser got a late call to race in 1987. The Ford Cosworth powered car earned Unser his fourth Victory and he became the second driver behind Foyt to win that many. Right next to that is the famous red and white Miller American “Spin and Win” 1985 March Cosworth that propelled Danny Sullivan into the record books. In another area is not only the Sunoco McLaren M16B that Mark Donohue drove to victory in 1972 for Penske, but also the Hurst/Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible that was given to Donohue for winning the race. Only 130 Hurst/Olds Cutlass convertibles from 1972 were built! Will Power’s 2018 Indy 500 winning Dallara/Chevrolet (and Corvette Pace Car) join some of the newer additions along with Josef Newgarden’s 2017 championship winning car. Mark Donohue got his first start at Indianapolis in the 1969 “500” and his four-wheel drive Lola T-152 is there with a plaque stating that he finished seventh that year and earned Rookie of the Year honors. There’s even a 1974 Penske PC-1 Formula One car that Donohue raced. This is a significant car in that it was the first car designed and manufactured by Penske Racing in Poole, England. Of the cars with fenders showcased, Donohue’s 1973 Porsche RSR IROC car that he won the inaugural International Race of Champions event at Riverside International Raceway (RIR) is there. He won three of the four events that year to become the first IROC champion. Roger Penske himself was a driver before becoming a team owner. In fact he won at RIR in a 1963 Pontiac Catalina that was owned by Nichels Engineering. That car is showcased there next to Brad Kesolowski’s Brickyard 400 winner and Joey Logano’s Daytona 500 winning NASCAR stock cars. Multiple engines (including the “Beast” – 1994 Indy 500 winning pushrod Mercedes), and scale models (some of which are actually wind tunnel models) are also on display. If you’re a racing fan and can appreciate the “Penske Perfect” way, then this is definitely a must visit place for you. It’s the best bargain in town – Free! BTW, his Ferrari and Maserati dealerships are adjacent so that there is plenty more to see, and buy! For more information visit: www.PenskeRacingMuseum.com.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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The outside of the Penske Racing Museum fits right in with the local desert scenery.

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1985 (#5) and 1987 (#25) Indy 500 winners are just two of the special Indy cars on display.

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The one that got it all started winning for Penske at Indianapolis is the 1972 Sunoco McLaren driven by Mark Donohue along with the Hurst/Olds Cutlass convertible pace car.

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Two of the race winning Ford Fusion NASCAR stock cars will grab the “doors and fenders” race fan’s attention.

Photos by Larry Mason

 

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2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Review

The best way to describe this edition of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is that it was like a rollercoaster – lots of ups and downs when it came to the weather, racing and emotions. Friday’s temperatures were near 100 degrees with track temps about 130 degrees and while everyone anticipated that the weather would slow everything down, the exact opposite happened. The street circuit rubbered in so well that lap times fell like the temperatures would throughout the weekend.

Practice 1 for the NTT IndyCar Series was done in those really hot temps on Friday afternoon, yet the top time was over two seconds faster than the fastest time in the same session last year. Saturday’s temps were closer to the low 70’s with the sunshine still plentifully abundant when the NTT IndyCar Series took to the track for knockout qualifying. In the Firestone Fast Six, Colton Herta continued his mastery of the seaside street circuit that he won on last year to earn the pole. He waved to the Honda HPD employees in the Turn 10 grandstand on his cool down lap as a salute to all of their hard work. He was followed closely by last year’s pole sitter, Josef Newgarden. Alex Palou rounded out the top three. Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi claimed the next two spots enhancing the outlook on their season. Romain Grosjean completed the top six after losing his two quickest laps due to a shunt into the Turn 5 wall causing a red flag. Without that blunder, he would’ve started second.

At the start of the race, Herta pulled away immediately and opened up a significant gap to Newgarden and Palou. He easily led the first 28 laps until his first pit stop. After all the front runners had stopped, it was Palou who found himself in front until lap 54 of 85. From there, Team Penske did a great job to get Newgarden out front where he would remain for the rest of the race. However, it wasn’t that easy as he had to fend off strong challenges from Herta (who locked up under braking and smacked the wall in Turn 9 driver’s left), Palou and with just a few laps remaining, Grosjean who was on the Firestone “Reds” versus Newgarden on “Blacks.” Neither had any push to pass left and on a late re-start Newgarden took a super defensive line into Turn 1 and kept the lead. With a lap to go, Takuma Sato nosed into the tire barriers in Turn 8 (which collected a number of cars during the race) and so the race finished under caution. In the post-race press conference, Grosean admitted that even if they had a re-start it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

In the IMSA WeatherTech 100 minute race, Sebastien Bourdais started from pole with a new track record and pulled away until overtaking a backmarker in another class at the Turn 11 hairpin. As he went inside on the entrance to the corner he lost grip, went wide on the exit and nosed into the outside wall driver’s left. He had to wait to back up and get going again and dropped to dead last in DPi. At that point he was upset with himself and figured that he had nothing to lose by being aggressive in traffic and charging to the front. In his own words every time he needed to make a pass he was just going to “send it.” He did just that in the drive of the weekend and handed off to his teammate Renger van der Zande who dutifully brought the Chip Ganassi Cadillac under the checkered flag for an exciting win. It was an all-Cadillac podium with the sister Ganassi car in second and the JDC Miller Motorsports entry in third.

In the GTD Pro category, Corvette Racing snared the pole with Jordan Taylor although it was the Aston Martin Vantage driven by Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas that brought home the victory ahead of the Vasser Sullivan Lexus and rounding out the podium was the Corvette.

In GTD, it was the BMW M4 of pole sitter Madison Snow along with teammate Bryan Sellers who drove to victory over a super competitive field. The podium was rounded out by an Acura NSX and Lexus RC F.

The Historic Motor Sports Association Invitational was a real fan favorite with cars from the pinnacle of IMSA GTP and European prototype era. The sensational sleek and sexy looking cars still look modern even 30 years later. Furthermore, the variety of machinery from chassis to engines thrilled the fans ‘round the track. Former Porsche factory driver Patrick Long went two for two in the events on Saturday and Sunday in Tom Malloy’s Leyton House Porsche 962. Tom Long was second on Saturday in the beautiful in look, and in sound, four-rotor, silver and blue Mazda RX-792P. Jerome Rodela rounded out the top three on Saturday in the Eagle Toyota MkIII. On Sunday, McLaren’s Zak Brown brought his gorgeous Jaguar XJR10 home in second followed by the lone non-prototype Porsche 935 of Martin Lauber.

The Porsche Carrera Cup races had Kay van Berlo take both wins over a very large field that also had numerous caution flags throughout both races.

The Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Truck races were won by one family – Gordon. Both Robby and his son Max won with Robby taking the win on Sunday and 13 year old Max being victorious on Saturday.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Colton Herta jumps out to an immediate lead at the drop of the green flag of the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately for him, a smack to the Turn 9 wall (after locking his brakes on Seaside Way with 30 laps remaining) ended his chance to win back-to-back.

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Late in the race Newgarden leads Palou and Grosjean. A late restart allowed Grosjean (on Firestone Reds) to get past Palou but he fell just short of winning and settled for second place. Notice the marbles off line.

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Here Josef Newgarden leads Colton Herta after great pit work by his Team Penske crew. Notice the rubber building up in the expansion joint and the marbles off line. 

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From L-R, Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden, and Alex Palou share the podium celebration holding up their hard-earned trophies.2022 AGPLB Bourdais T10 crop

Sebastien Bourdais had the drive of the weekend after qualifying on the pole with a new track record, dropping to last in the race and charging back to the lead before it was all said and done.2022 AGPLB HMSA start crop

Patrick Long put on a driving clinic against the other historic prototype drivers to take home two victories over the weekend.2022 AGPLB Max and Robby T10 donuts crop

Robby Gordon and his son Max celebrate Max’s win on Saturday. Dad Robby would win on Sunday!

Photos by Larry Mason

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2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview, Part 2

The 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to its normal springtime calendar date (after being last year’s season finale in September) on April 8-10. In this week’s blog we’ll preview the main event – the NTT IndyCar Series.

After being last year’s season finale, where Alex Palou was crowned season champion and Colton Herta blitzed through the field from his 14th place starting position to win, there were no shortages of story lines heading into the weekend. This year, Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin is the hottest driver after winning the first race of the season in St Pete and then dominating the Texas Motor Speedway oval before being passed by his teammate Josef Newgarden just as the checkered flag flew. Either way, he brings a healthy points lead into Long Beach this weekend. He’s no stranger to this track and after competing and winning in Bathurst Australia in SuperCars, he will no doubt be competitive here. Although, those words would apply to most of the field as most teams have decades of setup experience here. 

Who to watch? Team Penske is on a roll. Currently their drivers hold three of the top four spots in the points. Newgarden has never won at Long Beach, however his teammate Will Power has. All three of these teammates have a great shot. 

Alexander Rossi won the last two races before the Coronavirus pandemic and has suffered bad luck in each of the first two races this year. Look for him to rebound at the Beach.

Colton Herta thrives on street courses and after having won last year’s event, it’ll be no surprise to see him back in Victory Lane.

It was at last year’s race that Romain Grosjean was announced as the newest driver for Andretti Autosport taking over the DHL car in 2022 driven for so many years by Ryan Hunter Reay. Grosjean hasn’t had a win yet and Long Beach would be the perfect track to do so.

You can never count out Scott Dixon, Palou or even their teammate Marcus Ericsson to finish on the top step of the podium for Chip Ganassi. Dixon’s done it here before. Palou finished fourth in a conservative drive last year and is only two points shy of second in the championship coming into this race. Their teammate Ericsson has unfinished business at Long Beach after crashing out in Turn 1 last year.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Arrow McLaren SP, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Meyer Shank, Ed Carpenter and Dale Coyne Racing teams can step it up and turn things around. There are multiple Long Beach and other race winners in that group. Specifically Pato O’Ward will have a huge cheering section, but don’t count out former Long Beach winners Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Graham Rahal seems to race better than he qualifies so he’s always a threat. Rinus VeeKay has already won an Indy car race and could add to that here while Takuma Sato has been running strong for Coyne and is also a former winner here.

Long shots? Kyle Kirkwood driving for AJ Foyt has shown impressive speed for that team and could surprise everyone. Callum Ilott learned the track last year and could impress this year along with Christian Lundgaard driving for RLL. Jack Harvey returns after concussion protocol and Felix Rosenqvist also wants to turn his season around and get back to winning.

For a complete weekend schedule, visit: https://gplb.com/weekend-schedule/

Photos by Larry Mason

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Will Colton Herta go two in a row at Long Beach?

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Will Alex Palou go from last year’s season champion’s Winner’s Circle to Victory Lane in Long Beach?

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Alexander Rossi will want to forget about last year and the start of this year and get back to his Sunday drive through the park and winning ways that he showed in 2018 and 2019 at Long Beach.

Photos by Larry Mason

 

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2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview, Part 1

The 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to its normal springtime calendar date (after being last year’s season finale in September) on April 8-10. In this week’s blog we’ll take a look at the support races during the weekend.

Highlighting the Saturday action will be the stars and cars of the IMSA WeatherTech Series. After two races and 36 hours of endurance competition, it’s all about the sprint at Long Beach – 100 minutes to be exact. Acura finished one, two at the Rolex 24hrs of Daytona and Cadillac swept the podium at the Sebring 12hrs. Acura will want to win their “home” race at Long Beach and the track record is held by Helio Castroneves in an Acura. However it was Cadillac that brought home the victory here last year. Top drivers from around the world will fight hard for victory in one of the marquee events of the season. 

GTD Pro is a new class taking over for GTLM this year. The cars are the same spec as the GTD class but feature pro drivers only. Keep in mind that the GTD cars typically employ one pro driver to be paired with an amateur driver so navigating traffic will be key in qualifying and the race. These two classes will provide the majority of entries for the IMSA race.

For those that yearn for the good old days of IMSA GTP, you’re in luck as the Porsche 962s and many more cool cars of yesteryear will have their own show to put on during the Historic IMSA GTP Challenge with two races over the weekend on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Sports cars are all the rage this weekend with the Porsche Carrera Cup Series making their Long Beach debut. These are all spec Porsche 911GT3 Cup race cars and since they are identical in build, should put on a great show on Saturday morning and closing out the weekend on Sunday afternoon. Over 30 cars are expected to take part in the racing action.

Of course Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Truck Series always thrills the fans with their high flying act over the temporary ramp jumps installed around the track. These trucks grab big air time but are equally adept at “bicycling” around the track on two wheels. Their massive suspension travel allows them to really take advantage of using the curbs to cut the corners even further for a better lap time. The racing is superb too as “reverse aerodynamics” help the trucks in the back to have an aero advantage over the trucks in front. Don’t miss these truck races on Saturday and Sunday afternoon!

Not to be left out is the Super Drift Challenge. These high-horsepower cars with extreme steering angles will amaze anyone who sees how fast and how loose cars can get while producing billowing clouds of tire smoke as they race their way around the Turn 9 – Turn 11 complex. It’s almost like synchronized mayhem as the cars are released from Seaside Way to “pair up” with each other in the sideways sliding action. Friday night and Saturday night will thrill one and all with the loud and extreme party atmosphere of these incredible machines and drivers.

For a complete weekend schedule, visit: https://gplb.com/weekend-schedule/

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Will Acura win during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend or will Cadillac spoil the homecoming?

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Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks are a high-fly act and fan favorite.

Photos by Larry Mason

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Spencer Bayston – World of Outlaws Sprint Car Driver

On a recent road trip, Larry Mason happened to meet Spencer Bayston, a young driver in the super challenging World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series (WoO). Bayston was gracious enough to give us time for a quick interview that sheds light on his type of racing. This interview was done on March 21, 2022. He’ll be racing in Bakersfield, CA on Friday the 25th and in Perris, CA on Saturday the 26th. If you’re able to make it out to either track, we think you’ll be impressed by the spectacle of flat-out sprint car racing. To follow his career please visit: www.SpencerBayston.com. For the full WoO schedule, please go to: www.WorldofOutlaws.com.

Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Spencer Bayston is focused on winning the Rookie of the Year in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series in 2022. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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In this photo of the left side of the car, Bayston works hard to place his WoO 410 sprint car on the best line around the Tulare, California track. The challenge is that the track is always evolving along with the best line to take. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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In this three quarter front shot from Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, you can see Bayston trying to put 900 hp to the ground while sliding just enough to maximize his speed around the track. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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Blast From the Past – Fast Lane Racing School Graduate Wins Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race

04-20-2013-tpcr-win1-2 Adam Carolla 2013 Pro Race

A fan favorite at the Grand Prix of Long Beach over the years was the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Fast Lane was the official school to get all of the celebrities up to speed for their first time racing. In 2012 Adam Carolla won the event as a celebrity. He returned the following year as a Pro and won the event back-to-back! After his second race win I had a chance to talk to him about how it went and found out that a very unusual thing happened to him during the race that he had to overcome. Listen to his story and enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Street Car Driving Aids – Technology to Help Keep You Safe

Blind-Spot-Intervention-1200x691 In this illustration, the RADAR is looking back and to both sides to recognize if there are any other vehicles in your blind spot. Photo Credit Infiniti

In our previous installment, we looked at Lane Departure Warning Systems. 

Today we’ll take a look at Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Intervention (BSI) systems. Keep in mind that if your mirrors are adjusted properly, you would rarely need the electronic nanny. The fact is that the vast majority of drivers have their side-view mirrors improperly adjusted (you can see your door handles) so therefore, the electronic version plays a handy part.

Most BSW systems utilize RADAR systems located within the rear bumper to actively “look” for vehicles encroaching into the space within a set distance around your vehicle. When you’re driving along a highway (usually these systems are set to activate above a certain minimum speed) and another vehicle enters the pre-set (by the manufacturer) drive zone that could be a potential danger if you were to change lanes, the system will alert the driver with a warning light typically mounted in the side-view mirror (or sometimes in the A-pillar). If you use your turn signal to indicate a move into the lane where the other vehicle is located, the system will then typically flash the warning light and also beep at you letting you know that another vehicle is in that restricted space.

Newer systems also include an Intervention function to the feature that will actually use the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) to apply light braking on the opposite side of the vehicle to help keep you in your lane. Other systems can use the electric power steering systems to try and keep you in your lane. Upping the escalation in warning, there may also be haptic feedback in the steering wheel to make a point of “now is not a good time to change lanes.”

Typically these systems work very well but aren’t perfect. It’s up to the driver to use all of the available tools; mirrors, physically moving your eyes and head to look, and always having an awareness of what’s going on around you. Scanning your mirrors every 8-10 seconds is a good rule of thumb. Also, it’s always a great idea to keep your vision up and look way ahead of you down the road. The further ahead you look, the less likely you are to find yourself caught in a situation where you have very little time to change lanes. Looking ahead is a great way to “buy” you some time – and that’s a commodity that’s extremely valuable!

NOTE: Different manufacturers have similar technologies and will use different feature names to describe their individual systems. 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Street Car Driving Aids – Helpful or Harassing?

QX60_59_BB1A0505-4-1200x800 Today's technology is showcased in this photo of the 2022 Infiniti QX60 instrument panel display. The all-new QX60 builds on LDW and LDI and goes a step further with the ProPILOT Assist with Navi-Link SAE Level 2 driving assistance program. From this picture you can tell that the camera has picked up the lane lines (displayed in green) and also that the steering assist for lane centering is working (green steering wheel). It's also showing that it has a RADAR lock on the vehicle in front (icon of vehicle under the word Cruise) for the system's Intelligent Cruise Control. In the case of the QX60 it gives you a haptic feedback response in the steering wheel should you begin to depart your lane without signaling. Photo Credit Infiniti

With technology in today’s street cars expanding at an ever more rapid clip, it’s no wonder that the supply chain chip shortage has slowed production and availability of new cars at your local dealership. However, once you get behind the wheel of a new car, you’ll be seeing, hearing and feeling multiple bits of sensory feedback based on the sensors, lights, speakers and electronic bits throughout.

Today we’ll take a look at Lane Centering, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intervention (LDI) systems. Highway traffic safety studies have shown that when an unintended departure from a driver’s lane occurs, a significant percentage of traffic accidents follow. At first, there were LDW systems that utilized a forward-facing camera that was looking for clearly defined lane lines (via contrast with the rest of the road) and if the software associated with that camera found that you had departed your lane (without signaling) then it would typically sound a beeping tone to alarm you of your failure to keep your car in its lane. Great idea - right? It was until the reality of everyday driving sometimes has you getting out of your lane, whether it’s a passing maneuver or avoidance of debris in the road. Sometimes there could be a black tar line that the camera would mistake as a lane line and the beeping would go on constantly even though you stayed in your lane. It’s the beeping that typically gets people annoyed to the point where they want to turn off these driver aids.

From there, LDI was brought into play via the vehicle’s ABS system. This allowed the vehicle to apply slight braking pressure on the opposite side of the car from where the vehicle was veering out of its lane. This wouldn’t necessarily prevent the car from departing its lane in all circumstances, but it still would work under certain conditions to help prevent a big “off” into the weeds. The driver, through steering, could still overpower this system.

With the advent of electric power steering systems, the cars of today can actually see (through that forward-facing camera) and steer (electronically) and help keep you centered in your lane and therefore hopefully not even have to use the LDW or LDI in the first place. If for some reason the vehicle can’t stay centered in its lane and it does stray adrift, the vehicle can not only beep but also give the driver some sort of haptic feedback like vibrating the steering wheel or the seat cushion (depending on the manufacturer). Of course with all of these systems you’ll also typically get an audible alarm (beeping) and also a visual cue (lights on the dash and/or somewhere else). 

The bottom line is that an undistracted driver is the best driver behind the wheel. 

NOTE: Different manufacturers have similar technologies and will use different feature names to describe their individual systems. 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Indy Car Technology – One-on-One with Cara Adams, Chief Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Part 2

Cara Adams is the chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. She and her team play a key role in the reliability and performance of the cars in the NTT IndyCar Series. In Part 1, Adams gives you her background and intro into racing and delves into some of the details about race tire construction including the mechanical and chemical aspects and how that changes depending upon tracks and car configuration. In Part 2, she discusses how Firestone communicates with teams during race weekends to maximize performance and what happens to the tires once they come off the cars and more. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

 

Cara Adams

Cara Adams is in her element on pit lane taking copious notes and communicating with the teams and media during race weekends.

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The numbers on this Firestone tire indicate durometer readings (hardness) and depth measurements.

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Here a team member heats and scrapes a worn tire clean to enable him to get a more accurate tire depth measurement.

Photos by Larry Mason

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Indy Car Technology – One-on-One with Cara Adams, Chief Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Part 1

Indy Car Technology – One-on-One with Cara Adams, Chief Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports
Part 1

Cara Adams is the chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. Her mechanical engineering degree is key in her understanding of how to build reliable, performance-oriented tires that supply the entire field of the NTT IndyCar Series. In Part 1, Adams gives you her background and intro into racing and delves into some of the details about race tire construction including the mechanical and chemical aspects and how that changes depending upon tracks and car configuration. 

 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

Cara Adams is not only well spoken, but has the knowledge and experience to help keep all the drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series focusing on driving fast and always having a consistent tire to race on.

Cara Adams is not only well spoken, but has the knowledge and experience to help keep all the drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series focusing on driving fast and always having a consistent tire to race on.

The Firestone “Reds” are the softer alternate compound that can give the driver extra confidence to push just a little bit harder around the track when trying to win the pole position in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying sessions. The Firestone “Blacks” are the primary compound and both types must be used during the race.

The Firestone “Reds” are the softer alternate compound that can give the driver extra confidence to push just a little bit harder around the track when trying to win the pole position in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying sessions. The Firestone “Blacks” are the primary compound and both types must be used during the race.

Photos by Larry Mason

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