The long offseason has begun, but before everyone packs it away for the winter, there’s some testing to be done.
IndyCar unveiled its new Aeroscreen Wednesday and put the series’ newest safety innovation to the test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Scott Dixon and Will Power were the test drivers for this round. Together they ran about 650 miles and both topped out at around 224.5 miles per hour. Both drivers said that they would be comfortable using the Aeroscreen if there was a race this weekend.
Both drivers didn’t report any problems. The speeds they attained were promising given they weren’t trying to find speed and the cars weren’t trimmed out. Better yet, the record-high, 91-degree day presented the perfect real-world simulation, given the conditions mimicked what they may encounter in May.
There are three more tests scheduled at Barber Motorsports Park, Richmond Raceway and Sebring before the end of the year.
In a recent post (that I can’t find), I said that I am all-in, which I am. Seeing it bolted on the cars does make me a little sad, too. While it’s a totally necessary safety addition, one of the things that drew me to open-wheel racing was the face that you can actually see the drivers. During the last race at Laguna Seca, I watched the first half of the race from the Corkscrew. It was so cool to see the drivers and their hand action as they hustled their cars down that hill.
I don’t know how much of that we’ll be able to see with the Aeroscreen, and while I’ll miss it, the trade of that and keeping drivers safer is one that I’m willing to make.
I know some people have complained about how it looks. I’ll accept that, it’s basically a retrofit onto the car, but the strawman-driven part of the fanbase does have me a bit ticked off. People talking about adding fenders or doors…come on. Windscreens aren’t a new thing, they have been a part of open wheel cars off and on for decades.
Just look back at some of the iconic cars of the past 50 years. A.J. Foyt’s 1967 Indy winner…had a windscreen. Mark Donahue’s 1972 McLaren…windscreen. I could go on and on, but windscreens have been a part of IndyCar for a long, long time. Now it’s just being combined with another safety innovation that has already proven to have saved lives.
Not to mention, when the new chassis rolls out in a couple of years, the Aeroscreen will be a natural part of that car’s design, which I think will make it look pretty badass.
But you know what really pisses me off? It’s the jerks (and I would use a stronger word if Host Mike would let me) who think adding safety features to IndyCars is wrong because racing is supposed to be “dangerous” and that because Parnelli, A.J. and Mario looked death straight in the eye 30 weekends a year and never blinked, dammit, today’s drivers should too.
Honestly! I was reading some of the replies to tweets from guys like Marco Andretti, and I was kind of embarrassed for the people that gave those kinds of responses.
I don’t get it. I’ve been following racing for 40 years and the danger factor was never something I thought about. I grew to love the sport through the beauty and speed of the cars, and the otherworldly skills of all of the drivers. I’m sorry, I don’t understand that mindset, because I can’t get past the fact that the drivers are human beings. And, I’ve met almost all of them, so they are definitely living, breathing people to me.
The thought that people go to races to see wrecks or for the desire to possibly see something happen to another human being just makes me sick. Maybe those people should walk the paddock and see what the “danger” has done to some of the drivers of the past. Rick Mears wears sandals because of his mangled feet, Sam Schmidt and Robbie Wickens are in wheelchairs. At Monterey I saw Chad McQueen, the son of legendary actor and racer Steve McQueen, and he can’t turn his head because he had his neck fused years ago after a crash at Daytona. Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson are dead.
Are you not entertained! Are. You. Not. Entertained!
These people aren’t gladiators, and racing isn’t a bloodsport anymore.
IndyCar, and all of the racing bodies around the world, owe the drivers that run under their banner their full commitment that the cars and tracks are all at the highest level of safety possible. Yes, racing is dangerous, as are lots of things in life. Driving a passenger car is dangerous too, but we would be outraged if the car companies decided the cars they are building are “safe enough” and so they don’t need to add any more features. Same concept with racing.
Lots of people try to make out drivers like Foyt, Parnelli and Mario as “man’s men”. Which they were, it took a ton of courage to get into some of the machines they did back in the day. But those three, along with people like Jackie Stewart and others, were some of the loudest voices and staunchest advocates for safety improvements in racing. They didn’t race because they had some sort of a tough guy death wish, they did it because they were extremely skilled and had and insatiable desire to compete.
While it takes a while to make a change, change is good. Hopefully the tests that they run over the next 2-3 months shows the same progress, and they are a part of the series moving forward. And, hopefully people come to see the Aeroscreen as one of the most important safety innovations ever.
Pit Lane Parley
It may be the offseason, but the show goes on for PLP. Check out their latest episode on any of your favorite listening platforms, or you can hear it on iTunes.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media