By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Richmond Raceway was the sight of the latest Aeroscreen test as the last two NTT IndyCar Series champions Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon ran laps Tuesday in preparation for the series return to the 0.75-mile oval June 26-27, 2020.
Dixon’s approach of running his second test with the Aeroscreen was no different his session a couple of weeks ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
During the noon conference, the five-time series champion said his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda ran fine this morning but changes are needed as a insecured device led to minimal info. Dixon also intended of trying different things that Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud was able to do at Barber Motorsports Park last week.
“We pretty much stayed with the same configuration from Indianapolis,” Dixon said. “I know the noise box I think has a few more openings on it, which is helping the flow there. There was a device that we tried earlier in the day, but it wasn’t secured well enough, that we’ll revisit later this afternoon.
“I think for the oval stuff, the car’s fine. I know there were some different additions they ran at Barber with the other two drivers there. Those I think we’ll try maybe later this afternoon as well with some helmet cooling options to prep everybody for the upcoming season.”
As for Newgarden, he learned quite a lot testing the Aeroscreen for the first time. At first, he came into the test wondering how much grip his Team Penske Chevrolet will have and adjusting to the new safety feature mandated in 2020.
“It doesn’t feel that different, to be honest with you,” Newgarden said. “When I first went out, in my perception of how much grip the car had and how much control I had in the car, was slightly different. But I think that was because it felt foreign. You’re not used to having a screen over your head.”
It wouldn’t take long for the two-time champion to realize it won’t have much of an affect with the Aeroscreen on the car as he found the proper balance that worked when it didn’t have the feature.
“After 20, 30 laps when you got used to it, the car feels very similar as far as the way I drive the car,” Newgarden said. “The way the car feels compared to a place like Iowa or Gateway, it feels very similar.”
“From a tuning standpoint, did not take much to get the car back into the correct window as far as the balance. I think the balance is still very good, even with the screen on. From that standpoint, I don’t think the cars are going to change dramatically going into next year.”
The inclusion of the Aeroscreen also brought up some thoughts of how it could affect aerodynamics and team communications.
Dixon said the additional weight could affect aero and perhaps see more tire degradation, slowing the performance of an Indy car quite a bit.
“I think you may see some differences, maybe, in outright lap time,” Dixon said. “We did add almost 60 pounds to the car. It may affect the aero a little bit. You’ll get some more deg with the higher COG, as well. There are some things that may slow down the performance a little bit.
“But honestly, I think it’s going to be almost a net zero on that kind of situation with the development in the offseason, people kind of working around it. I think it will be interesting.”
When Dixon tested with Will Power at Indy, they’ve felt slightly different when running together to see how much an affect traffic would play, but time will tell how it’ll play out.
Newgarden commented that when communicating with his team over the radio, he noticed that he could hear them slightly better and wind noise has been slightly reduced. At the same time, there are some caveats regarding that subject matter.
“I don’t think that will change much, I really don’t,” Newgarden said. “It’s changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit. For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.
“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine. I don’t think concentration-wise you’ll be any different.”
The last time INDYCAR ran at Richmond was in 2009, which Dixon won. It was hard for the veteran to describe any differences since his last visit because he only had Newgarden participating in the test. However, he did emphasized downforce and grip was noticeably different.
“It was definitely interesting. I think we’ve kind of been honing in on a lot of tires. We’ve been going through 10 or 15 sets of different construction and compounds,” Dixon on running Richmond. “The car does feel a lot different from when even we first ran here in the early 2000s to the last time we ran here, through that race as well.
“A lot less downforce, probably a little more power or similar power. It’s quite tricky, a lot of fun to drive. Feels fairly low grip at the moment in some situations. It’s hard to say, too, from a racing perspective as it’s only Josef and me here, and we’re mostly doing single runs at the moment.”