If the sweltering heat and high humidity aren’t enough to handle, a trip to the little oval at Iowa Speedway is IndyCar’s only double header of the year. With maximum downforce applied to the cars at a short 0.894 oval miles, drivers will have more than 4,500 pounds of aerodynamic load to handle with their steering wheels as the four ovals flash with each lap of less than 20 seconds.
Thanks to the lack of power steering, Iowa is notorious for the severe physical losses the IndyCar field takes under normal conditions; With the sun down on the track and an associated rise in cockpit temperature due to the visor safety device, the 250-lap race on Saturday and the 300-lap race that will follow on Sunday would be nothing short of grueling.
Colton Herta, the first driver to win an IndyCar race using a cooling system that circulates cold water through micro-hoses sewn into a custom T-shirt worn under a fire suit, expects to see cool T-shirts put into regular use this weekend to try to combat the heat. Associated fatigue.
“It’s going to be brutal, no matter what, great shirt or not,” Andretti Autosport driver told RACER. “It’s going to be tough and it will be interesting to see how the cars handle the heat. There could be a 10 to 15 degree difference between race 1 and 2, and that would make a huge difference to the balance of the car as well, so we might see the guys going back for that.” .
“I don’t think I’m going to use the cool jersey for training; I can handle the heat for an hour or whatever I’m doing 10 laps or whatever we do, but for the race it will definitely be.”
Besides enforcing the use of cooling vents – the gills – at the leading edge of the noses on Dallara DW12s and side scoops that feed air to each driver’s helmet, the teams have the option to install the “top duct” as it’s called the chainring that mounts over the front of the air fender and directs air to the driver.
IndyCar also allows for the installation and use of cool jersey systems developed by the team that add approximately seven to eight pounds to the vehicle. Excess weight is not subject to the equation, which means teams that choose to run without the system are not obligated to add 7-8 pounds of ballast. Here’s where some teams are looking to work without driver cooling systems to gain an advantage by running lighter than those who install the devices on their cars.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly isn’t sure if his team will run his new system. There is concern about the effect of weight on the handling of their cars.
“We don’t want to sacrifice any performance, so we remain on the fence about that because without a doubt, I don’t want to give up on a performance,” Daly said. “But it’s going to be horrible in the car. So we’re planning on saving the cool jersey, but if we go in there and all of a sudden the balance is off, we’re going to rip that sucker out of there.”
The bigger question to consider is whether the performance gains from leaving the cool jersey system out of the car are greater than what the risk teams face if the driver starts to overheat and loses power, stamina and focus. Simply put, if running without the system results in a 0.1s improvement per lap due to reduced vehicle weight, but the driver starts losing that amount of time or more due to the heat exhaust setting during the final stages of a 250- or 300-lapper, what’s the more call Intelligence?
“It seems silly, doesn’t it, to worry about adding a little bit of wasted time to each lap, but what if you’re dead on the last 50 laps and then end up wasting time on each lap just because you can’t do it?” said Herta. I also feel like it’s a good time to scream PitFit and all the workouts we’ve been doing because as far as I’m concerned, every time I jump in the car, I’m ready and mentally and physically there has been. Even with all that, it will still be a problem.
“Everyone talks about the physical nature of Iowa. Then you have two races and then you have 95 degrees with 80 percent humidity or something. It’s kind of crazy. If this was the first race of the year, I think the guys would be completely out of the race. But for good Lucky, we’ve already been in some hot races, have nails piled up on our hands and have built up stamina. But it’s definitely going to be brutal.”
For Daly, who has struggled to keep his core temperature from overheating in Iowa-like conditions since the introduction of the air barrier, he is left to hope the situation will be tolerable once he starts working on two heads.
“Realistically every driver is different, so some drivers are totally fine with everything and are hotter than the sun because everyone’s body works differently,” he said. “You see guys like Will Power, even Newgarden using the cool jersey; super fit people are going for that because we cook and it’s physically hard to drive these cars.
“And then guys like Rossi, and half of the real elite athletes, don’t sweat. They’re born different. I’m just as curious as I think anyone else sees who’s going to tip the cool shirts and who’s going without them. And then we have to see how it all turns out.”