Archive for the ‘ Race Teams ’ Category

Car Town!

Alex Tagliani tweeted that the first person to win his Big Rig gets the gloves he’ll use in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.

Huh? It all makes sense if you’re playing Car Town on Facebook.

The game that features the IZOD IndyCar Series now includes actual races on 17 different tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that is playing host to the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500, for players to compete.

Lead your favorite driver to first place on each track to unlock the team’s Big Rig.

Cars are available for multiple drivers plus the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Event Car, which honors the 100th anniversary of the first running of the race.

In the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Garage, users can select a car driven by top IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and complete the Indy 500 Challenge with the help of a pit crew they select from among their Facebook friends or by spending in-game points. Players can even race against the clock and compete against other Car Town pit crews, striving to top the Indy Pit Stop Challenge leaderboard.

Race now in Car Town. CLICK HERE

It’s not every day that we start working with a driver new to the team. When we do though, it’s always an adjustment for everyone involved—the driver, the crew, engineers and the whole team. The driver relies on not only his skills on the track during a race; he also puts his life into the hands of the team’s crew, engineers and equipment every time he straps into the car.

It starts with building the relationship between the driver and the team. There are usually 10-12 new faces, from the strategist to the engineers to the over-the-wall guys. Because the driver is in constant contact with the strategist during races, it’s always helpful to make sure everyone is on the same page before even getting into the car. The same goes for spotters and me—the crew chief. We, as a team, talk to the driver a lot about his expectations and what he wants to get out of the season.

There are physical differences for the driver, too. Each IndyCar team operates in its own way and sets up its cars slightly differently. The layout of the cockpit and even the placement of the steering wheel may be specific to the team. We spend a lot of time with the new driver to make sure he is comfortable with the car so he can control it on the track.

For example, Mike Conway came into the shop this week for his seat fitting. The seat fit is a big part of adjusting the car for the new driver. Race car seats aren’t ‘one size fits all.’ If you’ve ever had the chance to sit in a race-ready IndyCar, you know what I mean. Each seat is designed and molded individually for the driver. We also check the height of the seat, the position of the pedals, and the position of the mirrors.

Andretti Autosport's Josh Freund

Josh Freund prepares for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season at Andretti Autosport

For the team, it’s not just the driver-crew relationship that has to work. All of the crew members must gel together in order for a good team to form at the shop and track. It takes time and sometimes rearranging to get the right mix of guys. Our team manager Kyle Moyer looks at a lot of aspects to build a good crew: experience, practice, over-the-wall timing and the general chemistry. Some mechanics go over the wall while some don’t, and vice-versa. From season to season, Kyle typically keeps the same guys on the same crew for consistency. However, when a new driver is added to the team lineup, there can be some shuffling necessary to get the right mix.

This year, I will be working with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Though he’s not new to the team this year we haven’t worked together as crew chief and driver, which means we’ll go through some of the same adjustments as Mike and his crew chief, Jeff Simon. Even though there’s always a learning curve, I think we’ve got the right tools and people to get good results right away.

Andretti Autosport's Josh Freund

Josh Freund prepares for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season at Andretti Autosport

For us, the off-season is like pressing a “reset” button. After the checkered flag at the last race of the season, the cars usually aren’t in their full, recognizable, 100 percent form until the green flag of the next season’s opening race.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail

It starts in the composite department of the shop with a body fit. To start, the car is stripped down to the bare carbon to check each piece’s weight and check for damage from wear and tear throughout the season. It’s like bringing the car back to square one. After the car is bare, the composite guys will start to glue the car back together. They make sure all of the pieces have nice seams, so the car is as smooth as possible to create better aerodynamics. The glue is a mixture of a high-solvent and resin, which holds each carbon fiber piece together. The carbon usually sets overnight or bakes in the oven for about 2 hours, depending on our time constraints.

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Hi, my name is Josh Freund. You may have seen me around the paddock or on pit lane with Andretti Autosport. I work as the crew chief for the #11 team. During the off-season and through the 2011 season, I’ll be updating you on everything that goes on inside an INDYCAR race shop. From composite work to decals, and from testing to the first race, I’ll let you become a part of the team.

#11 Crew Chief, Josh Freund

#11 Crew Chief, Josh Freund

Growing up, I can’t say that I knew I would end up working on race cars. I did grow up in Indianapolis, the racing capital of the world, but I had intentions of being involved with aircrafts in some way, either as a pilot or a mechanic.

I got my start in racing the same way as a lot of others—karting. In 1998, I was offered a job at Players/Forsythe as a front-end mechanic for driver Lee Bentham who drove for the Toyota Atlantic Series, better known as go-karts.

In 2000, I moved into the IndyCar Series as a mechanic for driver Patrick Carpentier and in 2003 I became lead mechanic. After the end of the 2003 season, I joined the Andretti Autosport team and became a lead mechanic on Dario Franchitti’s car. We earned four wins that year—definitely a good year. In 2007, I was a part of Andretti’s ALMS team as a mechanic before going back to Indy cars shortly after as crew chief for Hideki Mutoh. As I mentioned before, I’m now crew chief for the #11 car in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Andretti Autosport #11 crew at Mid-Ohio

The #11 Andretti Autosport pit crew

During the race, you can find me in the pits changing the outside front tire. Back at the shop during the off-season, I work on the car to be the best we can for the next season. As chief mechanic, I work with the engineers to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. We do a lot of testing and fiddling with certain parts of the cars to get an extra tenth of a second in speed. It can be really fascinating to see first-hand how even a tiny change (either in the shop or during a pit stop) can make a relatively big difference on the track.

My favorite part about my job is being with the guys. I’ve met many people working in this industry and I can say I enjoy working with the people here. Most of the guys here are my good friends. Even with a busy travel schedule and a lot of time away from home, we find a way to enjoy the time on the road.

Andretti Autosport #11 crew in pit lane

The #11 team at Mid-Ohio

Looking back at my career, I’m not sure what I would be doing if I wasn’t part of a race team. Fortunately, it’s not something I’ve never had to think about it. However, if I had to it all over again, I’d probably have my own business of some sort. My goal for now, though, is to keep winning races.

Now that you’ve heard a bit about my background, what do you want to know about the racing industry?

Andretti Autosport recently invited me into Riverside Jr. High School in Fishers, Indiana to listen, along with a class of 25 students, to a presentation on IndyCar aerodynamics. Students in Brad Bill’s Tech Education class had the opportunity to ask Andretti crew member, Kelly Potter, how to make the miniature balsam wood cars they are building this semester go fast.

The classroom setting offered the unique experience to have the high-tech aerodynamic theories in use on IndyCars brought down to a level that 8th graders could understand. A key point among those theories was to focus on the shape of the car. As Kelly put it, think of things that go fast like a jet or even a ship, they always have a pointed front.  He next equated the “drag” created by wind to the force to someone trying to swim in heavy clothing.

Kelly went further in depth to describe the down force effect created by the placement of wings on an IndyCar. He then complimented the students by explaining how cool it was to see them try to apply similar design techniques used on IndyCars because he did not have that opportunity in 8th grade.

When Kelly went on to explain how the logos on IndyCars can create increased drag and weight on the vehicle, Tech Education teacher, Brad Bill, jumped in to connect the same theory to his students’ frustration with the amount of sanding required to perfect their cars. As he told students, there is a purpose after all to the amount of sanding it takes to make a car run smoothly.

Students had the opportunity to view an IndyCar up-close as part of the lesson and show off their own designs to Kelly Potter. His pick for the best student car? The one with the coolest paint job.

Andretti crew member choosing his favorite model car

Andretti Autosport Crew Member, Kelly Potter, critiques the student's car designs