Promising IndyCar future full of change

Drivers remain optimistic about the future of the sport-even after the death of Dan Wheldon-but prepare for a variety of moves in 2012 from the car to the competition

INDYCAR

His placement in the on the stage allowed him to be at the byroad of the sport.

To the CEO's left was the representation of the open wheel racing's past-the iconic Borg Warner Trophy that signifies the winner of Indianapolis' 500-mile race.

Just to his right sat the model of the newest version of the Izod IndyCar Series racing machine, with a transparent shell that allowed different designs to pop up from time to time.

Yet it was above Randy Bernard where the hopes and dreams lie for his trending but still growing sport  at the Hilbert Center Theater on Monday afternoon. A variety of expectations from television audiences to Twitter flashed above him as he tried to lay out the goals of the series in his third year of full time direction.

"It's very important that IndyCar gets out and leads," said Bernard-and to do that changes will be in order like never before in the series.

From a brand new chassis to a new direction in race enforcement along with safety changes made in the wake of Dan Wheldon's death, 2012 will feature a wide variety of adjustments to increase the relevancy of the open wheel series in the American and international racing worlds.

"We definitely had a roll going last year with engaging new fans and getting the spotlight on us," said Target Chip Ganassi driver Chip Ganassi on the season ahead-and they'll get the chance to do so again.

This campaign will feature the newly designed chassis from Dallara and three different engine manufactures-Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus-bringing that competition back to the series for the first time since 2005.

Normally an off time for the drivers following the season, the late fall and winter have featured a host of drivers hitting the tracks to test out the new cars before season opener at St. Petersburg on March 25th.

"It will spread it out a little," said Penske driver Will Power of the competition balance with the new car. "The old car had been so developed there were no secrets and every team had it and all the engines were the same.

"So with this you have a whole new car to develop."

Following the death of Wheldon in the final race of the 2011 season in Las Vegas, safety has become the paramount subject in the implementation of the new car. A number of features on the machine attempt to prevent past problems in the series with accidents, including wider sidepods to prevent side-by-side accidents and a rear-wheel well to prevent cars from going airborn.

That was what ended up causing the fatal injuries to Wheldon, who was launched into the air during the 15-car pileup in the Las Vegas race and into the catch fence which caused the fatal injury.

"I'm extremely pleased with how we communicate with IndyCar and Dallara and all the engine manufacturers to make the car safer," said veteran driver Tony Kanaan.

On top of that IndyCar will also feature new race director Beaux Barfield who replaces Brian Barnhardt who had a number of decisions questioned by drivers a season ago. He'll oversee a 15-race schedule that will feature a return to Detroit and Milwaukee along with the series' first ever trip to China.

A new website is being launched by IndyCar to be used in coverage of the sport which will see a full schedule broadcast on the NBC Sports Network and ABC. Bernard says he hopes for a 15 percent increase in viewership and attendance in 2012 as the series tries to make its mark in the mainstream of autosports as well as different segments of the populous.

"I'm so happy to see the attention everyone is putting on making things better," said driver Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Alex Tagliani-and the evidence was all around Bernard on Monday.

 

 

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