The comment about the aerodynamic vacuum under these cars at speed reminded me of the Chaparral 2J car from the Can-Am series in the 70's. The car has side skirts and an on-board "vacuum cleaner' powered by a snowmobile engine which generated a downforce which exceeded the weight of the car. It was so much faster than the competition that it was banned under a questionable rule interpretation. Unfortunately, engineering brilliance in car racing can be overruled by the need to put on a good race for the fans (unfortunate) or by the need to hold down top speeds for safety reasons (probably a good idea).
Absolutely, there is far less room for error (likely no room in fact) for those 500 miles since at those speeds, lives are at stake. One teensy, little glitch in something as small as a misplaced fastener, and you could be primed for disaster.
Good point, Beth. It's amazing to learn that IndyCar's number one engineering challenge -- vehicle reliability -- is the same as for production cars. It's true they only need to go 500 miles at the Indy 500, but it doesn't mean that reliability is any less important. In fact, a simple failure -- like the one on Parnelli Jones' vehicle in 1967 -- can be devastating.
Nice job Chuck, on translating the thrill of racing into engineering challenges that other engineers, even if they don't work on the race car circuit, can relate to and are grappling with every day for their own types of products. Those minor design tweaks and keen attention to simulation outcome are what can set one company's offering apart from another--whether it's a highly competitive IndyCar race or components for commercial cars.