Still, engineers find ways to gain a competitive edge. Even within the tight aerodynamic constraints, they're able to tweak angles at the front, at the rear, and on the wings. Moreover, they can make mechanical changes. Springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, and suspension geometries can be customized and tuned.
Off the track, engineers test the cars in wind tunnels and on shaker rigs. Wind tunnels provide a glimpse at aerodynamic behavior, allowing teams to make the tiny adjustments that could increase speed by a crucial fraction of a mile per hour. And shaker rigs enable them to tune springs and dampers.
Engineering also plays a big role on the track, not only during the race, but also in qualifying rounds. Wireless data acquisition systems let teams examine brake temperature, oil pressure, fuel pressure, damper displacement, steering input, throttle input, suspension loads, and ride height measurements, as well as front and rear downforce. In all, KV's vehicles employ 200 data channels, including "math channels" for analysis. "The amount of data we have to sift through is enormous," Jones said. "We'll be micro-analyzing everything at the speedway. That's where most of our advantages come from."
The changes resulting from all that data scrutiny may be small, he said, since the vehicles have to remain within the confines of the regulations. "It's somewhat more in the hands of the drivers than it was back in the days when there was a variety of engines and chassis. But, in the end, engineering can still make the difference."
If you've always dreamed of hanging with the pit crew at Indy, your opportunity has arrived. Littelfuse Inc., a KV Racing sponsor, is sponsoring the Speed2Design contest. Winners will attend the race, visit the pits, and talk engineer-to-engineer with crew members.
The Speed2Design promotion is connected to five Indy Racing League series races in Indianapolis (May 27); Fort Worth, Texas (June 9); Qingdao, China (Aug. 19); Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 26); and Fontana, Calif. (September 15). Littelfuse will randomly select five participants to attend each Speed2Design event.
Click on the link to access the entry form for the