Is It Time For The Hanford Device?
This past Sunday, as I was watching the NASCAR race at Michigan drone on and on and on…I was wondering why the stock cars ALWAYS put on a snoozer at this track, while open-wheel races were always so entertaining. As I literally drifted off to sleep a couple of times, my mind would wander back to the CART races at Michigan International Speedway in the late 1990’s when they ran the Hanford Devices.
The Hanford Device was a simple device that was added to the rear wing in order to slow the cars down on super speedways. Quite frankly, it looked like a board hanging from the trailing edge of the rear wing. It served its purpose in slowing down the cars, but an unintended result was the drafting effect it produced. It acted almost like a parachute as it slowed down the cars. In so doing, the device created a giant aerodynamic hole behind the car. The result was a large vacuum that allowed cars to get a run up behind a car and slingshot past.
The on-track result was that it did slow down the cars, but it created multiple lead changes per lap and provided exciting side-by-side racing similar to what the IRL used to have at Texas. The obvious question is…why doesn’t the IRL install a Hanford-like device on its cars for the ovals?
The answer is not as simple. These are different cars with much different engines than those that ran at Michigan and Fontana in those days. I will not pretend to be an expert on aerodynamics, but I’m told that the difference in horsepower along with the heavy downforce that the IRL cars carry, would play a role in reducing the effect of a Hanford-type device as far as producing better racing. It may, in fact, make the cars so slow and predictable that the racing could become much more boring than what we have seen already this year.
It might be worth a try, though. At this point, I think anything might be worth a try. While the league is conducting tire tests as they did at Chicago this week, why don’t they bolt on a Hanford Device on about six cars and run them in a pack to see what the result would be? Find out what lap times are produced, but more importantly…what does it do to the handling characteristics of a car, especially in traffic? They may find that it completely disrupts the balance of the car and would be totally impractical to run such a wing. If so…fine. Let us know.
My problem goes back to an article I wrote last week on whether or not the IRL cares about its fans. A reader sent me an e-mail that brought up an excellent point. If Brian Barnhart and the IRL would at least acknowledge that there IS a problem with the lack of racing, then a lot of us would stop complaining. If my power goes out and I call to report it but the power company never answers, I get frustrated. If they answer, acknowledge they are aware of a problem in my area and are working on it…I’m satisfied. Without any acknowledgement from the league, how do we know if they are looking at other alternatives? Lack of communication makes for a very frustrated fan base.
The Hanford Device may prove to be the dumbest idea ever tried on a Dallara, yet it might solve some problems rather easily. Just try it.
Smokey Yunick brought one of the strangest looking cars ever to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1964, when he unveiled the sidecar. The theory was that it would shift the center of gravity far to the left, thereby making it more stable in the turns. In actuality, it was only marginally successful in practice and crashed during its only qualification run. The point is…he tried. Yunick tried something different. It didn’t work out as expected, but at least he tried.
I am hoping that Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee will have Brian Barnhart on their show to discuss the parade-like racing that has infected the series this season. I’m not sure if that will happen anytime soon, but I know they are going to have some non-league personnel on this week (Larry Curry), to discuss the problem. Fair enough. Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee are a sensible duo. I think if they initiate enough discussion on this matter—word should get to the league.
In the meantime…whether it’s a Hanford Device, a different tire compound or any other aero tweaks they can come up with; I hope the IRL will be proactive and let us know they are trying to solve the problem. Otherwise, the small fan base they have will start to become smaller – while the league gives the appearance that there is no problem.