Simple, But Unanswered Questions

Sitting just past the halfway point, there are several questions I have regarding different aspects of the IndyCar Series. These aren’t rhetorical questions that I actually know the answer to, but they are instead actual situations that need explaining to me. Some are trivial, meaningless, and are probably things I should have known years ago; while others are of a completely serious nature. If anyone has answers to any of these questions, please fill me in and post them in the comment section below or e-mail me at

Saturday’s are usually the slowest day traffic-wise on this site, so I understand I may not get many (or any) of these questions answered. Hopefully I’ll get some, though.

First, a couple of aerodynamic questions – with all of the speculation of the new exhaust outlets being the culprits of the lack of racing, I got to wondering about some other things possibly making a difference in aerodynamics. First of all…if a wickerbill can make such a huge difference, what about the camera that is mounted on the end plate of Dan Wheldon’s rear wing. Yes, it’s small but it isn’t flush. Could this cause significant aerodynamic drag on long straightaways? I also wonder about the “flat” (non-glossy, non-polished) paintjob that the William Rast cars have carried (i.e. Ed Carpenter’s car this weekend). So much care goes into make a car slip through the air on straightaways. Does a flat paintjob produce more drag than a slick polished finish?

Does Dallara still build these current cars or are there just a finite number of these cars available?

When a car crashes on a race weekend, how do the teams get the car repainted so meticulously? I know they use a lot of decals, but is there any type of painting facility that the teams use? Or is there no painting involved at all?

On consecutive race weekends like we are in right now? Did most of the teams take the cars straight from Watkins Glen to Toronto, or did they take them back to their respective shops?

Do the drivers stay in their motor homes at all of the tracks at every race weekend or just Indy?

Why did Justin Wilson run the first race this season in Dale Coyne’s #19 Sonny’s BBQ car, then switch to the #18 Z-Line Design car for very race since?

Why is Robert Doornbos running McDonald’s livery now? Did McDonald’s put up additional money?

Unfortunately, I wrap this up on a sad and serious note. I hope my last question is not viewed as tasteless, but it involves the death of Mary Unser Tanner, who was the daughter of Al Unser and the sister of Al Unser, Jr. Apparently, Mary passed away in March on the day before Lloyd Ruby’s death. I had heard nothing of this until last week, when I heard someone mention it in passing. This is terrible for Al Unser. He lost his other daughter, Debbie, to a dune buggy accident in 1982 on the weekend of the Milwaukee 200 in August. This latest loss leaves Al Unser, Jr. as his only remaining child. Does anyone know what the circumstances were? Whatever the case, my condolences go to the Unser and Tanner families.

These are some things that have been on my mind lately, but didn’t really know where to go to for answers. Based on the comments I’ve received from readers of this site, there is no better place I could go. Thanks for reading.

George Phillips


7 Responses to “Simple, But Unanswered Questions”

  1. These are questions that we all want to know. I hope you post the answers if/as you get them. Maybe a seperate Q&A page?
    Not to “brown nose”, but honestly Oilpressure is the most professionaly written and looking blog I read. Polls are fun and make me feel included in the fun. Just some unsolisited feedback.

    • jerrycruz Says:

      hoover, i agree with you 100%…this blog is great and I hope George posts the answers…keep on the good and professional writing…you have fans at the caribbean island of Puerto Rico…

    • Jim in Wilmington Says:

      I’ll take a stab at te aero questions.

      A wing produces lift (and drag) by turning the air flow from it’s original direction (forget all the Bernouli stuff you were taught in grade school). The more the flow is turned, the more lift is produced. A wicker really acts like a tiny flap on the trailing edge of the wing and kicks the flow up a last little bit. It changes the lift and drag coefficients. Lift is calculated by multiplying the lift coefficient times one half the air density times the air velocity squared times the wing area. Since the wing area is fairly large any change in the lift coefficient has a significant affect. In the case of the camera pod, the drag produced is what is know as form drag. The formula is similar the the lift formula exept for a couple of things; you substitute the drag coefficient of the form for the lift coeficient and the area you use is the area of the device. Since the area of the camera is small, so is the affect. I have to confess that I hadn’t noticed Wheldon’s camera. Does this mean that he doesn’t have the normal Dallara camera o top of the air plenum? If so and the area of his camera is smaller, it may be an advantage. It shouldn’t affect the performance of the tip plate.

      Incidentally, the tip plate’s mission in life is to fool the air into thinking that the wing is longer (long thin wings are more efficient) than it acually is. It does this by breaking up the flow of high pressure air from the top of the wing down to the low pressure air on the bottom of the wing. This flow forms a vortex which trails behind the car and creates a lot of drag and is identical to the vwing tip vortex that forms behind a large air liner that can actually flip a small plane following in its wake.

      Finally, there are opposing theories on the affect of rough paint. However, most sources agree that as long as the roughness is thinner than the boundary layer (the thin layer of air next to the surface of the car that is not moving relative to the car), it has no affect at all. The kicker is that the boundary layer gets thinner as the speed increases. I know that when I used to wax my small plane, I could never see any affect at all on speed. On the other hand, during World War II, the Brittish had some special DeHavland Mosquittoes (400 mph top speed) painted with a special radar absorbing paint that was rough and reduced their top speed by 40 mph! My guess is that the affect on an Indy car is minimal.


  2. caveat: I’m not a team owner or team member
    IndyCars are very draggy already ( cd .46+). If Panther Racing has mounted a small, ‘lipstick’-type, low-res camera to an endplate, its effect on top speed is likely negiligible outside of Indy, Fontana and Michigan.I.S.
    Matte-finish paint which isn’t in high-velocity airflow but is under the aforementioned boundary layer of slower air at the cars’ surfaces, won’t induce drag. If you were to paint the frontal area or wings of a 747 with something rough like coatings on HMMWVs or dehaviland Mosquitos, that’d be a different matter (literally).
    I’ll bet that Dallara builds new tubs on demand when teams’ tubs are irreparably damaged. It makes noses, wings and sidepods covers yearly.
    Race teams have paint booths and dedicated paint-and-decal team members.
    After most races, race car transporters/mobile shops are driven back to bases in Indy (or elsewhere) for resupply and to offload cars for rebuilding/repainting. They’re seen departing race tracks a couple hours after each race unless a Monday test day follows. Even then, one of a team’s two transporters will likely roll back to Indianapolis.
    Drivers’ employment contracts provide for hotel rooms at/near race venues. Owned or leased motor coaches in Indys infield are a sensible exception for 3-4 weeks.
    NHL Racing likely applied McDonald’s decals to Robert’s car rather than run a plain black car or one reading only, “Hole In The Wall Gang Camps” or “Your Ad Here.” Probably fostering some feel-good with McD’s marketing czar(s) after Mr. Newman’s passing and Sebastian’s departure. Maybe McD’s trickled-out a little extra money if it was told that Bobby D. is a hotshoe who might get his car camera time.
    After Justin Wilson and Bill Pappas and the rest of DCR performed in Saint Petersburg, Z-Line was likely urged to $tep-up $pon$orship.

  3. James O. Says:

    Brought up by the Q&A about the McDonalds logo. It would be interesting to read the marketing research on the return-on-investment for some of the sponsors. It seems (to me) better as a way of introducing a brand than maintaining one. Using me as a typical viewer/consumer, I’d never have heard of Boost Mobile or Argent Mortgage if they weren’t using Danica as spokeswoman or painting it on her car (and it’s not just Danica. I know of ABC construction only because it’s on old #14). But the McD logo doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not more likely to get a Big Mac simply because I see it on the track.

  4. Could be a couple reasons why NHL added McD’s stickers to Doornbos’s car. It is sponsorphip silly season and with Newman gone – the sponsorship may not be guaranteed anymore. The second car could be a show of good will for negotiations (like Will Powers verizon car) or to increase the likelihood of recall if there is any research being done based on brand recall from these races. I think NHL may be pitching a deeper relationship with McD’s around activation of Graham in some sort of endorsement role. Leading up to the race, the restaraunts in upstate NY were distributing cups with Graham on them. Perhaps a trial baloon for a wider campaign next year that follows the series from market to market or nationally around May.
    I suspect if they get McD’s on for both cars, they may have to find someone a little more cordial and less apathetically disinterested than Robert has been this year. With the likely race(s) in Brazil next year it could be someone that MdD’s could activate down there.

  5. Can McD’s put up even more money to get Bourdais on the track in Edmonton?

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