This month's answers come from Alex Tagliani; Rob Edwards – technical director and general manager; Allen McDonald – chief race engineer; Alex Timmermans – chief development engineer; and Jeff Darks – VP of marketing.
It was very obvious what you did during the St. Petersburg race – although hard to follow due to the fact that you didn't get equal/minimal TV coverage until you got into contention – can you outline what your basic race strategy plan was going into the race and how closely were you able to follow it as the race developed? Fred
Rob replies: Good question, Fred. At St. Pete our basic strategy was for a two-stop race, as Will [Power] and Justin [Wilson] used. But we had to come in earlier than planned on our first stint and that committed us to a three-stop strategy. After our second stop on lap 49 we still had one more stop to make and were back in 16th place. The call on lap 67 for a fuel-only stop was to capitalize on the fact that we needed less fuel than those cars that hadn't pitted since lap 27. The shorter stop gained us track position and Alex and the tires took care of the rest.
Hi, good job on two first races congrats to all of you people and, of course, to your driver Alex. I was wondering if it was possible for someone in your team to tell me where I could buy some FAZZT gear like caps, T-shirts, sweats, etc. Thank you in advance. Patrick LePage
Jeff replies: Patrick, thanks for the e-mail. We are excited to announce our partnership with Fast Eddie Racewear. They will be our official team merchandise provider and we have just added a link to our website for fans to access their online store for driver and team merchandise. Our web address is www.fazztraceteam.com. Just click on the link for team merchandise. Check back frequently, as we will be adding more items soon.
When did you make the decision on your very interesting pit strategy at St. Petersburg? Did you roll the dice during the race or did you plan that before? Steve Curtis
Rob replies: Following on from the answer to Fred's question above, the decision was made on lap 66 based on how the race had run to that point. We have the benefit of a lot of experience in the group looking at strategy options and, on this occasion, we were able to come up with a plan that had a successful conclusion.
I know red tires give more grip but don't last as long as blacks. But do they come up to temperature quicker than blacks, too? If so, why do some people run blacks in Top 12 qualifying and sometimes even in the Fast Six? Are they just saving more reds for the race? Ryan Mercer
Allen replies: Ryan, yes, the reds come up to temp significantly quicker than the blacks, and, in fact, one of the challenges of the reds is to get the stars to align – in other words, have the pressures up, the tire temps up and ready and no traffic all on the same lap! The reds have a smaller window of great grip; at St. Pete, we got it OK in the first qualifying round but got traffic in the second. Really, once the reds are past their best and the pressures are over, it's difficult to get them back. The IZOD IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you really have to use new reds in the first two qualifying sessions. That leaves you the choice of used reds or new blacks for the Firestone Fast Six. With the time you have, often it's a better choice to run the new blacks, as Tony Kanaan showed in St. Pete. Also, as you mention, that keeps laps off of the reds and so gives you an edge in the race.
I read somewhere that one of your development engineers stays back at the shop? What's he doing? Is he working on oval setups? Mandy Lillywhite
Alex Timmermans replies: Good job picking up on that, Mandy. My role is one of design and development. The race schedule is so busy that without someone like me the whole team gets consumed with the immediate engineering needs and no one is dealing with what is needed in three or six months' time. Quite often, when the team is racing on ovals, I am working on projects for the road courses and when they are racing in Brazil, for example, I am working on parts for the Indy 500.
Congratulations on giving a ride to my favorite driver, Bruno Junqueira for the Indy 500. That's such a nice story! Is there a chance of keeping him in a car for other races as well? It would have been nice to see him race here in Brazil! Maybe next year….?! Maria
Rob replies: Thank you for the nice comments, Maria. We are all very excited to have Bruno with us for the Indy 500 this year. It is very unlikely that we will run another car in additional races this year since we are focused on Tag's program, but we would like to run a second program in 2011 and it would be great to see Bruno in a car at Sao Paulo next year.
How many test days do you get for a season? Because you only have one car, do you get twice as many test days as teams that have to divide their days in two or three (or four like Andretti)? Also, do you like to test with other cars or do you test alone? Iain Kaiser
Rob replies: I like your formula better than the rulebook, Iain! A single-entry team, such as FAZZT Race Team, is permitted 800 miles or six days of testing and is limited to using 18 sets of tires. A two-entry team is allowed 1,200 miles or six days and is limited to using 26 sets of tires. A multi-car team is permitted an additional 200 miles and four sets of tires for each entry above two. In all seriousness, this is a good formula for preventing the multi-car teams from having a big testing advantage over a single entry team.
We always prefer to test at the same time as other teams to give us a baseline for track conditions and lap times on any given test day.How many pushes-to-pass did you have left in your last stint at St. Petersburg – I think there were 25 laps to go? Were you surprised at how easy Dario went past five or six cars near the end?
Well done, anyway. You deserved a top finish in Brazil, too. I hope you will win Long Beach as I will be there at my favorite corner, around the fountain! Alex Smith
Alex Tagliani replies: I think we had 10 pushes-to-pass left after that green flag, and I used them all in the last 10 laps, especially to make up a little time in the straights. We were just trying to look at the lap time and go as fast as possible without overheating the tires. Firestone is doing such an amazing job with the tire compound, that we were able to complete a 51-lap segment on the same set and go fast enough that we were able to finish sixth. Great call from Rob and the engineer, and an amazing quick stop by the boys, to make it work.
So, I used the push-to-pass every lap near the end to make up the time so I could be gentle on the tires in the corner; some laps I used the P2P twice, so I could save the tires in a couple of corners. This is important, because when your tires lose grip from age, they slide more and if you try to go as fast in the corner as you would on new tires, you produce more heat in them and that is when you overcook them.
Do you sit down as a team and watch replays of the races? Is that a good way of improving yourselves? Can you learn anything?
Alex Tagliani replies: Jean, yes, I watch the races afterward. And these days I watch previous races on racetracks I have never driven on, like Kansas, Barber (I watched the Grand-Am race), Kentucky, Sonoma, Watkins Glen and Iowa. I also use a Virtual GT/D-BOX platform to practice on those tracks. To view the simulator in action, you can check out www.fazztraceteam.com. It's really cool because the motion of the platform gives you all the feeling of being in the car.
I know there are rules about this, but can you tell me how pit-lane order is decided? I understand that you were at pit-in at Brazil because you were a new team, but now you are 13th in points, will you be in the 13th pit at Barber? How is it decided? Jason White
Rob replies: Unfortunately, the rule isn't to give FAZZT Race Team the first pit at pit-out! Pit-lane order is based on entrant points following the previous event. A multi-car team such as Andretti Autosport or Team Penske must declare whether they are going to average or split their cars before the start of the season. As you note, Jason, we were assigned the first pit at pit-in for Brazil as a new team. We moved along pit lane a little for St. Pete and will move up some more based on being 13th in points entering Barber. Hopefully, we will then move farther toward pit-out before Long Beach! Thank you for your entries, and apologies if yours wasn't one of the ones included. Keep sending your questions to email@example.com, and we will publish the best of them next month.