A handful of tidbits from Friday at Auto Club Speedway for the IZOD IndyCar Series' season finale, the MAVTV 500:
BUMPS, BRUISES AND SEAMS – For a 2.0-mile oval, Auto Club Speedway poses a distinct challenge to the field of drivers competing this weekend. It's not close to flat; several drivers have had incidents, and others still have come close to losing it.
Within a week, Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay (LEFT), E.J. Viso and Justin Wilson have all had accidents here. For those caliber of drivers to have had issues speaks volumes about the difficulty levels.
“There's such a narrow window here to get it right, even more than normal,” said Briscoe.
Chief among the concerns are a variety of bumps in the surface, and seam differentials in the track.
“You go from one extreme to the other,” said Panther DRR's Oriol Servia, who is driving with Motegi Racing colors this weekend. “The seams are bad. Then the bumps are bad. The seams are different than years ago, and it's not so much the seam itself, but the track's no longer level. The whole car moves.”
“The seams are the worst,” agreed Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing rookie Josef Newgarden. “You can live with the bumps, they're there a little bit on entry, and it's not really the problem. The seams are tough because you don't want to get caught between lanes. It gets caught or it pops the front off. It's the most difficult place I've seen for seams.”
The only public questioning of the aero package as it is now, without underbody strakes to add downforce, was Viso, who tweeted Friday after qualifying: “If more downforce is not fitted for this race I'm not racing.”
CONWAY AFTERMATH – Mike Conway's decision to withdraw from his seat at A.J. Foyt Enterprises has been widely praised although he has had a few detracting comments. Drivers at the track Friday were firmly in Conway's corner in noting his bravery in making the decision to remove himself from the cockpit.
“I understand his position – he had nothing to gain,” said Servia. “It takes a little bravery in our position to say I don't want to drive. That's why I think he's got a lot of respect.”
“I have had some nasty crashes on ovals, not as bad as his,” added KV Racing Technology's Tony Kanaan. “I wish him the best. I'll give him credit to come out and say it. Not a lot of people would admit it. He's a good guy. I don't know what he'll do, but not doing the ovals, assume maybe he races part-time here. It's extremely honorable on his part to admit it. Probably most sincere racecar driver I've ever met!”
His replacement, Wade Cunningham, had a measured response to his first full day in the No. 14 car: “It was not too bad a day, not great on the time sheets but it's not too uncomfortable.”
A FEW BERNARD TIDBITS – Little official came from IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard's regular media availability Friday, but there were several key nuggets.
After suggesting in Baltimore the 2013 schedule would be released following a Sept. 20 meeting of the board of directors, Bernard set a hard date of October 1 as the release point – either on or before that date.
When asked about a street race in Providence, as reported by RACER.com earlier this week, Bernard responded, “It's a very interesting market. We'll see what happens.”
He did confirm the race in Brazil will be the only event outside North America next year, and projects a season finale at Houston from Oct. 4-6. Asked on the prospect of doubleheader races, Bernard said the possibility exists one race could have a rolling start, one a standing start.
IndyCar turns on the lights for its 500-mile finale from dusk to night Saturday evening.