Changes in tires, aero, gear: Sam Hornish Jr. recaps Chicagoland test

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LOUDON, N.H. – Tires and aero packages weren’t the only variables being tried during a critical three-day test at Chicagoland Speedway this week.

Sam Hornish Jr. said his team also tried a gear change Monday to help boost horsepower with the high-drag rules package that will make its debut with the July 27 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hornish said his No. 9 Ford, which was equipped for the test with a wheel force transducer that helps measure the loads on tires, had topped out at 8,100 RPMs on the straightaways before the gear change.

In addition to the high drag, Hornish also tested the original 2015 rules and the lower-downforce package that made its debut last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway. Hornish said it was difficult to compare the packages because Goodyear had the teams run through several different tires.

Hornish said he had heat-related woes with a softer tire for the low-downforce package that precluded making a full fuel run (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. also encountered similar problems). The softer tire, though, produced speeds that were on par with the “baseline” tire but was slower through the corner.

Many drivers have complained this year that passing is more difficult because of high corner speeds resulting from a horsepower reduction that keeps drivers on the throttle for longer.

“We need a tire that can give up on the front (of a run) but not wear out,” Hornish said. “We just need more off-throttle time.

“I think it’s definitely an interesting time to be in the sport, because there’s a lot going on. I don’t see any quick fixes regardless of what the package is that we have.”

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver was a fan of the Kentucky race, which produced a 132% increase in passing.

“Anything I’ve heard from the drivers, everyone sounds like they had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “Fans liked it.”

Hornish, a three-time IndyCar Series champion won the 2006 Indianapolis 500, would like to give the lower-downforce package a shot at the Brickyard. The high drag package at Indy will feature a 9-inch spoiler that is intended to help produce more drafting.

“Indianapolis is a tough one regardless, because it is about one line” for racing, Hornish said. “That’s why I think a lower-downforce package would be good there, because the bigger the spoiler is, it just makes it more turbulent to be around somebody.

“I know why they’re doing. I understand what the theory is about it. Until we run (the race), we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”