The long-standing Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record could be challenged in the next few years if Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and new IndyCar Series Competition Director Derrick Walker get their way.
Miles and Walker emerged from a competition advisory board meeting on Thursday morning and formally announced their intent to see the IndyCar Series eventually break the IMS track record of 237.498 mph set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996.
The record has gone unchallenged in recent years, as Series officials disallowed turbocharged engines in 1997, dropping the pole speed to well below 230 mph in the years after. IndyCar brought back turbochargers with less horsepower in 2012, but the pole-winning speed was just 226.484 mph.
Speeds again increased this year, as Ed Carpenter captured his fist Speedway pole at 228.762 mph.
Many in the paddock believe speeds will rise by up to five mph over the next few years as teams begin to push the current equipment to its capacity. Speeds will also be aided by the inclusion of specialized aero kits and boost modifications as early as next season, the primary reason behind Thursday's announcement.
At a press conference inside the IMS Speedway Museum, Miles and Walker presented their case in front of several cars, including the first to top 150 mph at Indianapolis, the first car to top 210, and Luyendyk's record-setting entry.
Lastly, the two men introduced the current DW12 chassis, explaining that it would be the standard for speed and innovation moving forward and speculating on just how long it would take to break the current speed record.
"If there is one message I've received from Mark since I've been here," Walker said, "it is that he wants to see us go back to the future and beat Arie's record. And certainly, when we look at today's car, we can do it. But with every change comes an effect, so how do we manage that? How do we minimize disrupting our competition? That's the challenge."
It's important for Walker and Miles to realize that the Series and Speedway is coming off perhaps the most exciting Indianapolis 500 of all time in 2012. Last year's race had a record 34 lead changes, as well as a memorable last-lap finish that saw Takuma Sato crash under Dario Franchitti in a desperate attempt to win the race.
That's the kind of excitement that should not be sacrificed due to the need for speed, a fact not lost on the current IndyCar brass on Thursday morning.
Defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay sees the exciting on-track product as a primary reason to pursue the IMS track record. He believes it's a building block in the foundation of IndyCar's continued growth.
"So we have a great on-track product at the moment, which is probably one of the hardest things to achieve in racing," Hunter-Reay said. "IndyCar has been putting on some amazing shows lately. But it is time to grow. It is time to move forward and I think this is an opportunity for us to break that track record."
Walker added that the chase for a new track record will begin with the aero kit project, which is expected to debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The kits can be developed by any team and manufacturer, and is a sign of technical innovation.
The kits are where IndyCar will start next year, and they will consider continued tire and engine competition as each case presents itself.
Is this the right time for IndyCar to start chasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway speed record, or will it come to the detriment of the current on-track racing product? Tell us in the comments section below.