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Sam Schmidt says full-speed ahead for new IndyCar

Sam Schmidt said the new IndyCar unveiled this week is sleeker and cheaper than the current one.

In time, he thinks it also will be faster.

“The idea is to break Arie’s record,” the Henderson team owner said in citing two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk’s four-lap qualifying record of 236.986 mph set in 1996.

Luyendyk set the speed standard in a year-old Championship Auto Racing Teams machine — the same style of car that inspired the new design.

Two 2018 cars — one Honda powered, one Chevrolet — were taken on shakedown cruises at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was selected to oversee the Honda prototype, which Schmidt called a big honor.

“I think we checked all the boxes,” said Schmidt, who also was featured in last week’s episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” on CNBC. “It’s the look of the heyday of the 1990s without the big engine cover.

“We added a lot more downforce under the car with less bolt-on components, and that will save money for all the teams. All of it is very exciting, and the feedback from the (test) drivers (Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia) has been very exciting.”

The hope is that by eliminating expensive aero kits and transferring the road-gripping downforce they produced under the tub, the cars will be able to race closer together and pass more often — not that either has been an issue at Indianapolis, which over the past few years has produced some of the most exciting racing on the planet.

Schmidt said the aero kits were a “disaster” from the day they were announced. The chief reason given for add-on wings and bodywork was to make the cars look different from one another, but, as Schmidt said, “Ninety-nine percent of fans don’t notice the difference.”

While the IndyCar teams will incur a one-time cost to convert their current cars to the new spec, it is hoped the cheaper, streamlined design ultimately will lead to more teams entering the sport, and maybe even new engine suppliers.

Green, white, checkered

— Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring competitor Stan Mullis will attempt to run in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Mullis has been assigned to the No. 40 Motorsports Business Management car fielded by Carl Long and partner Bobby Dale Earnhardt — son of Kerry Earnhardt, oldest grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. — in the Heartland. Mullis has some experience working with the team, having driven one of its ARCA series cars in an open test at Daytona Speedway this year.

— If the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were a refrigerator, Kyle Busch was a giant magnet under which slips of attention kept getting stuck last weekend. In order, the Las Vegas NASCAR driver of repute said he had a ride lined up for this year’s Indy 500 before one his two bosses (assumed to be NASCAR car owner Joe Gibbs) put his foot down; appeared headed for his third consecutive Brickyard 400 victory before being eliminated in a crash with points leader Martin Truex as the two raced for the lead after a restart; engaged a social media troll with fewer than 100 followers in a skirmish, referring to him as #loser.

— As for what team Busch was going to drive in the 101st running of the Indy 500, he didn’t let on. Auto racing is a fraternity of the closest knit, so it was figured Sam Schmidt, the IndyCar team owner from Henderson, would have heard something. “I have no idea,” Schmidt said, adding only that it wasn’t Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Schmidt said he had talked informally with Kurt Busch (the last driver to attempt the Indy-Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day Weekend double), but never to Kyle about such an opportunity.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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