While the teeth-gnashing was underway about decisions from race control in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (and I share some of those concerns), another thought occurred to me as Mike Conway dashed and darted his way through the field to claim his first career IZOD IndyCar Series win - how about Dallara?
Without the manufacturer, is Conway even driving today? Or is Will Power challenging for a second title, or Vitor Meira still competing with A.J. Foyt? To be honest, I'm not sure. In 2009 and 2010, each driver endured frightening wrecks - collisions with walls and/or other competitors that in years past, may have left them with far greater injuries than the broken legs and backs suffered.
Seriously, watch the Mike Conway wreck again (if you can). It's a minor miracle he was not hurt worse. The only thing left of Conway's car is the tub in which he is seated.
The common denominator, as it has been in the IZOD IndyCar Series over the last 14 years, has been the Dallara chassis. The only manufacturer in the series since 2008 (and most of 2007), Dallara has staked its reputation on safety. While some may clamor for a "sexier" looking machine, the Italian company's record of protecting drivers is strong, as Meira, Power and Conway can attest.
When Randy Bernard and the ICONIC Committee began looking at options for the future chassis of the IZOD IndyCar Series, several entrants came forth with sparkling ideas. While Dallara's entry and sketches for future cars was not panned, it was not the flashy, fascinating designs submitted by others, such as Swift. In fact, many fans were clamoring for something new and forward-thinking (though not as new as the Delta Wing). While fans respected Dallara, maybe it was time for several new manufacturers to enter into competition with the staid, old company, was the basic argument.
Instead, the ICONIC Committee went back to Dallara, and with the company's track record for safety, reached a compromise. Again, look at Conway's wreck - the tub became a cocoon around the Englishman, keeping him from further harm. With this in mind, and the fact that Meira and Power were both able to return soon after horrific wrecks, the committee used the tub - the safety cell - as the building block for the 2012 chassis. With ideas taken from other submissions, the safety cell/aero kit idea was born, allowing Dallara to continue what it does best: keep drivers safe.
Fans will have the opportunity to see the 2012 Dallara safety cell/aero kit package come together, as the manufacturer is presently constructing its American base of operations in Speedway, Ind., as part of the town's massive redevelopment project. With the building not yet complete, testing will begin at the former Zipp Speed Weaponry building on Main Street. In May, prototypes of the 2012 Dallara safety cell and fuel kit will be revealed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as over half million fans file through turnstyles during the month during practices, qualifications and the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
As the competition continues to improve and drivers continue to run close together, open wheel racing is always going to have its share of wrecks. But with Dallara building the safety cell (and one of at least three aero kits), those drivers involved in incidents will have the chance at future checkered flags, as Mike Conway became the latest to demonstrate on April 17.