Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 10, 2012

Race team pairs with IUPUI to improve drag racing chassis

Bart Doan

— Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and IUPUI recently announced a renewed partnership that is aimed at using students from the school’s motorsports engineering program to help enhance the safety in drag racing, as well as create more durable parts.

The program has already shown the ability to have success, debuting a new Top Fuel Dragster chassis that ran with the fastest time in history in 2010. The program went on hiatus for awhile before this recent commitment to revitalizing it and having it running at full capacity in 2013 with a goal of working on a new funny car chassis.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Pete Hylton, director of the motorsports engineering program at IUPUI. “DSR is one of the premier race teams in this country. If you were to take all of the IndyCar, NASCAR, or drag race teams and throw them in a pot and say you can pick the ones you want to work with, DSR would certainly be one of the first ones we’d pick because of their long standing success and the caliber of people who work with them.

“It’s also exciting because the last time we worked with them we set a world record with a chassis that was designed by some of our students and the results were awesome. To reactivate that partnership is a tremendous opportunity.”

Jeff Wold of DSR said they are also looking forward to renewing the partnership.

“They (IUPUI students) were instrumental in building a Top Fuel dragster chassis, and they were able to be hands on in seeing it come to fruition,” Wold said. “We’re now going to work with making upgrades to the funny car chassis as well as trying to enhance the reliability of certain engine parts, which will lead to greater safety.”

Hylton said the real challenge is how to take something that is already successful and make it better.

Some students in the program will spend time at the DSR facility in Brownsburg, and some will be at the school where they develop computer models that allow them to see what will be the most effective route to go before building the chassis. He said that for the Top Fuel dragster, they created 125 computer models before settling on the best one to build.

“That’s the real advantage, the ability to look at it on the computer in a whole manner of alliterations,” Hylton said. “The last time we did this when we worked on the Top Fuel chassis, the two students who had primary responsibility for that were at the shop. We start by modeling it as it is today and then run tests. There was quite a bit of interface between the fabrication shops, the crew chiefs, and the students.”

Wolf said DSR is excited about the possibilities.

“For one thing, if you can make engine components last longer, you’re much less likely to have an engine malfunction which can lead to an explosion and can be a fire, and the greater reliability of parts means they’ll last longer and you’ll have fewer major engine incidents,” he said. “Whenever we look to improve or build a better chassis, the main component is safety, making it stronger to better protect the driver. But the perfect marriage to that is to not add weight to the chassis.”

Wolf said that if they do find an innovation that causes a little more weight to the car but will inherently make it safer, they go the route of safety first.

Hylton said working on this project is one of the benefits that students in the motorsports engineering program can expect.

“In motorsports, networking is very important,” he said. “Not to say it’s not important in other industries, but it might be more important in motorsports to develop connections with teams, sanctioning bodies on the track, and even the sponsors. It allows our students to operate in a very professional environment and alongside the premier people in the sport. It has ancillary benefits even for the students that don’t spend a lot of time at DSR because a lot of things will involve DSR issues they’re looking at.”

The partnership involves no money changing hands. Performance issues developed are exclusive to DSR racing, but for safety issues, DSR has shared such technology with other teams, Hylton said.

“What we’re doing is we’re taking a part they’d like to have more life on and reverse engineering and making a computer model, making alterations to that part to see if we can find things that reduce the stress level to where it ultimately fails first,” he said. “If we can reduce the stresses, it will last longer.”

Hylton said students at IUPUI are ready to sink their teeth into the partnership and create a new funny car chassis that holds the same successes as the top fuel version did.

“They’re excited,” he said. “They understand the partnership with a team the caliber of DSR. They don’t come along every day and I think they realize the value of that, even if their ultimate goal may be to go into a different form of racing.”

For more about the IUPUI program, visit the website at www.engr.iupui.edu/motorsports/msteeng.shtml.