INDIANAPOLIS (May 17, 2017) – Alexander Rossi takes pride in pointing out that fuel mileage strategy was the determining factor in him becoming the first American rookie driver since 1928 to win the Indianapolis 500 last May.
“It’s a cool story because it was about me saving fuel, but it was also about a group of (engineering) people behind me that had a crazy idea and had to do the math to make it happen; to give me the advice, the instructions and numbers on how to do that,” he said.
“Not just numbers they thought would work, but exact ones that legitimately got us to the point where we were able to pull it off. That wouldn’t have happened if people didn’t fully believe in what we were doing and were incredibly talented at their job.”
Rossi, driver of the No. 98 Honda-powered Verizon IndyCar Series race car for Andretti Herta Autosport, recounted the nail-biting finish to the 100th Indy 500 to more than 600 Central Indiana middle school and high school students May 16 during the Honda STEAM Connections Tour in conjunction with Purdue University’s MSTEM3 program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On May 15, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal addressed more than 700 middle school students and conducted a Q&A. Rahal, the youngest winner of a Verizon IndyCar Series race, utilized his back-up car to draw attention to details that incorporate STEAM concepts, including aerodynamics, fuel calculations, and engine performance.
“I was strong in science and math in high school, which really helped when I started to race and continues today in understanding all the variables of a race and giving feedback to my engineers about how the car is reacting on the track and what might solve an issue,” Rahal said. “With all the technology in race cars and passenger cars, in addition to the production facilities, there are exciting careers out there.”
The Honda STEAM Connections Tour showcases the science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM) that are the underpinnings of motorsports and the automotive industry. Events such as the Honda STEAM Connections Tour and MSTEM3, according to Danny White, the director of motorsports at Purdue’s Office of Engagement, expose students to career options in STEAM fields.
“We’ve got a workforce issue in Indiana and a STEM workforce issue as well,” he said. “Hopefully, they can find their passion and find where they need to go to fulfill those dreams and go forward in the workforce or college.”
Both Rossi and Rahal found their passion at an early age and pursued their dreams. They are the face and focus of their teams, but they rely on Honda Performance Development engineers, their pit crews, and the expertise of suppliers such as Firestone Racing for tires to potentially propel their Honda-powered cars to the winner’s circle.
Andrew Mannes, senior analyst with Pit Rho Analytics – a leading machine learning and analytics firm that has developed a real-time strategy tool for use in motorsports -- supported that point through a multimedia presentation about how the fuel strategy for Rossi’s car developed throughout the 100th Indy 500 and came to fruition in the closing laps.
“(Team co-owner and race strategist) Bryan Herta recognized that it was more optimal to slow down than go faster. There is an equation where you run slower lap times but you also don’t waste 40 seconds by pitting an extra time,” he said.
Added Rossi: “It’s important for the longevity of our sport to have a lot of young people interested in all aspects of motorsports, not just driving. This is one of the places we can share our stories and our background for it and hopefully get them interested.”
The next Honda STEAM Connections Tour program, produced and managed by STEAM Sports Group, is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the University of California, Berkeley, leading up to the Verizon IndyCar Series championship race at Sonoma Raceway. Honda Performance Development HPD was founded in 1993 to spearhead Honda’s entry into Indy car racing. No other manufacturer has matched Honda’s success in Indy cars, which includes 220 race victories, 15 drivers’ championships, six competitive manufacturers’ championships and 10 Indianapolis 500 victories since 2004. In addition to Indy car competition, HPD and Honda have a history of success in the classic endurance sports car races, including a pair of LMP2 wins and a privateer LMP1 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2010; as well as multiple American Le Mans Series championships and five LMP2 class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring since 2007. HPD’s Honda engines have recorded 75 race wins at endurance sports car races around the world, with 70 of those victories coming in the HPD-developed line of sports prototype cars. HPD offers a complete line of race engines for cars from grass roots to pinnacle; for professional, amateur and entry-level racers. For more information about HPD and the company’s racing product lines, please visit http://hpd.honda.com. STEAM Sports Group is a marketing and special events firm that focuses on how to integrate corporate STEM and STEAM initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) with sporting events, leagues, conferences, governing associations and athletes. STEAM Sports Foundation is SSG’s ancillary 501c3 that seeks funding primarily for educational programs, curriculums and scholarships in an effort to unite business, education and sports. Recognizing workforce and economic development as an integral part of corporate growth, SSG and SSF work with companies, educators and sports groups to develop initiatives around science, technology, engineering, arts and math that prepare and excite America’s youth in an effort to create tomorrow’s vibrant workforce.