IndyCar 101: Anatomy of an IndyCar

You probably know what an IndyCar looks like – the sleek, winged race cars with open cockpits and the signature coned nose – but do you know why it looks the way it does?

The anatomy of an IndyCar features several standard pieces: the chassis, the tires, the engine, the front and rear wings and various other segments specifically engineered to accomplish one primary goal – speed.

Engine: Since 2012, IndyCars have featured a single or twin-turbocharged, V6 engine that can produce up to 700 horsepower and speeds in excess of 250 mph (Paul Tracy recorded the official IndyCar track speed record of 256.94 mph at Michigan International Speedway in 1996).

Chassis: IndyCar bodies are constructed by Italian manufacturer Dallara Automobili out of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core. IndyCar chassis have a minimum weight of 1,545 pounds on speedways. The average car you see on the roads today weighs in around 3,000-4,000 pounds.

Front and rear wings: The power of an IndyCar engine inside a chassis less than half the weight of a normal car would create disastrous results were it not for the car's wings, which are precisely engineered to create downforce and keep the car on the track. At top speed, IndyCars produce as much as 5,000 pounds of downforce. The downforce is created in part by a process called Bernoulli's principle – one of the main effects which allows planes to generate lift – which occurs when air pressure under the car decreases while pressure above the car remains the same, creating downforce.

Tires: Because the car generates enough downforce to effectively quadruple its own weight at racing speed, IndyCar tires have to be able to withstand extremely high stress. Currently, the series uses Firestone Firehawk tires with an 11-inch width in the front and 15-inch width in the rear. Aside from needing to withstand heavy stress, the tires are also engineered to be able to dissipate the heat created by "burning rubber" at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour.

For a more in-depth look at the anatomy of an IndyCar, visit the official IndyCar site .

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