INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar officials might be ready to give the series a retro look and bring back the chase for track records at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mark Miles, CEO of the company that owns the speedway, and Derrick Walker, head of IndyCar competition, said Thursday that they were debating how to top the record-breaking speeds clocked in 1996 by two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk.
"I hope I get to be a part of that," said Ed Carpenter, the pole-sitter for Sunday's race who grew up near the speedway. "I have the memories of Tom Carnegie calling, 'New track record.' I think it would be cool if we got to that point again. I'd like to hear somebody say, 'New track record,' over the P.A. system."
Luyendyk holds the record for fastest official lap at Indianapolis (237.498 mph) and fastest four-lap qualifying average (236.986). Since series officials disallowed turbo-charged engines in 1997, nobody has come close. Last season, after bringing back the turbochargers but with less horsepower, Indy's pole-winning speed was 226.484 mph. Speeds were up a bit this year as Carpenter averaged 228.762.
Some believe steady improvements with the current setup will continue to push speeds up by 2-3 mph over the next few years. That would put drivers within reach of the record without adding boost to the engines.
But that's not how Walker wants to proceed.
First, members of the competition advisory board hope to modify the aerodynamic kits. Walker said that decision needs to be made soon because manufacturers then will get one year to develop the kits and get them on the track.
There are concerns, though.
"The biggest thing is being safe going at those speeds," said Josef Newgarden, who drives for Sarah Fisher. "Maybe we can come up with a compromise; do one thing for qualifying and another for racing. Racing at those speeds is probably asking for trouble."
Safety is a priority for Miles and Walker, too.
At Thursday's news conference, the two stood in front of the first car to top 150 mph, the first to top 200 mph, Luyendyk's car that set the records and the SAFER barrier that has become standard in IndyCar and NASCAR.
But the ultimate goal is rekindling the talk about how fast drivers can go on Indy's 2½-mile oval.
"Mark has really given us the goal of breaking the track record with a lot less horsepower and using a very different car," Walker said. "I would say we can do that in two to three years.
"When you look at where the series is going, we can't help but look back and say, 'Hey, have we forgotten what racing's all about?' I think we've lost a lot of what really IndyCar and, more specifically, the Indianapolis 500 is all about."
Drivers can't wait to get started.
"Today we are close to achieving 230 mph with the safety we want, so I say why not?" three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves said. "I do believe we can do it."