Abel making progress with Indy 500 entry
Bill Abel’s racing team is inching closer to becoming part of the NTT IndyCar Series’ paddock.
The construction magnate from Kentucky already has a high-quality Indy NXT operation that runs out of his Abel Motorsports shop in Speedway, IN, and with the team’s decision to file the final entry for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, the lights have stayed on and the coffee maker’s been aglow for many weeks.
Andretti planning European feeder series program
Sizing up a bumper crop of IndyCar free agents
Argentina football colors for Canapino at Indy 500
Using a separate crew from Abel’s NXT staff, team manager John Brunner has assembled a dedicated squad of Indy 500 veterans to prepare and run the Dallara DW12 chassis they received from Neil Enerson to field his son RC in the Chevy-powered No. 50 entry.
In its previous guise as an Indy 500 and IndyCar road course entry by Top Gun Racing for Enerson, the new DW12 had none of the special aerodynamic and mechanical modifications performed to reduce drag and friction that make a big difference in performance at the Speedway. Addressing both issues, as Brunner shares, was Abel’s first order of business.
“When Neil asked if we’d be willing to do this, and once we decided yes, we went and picked the car up with all the bits and pieces,” Brunner told RACER. “We inventoried the car, the spare parts, realizing that it’s a substantial amount that we were missing and so you’re immediately talking to Dallara, trying to order what we needed but parts are short for everybody, so that was gonna be a little bit of a struggle.
“Then it was trying to get the car ready for running the way it needs to be run at the Speedway. I had a deal I’d already cut with an existing team to get some help on going through and building the gearbox and a deal to get some help on building the uprights. Because those are obviously two huge factors at making speed at Indy. So, we got that taken care of, and then we got the underwing prepped. Doing those are the three things that you really need to make sure you get right to give yourself a chance at the Speedway.”
Along with ensuring the underside of the No. 50’s floor had all its imperfections filled in and smoothed over, Enerson’s car also received its first Speedway body fit by experts who remove any gaps and protrusions that conspire individually to rob fractions of miles per hour.
“Before, this car really never had a proper body fit,” Brunner said. “So that was the first step for us. It was sent out and we did that while we were in St. Pete and picked it up when we got home.
“So, getting the body fit was important and when we got the deal done with Chevrolet, that created a new list of things that we needed because there had been no updates for the car since 2021. There were also Chevrolet updates for this year that needed and getting some of them were going to take a little time, so making the Open Test wasn’t in our plans.
Abel Motorsport’s Dallara DW12 was previously run on the Indy road course by Top Gun Racing. Motorsport Images
Having missed the recent Indy Open Test – the only chance to test on the 2.5-mile oval prior to the start of official 500 practice on Tuesday, May 16 – the team and driver who’ve never participated in the world’s biggest race are already playing from behind.
“Obviously, that’s not the ideal situation, but it is what it is,” Brunner continued. “But we were there, walking around, looking at everybody else’s car. Take a few pictures here and there. And every single team has been great to us.
“We’ve gotten help from just about every team, whether it’s just little bits and pieces that’s hard to get for the car or something that’s backordered and holding us up. The IndyCar community is awesome. Just like it always has been. And we’ll be ready.”
Veteran IndyCar race engineer Mike Colliver, who worked most recently as A.J. Foyt Racing’s technical director and engineer for Sebastien Bourdais in 2021 and Kyle Kirkwood in 2022, is a big boost to the program along with the other experienced crew who will helm Enerson’s ride.
“I told Bill [Abel] from the very beginning that if we’re going to take this program on, I can’t take away from the Indy NXT team at all; we have a job to do there,” Brunner said. “And my mechanics and my engineers have not done Indy before, so I was able to get some guys that are used to doing the extra car for someone in Indy and I believe every single one of them did the 500 last year. And a couple of them did quite a few races last year, and some I’ve worked with before at Indy, so there’s a lot of quality people coming together for this.”
In just over a week, Enerson and Abel Motorsports will turn their first laps of practice together at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Indy 500’s 34th entry attempts to find the speed it will need to knock one other driver out during qualifying to earn a place in the field of 33. Brunner is well aware that Abel’s entry is the one fans and rivals alike are counting on to miss the show.
“Obviously, we’re the easy team to pick,” he said. “One car is gonna go home. So, if the odds makers are putting them out there, we know we’re the favorites to go home. And it’s kind of motivational. We just have to beat one car. And I told Chevy that I don’t want to beat one car. I actually want to beat a few of them and qualify 30th or better so we don’t have to go through any of the last-row qualifying on Sunday. I’m hoping maybe we can surprise some people. I have a lot of faith in RC.
“As long as we can clear rookie orientation on Tuesday and get out there and run and don’t lose time with any electronic or mechanical stuff since it’s a totally rebuilt car, I really do believe we have a shot to bump someone. And the fact that no one expects us to make it takes a little pressure off of us.”