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Friday, July 2, 2010

Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010

IUPUI motorsports students earn accolades after racing team sets world record

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July 2, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- It sounds incredible that Indiana dragster driver Cory McClenathan traveled at over 324 mph when covering 1,000 feet in just 3.752 seconds to make drag racing history recently, but McClenathan says it was a group of motorsports engineering students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who were "unbelievable" in their assistance with helping him set the new record.

"We've been working with IUPUI and those kids are just unbelievable when it comes to aerodynamics and how chassis should work," McClenathan said after making National Hot Rod Association history. "We've been working close with them and they were a big part of some configurations we've used. This car is basically set up the way they'd like to see it go in the future, especially when it comes to aerodynamics."

McClenathan races with the nationally-recognized Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team based out of Brownsburg, Ind. DSR and IUPUI's Motorsports Engineering Program earlier this year announced a new collaborative, experience-based learning program similar to programs developed by IUPUI with IndyCar and Formula 1 racing teams. The foundation for the program is for students and faculty to work with DSR staff on exclusive research-and-development projects to improve engine, clutch and chassis components by using 3D modeling, finite stress analysis and computational fluid dynamics technologies.

Now in its second year, the Motorsports Engineering Program at IUPUI has about 60 students from over 16 states enrolled to ultimately receive a bachelor's degree in science. A number of the students are spread out among Indiana racing teams like DSR, Sarah Fisher Racing and Panther Racing, where students develop and apply technical skills from a minimum of 70 hours of engineering class work, in addition to motorsports course work that also touches on control system analysis and design, data acquisition, computer-aided design (CAD) and engineering, and dynamic systems and signals.

Paul Lucas and Kirk Barber are IUPUI students in the program who worked with DSR and McClenathan in designing the chassis for the top fuel dragster that set the record for the fastest-traveled 1,000-foot distance in National Hot Rod Association history. McClenathan set the new record at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., on June 11.

"We did a lot of computer-aided design modeling, finite element analysis, stress analysis and fatigue studies, and Paul and I mainly focused on the chassis portion of the race car," Barber said. "DSR is also working with other IUPUI students and staff on projects involving aerodynamics and materials."

With a background already developed from IUPUI course work, Lucas said he was able to move smoothly from using the CAD program called Pro-E that he'd picked up at school and move on to another CAD program called SolidWorks that was better suited to chassis design.

"SolidWorks allowed Kirk and I to run many different chassis designs in a quick amount of time to receive results," Lucas said. "We could predict with pretty good accuracy which designs were going to give us the results DSR was looking for, and they also had design ideas that we modeled and ran to get results. We made it easier for DSR to make chassis changes because they could see the direct result before the car hit the track."

In the end, Lucas said, "It was the great crew and excellent driving skills of Cory 'Mac' that set the record."

But McClenathan sent the recognition back to Lucas, Barber and the other IUPUI students and staff that helped DSR.

"My hat's off to those guys," he said. "Not taking anything away from [crew chiefs] Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler and the guys on the FRAM car, but at the same time it's a good partnership."

Pete Hylton, director of the motorsports program at IUPUI, agreed that the give-and-take between racing professionals and new crops of engineering students makes sense. He also said technology has made the motorsports program more attractive for racing teams to get involved with internships.

"One of the great improvements in the last few years has been to use computer capabilities to reduce the actual time and cost of testing on the race track, as well as the expense of using a wind tunnel, which is also very time-consuming," he pointed out.

According to statistics provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the motorsports industry in Indiana generates about $3.5 billion in revenue annually, while supporting jobs with an average wage that is 135 percent of the state average. There are over 800 companies employing over 9,000 people which can be considered part of the Indiana motorsports industry.

To speak with Hylton, McClenathan or IUPUI motorsports students, please contact Steve Chaplin, Indiana University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or

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