DW12 IndyCar: "Why do they call it that?" Inside sleek new Dallara 2012 IndyCar chassis DW12 race car

7:46 AM, Mar 21, 2012   |    comments
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The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is this weekend, and when the drivers pull out onto the course, they'll be behind the wheel of a brand new IndyCar design -- the DW12.

Why do they call it the DW12 IndyCar?

Fastest drivers in the world? Meet your new ride.

IndyCar's old race car style is out for 2012, replaced by a sleek new design.

E.J. Viso, you're an IndyCar driver -- show me why I should love this speedster.

"You can see there are a lot of drastic changes. All of this is for the aerodynamics," Viso said, sweeping his hand along the stylish curved side of a display car.

"We're gonna be able to put a lot of cameras around the car so the fans -- so you guys -- can see when we're driving what's going on."

"This is going to stop the car from flipping," Viso said, pointing to another detail on the new car.

"It's stronger, stiffer, it's just a better build. I hope you like it!"

OK, I'm sold. Let me try.

I climb into the DW12 and a chorus of voices -- from Viso and other race workers -- tell me to keep getting lower and lower.

When I'm finally at the right level, I'm practically flat on my back and my knees are even with my shoulders. But Viso assures me when he's driving more than 200 miles an hour, he's not worried about his prone posture.

The first driver to test this new car design was St. Petersburg's own Dan Wheldon. He put it through its paces on the track in Indianapolis. His job was to figure out what worked well about the new car, and what didn't.

For example, he may note that the safety improvements are superb, but the steering's not perfect, and the suspension needs work. He'd give all of that feedback to the builders and they'd make the car better.

Then, just weeks later, Wheldon lost his life in an older-style race car in Las Vegas.

"Very, very, very good driver. Great friend. Great family person. Just a great human being and for sure, he's always gonna be missed," Viso said.

"We are very proud, being a part of it, and me driving something that he helped us build."

The new car design's company code name had been IR12.

In honor of St. Pete's fallen champion, Dan Wheldon's initials were added to give the groundbreaking new car its name, the DW12.

Why do they call it that? Now you know. 

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race weekend runs this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- with six races in all.

The main event is the IndyCar race with the new DW12 car design. That's on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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