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What’s On An IndyCar Steering Wheel?

Thirsty? Heading to pit lane? Want to yell at your crew chief? There's a button for that.

As you get ready to watch the Indy 500 this Memorial Day weekend, try and picture what drivers will see when they take the wheel. These computerized helms may not match what’s common in F1, but IndyCar pilots still have to manage switches, buttons, and dials galore at 230 mph, even if they’ll only be steering a few degrees to the left for most of the race.

These IndyCar wheels handle numerous functions, including speedo, shift lights and status readouts for lap time, system temperatures, and mileage; buttons and switches for fuel map (from full rich to super lean), weight jacker (which transfers the car’s weight distribution from one side to the other), drink system, a speed limiter for pit lane, going into neutral (for pitting), and push-to-talk radio, and transmission paddles. 

Each driver gets his own wheel, with custom-fitted handgrips, which they also use when they’re in the simulator. Buttons’ positions can also be customized to drivers’ own preferences.

What’s more, they’re not cheap. Each wheel costs upward of $20,000.

We chatted with Chris Simmons — lead engineer for the #9 car, Scott Dixon’s, at Chip Ganassi Racing — who gave us a tour of Dixon’s steering wheel. Simmons, a former racing driver who competed in USF2000 and Indy Lights, has been a race engineer at Ganassi since 2003.