INDIANAPOLIS – The NTT IndyCar Series rolled out a new car in 2018 and while they were obviously pleased on how it raced on a majority of the circuits, how it ran on superspeedways showed that they still had a work in progress.
See, one of the series’ main goals for this unified car other than cost savings was trying to make the racing even closer. Last year, the Indianapolis 500 though wasn’t as close as they would have liked it to be. With the new car that was supposed to make the racing closer, the ‘500 actually went backwards.
Prior to the DW12 aerokit being introduced in 2012, the most lead changes in Indy 500 history was 29 in 1960. But, over the past seven years, we’ve seen at least 30 lead changes in each race.
Under the new car from 2012 through 2014, we saw some of the most competitive Indy 500’s in history. There were 34 lead changes in 2012 and again in 2014 but a race record of 68 sandwiched in between in 2013. Then, came the manufacturer specific aero kits from 2015 through 2017 which produced 37,54 and 35 lead changes respectively.
Last year, with that new car, there were 30 lead changes, most coming on pit sequences.
Some blamed the weather, others cited not just the weather but the way the downforce was taken off of the cars and moved to the bottom of the machines themselves. IndyCar and IMS wants the racing to get closer again and have tried adjustments between this year and last to make that happen. The test last month was hampered by rain and didn’t allow much to happen.
Will this year’s race be better?
Marco Andretti leads Ryan Hunter-Reay and Zach Veach in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
So far, a majority of the drivers think we will see a similar race. While they do think passing for the lead will be easier, passing from 4th or 5th on back will be just as difficult as last year. It all is temperature dependent unfortunately and with forecasted highs supposed to be near 80, expect a very similar race from fourth on back. But, the top three should be fun to watch.
See, most of the drivers told me on Thursday that the tow in this year’s car is much bigger than in year’s past. You can seemingly get to the car in front of you with ease. They all expect the top two cars to be able to pass and exchange spots a lot . So, why not throughout the whole field?
“IndyCar gave us some wicker so hopefully that will give us some more grip as well as a new tire,” said Marco Andretti. “Hopefully that will make things more favorable. I think the first two or three will be passing. Fourth on back you’ll have to wait for a mistake. I think the problem is the tow or the draft. I think when you try to pop and the guy you’re trying to pass is still in the draft, that’s the problem. It’s hard to complete the pass. That is if it’s a string of cars. If you get some separation, maybe it will be easier to pass.”
Others echoed his statement saying that expect so much passing up front that most say that they’d rather be running second coming to the white flag than in the lead itself.
Last year’s winner Will Power says that he doesn’t think the leader will ever get a chance to get away. He thinks first, second and third will go back and forth all day.
What about the Honda vs. Chevrolet debate?
From 2014 on, Honda has been the dominating manufacturer in three of the five years. Chevy, was strong in 2015 and again last year. In fact, with this new car, Chevy was the preferred engine out of the gates in 2018 in winning four of the first six races including a 1-2 finish in the ‘500. They also swept the entire front row for the 102nd Running to go along with having nine of the top 11 starters. They also combined to lead 154 of the 200 laps in the race itself.
But, every since last May, Honda has flipped the switch.
Honda drivers have won 12 of the last 16 races overall including three of five this season. Yes, Chevy won the INDYCAR Grand Prix once again two weeks ago, but if not for the rain, Honda was likely to dominate.
So, did Honda close the gap on superspeedway’s in the offseason? This is the first true test. Right now, it appears that Chevy has the advantage in the warm weather.