A problem is brewing in IndyCar with a perceived competitive imbalance between Chevrolet and Honda teams. Chevy has opened the season by winning six of the first eight races, and it doesn’t appear that trend will stop anytime soon.
Chevy took eight of the top 10 qualifying spots going into Saturday’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, including the top three led by pole-sitter Will Power.
And only one car had an accident during practice and qualifying Friday — a Honda driven by 2014 Indy 500 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“Yes, there is a lot of concern,” Hunter-Reay said of Chevy’s dominance.
Is there anything that the Honda drivers can do at this point?
“There’s nothing we can do right now,” Hunter-Reay said. “We just need to make the best of what we have, make the best out of our car. Horsepower hasn’t been our issue … it’s been all about aerodynamic, balance, the way the car behaves on the racetrack. It’s the whole thing. It’s a complete picture we’re struggling with.”
The top Honda qualifier was Carlos Munoz, who starts fourth and is coming off a win last weekend in Detroit.
Graham Rahal is the only other Honda driver in the top 10, qualifying eighth.
For as much as this appears to be an issue on the surface, don’t expect Chevy or its drivers to issue apologies. They’ll point to the parity in the sport by having six teams with wins so far, even though results suggest there’s a clear manufacturer distinction.
“I feel that whoever did their homework better should deserve to benefit from it,” Chevrolet driver Helio Castroneves said. “But, at the end of the day in terms of who is best or not, the races have been very unpredictable. … So far, I think it’s been pretty equal.”
Pretty equal is a relative term, of course. It’s a safe bet that Honda wouldn’t use it.
Hunter-Reay lone wreck
Hunter-Reay lone wreck
The altered aero kits for Texas appear to have worked, judging by minimal issues during practice and qualifying Friday.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was the only driver who wrecked his car, doing so less than 45 minutes into the opening IndyCar practice session. He slammed hard into the outside wall of Turn 2, and then spun into the inside wall, causing heavy damage to his car.
“It’s unfortunate getting the car in the wall there, we still don’t really know what happened,” Hunter-Reay said. “Big surprise with a car that had a pretty light front end and was comfortable to that point.”
Hunter-Reay ended up qualifying 21st in a backup car, but is confident he can gain positions with a strong run Saturday.
“You can put 10 spots on them in the first two laps if you have a good car,” he said. “Not really worried about our qualifying.”
IndyCar altered its superspeedway aero kits coming into Texas after seeing four significant wrecks in the days leading up to the Indy 500, including three drivers getting airborne and another wreck that left driver James Hinchcliffe hospitalized.
For Texas, the aero kits added a closure panel for the front and back of the rear wheel guards, aimed at eliminating lift when a car is traveling backwards at high speed during an accident. They also adjusted the degree of the rear wing angle to increase the overall downforce with the hope that it helps enhance the overall racing.
Power on the pole
Reigning series champion Will Power is starting on the pole position for the third consecutive year at Texas, although he has yet to turn that prime position into a win.
He would like to change that this year.
“I was really happy to get the pole honestly,” said Power, who has one career win at Texas (2011 after starting third).
“I felt if I could be in the top five, I’d be happy. Starting first, really happy about that.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760