The Not-So-Great Divide

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hondavschevyThere was a blatant division in the qualification results this weekend in Phoenix, with Chevy at the top of the boards and Honda rounding out the bottom half. The same division occurred in both practice sessions. The Verizon IndyCar Series allowed Honda to take another shot at aerokit design development during the off-season, for their road & street and short oval kits. This allowance provoked the general assumption of a more equal battle in 2016, rather than the field separation we’ve been seeing. We are currently in the second round of the 2016 IndyCar season, and still waiting for that gap to be fully bridged. But exactly how big is that gap? And should we really be blaming aerokits? We’ll tackle that question shortly.

Honda is now in their second season of trying to get their bearings with new aerokits and figuring out how to fit the puzzle pieces together in a way that will lead to victory and more consistency over race weekends for not just the race itself, but for both the practice and qualification rounds as well.

Chevy dominated qualifying back in St. Pete with the Top 5 running bowties, but at least we had 4 Hondas in the P6-P10 spots to start the race. Today, in contrast, the highest starting Honda is Marco Andretti in the No. 27 UFD machine, and it’s from Row 6 in P11. The finish at St. Pete’s was a bit more mixed, with RHR pulling out a podium for Honda. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and AJ Foyt Racing were also represented in the Top 10 of the season-opener by Mikhail Aleshin and Takuma Sato, along with Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Carlos Munoz.

This sport dealt with “The Split” once in it’s history, and my fear has been that this situation is creating “a split” of another variety. And, that this new split could be just as damaging to the series, as it’s namesake. IndyCar’s biggest claim that sets it apart from, and depending on who you ask – above, the other premiere racing series, is the close competition. The unpredictability. With the aerokit introductions, many have commented (myself included) that it has felt like we were losing that edge. Well guess what? We aren’t.

My Two Cents

I did the math. I counted, I calculated and in the end, the results surprised even me. Here’s what I am concluding – when you feel like things aren’t going your way, or there is a change you aren’t totally comfortable with, it’s very easy to find a scapegoat for your problems. In the past year, it’s been easy to blame the division of the field on the most obvious change in the paddock: the aerokits. But it’s simply not fair to do that. The implementation of the manufacturer’s aerokits are not causing the division. In reality, there is no difference in the division. Not when it comes to results at least.

Numbers don’t lie. The number of podium spots and victories claimed by both Chevy and Honda, has remained unchanged when you compare the 2014 season (Dallara spec cars) to the 2015 season (manufacturer aerokits). Please note, when I refer to podiums, I am counting all three drivers that made it to the stage, including the winner.

Honda Podiums Honda Wins Chevy Podiums Chevy Wins
2014 (spec) 20 (37%) 6 (33%) 34 (63%) 12 (67%)
2015 (aerokits) 16 (33%) 6 (37%) 32 (67%) 10 (63%)

As you can see, the needle didn’t really move on that rate of success for the two manufacturers. And the numbers actually evened out last year as far as full time engines being run by each – Honda ran 12 full time cars in 2014 and Chevy ran 10. Last year, both teams ran 12 for the duration of the 2015 season. This year we have the same equality with each engine manufacturer running 10 full time cars. Chevy is also running a partial season with Ed Carpenter in the No. 20, on the five ovals set for the schedule. Honda could potentially run an 11th engine full time, if Dale Coyne runs his No. 19 entry for the entirety of the season. Luca Filippi has been piloting the machine thus far, but I’ve yet to find confirmation of him in the seat for all of 2016.

Basically, what I’m saying is that we just have to wait and see how this all pans out before anybody panics. The division of engines in practice and qualifying yesterday was yes, disheartening. But let’s see what happens in the actual race. It’s been more than a decade since we have raced in Phoenix – the track has changed, as have the cars and the majority of the drivers. Anything could happen. If you watched any of yesterday’s sessions from the on-board cameras, you know that the speed, the passing and the strategy will force all involved to perform at their very best. The one thing I can tell about this track already is that it doesn’t leave much, if any, room for error. And with 22 cars screaming around it for the better part of 2 hours, my hope is that we are witnesses to an event showcasing the extreme talent and enviable adaptability of these drivers. And the podium will hopefully, welcome those who handled it best. 

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This is where you come in, IndyCar fans. Drop me a tweet by tagging me @SHAYZEN and @OfficialLFT and give me your honest feedback. Maybe I’m missing something – in which case I want you to open my eyes! Or hey, maybe you agree with me and have your own ideas to add – points that I missed. Whatever you think and wherever you stand, I want to be part of that conversation with you. Let me hear it!

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