We’ve got seven races to go in the Indycar season and Honda has a substantial lead in the manufacturer points for the first time since competition resumed in 2012.
Going into this weekend’s race at Iowa, Honda leads 832 to 707. Because I have the week off and there is only so much World Cup Soccer I can watch, I thought I would analyze the numbers and give everyone an idea of what that really means.
How does the system work? And how big is Honda’s lead, really?
According to the Indycar rulebook for 2018, each manufacturer earns points for its top two cars in each race. In addition, there is one point for pole position and five points for winning the race.
The most a manufacturer can earn in one race is 96. That includes five points for winning the race, one point for pole, 50 points for first place and 40 for second. The least a manufacturer can earn in a race is 35. That would happen for Honda if all of the 11 Chevys finished ahead of all of the 12 Hondas. In that case, Honda would get 18 points for 12th and 17 for 13th. So, the most that Chevy can gain in any given race is 61. That would be incredibly unlikely. All the Hondas would have to be disqualified for that to happen.
What this means is that Honda has slightly more than a two-race lead right now. If Chevy finished 1-through-11 at Iowa and Toronto, Chevy and Honda would be tied. Or would they be?
Can points be earned any other way? What happened to points for engine longevity?
Indycar used to have a complicated system where each manufacturer earned some number of points for their engines running 2,000 miles successfully. That has gone away, except in the case of the new engines that every team got to run the Indy 500. In order to discourage the manufacturers from running “special” engines for the 500, Indycar added “durability” points just for those engines. Every time one of those Indy 500 engines reaches 2,000 miles (including racing, testing and in event practice), the manufacturer gets the number of points that the entrant using that engine earned in the 500.
For example, Will Power won the race. He earned 100 points for winning the race (double the normal 50). As far as I know, double points at Indy and Sonoma are not used for the manufacturer’s point race. At least the rules make no mention of it. Once Will Power puts 2,000 miles on that engine in testing, practices and races, he would earn Chevy 50 durability points.
Except that engine won’t be earning any durability points because Power blew one engine at Road America and another during testing at Iowa. One of those was his Indy engine, so those 50 points are gone.
Also, the engines that were run by “one-off” cars that are not running the full season don’t qualify for this durability bonus. The engines run by Helio Castroneves or Oriol Servia, for instance, do not qualify.
Near as I can tell, Honda will get 214 durability points sometime before the end of the month in Mid-Ohio. While Chevy will get 155.
So after that calculation, Honda is ahead by 184 points, or about three races.
How can Honda lose the Manufacturer Title?
That’s relatively straight forward: If Chevy finishes 1-2 in every one of the seven races this season, Chevy will pass Honda at Sonoma with about 19 points to spare. They could still do it with one 1-3 finish and the rest 1-2. In short, they need to pick up 27 points per race. The Chevy 1-2/Honda 3-4 yields 29.
What’s likely to happen?
Based on what has happened so far, Chevy finishing 1-2 in all the remaining races is very unlikely . It has only happened once this year (the Indy 500). Whereas Honda has had several 1-2 finishes. As an exercise, I predicted the points totals for each of the remaining seven races based on results of similar races earlier in the season.
For Iowa, I would predict Chevy to have 82 points and Honda to get 75. This is based on the results from Phoenix earlier in the season. Same prediction would hold for Gateway.
For the Toronto street race, I predict Chevy 57, Honda 93, based on the average of the results of St. Pete, Long Beach and the two Detroit Races, all of which Honda dominated.
For Mid-Ohio, Portland and Sonoma, I would predict Chevy 81, Honda 75 for each of them based on the average of the results of Barber, the GP of Indy, and Road America.
For Pocono, I would predict Chevy 78, Honda 79, based on Indy and Texas.
So if the last seven races go the way of the first 10, Honda should clinch the manufacturer’s title after the Pocono Race. Honda would have a lead of 209 with 183 possible points left (three races). Next week we’ll look at how likely it is for Scott Dixon to hold onto his Drivers’ points lead.
This assumes that the engines season-long entrants ran in the Indy 500 last 2,000 miles. But so far, reliability has been good for both manufacturers (with the exception of Power’s Chevy).
This also DOES NOT take into account drivers who cannot score points for their engine manufacturer. Drivers can only score engine manufacturer points for engines 1 through 4 of the season. Use a fifth engine, and your performance does not count for engine manufacturer points. It is like the car is not there.
Will Power, for instance, has used three engines and at Iowa he will begin using his fourth engine. Once he takes a fifth engine (which is inevitable), his performance will not help Chevy.
I ASSUME no Honda driver is in the same predicament. But Honda and Chevy are pretty tight-lipped about that, so I don’t really know.
Finally, this assumes I understand the Manufacturers’ points rules.