This is not a repeat, and you do not have déjà vu. At the Indycar Grand Prix of Indianapolis Saturday, Graham Rahal started well back in the pack, benefited from a crash and finished second. For the second straight race.
Give Graham his due. He qualified 17th, but went into the race with a plan: Swing wide to the outside going into turn one, then pick your way through the inevitable crash. He went from 17th to 6th in the first turn of the first lap. Here’s a link to the video of the crash. Indy GP first turn melee
Rahal’s car is the dark red car on the outside near the back. Very well played.
The surprising thing was that once he got the track position, he kept up with the Chevys, made a couple of passes and challenged for the lead at the end. Will Power won the race, and Juan Montoya finished third.
As well as Rahal ran, it was another Chevy-dominated show. The next best Honda was Takuma Sato in ninth.
The main problem with the Hondas as a group continues to be qualifying speed: There is none. In practice and qualifying, the Hondas can’t get out of their own way. In the first round of Qualifying, the fastest Honda was 6 tenths of a second slower than the fastest Chevy. That’s close in Formula 1 terms, but in Indycar terms it’s nowhere. Which explains why only one Honda (Hawkeswoth) made it out of round 1. Hawkesworth started 11th. All the others started 13th or worse in a 25-car field.
Watching the race, you can see what the problem is: The Chevy looks glued to the road. The Hondas look twitchy. The common wisdom is this is caused by the front wings bending up and down under aero load, making it hard to set up the car because of the inconsistent feel. Over the weekend, Honda announced that it would be remanufacturing some of the aerokit pieces, with the hope that the new pieces would flex less.
HPD did not say when the new pieces are going to be available. But if they do flex less, it should give the Honda runners a bit better chance. The next race using the road/street aerokits will be May 30 & 31 in Detroit (2 Races).
But that issue is on the back burner now that the main event is upon us: the Indy 500. For points, that’s really two events in one. Qualifying is May 16 and 17. That’s an event in itself as you can earn almost as many points from qualifying on the pole as you can for winning a race. The race is May 24.
This year, there are special Indy-only aerokits. Honda has said that the Indy Speedway aerokit was their priority when designing this year’s body work. Hopefully Honda did better with that than they did with the Road/Street Aerokit. The first exam is this week.