99th Indianapolis 500 : Dixon on pole

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Credit - Chris Jones

Scott Dixon took pole position for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 today, however much of the attention has been on the continued issues at Indianapolis related to the aero kits and what Indycar has changed in order to try and alleviate further issues.

For those that aren’t aware, three high profile incidents involving Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter occurred throughout practice week, with Ed’s accident the latest occurrence, this morning.  All three incidents resulted in no injuries from the drivers, however the concern of cars flipping upside down has placed the series in the spotlight for many, the wrong reasons.

As a result of what happened this morning, the qualifying format changed again, following the initial change, due to a weather washout yesterday. The session effectively took place with one single four lap run per entrant for positions 1-30 followed by positions 31-33 being decided by multiple attempt qualifying, over a 45 minute session.

Additionally Indycar decided it was in the best interests of the series to alter the technical regulations prior to qualifying. The primary change was disallowing both Honda and Chevrolet entrants from running a qualifying aero set-up which is different from the one the team will run during the race, effectively forcing the cars to qualify with far higher downforce.

Additionally the extra boost pressure which was added yesterday, and was planned for use in qualifying, was reduced back, effectively removing 40HP. These measures combined effectively meant that instead of the anticipated qualifying speeds with the new aero kits of a predicted 234mph, was in fact a pole speed by Scott Dixon of 226.760 mph. Additionally the points allocation was removed by Indycar due to the technical regulation changes, meaning teams had a thirty-minute practice with this set-up only prior to qualifying.

Now a lot of the blame throughout the community for these incidents is directed at Chevrolet, from sidepods to wickers… I’m not an aerodynamicist and therefore aren’t going to comment on what Chevrolet should of done, or could of done. Right now I feel though it is more a case of that Chevrolet and Indycar in addition to Honda have more questions than answers.

Perhaps a more substantial test programme in hindsight from Indycar for this specification of the kit at IMS may of helped the situation? Chevrolet did do oval testing in a real world environment, not only CFD, so perhaps more was required?

The other issue it created is that whilst Chevrolet and Indycar got alot of media scrutiny and the blame directed at them. Indycar decided that, whilst stating it was not possible to fully guarantee that the Honda aero kits wouldn’t have similar problems if the situation dictated, the technical regulation changes would therefore apply to both manufacturers.

This decision led to a lot of debates throughout social media and in the Indycar paddock as to whether Honda should be effectively penalised for what appears at least right now to be a Chevrolet issue.

Personally I was a little confused by some of INDYCAR’s decisions following the technical changes. However now that qualifying has run and the objective of having a safe incident free session is achieved, the decisions to place the revised regulations on both manufacturers does make a little more sense to me.

The fallout from this will no doubt be a discussion for further weeks with discussion primarily focused on safety and what the series can do to address these issues for super-speedways later in the season, with Texas, Fontana and Pocono yet to run after next weekend’s Indianapolis 500.

I’d also suspect the series has a major dose of embarrassment and a wave of criticism to ride over the coming months additionally. These are $75,000 per car aero packages, and with what has already happened at St Petersburg and NOLA earlier in the year, in addition to what has occurred throughout this month on the biggest stage of the year for the series. I feel the image of these aero kits as a series saviour has turned into massive embarrassment and concern for Indycar. Can it be rectified? I believe so, but not overnight.

Right now I hope we can have an enjoyable, though primarily safe running of the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 24th.

The field of 33

Row 1 – Scott Dixon / Will Power / Simon Pagenaud
Row 2 – Tony Kanaan / Helio Castroneves / Justin Wilson
Row 3 – Sebastien Bourdais / Marco Andretti / Josef Newgarden
Row 4 – J.R Hildebrand / Carlos Munoz / Ed Carpenter
Row 5 – Oriol Servia / Charlie Kimball / Juan Pablo Montoya
Row 6 – Ryan Hunter-Reay / Graham Rahal / Carlos Huertas
Row 7 – Simona De Silvestro / James Jakes / Tristan Vautier*
Row 8 – Alex Tagliani / Sage Karam / James Hinchcliffe
Row 9 – Conor Daly / Townsend Bell / Takuma Sato
Row 10 – Pippa Mann / Gabby Chaves / Sebastian Saavedra
Row 11 – Jack Hawksworth / Stefano Coletti / Bryan Clauson

*James Davison will race the car in the race, Vautier was a Super-Sub for qualifying. Finally Buddy Lazier was bumped and therefore failed to make the field.

 

 

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Buckeye Kenny

Honda builds a fast safe speedway aero kit and Chevy did not. No reward for Honda. So I believe with the qualification results after the rule change Indy car is run by Penske, after all he and Chevy called the meeting with Indy.

Tom Firth

I understand the comment about no reward for Honda, I don’t understand the surprise at Penske & Ganassi being on the front row, rule changes or not, Penske & Ganassi would of had front row positioned cars … In many ways, I think the late rule changes actually hurt Penske. Look at JPM’s starting position.

adaptable1

Open wheeled race cars are designed to go fast around corners on circuits. Once you change their setups to go around ovals just for the sake of being faster, you are basically designing an upside down airplane….and under the right circumstances, that upside down airplane can go right side up, and safety goes out the window. Stop wanting to be NASCAR Indycar!

Tom Firth

Sorry mate, maybe I misread this so could you clarify what you mean about Indycar wanting to be NASCAR?

adaptable1

Quite simply that during oval races, the whole tone of the Indycar coverage and even the driver’s attitudes changes from raving lines and braking zones to almost entirely top speed, Like comparing checkers to chess. That maybe ok for one race a year, but unfortunately Indycar does it for several. They even broadcast those races on ESPN instead of NBCS.

Tom Firth

Oval racing is and always has been a part of the series, so I don’t see what the issue with it with personally, but that is my personal opinion.

ESPN (ABC) only are broadcasting one oval this year, and that is the Indianapolis 500, which has been the case forever, the other three ABC races this year which has to happen for contractual obligations (unfortunately as i prefer NBCSN broadcast) have been road course events.

adaptable1

May mistake on the broadcasters… I think ESPN had St. Petersburg this year as well.

Tom Firth

Yeah, ABC/ESPN carried St pete, The month of may and Detroit will be the other ABC race. The rest will be on NBC family of channels, mostly NBCSN, except one which is CNBC, I think that is Texas but I can’t quite remember without looking.

xorpheous

First Indianapolis 500 Mile Race — 1911
First NASCAR race — 1949
Who is wanting to be whom?

Racing is dangerous, racing at Indianapolis is even more dangerous. The real source of the problem of flipping cars goes back to the amount of oval testing for the new kits. They had none before the Month of May. That is the real cause of the problems, and it’s not a problem that can be fixed with the simple addition of more bits and less boost. …I have a rant brewing that I’ll post later this week.

adaptable1

No doubt Indycar came first, and no doubt, the aero packages needed much more testing….but at the same time NASCAR is so much more popular today than Indycar. When I’ve watched the Indy 500 over the past few years, the coverage seemed more like a NASCAR race….down to the mph call out markers over the cars. I know that is by design. Make no mistake, oval racing is dangerous and challenging…and the guys/girls who do it at those speeds have a lot of courage… but at the same time, I fall asleep trying to watch oval races on TV (unless… Read more »

jakobusvdl

What is this doing for public interest in the Indy 500?
Here in New Zealand, we normally get the odd mention of Indycar when Scott Dixon does well, but this year we’ve had tumbling Indycars on every other sports bulletin, and a few seconds to mention that Dixon took pole this evening, before another look ar Ed Carpenter’s flip.

Tom Firth

Yeah …. ok this is a hate for me, and I’m probably going to start ranting, but will try and not go too far. The mass media (Non specialist press) in the UK has almost no coverage of motorsport in terms of continuous coverage except for F1. Now this isn’t a problem in itself, F1 is the most popular form of motorsport in the region so logically it gains the biggest coverage, ok. The problem comes when the media only covers the rest of the sport, when something goes wrong, the old adage of “if it bleeds, it reads” comes… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Good to get it out of your system Tom. I think this a peeve that many on the forum would share. There are lots of us petrol heads around, but comparatively little coverage of the breadth of motor sport in the mainstream media.
Thank goodness for the interweb, we can indulge our subversive passion!

John The Race Fan

It doesn’t really inconvenience anyone and does sort of level the playing field. The teams were tuning the cars for qualifying to accommodate the higher speeds from the increased boost for qualifying. The ‘race trim’ was tuned for the lower boost. By makin the teams qualify in race trim instead of qualifying trim, it negated any advantage. That said, I don’t know that this is necessarily a Chevrolet-only issue. None of the Hondas ended up turned around to test. I’m willing to bet that they would behave similarly. An aero race car is an upside-down wing, essentially. The air flowing… Read more »