Welcome to Autoweek’s IndyCar Roundtable.
Prior to every Verizon IndyCar Collection race weekend for the rest of the season, Autoweek’s motorsport insiders will alternate notes to debate essentially the most polarizing subjects within the self-discipline right this moment. From foolish season to race management choices, this publish is meant to generate dialog and encourage dialogue, so join-in on the controversy through the feedback part beneath or on Autoweek’s Fb web page.
We’re beginning to get a clearer picture of the brand new spec aero equipment for subsequent season. What are your common observations concerning the ‘new automotive?’ What are your hopes and fears for the racing product subsequent season?
Bruce Martin, veteran IndyCar author and reporter: The common aero equipment shall be a case of “what’s previous is new once more” stylistically however with many extra enhancements. The hopes had been to create a sleeker, cleaner wanting automotive paying homage to the so-called “Glory Days” of the 1980s and 1990s when Lola, March, Reynard, Penske and Swift had been the producers in CART. However this isn’t Gary Bettenhausen’s or Howdy Holmes’ Indy automotive – it’s designed to be a lot safer than these fashions that always sacrificed security for pace in an period the place monitor information nonetheless mattered on the Indianapolis 500.
The brand new automotive will incorporate lots of the newest security designs together with robust anti-intrusion panels to the bathtub. It was these panels together with the “domed skid” that possible saved Sebastien Bourdais from severe harm throughout his crash in Indianapolis 500 on Could 20. Though Bourdais sustained a number of fractures of the pelvis and a fractured proper hip, he’s anticipated to recuperate and be again in a race automotive as early because the season-finale at Sonoma Raceway. Twenty-five years in the past, that possible wouldn’t have been doable.
As for the racing product, the fashion of racing within the 101st Indianapolis 500 was each thrilling and very aggressive. Jay Frye has vowed the competitors stage will stay excessive with the common aero equipment and driver Graham Rahal believes the opposite races on the schedule shall be even higher as a result of the elimination of the rear wheel guards will now permit automobiles to drive up the rear of one another with out aerodynamic turbulence. The downforce on the common equipment shall be generated by the undertray of the automotive eliminating the necessity for the top-side downforce generated by the cumbersome and clumsy wanting rear wings and winglets Honda and Chevrolet makes use of on the present aero equipment. It is a key in making the racing higher in any respect tracks – not simply the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Matt Weaver, Autoweek affiliate motorsports editor: This actually appears to be like like a conventional Indy automotive, which is one thing followers have not been capable of say because the dissolution of Champ Automotive. With that stated, I personally loved the on-track product generated by the boxy authentic DW12 from from 2012-2104. These had been a number of the most excitting races I’ve ever attended in my life, no matter which monitor the tour visited over the course of these three seasons. The ICONIC committee made a significant misstep by forcing a number of aero kits, particularly since third-party builders by no means knocked on IndyCar’s door, so this season’s return to parity and a principally spec physique has been a welcome return to type for the Verizon IndyCar Collection.
Hopefully we do not lose the present parity-to-excitement ratio with what comes subsequent.
Joey Barnes, IndyCar.com options author: It’s smooth, and appears just like the Indy automotive we’ve all the time needed. Particularly with the rear pods eliminated so it appears to be like much less stock-ish, and that must also inherently change (a few of) the large quantities of downforce on the automotive. If nothing else, it has that ‘wow’ issue that would usher in a youthful era in the identical manner open wheel automobiles did for us 20 to 30 years in the past.
Hopefully the aesthetic enchancment to the DW12 does not sacrifice the superb on-track product we have loved this 12 months, as a result of it does not get a lot better than this.
Graham Rahal’s Detroit sweep, mixed along with his fourth-place end result at Texas, has him 43 factors behind Scott Dixon for the championship lead. Is he a professional contender or has he burned by way of too many mulligans over the primary 9 races of the season?
Bruce Martin, veteran IndyCar author and reporter: Not solely is Rahal a professional contender, a few of his finest race programs are arising together with his “Hometown Monitor” – the Mid-Ohio Sports activities Automotive Course. Rahal loved the proper weekend at Detroit when his automotive was quick proper out of the transporter and his Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew made little or no adjustments. After Rahal dominated Race 1, crew proprietor Bobby Rahal was requested by Rico Nault if any adjustments needs to be made for Race 2. “Simply wash it and put it again on the trailer,” Bobby Rahal replied.
The weekend sweep at Detroit was spectacular however let’s not overlook what he did at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10. He began 11th however labored on his automotive all night time till it may lastly run on the high-side of the race monitor. As soon as Rahal was confidence his automotive may run on the excessive line, he was ready to battle for the victory and was ecstatic when he radioed to his crew, “I’ve bought a rocket ship on the excessive line!!” Sadly, Rahal was denied the possibility to race to the end as a result of Takuma Sato triggered a three-car crash whereas operating third as he tried to go Scott Dixon for second place with six laps to go. The race ended below warning and Rahal completed fourth.
“With Highway America, Iowa Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Mid-Ohio the subsequent 4 races on the schedule, it is a nice time for Rahal to firmly plant himself within the group of drivers contending for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Collection championship. At 28 years of age, Rahal’s finest days are nonetheless forward.
Matt Weaver, Autoweek affiliate motorsports editor: Essentially the most irritating factor about watching Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing proper now could be that they clearly have the personnel and driver wanted to contend for a championship, however seemingly lack the assets the ‘Large three’ tremendous groups. The youthful Rahal has typically spoken about wanting a full-time teammate to double-up on information, however simply have not been capable of safe the funding or proper driver to pair with the 28-year-old. Very similar to Sebastien Bourdais earlier than his harm, a championship run solely felt sensible if Bourdais prevented a number of DNFs. It is the identical with Rahal as a result of he simply does not have a margin for error, particularly contemplating that he opened 2017 with 4 finishes of 10th or worse.
Rahal goes to win at the very least one other race this season, however they’ve in all probability dug themselves too deep a gap to climb out of when it comes to one other late summer time championship run.
Joey Barnes, IndyCar.com options author: Rahal is an enigma. He is been super-fast over the previous 24 months and battled to top-5 finishes within the championship because of this. At simply 28-years-old, he is simply now hitting the prime of his profession, however simply cannot discover mechanical consistency. With that stated, the present IndyCar Collection is so ultra-competitive that if you hit on one thing on a race weekend, it often carries over to a number of occasions. So maybe Detroit was the beginning of a summer time push?
With the unusual manner this season has unfolded, I can’t fairly depend him out, however Highway America and Iowa might be the place we study who’s in and who’s out of the championship combine.
How about Will Energy?
Bruce Martin, veteran IndyCar author and reporter: The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Collection champion has had an up-and-down season however is one in all solely two repeat winners this season. The opposite is Graham Rahal, who swept each races at Detroit. Energy’s victories have come on the ultra-smooth Indianapolis Motor Speedway Highway Course and the Texas Motor Speedway oval. Energy’s weak point was once oval racing however he has change into as tremendous a driver on the circle tracks as anybody within the collection. It was once information when Energy received on the ovals however not anymore. He has rounded into an all-round racing driver however he should work on consistency. Thus far, this season he has completed 19th at St. Petersburg, 13th at Lengthy Seashore, 14th at Barber Motorsports Park, 23rd within the Indianapolis 500 and 18th in Detroit Race. No. 1. This is identical driver that completed second at Phoenix, first at Indy GP, third in Detroit No. 2 and received at Texas.
“Energy is having the traditional – “When he’s good he is excellent however when he’s not he’s horrible” sort of season.”
Matt Weaver, Autoweek affiliate motorsports editor: Although he is simply 4 factors up on Rahal, I really feel much more optimistic about Energy’s possibilities simply because he has the possibility to win in bunches. With Highway America, Toronto, the Glen and Sonoma nonetheless on the schedule, anticipate Energy to potential lead IndyCar in victories this season. Additional, he is already the pole place chief and will end with about six or seven of them earlier than the top of the 12 months. That is a bonus level for every that would go a good distance come September.
Like Rahal, Energy has dipped into his mulligans far too many occasions, with 5 finishes exterior of the top-10 in 9 races, however is much extra prone to be excellent over the ultimate eight races. He may very nicely win half of them too. With a double factors championship finale looming in Sonoma, do not write Energy off simply but.
Joey Barnes, IndyCar.com options author: See final 12 months’s efficiency after he missed the opening spherical and pushed like hell to complete second within the championship.
He may very well be out of the highest 10 proper now and I might be hard-pressed to depend him out. Being with Crew Penske and their limitless assets actually works in his favor, too. The record of tracks he hasn’t received at is smaller than one he has, and he’s one in all possibly three drivers within the paddock that has the power to roll off a number of wins or podium finishes in a row and seize factors in bunches.
The officiating at Texas was broadly panned, however didn’t IndyCar officers take advantage of out of an unpredictable scenario with a brand new monitor configuration and racing floor?
Bruce Martin, veteran IndyCar author and reporter: It’s not the officiating that needs to be criticized at Texas; it’s the drivers themselves. IndyCar Race Management did the most effective with a really distinctive scenario – a newly repaved race monitor the place Four-degrees of banking had been eradicated in Turns 1 and a pair of mixed with a Firestone Tire that didn’t degrade as up to now. That created a really high-grip floor that prompted the tires to blister, as an alternative. IndyCar officers reacted shortly to this downside by having three competitors warning flags over the ultimate 90 laps of the race so no competitor would have greater than 30 laps on its tires. That helped mitigate the tire concern.
So far as the ‘Pack Racing” and strikes that didn’t work, that’s one thing the drivers want to deal with greater than the collection.
Matt Weaver, Autoweek affiliate motorsports editor: I completely agree with you, Bruce. I do not fairly perceive the vitriol that was directed on the sanctioning physique. Certain, extra testing might need prevented the tire issues, however there is not any check that may completely simulate race day circumstances. IndyCar was thrown fairly the curveball and nonetheless managed the scenario fairly nicely. However by way of all of it, followers had been nonetheless trated to 1 hell of a race. Those that confirmed up bought their cash’s price from my vantage. As for the on-track and pack racing associated complaints, the drivers deserve a lot of the duty for what occurs from flag-to-flag.
Drivers want to raised police themselves as a result of race management cannot regulate conduct.
Joey Barnes, IndyCar.com options author: Texas was wild, however I feel with all issues thought of, blame can’t be placed on the collection for what occurred. There have been quite a lot of unknowns and there was testing to assist remove a few of them, however a race scenario is in contrast to another.
As for the racing and the a number of crashes we witnessed, I’ll revert to what Simon Pagenaud stated: ‘It is our duty as drivers to respect the others and never unplug the mind utterly at occasions. It is our duty to know that somebody in your facet — to not crash into them. To me that is the place I would depart it at. That is the underside line.’
The monitor was reconfigured and resurfaced as a product of enhancing the irrigation system after consecutive race weekends had been closely impacted with unfortunate climate spells. This was Race One and a number of other drivers had been struggling to get a deal with on the monitor, which is nice as a result of we wish them to be challenged. Texas isn’t your typical 1.5-mile monitor anymore. It has its personal id and we want extra of that in racing as an entire.