Indycar’s annual trip to Goodyear, Arizona carried on in the way we have now grown accustomed to. A boring, processional race with little overtaking and little action overall. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix is a great track and it is great seeing Indycar take to the unique oval circuit, but unless changes in the sport are coming down the pipe, the races in Phoenix are dull at best and sleep inducing at worst.
The only real ‘action’ of the race, and I say action extremely hesitantly, was the first turn pile up started by Mikhail Alishin, who spun on his own volition, in a true unforced error. Yes, the winds were incredibly strong all weekend, but this kind of error is inexcusable. There is no one to blame but Alishin. He spun and took with him many drivers who could have, perhaps, spiced up what became a very dull race. Marco Andretti was the first victim, as he slammed on the brakes to avoid the spinning Russian, only to end up in the wall and hit by Graham Rahal as he skidded down the track. Also caught up in the carnage were championship leader Sebastian Bourdais and Max Chilton.
Now, Alishin has been on many’s bad side for years. He is an aggressive driver, yes, but many point to his antics as downright dangerous. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe you have to be ballsy in order to win, so I am less likely to finger blame at some one for trying to make a late braking pass, as Alishin has done from time to time. But after watching this wreck, I am inclined to agree with those slamming Alishin. He has, after all, made contact in every race this year.
The Andretti Woes Continue
Marco Andretti looked like he could have been on for his first respectable finish of the season. Despite having his car stripped down to the engine during practice on Friday, he managed to put the car in the top ten and finish the session as the top driver from the Andretti Autosports stable. But, as seems to be his luck this year, his race was cut short by Alishin’s spin and he was forced to watch the rest of the race rather than participate. It really is a shame for the youngest Andretti. His luck this season has prevented him from showing us just what he and new crew chief, Bryan Herta, have cooking. When Andretti has been able to be out on track, he has shown that he is just as good as he was in peak form, if not better. Let’s not forget that despite losing 3 laps in the pits at Barber, Andretti was able to go on to stay on the lead lap for the entirety of the race. Translation: he was fast enough to be running with the leaders. Now, as May is upon us, Andretti has to be hoping that his luck will change in time for the biggest race of the year.
But the bad luck is not limited to just Marco’s corner of Andretti Autosports. No, Takuma Sata, Alexander Rossi, and Ryan Hunter-Reay all managed to make contact with the wall over the course of the race (Sato’s contact bringing out the race’s second caution). It was good to see the team on somewhat solid footing at Barber, despite being wholly out performed by the Chevy’s, but the bad luck gremlins that popped up for the team at Long Beach seemed to have stuck around.
Chevy Rules the Day
Looking at the scoring pylon at the end of the race, it was hard not to wonder just what the Chevy teams had that Honda doesn’t. The boys with the bow tie dominated the race. And I mean dominated. With only Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand up there to break up the Penske sandwich, every team that ran Chevy ran well.
As I talked about in an earlier article, to power difference between Chevy and Honda is becoming more and more apparent, as is the differences in aerodynamic grip. Honda clearly has the edge on street courses, having better mechanical grip, but on ovals and more sweeping road courses the edge belongs to Chevy. Now, we have not seen the speedway aero kits brought out yet this season, so we could see a change in the running, but I doubt very much if there will be much of a change at all.
The month of may is looking bleaker and bleaker for Honda, unless they are able to pull out some sort of Indy miracle like they did last year. That said, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, coming up in 2 weeks time, will undoubtedly be a Chevy blowout once again.