Archive for the IndyCar Category

A Tale Of Two Cities

Posted in IndyCar on April 26, 2017 by Oilpressure

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With apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens for borrowing his title; one might expect the obligatory quote about it being the best of times or something to that effect. Unfortunately for one of the teams in the IndyCar paddock, the worst of times may be more appropriate since their drivers are currently ranked fifteenth and nineteenth in the points standings. A sample of three races is not a fair assessment of anything. Sometimes, it takes more than a couple of seasons to make a decision on whether something is working or not. That being said, it is awfully tempting to go ahead and give a thumbs-down on the two-car effort of AJ Foyt Enterprises being located in two different cities.

Most of the Verizon IndyCar Series teams are based in Indianapolis. The exceptions are Team Penske, which is based in Charlotte; Dale Coyne Racing which is located just outside of Chicago and AJ Foyt Enterprises, based in the Houston area. A few years ago, the Foyt team bought garage space on Main Street in Speedway. The thought was they could operate out of there for not only the Month of May, but also for some of the summer races located near Indianapolis in the Midwest.

Beginning with this season, Team Manager Larry Foyt made the curious decision to permanently house one of the two fulltime cars they field in Indianapolis, while the other would remain in Houston. The rationale was that it would be easier to recruit better talent on the team from the Indianapolis area than it would be to convince someone to move to Houston. Indy car technical expertise is a cottage industry in Indianapolis, since the majority of the teams are based there. I can see where it might be tough to convince a mechanic or engineer that has been in Indianapolis for years, to uproot their family and move a thousand miles away to Houston.

Plus, if they need special parts from Dallara – they have to be shipped from Indianapolis. I don’t know if there is any cooperative sharing among teams in the Indianapolis area, but it’s hard to share with a team exiled in Houston.

What they decided to do was to have the lead car of Carlos Muñoz, that carries the familiar No.14, stay in Houston. The newly renumbered No.4 car of Conor Daly would permanently move to the shop in Indianapolis. Thereby completely splitting the two teams and having them separated by a thousand miles.

When this plan was announced, it sounded iffy, at best. The main reason for having a teammate is to have a collaborative effort for the sharing of data and ideas. I think most people raised their collective eyebrows and were skeptical that such an arrangement could work.

Some of the reasons given made sense. Not only was there more potential crew talent in the Indianapolis area, but Conor Daly is already from the area and would not have to move. It was presented as a win-win.

But they are now three races in with this arrangement and the results are not good. Muñoz has shown speed at times, but inconsistently. Conor Daly has been consistent – consistently slow. He has been at or near the bottom in most practice sessions this young season. Muñoz finished dead last at St. Petersburg, but had a decent showing at Long Beach where he finished seventh. Daly finished fifteenth at St. Petersburg and sixteenth at Long Beach.

At Barber this past weekend, it was pretty much more of the same for the eastern team of Daly and the western team of Muñoz. Daly qualified twentieth and finished eighteenth. Muñoz started sixteenth and finished seventeenth. During the race itself, things looked slightly promising at first. At one time, both drivers were running thirteenth and fourteenth. Daly himself even ran as high as twelfth at one point during the day. But a poor tire strategy did in Muñoz; and a botched final pit stop and then having to save fuel at the end was Daly’s undoing.

One thing to keep in mind; there is a learning curve here for the team and both drivers. Foyt has been a Honda team since 2006 and have been running the Honda aero kit for the last two seasons, but with different drivers. Both Muñoz and Daly ran Honda engines and aero kits last year, but for two different teams.

Now you have two drivers trying to get accustomed to their new teams, engines and aero kits; while the team is trying to learn the nuances of their new drivers as well as their new aero kits and engine. That’s a tall order for the best of teams under any situation. Put their two cars in two cities a thousand miles apart from each other and it’s an almost insurmountable situation.

Putting both cars under one roof doesn’t solve the problem, but it would help. I think the unfamiliarity with the engine, aero kits and personnel is the biggest problem. We saw this weekend that there was nothing wrong with the Chevy package – at least not at Barber. But I’d like to make this clear – the problem is not the drivers either. We know that Muñoz is a fast and capable driver and Conor Daly showed a lot of promise as a rookie. This many new pieces would take a lot of time to gel at one of the big teams; probably even longer with a small team like Foyt’s.

If you’ve been reading this site for any time at all, you know what an AJ Foyt fan I am. I want his team to succeed. I think Larry Foyt is a capable leader and has a better temperament than AJ, especially when it comes to patience and not demanding instant results. So please don’t think I take any kind of pleasure in writing about their shortcomings.

But everywhere they look, they have major hills to climb; whether it’s figuring out the power band of the engine, the fuel mapping, the aero kit or each other – not to mention the distance between the two sides of the team.

I understand the rationale of getting at least one team in Indianapolis. It might be time to forsake tradition and move the No.14 team to Indianapolis as well. Chip Ganassi hails from the Pittsburgh area; Michael Andretti is from Nazareth, PA and Roger Penske is from the Cleveland area. Yet all three set up their respective shops in markets where racing is big business and the area is flush with the industry’s talent.

If Larry Foyt truly wants to make his famous father’s team competitive again, he may have a tough decision to make. That decision could require him to shutter the family garage in Houston and commit to running the organization where almost all of their competitors are located – Indianapolis. They might even find it a lot easier to solve the mystery of the Chevy aero kit and engine from there. No offense to my friends that live in Houston, but they sure won’t find the answers there.

George Phillips

Random Thoughts On Barber

Posted in IndyCar on April 24, 2017 by Oilpressure

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There are so many advantages to attending a race in person, there is not enough room to list them here. If you’ve ever attended an IndyCar race, there is no need for me to explain that statement. However, one of the few disadvantages compared to sitting on the couch and watching on television is that when you are at the track it is sometimes tough to keep up with everything gong on.

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Newgarden Wins Again At Barber

Posted in IndyCar on April 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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For the second time in three years, Josef Newgarden leaves Alabama as a champion. The Nashville product earned his first-ever IndyCar win two years ago while driving for CFH Racing. Today, he won his fourth IndyCar race overall and his first while driving for Roger Penske. It took Simon Pagenaud a year and three races for him to win his first at Team Penske. It took Newgarden just three races to pay The Captain back for hiring him. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that it won’t be the last.

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Final Practice & Alonso At Barber

Posted in IndyCar on April 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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The final warm-up for the Verizon IndyCar Series was delayed a few minutes for a track repair after the Porsche GT3 race this morning. Marco Andretti paced the field with a time of 1:14.3711; almost eight seconds slower than Will Power’s pole time set yesterday. Of course, this practice was run in the wet with rain tires. From the looks of things, the race will have a dry start later today – but that’s just a guess. Another cloudburst will change that.

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The Wine Made Me Do It

Posted in IndyCar on April 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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By Susan Phillips

When you write the “color” pieces for a blog, it becomes more and more difficult to think of things to write about. I have written about Barber Motorsports Park many times over the years, and while it is still beautiful, and a definite “put this on my list of tracks to visit–you can only show a picture of the guys on the wheels statue so many times before it becomes old hat.

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It’s Race Day At Barber Motorsports Park!

Posted in IndyCar on April 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Good morning from a rain-soaked Barber Motorsports Park. As predicted, the storms went through last night, first appearing around 6:30. They were supposed to be cleared out by 6:00 am. That didn’t happen. It is still misting as I type, but this is a road course so there will be racing today. In fact, there is racing going on right now as the Porsche GT3 race is going on.

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The Barber Grid Is Now Set

Posted in IndyCar on April 22, 2017 by Oilpressure

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The grid for tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is now set. This appears to be the most “normal” starting grid we have had in the first three races of the season. Team Penske has pretty much dominated every session here this weekend and qualifying was no exception.

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