FORT WORTH, Texas – After multiple road and street courses and one superspeedway event in the Indy 500, the Verizon IndyCar Series finds itself at Texas Motor Speedway. The rough and fast 1.5 mile oval set to host its 27th IndyCar race when the green flag drops tonight. The nature of it’s high banking and not quite superspeedway layout has led both the Honda and Chevy camps to experiment with aerokit set ups and with interesting results; Honda is slowly closing the gap.
In practice one Takuma Sato took his Honda to third on the time sheet, just a tenth of a second behind leader Will Power. In qualifying Carlos Munoz and Graham Rahal broke up the usual all Penske, all Ganassi top 10. In final practice, Graham Rahal led the charge for Honda once again and tied Juan Pablo Montoya for the top slot.
Aero changes this weekend have been frequent, teams have tried the road and street course rear winglets, and some of the side strakes in combination with the speedway front and rear wings to find the best overall balance for TMS. Honda teams have chosen to stick with their size-able single or dual element rear winglets to help with rear downforce and stability on the 24 degree banking. Chevrolet teams with their unique body work ahead of the rear wheels channels more air to the rear diffuser due to coke bottle style sidepods, the downforce gained negating the need for rear winglets in qualifying trim. For the race, some Chevrolet teams have added their rear winglets or as in Helio’s case just the one, like in the photo above. This should give the Chevrolet cars lower downforce and drag enabling a higher top speed advantage on the straights, Honda may potentially carve some of that advantage back with more stability through the turns. Overall aero balance will change as the race goes into the night and the track’s abrasive surface will have a strong effect on tire life. Should one team find the perfect aero balance it could go a long way to securing the victory.
For now, Team Penske is still the team to beat and Chevrolet is still the package to have, but despite grumblings of discontent, Honda is beginning to finally catch up. The green flag drops for the Firestone 600 at 8:00 pm central standard time. When the checkered flag drops at the end, a Honda may not get there first, but they will be a lot closer.