Thursday, May 31, 2012

2012 Indy 500 Recap: Too Much Passing?

By: Brock Sanders

What another great day at the Speedway!  Record-setting heat, remembrance of Dan Wheldon, and a fair share of celebrities were presented to us at this year’s 500.  Some compelling, must-watch stories brewed through the month of May: Honda vs. Chevy, the unproductive Lotus engines, only 33 cars listing in the race, and hometown heroes Bryan Clauson and Ed Carpenter.  There was the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly.  But one thing that definitely stood out was the new IR12 Dallara chassis and the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine.

Since 2007, IndyCar has used the IR07 Dallara chassis and a 3.5-liter V8 engine.  This year, they unveiled the new chassis and engine.  These new body styles have claimed to be safer, and carry more down force.  Ironically, these styles were debuted just seven months after Dan Wheldon’s tragic death in the season finale of the IndyCar series last year in Las Vegas.  The negatives, however, were very prevalent in Sunday’s race.
Along with the record-setting heat, there were also a record-setting number of lead changes in the race (30).  The slingshot (a term used for drafting a car until the straightaway, then using the momentum to pass them on the inside) was in full effect, shooting drivers in front of each other all race.  Near the end, however, was when it was most obvious.  Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti ran one and two at lap 189.  They then proceeded to pass each other each lap until lap 198 when Takuma Sato passed Dixon for second place.  Sato then went for the pass on Franchitti on turn 1 of lap 200, and crashed into the wall, ending the race in caution.  Many are speculating if Dixon and Franchitti exchanged the lead on purpose to conserve fuel, and pull away from the pack, then run a two-car race the last two or three laps.  It was so easy to pull the slingshot and pass the leader that it seemed nobody wanted first place until the very last lap because they knew if they were in second, they could slingshot the leader for the victory.  You could almost calculate it backwards once Dixon and Franchitti began passing each other on lap 189 and determine who was going to win the race.

All of this passing is made possible by the new Dallara chassis, which lets a lot of air out of the back (see picture, left).  The amount of air in the back makes drafting and passing so easy, that nobody wanted to lead the race, so drivers let others pass in order to move to second place.  At the beginning of the race, James Hinchcliffe was leading, then fell down to third, after his crew ordered him to do so.  This kind of lead changing is unacceptable, and is not entertaining to fans.  We want true, skilled passing.  Not a slingshot on the back straightaway every time.  IndyCar should and will take a look at this, and see what changes they can make for the circuit next year, specifically the Indy 500.

No comments:

Post a Comment