Chevrolet proud of IndyCar street course gains

Rob Buckner, Chevrolet’s racing program manager, has credited “tireless” work by Chevy and Ilmor and also Team Penske with its first IndyCar street course triumph since 2017.

Chevrolet proud of IndyCar street course gains

Josef Newgarden was the last Chevrolet-powered driver to land an IndyCar win on a temporary course, at Toronto in 2017, and that year’s champion conquered again last Sunday in St. Petersburg.

Given the extremely limited areas in which IndyCar allowed Chevy and Honda to work on their engines in the last offseason, and with the HPD units being stronger in terms of torque and fuel economy in 2018, there was a theory that their relative strengths and weaknesses would remain status quo in ’19.

However, Buckner told Motorsport.com that Chevy, whose engines produced better top-end power in 2018 but suffered some reliability issues mid-season, had still tried to improve across the board.

“[St. Pete] was the first street course win with Dallara’s universal aerokit so it’s a big one for us,” he said. “I’m sure both manufacturers probably looked so closely at where their weaknesses were last year and we both pushed so hard that we could almost swap positions of strength and weakness, and so we had to be cautious of that.

“We focused on reliability and also street course performance, which was our weakest point in 2018. But we couldn’t give up fuel economy and we had to stay strong on ovals. We were looking for gains in certain areas… but you can’t stand still in the areas where you were strong before.

“So [the St. Petersburg win] was very satisfying for us, but is also a great credit to the whole Team Penske group. They incrementally got better through every practice session until Will and Josef gave us the front row of the grid. Then they had strong race pace and they split strategies and Josef drove pretty flawlessly.

“Everyone on our side has worked tirelessly since Sonoma to improve for 2019 so I’m glad they got to enjoy St. Pete before we head to COTA.”

Buckner insisted he took no pleasure from seeing the demise of two Honda engines – those in Sebastien Bourdais’ Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan entry, and in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport machine.

“I don’t put any significance on that or pay much attention to it,” he said. “What goes around comes around, and we just focus on our own deal. They’ve always proven that they are capable of sorting out their problems, so I’m sure they’ll have a remedy in a minimal amount of time.”

Buckner said that with the 2.4-liter engines set to be introduced in 2021, and testing currently set for summer 2020, the efforts to also find gains with the current 2.2-liter units has upped the pressure on everyone in Chevy’s IndyCar program.

“Luckily all of our people are so motivated that we can be greedy and tackle everything at once!” he commented. “That has been our ask, and so far our technical group has delivered on that.

“We have had a split focus dependent on who’s looking at what, but there’s no doubt, the workload has increased for each person. We’re looking at the current package but also two or three years out and what we’ll need then. There have been split roles for the whole group.”

Honda focused on Indy 500 redemption

Buckner’s sentiments regarding improvement in the Chevy engine’s weakest areas, and also the additional hours spent on the 2.4-liter engine, were an echo of what Honda Performance Development’s Art St. Cyr said last weekend.

Honda beat Chevrolet to IndyCar’s 2018 Manufacturers’ title for the first time since Chevy returned to the sport in 2012.

St. Cyr, who will be handing over the reins of HPD to Ted Klaus on April 1, said: “Last year was by all accounts a very successful year for Honda and our teams. It's the second season in a row that all five of our full-time teams came away with at least one race victory – a very good start.

“But the one that got away from us was the Indy 500, which always is our number one company goal. As successful as last year was, we knew there was some unfinished business.

“A lot of this offseason was spent working on our engine specification for the Indy 500, because we want to come with an even better package than we had last year, while not doing anything that's going to affect our success on the road courses.

“As you know, the engine homologation rules are set up so that there’s very little actual open development with this engine for 2019 and 2020, as we prepare for the 2021 engine. We worked a lot on things that remain open, combustion and those types of things, to help us out at the Speedway. Hopefully that will show up this year.”

 

shares
comments
Herta admits “big rookie mistake” but hopeful for COTA

Previous article

Herta admits “big rookie mistake” but hopeful for COTA

Next article

King says full-time IndyCar deal still his priority

King says full-time IndyCar deal still his priority
Load comments

About this article

Series IndyCar
Event St. Pete
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Colton Herta – America's next racing hero Prime

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero

Last Sunday, Colton Herta demolished his IndyCar opposition in the second round of the season. David Malsher-Lopez explains why Andretti Autosport’s youngest ace bears all the hallmarks of becoming the country’s next homegrown motorsport hero.

IndyCar
Apr 29, 2021
How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival? Prime

How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival?

Last Sunday, Alex Palou delivered his first IndyCar victory on his Chip Ganassi Racing debut. Is the young Spaniard going to become his legendary teammate Scott Dixon’s biggest title threat? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Apr 21, 2021
Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call Prime

Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call

The fight for supremacy in the NTT IndyCar Series will be as intense as ever. David Malsher-Lopez is your guide to the main contenders and six intriguing sub-plots.

IndyCar
Apr 15, 2021
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

IndyCar
Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car? Prime

Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car?

When founder Bruce McLaren died in June 1970, his team could have folded. Instead, his loyal band rallied to produce a string of winners - including an Indy car game-changer that won three Indy 500s in six years.

IndyCar
Dec 23, 2020