Long Beach, Calif – For the season opener at St. Pete back in mid-March, Honda teams surprised everyone by showing up on top. Last year, Honda teams only led 116 laps away from the three superspeedway events and struggled to stay up to par with their Chevy counterparts. Furthermore, Chevrolet teams led over 90-percent of the overall laps on road/street courses for the 2016 season.
But, at St. Pete, Honda teams led 90+ laps and had four cars qualify in the top six of the starting lineup. They dominated practice, qualifying and the race, would that carry over to the second race at Long Beach this weekend?
After two practice sessions on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit on Friday, another one on Saturday and now qualifying this afternoon, it’s showing that Honda is very well going to be a force this season.
In session No. 1 Friday morning, Honda put three cars in the top four and six in the top eight. What’s good for Honda is that four different Honda teams were represented in the top seven overall speeds in that session.
Then, in session No. 2 later on in the day, Honda was once again quick.
Honda had three cars in the top five in that session and five in the top eight. Three of those five in the top eight were from different teams too.
In qualifying on Saturday, Honda has six cars in the top seven starting spots.
Chevy is facing a steep climb now. Last year, the four Team Penske cars dominated nearly every practice session, but now, it’s usually a mixture of one or two of their drivers up front instead. Helio Castroneves was second and sixth respectively while Will Power was fifth and first. Defending Long Beach winner Simon Pagenaud was ninth and third in the two sessions while Josef Newgarden was 14th in each of them.
The other two Chevy teams in A.J. Foyt Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing struggled a bit themselves.
The two Foyt drivers in Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz were 19th and 18th , and 13th and 15th respectively between the two of them. The two ECR cars in J.R. Hildebrand (16th, 9th ) and Spencer Pigot (20th, 19th ) were right there with them.
Right now, the field is wide open to me, Honda is obviously the manufacturer to beat, but they have more bullets in the chamber. Penske doesn’t appear to have all four cars viable to win, but they at least have two, maybe even three cars that could reach victory lane. It’s basically two, maybe three, Penske cars against literally the whole fleet that Honda has to offer. That’s unfortunately it right now for Chevy as far as teams with pure speed. With strategy calls, that’s a totally different animal which no one knows how that will play out until the checkered flag flies on Sunday afternoon.