INDIANAPOLIS – Heading into this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, passing was happening at a record pace. After five races, we had well over 1,300 on track passes. That was an over 110-percent increase from 2017. That was a direct correlation to the new 2018 universal race car.
Well, after Sunday’s 200 Lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, drivers are blaming the car for the lack of action too.
There were 633 on track passes on Sunday, very few of them were for the lead. In fact, we had just 30 lead changes on Sunday, the least amount since the DW12 was introduced in 2012. The 2013 Indy 500 had a record setting 68 lead changes. In 2014, there were 34 lead changes. In 2015, there were 37 more. In 2016 and 2017, we saw 54 and 37 respectively.
But, with this new car, we saw just 30 on Sunday and most of those occurred during pit sequences. The only real passes for the lead came on some early restarts.
So why the lack of action with a better car?
That has the drivers wanting more downforce in order to change the racing in the future.
“I don’t know if fun is the right word,” Alexander Rossi said on his wild restarts. “You kind of have to take the opportunities when you’re given them.”
When asked what they needed to make the show better, Rossi put it bluntly.
“More downforce. We need more. This new car looks great. The road course car is fantastic. It’s pretty hard to pass out here.”
I wanted to clarify with him though because he was the only one passing cars at Phoenix back in April. He passed 50+ cars that night. No one else could pass. On Sunday, he charged from a 32nd starting spot to finish fourth. Why would he want more downforce when he’s the only one passing?
“Yes,” he said if he really wants more. “My singular opinion isn’t going to change anything.”
Four-time series champion Scott Dixon said that he agrees that they need more downforce, but he doesn’t know how to do so.
“Yeah, I don’t know how to do it,” Dixon said after his fourth place finish. “The downforce level is maybe not necessarily the issue. If the guy in front fumbles a little, but is still behind the carrot, sucks up that you can’t pass him, it’s almost like the cars need a little more drag to make that happen or maybe a little bit of downforce so you can stay closer, utilize it. Seemed like you had to come from quite a long ways back.
“Yeah, I didn’t see the front group. Saw it occasionally on the restarts. I figured the first two or three could probably pass each other. Even when I got into a scenario with a clear track, slow competitors in front of us, it was very tough to get a run.
“There was no real wind so no real corner that was distinctly harder than the others. Normally two or four has a big shift and you can get some cars that are bad, get them off those corners. That just didn’t play true today.”
Initially, Dixon thought this year’s race would be a pack race. It went the complete opposite direction. He’s not the only one saying that more downforce is needed. Several others did too.