Monday, April 25, 2016

Engine troubles

I don't know who's going to win the Indianapolis 500 next month (although I have an educated guess or two percolating). But I can pretty fairly say what's he going to have at his back.

That would be a Chevrolet engine.

With Simon Pagenaud's dramatic win in Alabama yesterday, Chevies have won every one of the four IndyCar races contested so far, and their dominance has become an outright embarrassment for theoretical rival Honda. Not only has the Bowtie won all four races, it's sat on the pole for all four. Three times, including yesterday, Chevies have swept the top four finishing positions. And at the season opener in St. Pete, they finished 1-2-4.

At Phoenix, seven of the first eight finishers were Chevies. At Long Beach, it was six of the first seven. On and on.

It's not like this is a first, although revisionists would have you think so. Echoes of what's going on right now extend back to 1994, when Roger Penske unveiled a Mercedes power plant that was so superior to everything else people were putting out there that Penske entries won 12 of the 16 races, finished 1-2-3 in the points and had five 1-2-3 finishes.

Which was great if you were Roger Penske. But a snoozefest if you were an IndyCar fan.

Twenty-two years later it's looking like more of the same, and it's hard to fathom why. After playing catchup with Chevy all last season, Honda had an entire offseason to tweak its package. Yet the imbalance so far this season has been as stark as it was last season. Chevy's package, miles ahead last season, remains miles ahead.

That's good for Chevy. And, as in '94, not good for the sport in general, particularly with the landmark race of all landmark races -- the 100th 500 -- a month away.

The 500: Where last year, Chevies finished 1-2-3-4, and took nine of the top 11 positions.


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