INDYCAR: Honda Fails To Capitalize On Advantage At Long Beach

When Chevrolet changed engines in all 11 of its IndyCar entries before the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, it opened up an opportunity for Honda to score its first win of the season. But as US Race Report’s Chris Leone explains, tough luck befell the top Honda teams one by one until their final shot at a win finally drifted away.


Fact Or Fiction: 25 IndyCar Storylines for the 2012 Season, Part 1

This is the first post of a five-part series predicting the 25 biggest storylines of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. We’ll be addressing some of the top assumptions coming into the year, and either reaffirming them as fact or dismissing them as fiction. Today, we’ll count down stories 25-21. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Ned Leone

25. Ed Carpenter Racing is simply the second coming of Vision Racing.

FACT: This time around, Tony George didn’t simply buy the assets of a folded team like Kelley Racing and turn it into an outfit to keep Carpenter in the series. This is Carpenter’s team, and he hired the perfect person to run it: Derrick Walker, the longtime CART owner, who was responsible for launching Will Power’s career and turning Gil de Ferran into a contender. While Carpenter is still lacking in speed on road and street courses, he’s surrounded himself with the right people to make him faster.

24. Taking a few seasons off won’t impact Bobby Rahal’s team as it returns to full-time competition.

FACT: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing usually put up solid performances in its limited IndyCar appearances over the past few years, nearly stealing last year’s Indianapolis 500 win with Bertrand Baguette, so returning to two full-time cars should be a cinch. Because they’ve moved back up to full-time competition, they were able to select from a better (and better-funded) pool of drivers. Lead driver Takuma Sato showed his typical speed and improved consistency last year, while Luca Filippi will be an intriguing young prospect once he starts his season at Indianapolis.

23. The NBC Sports Network will be a major step up from Versus, its predecessor.

FACT: If you’ve watched any of NBCSN’s coverage of any sport since the rebranding, you can tell that the broadcasts are going to look and feel professional. Everything from NHL hockey, its lead property, to niche sports like the Dakar Rally and Red Bull Crashed Ice have been covered with skill and care. With NBCSN also committing to air all Indy Lights races this year, expect an extra level of attention to detail in 2012.

22. Simona de Silvestro will finally have a breakout year in 2012.

FICTION: Despite de Silvestro’s HVM Racing employers being the lead Lotus team this year, Sebring testing may have been an indicator of where they’re going to be in the points. There’s simply so much talent in the series right now that the top of the standings is going to be crowded, and breaking out may take an other-worldly performance. While de Silvestro has the raw talent, she hasn’t had the luck in her IndyCar career. If Lotus is as far behind as some think they are, that might not change.

21. Chevrolet will outperform Honda consistently in its return to the sport.

FACT: Honda has Chip Ganassi, but Chevrolet has two advantages on its side: a more experienced engine builder and a deeper lineup. Chevrolet once worked with engine builder Ilmor to create the Chevy Indy V8, which won 64 of 78 CART races from 1987 to 1991; after years of building the old Honda engines, the two companies have reunited to produce the new turbocharged V6s. And while Honda has secured the always strong Ganassi squad, Chevrolet has more teams in winning contention under its belt, with Roger Penske, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser, and John Barnes among the owners who will sport the bowtie this year.

– Chris Leone

IndyCar Season Preview: Takuma Sato

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#15 Mi-Jack Dallara-Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Born: January 28, 1977

Home: Tokyo, Japan

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Sato made flying gains in 2011 after a tough rookie season in IndyCar. He minimized his on-track mistakes and finished consistently within the top 10, improving to 13th in points from 21st in 2010. He earned his first two career IndyCar poles at Iowa and Edmonton, and had a best finish of fourth at Mid-Ohio.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Sato finished last at Indianapolis after making contact with the wall early in the race. His only other DNF of the season came at Iowa, where he had won the pole.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Sato will leave KV Racing Technology in 2012 after his former team decided to shed both Lotus (Sato’s sponsor) and Honda (Sato’s factory backer since his Formula One days) in favor of a Chevrolet engine contract. Instead, Sato and Honda have landed at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which has only run limited schedules for the past few seasons. Now, Sato will be looked upon to help the re-established Rahal team, which won the Indianapolis 500 as recently as 2004, regain its form.

Sato isn’t the same driver that had nine DNFs in 17 races in 2010. He put together more respectable runs than disappointments in 2011, and with Honda support behind him in a series that no longer relies on engine parity, he could get some extra support in the horsepower department. If they’ve stuck behind him this long, they’re going to do everything they can to make him succeed in this new era of IndyCar competition. Sato should be a decent mid-pack driver in 2012 with an outside shot at podiums and wins.

– Chris Leone