Andretti said after this week’s test at Indianapolis that Chevy was sandbagging — intentionally running slower than they truly could in an attempt to make the two manufacturers look even. The test took place on a cold and windy day, slowing down both the Honda and Chevy cars equally — so we can’t strictly compare speeds from last year to this year.
But we can compare how the leaderboard stacked up with Chevy and Honda at this test against the opening practice of the Indy 500 last year. Honda took the top two places at the open test compared to their high of fourth at the first practice last season.
At this week’s test the gap between the third place Chevy of Pagenaud and the first place Honda of Andretti was over 2 mph. The gap between first and 13th place at last year’s opening practice was the same. And I don’t think the windy and cold conditions causes more disparity among the cars (I could be wrong). Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Montoya, ran a 219.102 mph lap, 4 mph off of Andretti’s pace.
Even if the teams and manufacturers were trying out different things, a gap of 4 mph is huge. 85 percent of drivers who put in a competitive time at last year’s practice were within 4 mph of the leader.
The results from the Phoenix race don’t show that Honda’s new aerokit was more competitive on the ovals, either. So I don’t think we can chalk up Honda’s strong performance to a better car. Chevy looks to have taken the pedal slightly off of the metal at this week’s test. Another alternative — that Chevy’s new aerokit pieces just aren’t performing very well — is hard to believe given the success of Chevy so far.
Hunter-Reay added his comments to this situation, saying that Andretti put up such a good time because he was in a “big tow” and that he was in qualifying setup on his fast lap. This could serve to reinforce the argument that Chevy was sandbagging, too. The Chevy teams chose not to run with qualifying boost or get in a big tow to hide their true speed.