Despite Chevrolet-powered cars locking out the front row and filling nine of the top 11 slots for Sunday’s 102nd Indy 500, Chevy’s program manager Rob Buckner says he’s taking nothing for granted.
After Andretti Autosport-Honda victories in three of the last four Indianapolis 500s, Chevrolet appears to have eked out a slight advantage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year, as all teams have reverted to a common aerokit. Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing) and Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) are the only Honda powered entries to have made the Fast Nine, that fills out the first three rows of the 3x3 grid.
Yet Buckner says that James Hinchcliffe’s failure to qualify for the race is one reason that no one can afford to make presumptions.
“It’s great for Ed Carpenter to get all three of his cars in, and Penske to get all their cars in,” he told Motorsport.com, “but it shows how close it is too. Hinch was on pole two years ago, so you can’t assume anything.
“Don’t take for granted what you did in the past. I know those guys [HPD] work incredibly hard, so I’m immensely proud and appreciative of everyone involved in our engine program for what we’ve achieved so far.”
Since returning to IndyCar in 2012, the start of the 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 era, Chevrolet has won all six manufacturers’ series titles and has powered five of the six champion drivers. However, its record at Indy is less convincing, being outscored 4-2 by Honda, and Buckner says the qualifying results for the 2018 edition does not reassure him regarding the race’s outcome.
“In the DW12 era, only once has the race winner started in the top 10,” he said. “Dario Franchitti won from 16th in 2012 [Ganassi-Honda], then Juan Pablo Montoya [Penske-Chevrolet] won in the first year of the aerokits in 2015 from 15th – and they both went to the back because of early incidents.
“So if you have a good pit crew and a good race, it’s proven that you can fail to make the Fast Nine and go to the front.”
Asked if he thought this year would be different given that most drivers have commented on how much more difficult it is to pass with 2018’s spec Dallara superspeedway aerokit, Buckner responded: “Everyone said you couldn’t pass at Phoenix, then [Alexander] Rossi went and passed about 50 cars!”