Scott Dixon

Honda claims 200th IndyCar victory at Pocono

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Honda Performance Development celebrated its 20th anniversary in April. A little less than three months later, it’s time for HPD to throw another party after claiming its 200th win in North American open-wheel racing with Scott Dixon’s triumph at the Pocono IndyCar 400.

“It does mean a lot,” said Dixon, who has raced with Honda powerplants since the 2006 season. “It’s special. I haven’t been a Honda [driver] all my career but the time I’ve had with them has been fantastic. We’ve gone through ups and downs and won a lot of things together, and my biggest races have been won with Honda.

“Obviously, I love working with them and they’re a great group of people, and to be at that milestone with them is fantastic for me. So you know, let’s move on to 300, I guess.”

Honda first made its way into IndyCar in 1994, with Andre Ribeiro taking its first win one year later at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway). That day, Ribeiro won by over 14 seconds for Honda victory No. 1, whereas Dixon defeated Charlie Kimball today by less than half a second in Honda victory No. 200.

“It’s just such an incredible day for Honda and everyone at Honda Performance Development,” said HPD technical director Roger Griffiths in a statement. “I’m so pleased for every one of our associates who have been involved in our 200 race wins, for the Target Chip Ganassi organization on scoring their 100th and Scott [Dixon’s] 30th wins – just a great day all-around.”

Chevrolet appeared to have the edge on power after sweeping the top six spots on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying, but superior fuel mileage from updated engines enabled the Honda squads to neutralize the Bowtie’s advantage.

The first stops of the afternoon were very telling as the Chevy-powered pole sitter, Marco Andretti, pitted from the lead on Lap 30 – two laps before Dixon ducked in for his own service. Later on, the third round of stops saw Andretti go in on Lap 95 – a full five laps before Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Kimball and Dario Franchitti, went in together at Lap 100.

Andretti would eventually fade to 10th at the finish while trying to make fuel on his final run (he would barely reach the finish and run dry on his cool-down lap), while Dixon, Kimball and Franchitti went on to lock out the Pocono podium.

“The fuel mileage of the Honda engine was exceptional,” said Franchitti. “We are still a little shy on the horsepower but in race conditions there, it was really the thing to have.”

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion also noted that the updated Honda motors are expected to make his team more competitive versus the Chevy camp in the road/street races ahead.

“The engine we have in the car now should suit the tracks we are going to, whether it be Toronto, Mid‑Ohio, Sonoma, Baltimore, all those places coming up,” he said. “Probably, [Pocono] wasn’t going to be its strongest track, so we are pretty excited moving forward.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.