Report: IndyCar grid penalties for unapproved engine swaps gone

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NBCSN IndyCar reporter Jon Beekhuis has said that the grid penalties for unapproved engine changes in the Verizon IndyCar Series will no longer be in effect.

Instead, according to Beekhuis, unapproved engine changes will result in a points penalty for the Manufacturer’s Championship, which is contested between engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda.

Beekhuis revealed the news during tonight’s edition of the “Trackside” radio program on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan, which is hosted by fellow NBCSN reporter Kevin Lee and Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin.

However, Beekhuis also mentioned a caveat to that rule.

“If, as a team, you show negligence to the engine – let’s say you put the wrong radiator shutters or something on or you blow it up [on purpose], they will put you at the back of the field,” Beekhuis told Lee today at Barber Motorsports Park.

“I think they’ve written that in – remember [in] the old days, people used to blow up engines so you’d get new ones. So if there’s any sort of team negligence, you’ll go to the back.

“But if you don’t make your 2,500-mile [engine minimum] – and that’s another rule change – if you don’t make 2,500 miles, the penalty is going to be on the manufacturer and not on your grid spot, so that’s a huge change.”

Previously, teams had five fresh engines at their disposal and a change-out threshold of 2,000 miles on each powerplant. Now, teams have four engines allowed for the season along with the aforementioned new threshold of 2,500 miles.

As for how Chevy and Honda feel about it, Beekhuis believes that while they want the driver’s championship first and foremost, the manufacturer’s title is still important considering how much development they’ve put into their respective engines.

“I don’t think they’re going to be throwing engines at it and say, ‘Aw, forget about the manufacturer’s championship,'” he said. “I think that with the kind of money they’re spending, it’s still really important to them.

“…There’s been a ton of money spent and I don’t think you want to throw away manufacturer points. You want to try and cash in. If you’re Chevrolet or you’re Honda, you want to say, ‘Hey, we won the driver’s championship and we won the manufacturer’s [championship] and we did it on only four engines.’ That would be impressive.”

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.