FORT WORTH – It’s only 7 millimeters of metal.
But as with a lot of things in the Verizon IndyCar Series, politics and opinions come attached to the metal plate called the “domed skid.”
It’s the piece that will be fixed to the underside of the series’ race cars when they visit three speedways this season – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
The plate is the series’ solution to keep cars from going airborne, as they did three times at Indy in 2015 during preparation for the Indianapolis 500.
Honda drivers are concerned about how having 7 millimeters less space between the bottom of the car and the race surface will impact competition.
Meanwhile Chevrolet driver Ed Carpenter doesn’t “think it’s that big of a deal” and Honda drivers “really like to talk and complain about” it.
The plate was present on the 15 cars that were at TMS Tuesday for the first speedway test during the month of May, ahead of three weeks of action at IMS.
Indianapolis 500 practice begins on May 16, following the next round of the season, the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, on Saturday, May 14.
Carpenter, Josef Newgarden and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves were the three drivers who had the airborne incidents last year.
Castroneves proceeded to make his stance on the 7 millimeter plate and its purpose clear.
“I’m not going to go into a Honda-Chevy dispute, but my thing is (that) I was the one that was upside down last year and no question adding the dome skid, for sure, for safety, that’s what we’re looking for,” Castroneves said during a break in testing.
“It doesn’t matter what car it is … when the car is sideways, (the domed skid) adds at least 500 to 1,000 pounds more downforce when you are sideways – which means you’re going to keep the car on the ground.”
Castroneves and teammate Will Power also don’t believe it’s too late to be bringing the plate into the mix, citing the nearly yearly change in aero packages and the Texas test being the second after one at Indy last month.
“The hype about this dome skid was brought about by Honda,” Power said. “They’re the only ones because it would benefit them massively to have strength in the dome skid because they have a lower downforce package, they have what we run in qualifying, so of course they’re going to politic very hard to say that’s it’s bad and this and that.”
After two hours of morning testing, Castroneves said “it’s too early to say” how the domed skid will impact the racing at Texas, a 1.5-mile track with 24-degree corner banking.
Graham Rahal, the only Honda driver who spoke in the media availability Tuesday, said the addition of the domed skid “definitely hurts us” as the car must be raised 10 millimeters to install the plate, adding to the car’s ride-height.
“The guys that tell you it doesn’t make a difference are lying, to be honest,” Rahal said. “There’s obviously some politics going on, I think the Chevy guys don’t want the side walls to help make up for that, but we need it for sure.”
Rahal has been the top finishing Honda driver in two of the first four races. Heading toward the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Rahal is sixth in points and frustrated that talk of the 7 millimeter plate could be a distraction from the event.
“That’s what I told IndyCar, I don’t even know why we’re doing this because we didn’t need to turn attention to something like this,” Rahal said.
“We should be talking about how great the Indy 500 is. Instead we’re talking about domed skids, which no one even knows what the heck that is other than us. But it does affect the car and we’re going to have work hard to make up for it.”
Juan Pablo Montoya also tested at Indianapolis and said he didn’t have any problems. But the 2015 Indy 500 champion later said driving in qualifying trim added a wrinkle to his test.
“Then it gets interesting really fast,” Montoya said. “It’s either really good or really interesting. In traffic, it’s a different world. It’s tough because the track’s really green so you don’t know how clean is that second groove. You’re not going to win anything by being really good today.”
They will have to be good when it counts, in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and the Firestone 600 at Texas on June 11.