The field will likely be chasing a bowtie on Sunday during the Indianapolis 500.
The consensus in the garage is that even on ovals, the Chevrolet aero kit is considerably faster than the Honda, just like it has been all year on the road and street courses that occupy the first quarter of the 2015 schedule.
But Indianapolis was supposed to be different as Honda put considerable time and effort into their oval package in the hopes of Indianapolis glory come Sunday afternoon.
The best team and driver combination from the Honda camp this season has been Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with their two runner-up finishes at Birmingham and at Indianapolis on the road course. He enters The Greatest Spectacle in Racing fifth in the standings and has an outside shot at taking the championship lead by the end of the race.
But he’s going to have to deal with those pesky Chevrolets first.
“I definitely think come this Sunday, Chevrolet has a huge advantage,” Rahal said. “I think they appear to have more horsepower, when everybody is lifting in the corners and they go back to power, they always gap you no matter what.
“That’s a hard thing to compete with.”
If HPD has one advantage come race day, it might be in their fuel mileage as the increased drag on their rear wing has resulted in lower speeds, and thus, less fuel consumption. While recent races at Indianapolis have seen an increase of caution, the 500-Mile Race has traditionally been an event that comes down to fuel mileage making one less stop could make the difference according to Honda driver and IndyCar veteran Alex Tagliani.
“Chevy has created this aero kit that seems to work well without too much wing and Honda has to work with a car that carries more wing above the car, which decreases speed and creates more drag but there are a lot of positives with the Honda package as well,” he said. “You have to get the most out of it, we have a good car and in traffic I was really happy with it and maybe we have better mileage too.
“At the end of the day, this is 8-9 [pit] stop race and if you have good fuel mileage we can make things happen. Don’t underestimate that you’re only going to see who can win this race until the final handful of laps.”
The Rahal family has deep ties to Honda and the relationship has benefitted both sides over the years. However, the 26-year-old admitted that his chances to win the 500 would be bolstered if he were driving a bow-tie.
“Do I think life would have been easier at this race if we had a Chevy? OK, probably,” Rahal said Thursday at Indianapolis 500 media day. “But at the same time, our connection to Honda is far bigger than racing. We believe in them and I hope we can turn this around.”
At the end of the day, Rahal believes he can win this race but it may take a roundabout approach, more than likely on the heels of their increased fuel mileage.
“We’re not going to win this race by speed alone,” Rahal said. “We’re not going to go drive around a Penske. We’re not going to drive around a Ganassi.”