NASCAR Race Weekend Central
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Track Position and Grip Prove to be King in Indianapolis

The biggest story of the offseason was the new aerodynamic package that all IndyCar Series teams would run throughout the 2018 season.

For the series’ marquee event, the 102nd Indianapolis 500, the new car produced multiple self-induced crashes.

Ed Jones, Danica Patrick, Sebastien Bourdais, Helio Castroneves, Sage Karam and Tony Kanaan all spun and crashed without contact from another car during the 500-mile race. All their accidents happened on the exit of a corner, and led to the car going sideways with the driver futilely hoping to save it from hitting the wall.

Jones climbed out of his car under his own power, but was transported to a local hospital after reporting soreness and a headache. All the other drivers were OK, but the lack of grip took out a few of the series’ most prominent drivers.

“It was very difficult to pull off passes,” four-time series champion Scott Dixon said. “My rear felt pretty solid. The car is pretty tricky.

“Downforce isn’t really necessarily the issue. … It seems like you had to come from a long ways back (to pass).”

Alexander Rossi believed otherwise, saying that the cars need a little bit more downforce to make the cars a bit more manageable. Ed Carpenter, who started from the pole, also said the cars need some slight adjustments, but liked the difficulty of driving the cars on the 2.5-mile oval.

“Track position was everything that we thought it was gonna be,” Carpenter said. “We couldn’t quite get it back from them. … It was really hard to pass anybody if they had clean air in front of them. I liked the way it drives; it’s definitely challenging to the driver. I like it when it’s hot because it makes things even more difficult … for this new kit, its performed so well this year.”

Having former champions lose the car was concerning to other drivers during the race. But Will Power, Sunday’s hero, didn’t worry about what was transpiring elsewhere on the track.

“I was very determined, and I knew I needed to get a run on these guys,” he said. “I didn’t want Carpenter to get on a run on me. … (Passing) was definitely hard in dirty air. It was a little bit loose in dirty air.”

Since track position and grip were king from start to finish, IndyCar could look at potential tweaks to the package to prevent cars from getting too light in the rear and resulting in accidents. Safety-wise it would be smart to give the drivers a little more downforce, but it could negatively affect the entertainment aspect of the event.

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About John Haverlin

John Haverlin is Frontstretch's exclusive IndyCar editor and writer. He has covered American auto racing's various forms, including NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck, K&N, Whelen Modified, IndyCar, Mazda Road to Indy, USAC, Modified Touring Series, World of Outlaws, ARCA and ACT Tour. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and currently resides in Long Island, New York.