Commentary Open Wheel

EMBURY: Can Honda Challenge Chevrolet In 2017?

Following a busy one-day test this week at Sebring International Raceway in preparation for the season, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan said he felt Honda was capable of improving greatly upon its lack of victories during the 2016 campaign.

Whether this was sugar-coating or over-exuberance with the St. Petersburg Grand Prix over two months away, is hard to say at this point. However, for a Chip Ganassi Racing team that moved from Chevrolet to Honda engines during the present off-season, one has to wonder whether such a massive reversal of fortune is indeed possible in the current climate of IndyCar racing.

With a brand-new Dallara chassis set to debut in 2018, IndyCar regulations involving the controversial aerodynamic kits offered by Honda and Chevrolet have led to the limited allowance of adjustments for 2017, something that could affect Honda’s ability to close the gap to Chevrolet. Although Honda runner Andretti Autosport went 1-2 in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 last May, last year was a domination by two entities – Chevrolet and Team Penske.

Team Penske won 10 out of a possible 16 races in 2016 and adding in its own Chevrolet rivals, the General Motors brand
only gave way to Honda in two races. Indy of course, and Graham Rahal’s last lap charge to victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

Although the addition of Chip Ganassi Racing to Honda’s account adds three race-winning drivers in Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Charlie Kimball, one has to wonder if a weighing-down of weaker teams was Honda’s problem? For one, it is hard to pin Andretti Autosport’s four-car operation as “weak,” considering it has won several races and championships since the opening of the current IndyCar sanctioning body in 1996.

Add to that, while Honda has been bolstered with Ganassi’s addition, Chevrolet has also added several key cogs to its arsenal. Top prospect Josef Newgarden will enter his first full season with Team Penske, while GM has also corralled two ex-Honda prospects in Conor Daly and 2016 Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz as A.J. Foyt Racing will run Chevrolet power in 2017.

Honda must enter with a realm of optimism entering St. Petersburg, Florida in March; however it seems hard to fathom a scenario that has its teams and drivers reversing the trending nature of success moving more towards Chevrolet over the last two years.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

By Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory.

Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.