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Indy 500: Big guns Ganassi and Penske disappoint

The Target Chip Ganassi team could hardly believe it: for the second week in a row their domination of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was sabotaged by a bad mistake on fuel strategy.
Last weekend, a miscalculation on fuel strategy cost Scott Dixon an expected pole position for the Indianapolis 500, and saw Dario Franchitti fail to set a time at all in the pole shootout. This weekend the cost of the fuel fumble was far, far worse: it cost both drivers almost certain shots at victory in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

On Pole Day, it was speculated - but unconfirmed by the team - that the reason the two Ganassi cars were under-fuelled for their top nine pole shootout was because IndyCar made a late change to the rules for the shootout and allowed the use of 'push to pass' power assistance to the engine during the qualifying laps. That uses up more gas than turning laps under the regular engine power

It resulted in Dixon losing engine power toward the end of his final qualifying lap, costing him fractions of a second that made the difference between first and second on the grid; and Franchitti lost power at the end of his penultimate qualifying lap, meaning he set no shootout time and had to settle for ninth on the grid.

But at least having gone through that trauma and disappointment, the team would now take a lesson from that day's events and make sure they they double- and triple-checked fuel consumption for the race itself. Right?

How then to explain what we saw on that final laps of the Indianapolis 500 itself? Having Franchitti pit on lap 164 and try and stretch his fuel for the remaining 36 laps to the end of the race was always a marginal call, and replied on there being at least a few caution laps in the remainder of the race - which did not materialise. It seems like it was simply a gamble that did not pay off.

"I don't know. I don't understand right now. They're going to have to explain that one to me," said Dario after the race. "I'm disappointed with the result. I don't second-guess these guys. I only have a very narrow view of what's going on. They have the big picture."

Except that it does seem very strange that the race leader - who had been dominating the lead up until that point - should throw it all away if it was really that marginal a fuel call and so absolutely reliant on the unknowable factor of a late caution. Moreover, Franchitti has historically been very good at maximising his fuel use: so how come his car ran short on fuel when rookie JR Hildebrand was able to match his pace throughout and still have enough fuel to make it to the finish line at speed (hitting the wall out of the final turn notwithstanding)?

And as a further element of the mystery - what happened to Scott Dixon? Under Ganassi's strategy, if one strategy left a driver short, then a different strategy for the other driver should allow him to pick up the fallen standard and still win the race for the team. Sure enough, Scott Dixon was brought in on lap 179 with 21 laps to go, and fuel conservation should not have been an issue.

But instead, Dixon faded in the final laps and ultimately finished in fifth place as his pace dropped off. Unbelievably, it was down to fuel again.




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Team owners - and IndyCar legends - AJ Foyt and Roger Penske take a chance to catch up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after rain washes out practice on Wednesday, May 18. [Picture credit: Ron McQueeney for IndyCar Media]
Team owners Chip Ganassi (middle) and Roger Penske (right) talk at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Mike Hull (left.) [Picture credit: IndyCar Media]
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
Will Power, Mark Miles and Derrick Walker announce the addition of Boston to the 2016 IndyCar Series itinerary. (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
#GetWellSoonHinch on scoring pylon at IMS -- Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media
Marco Andretti and Sage Karam at IMS (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Walter Kuhn)
James Hinchcliffe during practice prior to Qualifying for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (Photo by: Leigh Spargur)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Mike Harding)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Jim Haines)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start on the outside of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pagenaud will be joined in the front row by by polestar Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest for the May 24 race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies second-fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start in the middle of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Power will be joined in the front row by pole sitter Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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Maxx - Unregistered

May 31, 2011 6:30 PM

Enough with the Danica crap. She led only because the 10 people in front of her pitted earlier (except Dario and his 208 mph laps). Unless there was a 10 car accident that made for the race to end under yellow or red, she stood no chance of winning. Best drives of the race Rahal & Kanaan.



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