Thursday, April 12, 2012

Passing Out 10-Grid Penalties Like Candy

According to this from the folks at IndyCar, it looks like James Hinchcliffle will have a lot of company in detention hall this weekend, otherwise known as the middle and back of the pack at Long Beach.

After discovering a problem with an engine that they didn't like (Hinch's perhaps?) Chevrolet has decided to replace the motors in ALL 11 of its participating cars as a precautionary measure. That means that Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and KV Racing Technology, among others, will be looking at a double-digit starting position on Sunday, not to mention a lot of work to do.

Also incurring the same penalty is Sebastien Bourdais, whose Dragon Racing team replaced his motor after Barber.

Part of me wants to go all conspiracy theory on this. Oh hell, I'm really makes you wonder if this is a sort of "protest" to the 10-grid rule after Hinchcliffe was penalized for blowing a motor in a test at Sonoma on Monday. It was stupid to include testing in that penalty, and everyone knows it. So why not flip the Will Power double-bird to show just how stupid you think it is?

That or Chevy saw a problem, was worried that this issue may repeat itself in spades during the race weekend, and decided that it would be better to do this now and avoid a big disaster should several of its motors gone ka-boom.

I hope it is the latter. In its release Chevy talked about keeping the "integrity" of the competition intact. Which if their decision to do this is sincere, I respect that. I'm all for attrition being part of the race, but if there is a known issue and the cars get sent out with that anyway in an attempt to avoid a penalty while crossing fingers that everything worked, that's not fair to any of the competitors.

But the timing of it all is quite suspect, don't you think?

Either way, it is going to shake up the entire weekend. With point-leader Helio Castroneves, third place Will Power and Hinch, who sits in fourth place in the standings, moving back, it gives guys like second place Scott Dixon the opportunity to make a little bit of hay in the points race, or Simon Pagenaud, who was a victim of a penalty at St. Pete, the chance to jump up on the podium and even perhaps win the race.

For those penalized drivers, what does it mean to them? What will they do to try and push their way to the front? Whatever happens, it should be very interesting.

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