Lack of Passing Brings Out Critics

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Phoenix Raceway created excitement and hopes of side-by-side racing.

Unfortunately, those expectations went undelivered through the majority of the race.

Once the race reached the 100-lap mark, the field strung out single file, unable to make passes. As a result, there was criticism on Twitter, with former NASCAR champions Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson generating buzz with their comments.

IndyCar saw the comments and responded quickly to Johnson with a tweet of their own.

Restarts were full of drama, with drivers fanning out to make passes. Ryan Hunter-Reay stole the show with his impressive starts, where he went to the outside and passed several cars.

The more aero-dependent cars get, the harder it is to pass. The lack of passing is why NASCAR created a low-downforce package in the Sprint Cup Series. With the aero kits increasing downforce, some in the sport are wondering if it’s gone too far.

Another reason, though, could be the blocking that was being made by drivers throughout the field. A number of drivers sounded off on the defensive driving throughout the race.

“The frustrating thing is that I felt like I had the best car out there,” Graham Rahal said. “I could catch everybody, but I just couldn’t pass at all.”

“It’s been really hard to pass out there, which is surprising,” Ed Carpenter said. “After the warm up, I thought it was going to be a really racy race but everyone just kind of equalized tonight.”

Some drivers, like Team Penske’s Will Power, chose to keep a gap between themselves and the next driver in front. Power felt conserving fuel and managing his Firestone tires would allow him to maintain the track position gained by a solid qualifying effort.

“I was aware that the more you punish it, the more chance you’re going to have of a big vibration,” Power said. “It’s not the tire that’s the problem. It’s the amount of downforce we have here. It’s too much, and that’s why we couldn’t pass, and that’s why the tires — some of the tires had vibrations.”

Power wound up third at the end of the race, a great result after he missed the season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

During the final 50 laps of the race, very few successful passes were made under green. For drivers who were unable to advance on the track, it came down to strategy and pit stops to determine their position.

IndyCar is trying to draw fans attention and generate interest ahead of the 100th Indianapolis 500. Without compelling races, they’re going to have a hard time keeping fans excited.

That’s why it’s no surprise that Johnson and Keselowski aren’t the only ones discussing the approach to take moving forward.

Race winner Scott Dixon says IndyCar’s long hiatus from Phoenix made it difficult to know what would happen in race conditions. He understands that possible changes need to be made, but wants to make sure that everyone is included in the decision-making process.

“Everybody has their two cents, but it needs to be looked at, and everybody is going to comment on it,” Dixon said. “So yes, I can see some changes maybe in the future, but we’ll have to do it as a group, and we’ll have to do lots of testing to make sure it’s a better product when we come back, and it works.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularopenwheel.com

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Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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