Honda IndyCar Teams Wrap Strong Season at Sonoma
Takuma Sato’s Indy 500 victory highlights a Honda year with title contention and several wins.
Honda’s IndyCar season wrapped up at Sonoma Raceway in the 2017 season finale. While Team Penske and Chevrolet came out on top of the year, Honda enjoyed some major highs and lows throughout the year.
No win than the Indianapolis 500 could ever be bigger for Andretti Autosport driver Takuma Sato. The open-wheel-racing veteran ran a daring and aggressive race that saw him fend off Penske’s Helio Castroneves. With that victory, Sato became Japan’s first Indy 500 winner.
The Brickyard held plenty more drama aside from Sato’s win. McLaren-Honda Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso took an F1 sabbatical for a shot at Indy glory. Alonso ran at the front in his Andretti Autosport-prepared Honda for much of the race until an engine failure added to his troubled season.
Sebastian Bourdais also missed most of the season after a qualifying crash at Indy. The Dale Coyne Racing driver began the season with a win at St. Petersburg and led the championship through several rounds, but the massive crash left him out of the car for most of the year. Bourdais still returned to racing at Gateway Motorsports Park with an astonishing Top 10 finish.
Graham Rahal’s two-race sweep at the Belle Isle Grand Prix capped a quietly good season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. They’ll expand to a two-car team in 2018 with Sato in the second car. Look for bigger things from RLL next year.
Scott Dixon contended for the championship all season as the best of Chip Ganassi Racing in CGR’s first season with Honda. Dixon managed only one win at Road America, but consistency kept him in the running until the final laps, where a Simon Pagenaud win bumped him from second in the championship to third. If not for a huge crash during the Indy 500, where he set the pole time, Dixon may very well have won the title.
Popular Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe made it two consecutive races for smaller teams with a win at Long Beach. His victory for Schmidt Peterson followed up Bourdais’ big win at St. Pete for Dale Coyne.
Finally, former F1 driver Alexander Rossi, whose first big IndyCar race was winning the Big One, at last captured his first road-course race. Rossi took home the win from Watkins Glen for Andretti Autosport.
With standardized aero kits between Honda and Chevy in 2018, competition should be closer. The Honda engine has seemed to have the advantage, held back only by Chevy’s better aero. With that aero-design convergence, could Honda have an advantage in 2018? Only time will tell.