To go from supporting 24 cars on a full-time basis to handling 18 drivers apiece at the expanded entry list for the Indianapolis 500, Chevy and Honda rely on exceptional planning and logistics teams during the month of May.
With 36 cars attempting to make the field of 33, both NTT IndyCar Series engine suppliers go into overdrive to handle the extra demand by Indy-only entries, and the additional entries filed by their full-time teams.
“Our Chevrolet full season entries are relatively easy from a hardware standpoint as they carry on through the season,” Chevy IndyCar program manager Rob Buckner told RACER. “The Indy 500-only entries will start with a fresh engine and typically stay on that engine throughout the event. Since our engines are built in Michigan and only a five-hour drive away, logistically, the engine delivery to Indianapolis area is relatively painless.”
Behind the scenes, the strength of both organizations is tested as meeting the demands of their customers, along with reacting to unexpected issues, becomes the norm. The first step is to increase the amount of trackside support engineers required to monitor each new entry.
“Our bigger challenge is staffing each entry with a Chevrolet engineer, as we have expanded from nine full time cars to 18 Indy 500 entries,” Buckner added. “To accomplish this, we have pulled people familiar with our program from all over, and we are very appreciative of their commitment to the program.”
Timing is the primary question that begins to creep in during the first week of practice. Except for the Indy-only cars, the rest come into 50 with the same motor used in the opening rounds. As some of those engines begin to reach the upper mileage limits, select entries will perform motor changes sooner than the others.
“Coming out of the Indy GP, there were one or two cars [that] changed engines,” Honda Performance Development race team leader Allen Miller said. “And there’ll be a few more changing during the first week of practice. Anything that’s in during this week basically runs through qualifying.”
A special rule for the Indy 500 where teams are allowed to install fresh motors for race week also comes with a caveat for timing.
“After qualifying, after Sunday, is when you can put in a race motor,” Miller said. “Regulations don’t allow you to put it in on Sunday once qualifying is over, so it has to be Monday or after. The majority will put in their race motors and start running for Monday. There’s a few of them who will wait until Friday.”