Chevrolet IndyCar drivers hail off-season gains for 1-2-3-4 result

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Chevrolet IndyCar drivers hail off-season gains for 1-2-3-4 result

The season-opening Florida street track event has been a case of honors even between Chevrolet and rivals Honda for the past eight years, sharing four wins between them.

But Honda won 12 of the 17 races last year, with four of Chevy’s wins coming on ovals.

After some crunch meetings with its teams in the off-season, Chevrolet swept the top four finishing positions in the 2024 opener – showing a rare dominance in a twin-turbo V6 engine formula that is, in essence, a decade old.

And this came in a race where fuel saving was a key element, which has been Honda’s strong point recently.

Led by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward’s runner-up spot for Arrow McLaren was backed up by the remaining Penske cars of Scott McLaughlin and Will Power. It was Chevy’s first street or road course win since McLaughlin at Barber in Race 4 last year.

“I think a huge difference-maker was Chevrolet,” said Newgarden. “I think we had some deficits last year. There’s no doubt. You can’t hide from that.

“I would say there was more parity than last year here. I think Honda looked pretty strong at this event for the opener. I think this weekend we looked even in a lot of respects, but we certainly have strength on our side that we can lean on now.

“We were hard on ourselves. It’s not just them. We had to really improve our side and the chassis, and we were hard on them, too. We said, we’ve got to make all of these things better, and they delivered in spades.

“You ask for the menu, and you don’t get the whole menu, and I feel like they somehow gave us the whole menu. It’s pretty cool. They did a great job, and it makes me very encouraged for 2024.”

Watch: IndyCar: St Petersburg Newgarden Wins Season Opener

O’Ward revealed the process behind its success by giving details of his team’s meeting with Chevrolet, which was held at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, UK.

“It was like 25, 20 of us at a massive table, and we just hammered down on everything that we wanted to see improvements on,” said O’Ward. “Everything that we thought that we did well, and just having an honest, open conversation of what’s going on because it just… whenever you’re at the end of basically life of an engine like this, a lot of the massive gains have been gained.

“When you gain little bits and pieces here and there, they’re usually pretty substantial. I was super, super happy to see just how receptive they were of it and how they were going to get to work, and they brought us a very strong package, and super happy with that.”

Chevrolet executives and Roger Penske at St. Petersburg

Chevrolet executives and Roger Penske at St. Petersburg

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

When asked by Motorsport.com if the improvements had been made in fuel saving, driveability or outright power, McLaughlin replied: “All of it.

“It’s been a big chance for us to rethink the process and how everything goes about, and it was going to take time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it last year, but from this time last year to the end of the season we made a gain. Still wasn’t enough.

“They went to work over the off-season, like Pato, they had a similar meeting with us, and we’ve got to appreciate that.

“Yeah, they’ve come back with a whole range of things that have helped us today and certainly helped us today in the type of race that we ran.”

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