Chevrolet has confirmed that none of the issues that caused four of its cars to withdraw from Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio were related, though Chevy’s IndyCar program manager Rob Buckner says the Bowtie has work to do to bolster reliability ahead of a busy July schedule.
“It was a surprisingly messy day,” Buckner told RACER. “The strange thing for me was that we ran Friday and Saturday with no issues, and then it seemed like the race started and there were just continual issues. I guess the good news and bad news is that each car that had problems was unique, so it’s not like we have a series of failures at any given mileage. All of these engines were supposed to come out after Mid-Ohio, so they were all in that 2,000-mile range and beyond, so you initially start thinking, ‘oh, do we have any major issues around the 2,000-mile mark?’ , but they were all quite unique.”
The two biggest problems took out the pair of Arrow McLaren SP cars, with Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 7 coming to a smoky stop after just eight laps, and Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 developing the first signs of what was to come. turned into terminal problems as the Mexican held a comfortable lead towards the end of the first stage.
“The No. 5 car was a fuel supply issue,” Buckner said. “That engine had been fixed for a Chevy problem at Road America, but what happened on Sunday was just fuel delivery, out of Chevy’s control and really out of the team as well. The fuel system has some necessary suppliers and parts, so one was just an unfortunate incident. It was very painful because that car was on track for a very good day.
“No.7 was something totally different; definitely on our side. It was a rapid engine failure. We don’t have that root cause yet; We need to take it apart this week and see what went wrong. We are very proud of having no engine failures on the track and Felix was having a good day so we let him and the No.7 team down. So we definitely have to do better for Arrow McLaren SP. We’re very proud to have reliable race engines, and Pato was a DNF at Road America on our own, and Felix was a DNF for us at Mid-Ohio, and the No.5 car had its issue, too. So we’re having a number of reliability issues with AMSP that we’re going to do everything we can to fix, and we know the race team will do the same. We’re really looking forward to getting to Toronto and moving forward with that group.”
According to Buckner, the recent spate of issues affecting AMSP hasn’t been related to anything specific to the team and how it works with the engines.
“They’ve just been unlucky,” he said. “Pato’s problem at Road America was an electrical sensor failure that could have happened to any of our cars. And then the mechanical failure that we saw with Felix, we still don’t know what the root cause of that was, but they’re always pretty random. We work very hard to avoid them. We always respond well to these kinds of issues very quickly, so we’ll catch up and move on.”
Outside of AMSP, the No.11 entry AJ Foyt Racing driven by Tatiana Calderon and the No.77 Juncos Holinger Racing car of Callum Ilott also dropped out early.
“The No.11 car had a gear-side issue that ended its day prematurely, and then the No.77 car was a freak engine event that led to an engine failure and retirement,” Buckner said. “So we ended up with four cars that retired with transmission problems, which is too many. I went quite a long day.
“But at the same time, we walked away with the trophy, so if you have a bad day and you can still walk away with a win, I think everyone in our camp will take it. We just have to clean up a few loose ends before we get into these next four race weekends in July and hit the reset button leaving Mid-Ohio.”
Despite the unusually high number of mechanical failures, Chevrolet finished the weekend with three of its cars in the top four, led by Team Penske race winner Scott McLaughlin. Buckner said the Chevy teams’ performance was the silver lining in a frustrating race.
“I am very proud of our group,” he said. “We never give up, which is good because right now we have some problems that we need to work out! It was weird, Friday and Saturday at Mid-Ohio were pretty quiet, and then all of a sudden the green flag waved for the race and it was chaos from the start.
“But still being able to win says a lot about the depth we have right now. If we can clean up our reliability to improve performance, our teams and drivers are doing a great job. I am very proud of McLaughlin; the two races he has won this year have been held by (Alex) Palou. Will Power’s drive from back to front was huge for the championship, and Josef Newgarden was there too. If it wasn’t for his qualifying problem… we hate to be greedy but if you look at the pace we had we should have had a better weekend than we did.
“So I think we still have a lot of potential to have a good second half of the season. We just have to keep pushing because we clearly know how quickly events can turn against you. Five races in July; we need to close all these problems and get back to business.”
Chevrolet’s one-three finish at Mid-Ohio gives it an 81-point lead over Honda in the constructors’ championship heading into next weekend’s race in Toronto.