Good Friday afternoon ‘Naptown readers and fellow race fans. It’s mid-season for the IndyCars. Ten races remain; three ovals, three street circuits and two road courses. That’s only eight races you say… well there are two double-header weekends still remaining at Toronto and Houston. We get the last half of the 2013 season started this weekend with one of the most entertaining venues on the schedule, the 7/8 mile bull-ring at Iowa Speedway.
And since we’re half-way through the season, let’s take a look back at the notable events and statistics that account for the first nine races of the 2013 IndyCar campaign. First, some quick observations about Milwaukee IndyFest. Then a little whirl through the numbers that account for the first nine races.
Short and sweet. A good race. As with Texas, hard core race fans probably had a blast watching the race. But there was plenty of decent racing there (somewhat more than Texas) to keep casual fans entertained. The NBC Sports Network coverage was excellent, something we’ve come to expect from the network. The mixture of the Formula One broadcast talent was a very nice twist. David Hobbs was impeccably prepared, more so than I would have expected and Will Buxton brings an energy to the pit road that further adds to the quality of the broadcast. In my book, Hobbs and Buxton are welcome on any future NBCSN broadcast.
The race was typical of the Milwaukee Mile. Hard fought. Confusing at times. Demanding of the guy or girl in the seat. I was surprised by the relative few number of incidents, which seems to be a trend this season, especially on ovals. The Andretti cars were dominant right off the transporters. It looked like an all Andretti weekend from the outset. Marco pole. All four AA cars in the top five starting slots. Marco taking a commanding lead early, RHR slipping by him at the end of the first stint, with Hinch and Viso lurking. Helio and Will made their presence known at the end after Taku dominated and faded and Newgarden, Wilson and Dixon flirted with the front of the field. In the end RHR demonstrated his experience and preparation.
All-in-all, a solid, entertaining race with excellent TV coverage. The attendance was similar (maybe a bit higher) to last season. From all on the first hand reports, it was a very well done event. We as fans can only hope, Michael and crew keep IndyFest an annual event for years to come.
The highlight of the year so far, without doubt, has to be TK’s Indy victory. I still have a little Indy afterglow. Great race throughout. An obviously popular winner. Something the 500 doesn’t always provide. So many times, a great race ends with a tepid finish (and/or winner), or a butt-ugly boring race, has an incredible race to the yard of bricks (remember 1992). Congratulations TK on your Indianapolis 500 victory! (once again, I really enjoy writing those words)
Another highlight: no-less than three first time winners – Hinch, Pagenaud and Taku. Overall, seven different winners from five different teams. And let’s not forget Mike Conway’s ridiculous domination at Detroit. No doubt one of the Coyne’s TBA’s will be filled-in by Mike in some upcoming races.
Disappointments and surprises so far? A few. Chip’s boys haven’t been to victory lane this year. The father-son pairing at Rahal Letterman Lanigan hasn’t produced much to smile about. Pippa Mann, after tons of work to get in the car, twice, has had disappointingly short races.
For some additional insight, let’s take a look inside the statistics for the first half. There are some interesting nuggets in these numbers.
Let’s focus on the top ten drivers in points
- Nine of the top ten drivers have at least one podium, with Dario being the outlier with a best finish of 4th at Long Beach.
- Castroneves is the only driver in the top ten whose poorest race result is better that 15th by posting a 13th place finish in Brazil. HCN’s other eight finishes have all been in the top ten. The other nine drivers in the top ten ALL have at least one finish of 20th or higher.
- Hunter-Reay poorest starting position is 8th, best in the top ten. The next closest is Castroneves at 18th and TK at 19th. All other drivers in the top ten have started at least one race from 20th or higher.
- Justin Wilson is the only driver in the top ten that hasn’t started in the top six, with his best starting position being 8th. Only three of the top ten drivers so far have qualified on the pole.
- The Heat Index (The cumulative number of positions gained or lost from the driver’s starting position for all races so far this season.) Simon Pagenaud is +46, while (amazingly) Hunter-Reay is -46. Castroneves +37. Wilson +31. Dixon +29. Hinch -34.
If you step outside the top ten in points, Will Power is actually -68, last on the Heat Index. Will has had good pace virtually every weekend with an average starting position of 5.56, but lousy racing luck that has him outside the top ten in points in 11th. The only other driver with a better average starting position is RHR at 3.78… go figure. Joseph Newgarden is the overall biggest positive mover at +47, just edging ahead of Pagenaud.
What does the rest of the season look like? Who will win the championship? I’ll provide some more detail analysis and crank up the prognostication machine in an upcoming post.
The Iowa Corn Indy 250 always proves to be a great show. And who doesn’t love a big green gas pump for a trophy? Given his consistency so far this year and his history at Iowa Speedway, Marco and the RC Cola car could be tough to beat. So… enjoy the race on Sunday and don’t forget to dial up the streaming video of the heat races on Saturday evening via IndyCar.com.