Friday, March 27, 2015

2015: The Begin-ining

Hey there Internet! (I feel like in this, our third year together, we can be a little more informal.) It's Guido, back with another year here on Scoring Indy. We've got new beginnings. We've got strange endings. And, we've got a preview of the 2015 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! So, let's get to it.


Strange Endings

The astute amongst you will notice that scores from last year's races at Milwaukee, Sonoma, and Fontana never got themselves on to the internet. Well, here's the thing. Computing these scores the way that I do requires a mind-numbing amount of data entry. Basically, I have to take a lap chart and then manually enter each car's running position each lap into a spreadsheet, so that I can calculate the average running position for that car as part of my scoring formula (more on said formula later). For races with lots of laps, like Milwaukee or Fontana, this takes a ton of time. On top of that, I had a computer bite the dust last year (RIP Inspiron), which took a lot of my data with it, and I just never had the time to get Humpty-Dumpty put back together again. Combine that with my promise to Mrs. Guido not to blog that much when the cars aren't actually racing, and you get three races off into the ether. It wouldn't have happened if these computations weren't so time consuming, so allow me to make this plea:

IF ANYONE KNOWS A LESS COMPLICATED WAY TO COMPUTE AVERAGE RUNNING POSITION WITH THE TOOLS AVAILABLE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW

So, that's the strange ending to last season. Now, those scores will just be exciting little bonus nuggets when the time comes to preview those races. They're mostly done now.


New Beginnings

- Well, the newest of new beginnings is that there is now a third Guido at Casa di Guido. In fact, Little Guido was sitting on my lap watching a replay of the Australian Grand Prix just a little while before I sat down to write this. And, Little Guido will be by my side watching the IndyCar season get underway after we all get home from church and another small person's birthday party on Sunday. So, that's cool.

- This may also be a new beginning for some of you coming to this humble corner of the internet for the first time. Basically, what I aim to do on this blog is quantify driver performance in IndyCar races. I do that by sticking the following numbers into a spreadsheet that gives us a number (that I call a Race Score) that we can use to compare drivers to one another:

1) Finishing Position
2) Qualifying Position
3) Starting Position (often the same as #2)
4) Average Running Position
5) Laps Led
6) Laps Completed

You can read a couple of my old posts here and here if you want to read more about it. Now, most of this stuff I can get easily from the official statistics published at indycar.com, but Average Running Position, I have to calculate for myself by manually entering ever car's running position each lap into a spreadsheet. So, allow me to repeat myself from above:

IF ANYONE KNOWS A LESS COMPLICATED WAY TO COMPUTE AVERAGE RUNNING POSITION WITH THE TOOLS AVAILABLE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW

- Finally, this year marks a new beginning for quite a few drivers at new teams for the first race of 2015. Here are my tweet-length thoughts about each.

- Jack Hawksworth at A.J. Foyt Enterprises -- He's got all of Super Tex's aggression. Will he get even a fraction of the results? How does adding a second car impact the team?

- Simona de Silvestro at Andretti Autosport -- Was a solid performer in 2013. How will being out of an Indy car impact her? Will racing for her future at St. Pete bring out the best or worst?

- Gabby Chaves at Bryan Herta Autosport -- Had a good run in lights. How will he handle the big cars?

- Luca Filippi at CFH Racing -- Has shown pace when given decent equipment (see GP2). Will he be able to destroy worlds while subbing for Ed on the twisties?

- Francesco Dracone at Dale Coyne Racing -- I don't expect much, especially with an only-4-race deal. But, I didn't expect much from his teammate last year, and he won a race (somehow).

- Stefano Coletti at KV Racing Technology -- Loved his pace in GP2. Loved his ability to pass. Loved his speed in preseason testing. Can it all come together?

- James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports -- 2013 had great moments. 2014 didn't. Did his results come from being at Andretti or will the new seat spark a renaissance?

- James Jakes at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports -- I want to like Jakes. I really do. But, I'm going to need some results to justify the fandom, and I just haven't ever seen 'em.

- Simon Pagenaud at Team Penske -- Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a title contender. I think. I wonder how he'll do in a Chevy. What does it mean for the Pag / Power rivalry?


Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Preview

Let's start our preview with a review of how things went last year:

FinishDriverGridLedCompletedA.R.P.Race Score
1Power4741101.9892.15
2Hunter-Reay301103.0163.62
3Castroneves1021103.2071.52
4Dixon501105.4356.93
5Pagenaud1401109.9960.62
6Kanaan201105.6346.02
7Sato1331103.7854.27
8Wilson1601108.4956.83
9Newgarden22011013.1055.91
10Briscoe9011010.3837.30
11Saavedra11011013.9631.87
12Aleshin15011017.3029.85
13Bourdais13011013.4429.64
14Rahal21011015.8935.01
15Montoya18011015.2428.43
16Conway1211109.4725.34
17Munoz7011012.2310.26
18Huertas17011019.0112.11
19Hinchcliffe19010920.979.10
20Kimball20010819.759.38
21Hawksworth808312.590.07
22Andretti608214.89-7.40


Last year, as you see, was a dominant performance by my Australian Overlord, Will Power. His Overlordship dominated the final two thirds of the race, and had the best-performing equipment all day (as is evidenced by his Average Running Position). Not a lot of real surprises elsewhere on the stat sheet, however.

QUICK ASIDE The whole Will Power is my overlord shtick came about because I was trying to pick a favorite driver last year after Dario Franchitti's retirement. I had a series of challenges called the Race for My Heart, and Power dominated. So, he became my arbitrary favorite driver. The overlord thing grew out of the perceived irony of jumping from Franchitti to Power, as in "I, for one, welcome my new Australian Overlord. Also, Power's growing on me. END ASIDE

So, what do we expect from this race in 2015. Well, here are my four things (well, one thing and three drivers) to watch:

1) Aerodynamics - This is obviously the big one. Much has already been said by people smarter and more tuned in to these things than me about how this year's aero kits might affect the racing. I'm intrigued because it gives every team another set of knobs to turn and another axis to compete on. I like competition. I'm intrigued.

2) Juan Pablo Montoya -  Team Penske is stacked this year. Seriously. This is some New York Yankees business. And, this is a good thing. But, the Team Penske member I'm most interested to see this year is (with all apologies to His Overlordship, Will Power) Montoya. He's got one of the longest track records of any competitor in the series. He's won races in every formula he's raced. He won in CART. He won in F1. He won (rarely, but he did it) in NASCAR. He won at Pocono last year. Can this year bring further success? Can JPM factor into the championship picture that seems to be focused on his teammates: Power and Pageneaud? Plus, Eric Hall says it's the year of Montoya, and I trust Eric Hall implicitly.

3) James Hinchcliffe - I talked briefly about Hinch above. After three race wins (and plenty of DNFs) in 2013, 2014 didn't produce much in the way of fireworks. Now, he jumps to another Honda team in SPM: a team who has a track record of success with Simon Pagenaud from 2012-14. Can the pairing of Schmidt and Hinchcliffe keep the train rolling?

4) Graham Rahal - Speaking of drivers in search of a turn-around, we come to my perpetual curiosity with Graham Rahal. Somewhere in the reptilian part of my brain, I'm convinced that Rahal has talent. All of my rational faculties, however, have told me to bail on any expectations for him. But, this year the RLL team has me trying to believe again. Rahal had the best testing results of any Honda at the Barber test, and they just signed Steak 'n Shake as a sponsor. I love Steak 'n Shake (there aren't nearly enough in Wisconsin, which is to say there are none). So, convince me to believe, young Mr. Rahal. I'm pleading with you.

After saying all of that, if you want to pick a winner: look to the "usual" suspects. Power's a good pick. So are Castroneves, Dixon, and Pagenaud. If your soul must pick a Honda, pin your hopes to RHR and say a prayer.


Stay Tuned

For any of you, who may be new to Scoring Indy, here are some things to know:

1) I post on Fridays. In the past, I've tried to turn scores around quicker than that. This year, I make no promises. I post on Fridays.

2) I post during the Verizon IndyCar Series season. I might post at other times, but I make no promises.

3) I make predictions on Twitter after qualifying and before every race. I am usually wrong, but I try to have some fun with them.

That's it for now. Get excited, people! It's a new season! I'll see you in a week!!

-- Guido

Saturday, August 23, 2014

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Preview

Hello Internet! It's Guido here with a Scoring Indy race preview. This week, we look ahead to the IndyCar race at Sonoma, and get pumped for the title picture as it takes shape! One note to be aware of: you didn't miss anything, It's been a hectic week at casa di Guido, and I don't have the Milwaukee scores done yet. So, you can expect a mega-post with scores from both races some time in the next week with both sets of scores. But, for now, let's get to the previews:


2013 Sonoma Scores

FinishDriverQual.GridLedCompletedA.R.S.
1Power33168572.52
2Wilson77108568.11
3Franchitti11178564.75
4Andretti111108563.97
5Pagenaud101008559.62
6Hunter-Reay4468547.01
7Castroneves5508548.78
8Hinchcliffe9948550.12
9de Silvestro232208557.64
10Bourdais121208536.44
11Rahal8808530.82
12Vautier141408538.48
13Kanaan161658543.56
14Viso151508527.29
15Dixon22278535.84
16Hildebrand181808529.62
17Briscoe222108536.01
18Davison212508532.17
19Carpenter242308426.42
20Kimball660830.64
21Saavedra202008119.59
22Luhr252408116.60
23Sato1313067-0.27
24Newgarden1717056-1.58
25Jakes19190283.95



Predictive Observations

Here are your four drivers to watch ahead of this weekend's race:

- Power -- First, we take a look at His Overlordship: Will Power. My arbitrary favorite driver has been looking in fine form of late, winning at Milwaukee and taking a commanding position in the Verizon IndyCar Series points. Last year, Power took the win in Sonoma after qualifying P3. Now, it was a win marked with controversy, when Scott Dixon was penalized for hitting one of Power's crew members who was (intentionally or not) carrying a tire a little wide. But, at the end of the race, it was Power crossing the line first. If he does it again, he'll be hard to top for his first title, even with double points on offer in Fontana.

- Castroneves -- Now we come to Power's closest competition. Helio's effort at the 2013 trip to wine country was solid but not spectacular. Solid, but not spectacular might be all the Castroneves needs too give himself a puncher's chance in the season finale, which might be all that he needs to secure his first title with a winning performance over those last 500 miles. 

- Rahal -- I admit it. I find Graham Rahal compelling. He probably shows up on more of these "4 to Watch" lists than he needs to. But, as long as we're talking about him, let's talk about him. My usual gripe with Rahal is that he qualifies so poorly that his making up positions on track doesn't help him enough. And, that has been his issue in Sonoma in general. In 2011 and 2012, he started back in P13, which made things hard on him (despite P5 and P8 finishes). Well, in last year's Sonoma race, he flipped the script on himself. He qualified up in P8, but couldn't manage to do anything with it, basically holding station for the first quarter of the race then getting mired back in the pack. Rahal has had a bit of form recently with two good drives in the last three road/street events (Mid-Ohio and Toronto 1). Does it extend to Sonoma?

- Dixon -- Scott Dixon could have won at Sonoma last year. He was locked in a battle with Will Power, which looked to be ending Dixon's way before the penalty. That set up what (at least) I remember as a high-drama finale. This year, Dixon is in the opposite position. This year, he can't win it all, but he can spoil. How will Dixon adjust to the new role? Will he attack with reckless abandon, like Power in 2013? Or, will the Ice Man melt? My money's on two good races from him.


Stay Tuned

That's all the warm-up for now. Be sure to follow me @ScoringIndy on Twitter for all the updates, and the mega-post with scores coming up soon! See you then!

-- Guido

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wisconsin 250 Preview

Hello Internet! It's Guido here with another Scoring Indy race preview. This week we'll be taking a look at the 2013 Milwaukee race, and comb those results for some predictive observations for this time around. Let's get to it!


2013 Milwaukee Scores

FinishDriverQual.GridLedCompletedA.R.S.
1Hunter-Reay446525077.11
2Castroneves1817025080.08
3Power33425059.35
4Viso551025060.49
5Hinchcliffe22025050.34
6Dixon1111025055.11
7Sato151510925077.61
8Franchitti1723025057.79
9Wilson1313124945.92
10Kanaan77024937.76
11Newgarden88024936.26
12Pagenaud99024935.18
13Saavadra66024827.15
14Carpenter2120024841.30
15Briscoe1918024831.82
16Rahal2324024731.44
17Kimball2221024628.01
18Jakes1212024512.00
19Beatriz2019024218.72
20Andretti11611765.59
21Vautier101001732.37
22Bourdais141401523.81
23Tagliani161601460.37
24de Silvestro24220691.60



Predictive Observations

- I've liked this "4 Drivers to Watch" idea. I'm going to stick with that.

- Ed Carpenter -- Carpenter makes this list, but not for the reasons you'd expect. As the resident Oval Maestro in the Verizon IndyCar Series, you might presume that I'd be touting Carpenter's chances. Instead, I'm recommending caution with predicting a big day for the #20. Milwaukee might be oval-shaped, but in many ways it drives like a road course. And, the numbers back me up on this. Carpenter only has 2 Top 10 performances in 9 IndyCar races at the Mile. In fact, his best ever finish is only P7. You've been warned.

- Ryan Hunter-Reay -- Andretti Autosport owns track. Well, not physically. But Andretti Sports Marketing does promote the event, and Hunter-Reay has won every race contested at Milwaukee in a DW-12 chassis. Expect no less than a solid performance from RHR.

- Takuma Sato & Graham Rahal -- Here's a two-fer for you, but these two drivers share a similar theme. Sato, as he did many times in '13 (and has in '14) ran very well. Sato, however finished back in P7, despite leading over 43% of the laps run. Rahal, on the other hand, qualified poorly, and never really got into a contending position. You'll remember, however that I leveled a similar criticism Rahal's way before Mid-Ohio, and you saw how that turned out. Let's keep an eye out to see it either driver changes their luck this time around.

- Helio Castroneves -- Finally, we turn our attention to the series championship and to Helio Castroneves. It seems that Castroneves is in the midst of what is quickly becoming a traditional late-season slump. In fact, if the season weren't designed to end by Labor Day this year, we might well call it a September Swoon. This is what makes Milwaukee an interesting race for Helio. Look back up at the score up there. Helio ran well (scoring a race-best 80.08), he also finished P2. Now, did this performance come about because of Castroneves' booming confidnece at that point in the season last year, or did it come because he's good at Milwaukee? We may well find out the answer on Sunday.


Stay Tuned

I might just trot the good old race predictions back out after qualifying this weekend. We'll see how I feel. But, to get those, as well as any and all blog updates and general thoughts, be sure to follow me @ScoringIndy on Twitter. I'll see you after the race!

-- Guido