Friday, September 27, 2013

If Wikipedia Were Right

Hello Internet! Guido here, with another Scoring Indy update. So, with no race to preview for another week, and no full 2014 schedule released yet, I've decided to have a little fun yet again. This week, I'm returning the ultra-mega-long range crystal ball back in the cupboard, and pulling out my regular strength crystal ball to look ahead to next season.

Now, per the title of this here post, what I did was: I went to Wikipedia and looked up the "2014 IndyCar Series Season" article. It contains a list of (what I can only assume are) confirmed drivers and circuits for next season. I'm going to take these lists, along with my data from the last two seasons and tell you all exactly how next season would go if it were only the drivers and circuits listed on the Wikipedia page. For reference, those drivers and circuits are:


Andretti Autosport: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon
Ed Carpetner Racing: Ed Carpenter
Rahal Letterman Lannigan Racing: Graham Rahal
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Josef Newgarden
Schimdt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports: Tristian Vautier, Simon Pagenaud
Team Penske: Juan Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power

There will obviously be more drivers than this. But, that's all we have on Wikipedia so far...


St Petersburg
Long Beach
IMS Road Course
Indy 500
Belle Isle
Texas Motor Speedway
Mid Ohio

Keep in mind, this is just what's on the Wikipedia page. This WILL NOT be next year's schedule. There will be more races. Some of them will be double-headers. But, none of that is on Wikipedia, thus it doesn't matter for this week's purposes

Round 1: St. Pete

And, right away we have a toss-up. For the last two years, the top Race Score has gone to either Castroneves or Dixon at St. Pete. I'll give the win to Helio, since he's actually won a race on the circuit. Your  podium results:

1 -- Castroneves
2 -- Dixon
3 -- Montoya

Notes: Montoya gets onto the podium, because no one else has the consistency to grab the spot. He'll get some "vacancy nods" throughout.

Round 2: Long Beach

We make our way to sunny southern California for Round 2, and see a familiar face atop the podium. Your podium results:

1 -- Power
2 -- Pagenaud
3 -- Castroneves

Round 3: Barber

And a gorgeous facility it is! Highlighted, might I add, by some of my favorite racing since the introduction of the DW12. Your podium results:

1 -- Dixon
2 -- Power
3 -- Castroneves

Notes: In the last two years (or, as far back as I have records) these three have had a final Race Score result no lower than P7. Barber might be the toughest contest on this schedule, as Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Andretti, and Rahal have all put up consistent showings there.

Round 4: IMS Road Course

Now, this one is tough. The only drivers on our list to actually run open-wheel laps on the road course are Montoya and Rahal. Now, Rahal only tested, and in his F1 days, Montoya only finished a race at IMS twice. So, by educated guess, here are your podium results:

1 -- Montoya
2 -- Rahal
3 -- Hunter-Reay

Round 5: Indianapolis 500 Mile Race

Here we go: this projection is based not so much on Race Score finishes as race performance. The 500 can be such a roll of the dice anyways... Here goes:

1 -- Andretti
2 -- Carpenter
3 -- Castroneves

Round 6: Belle Isle

After the grand cathedral of Left-Hand Turns, we get all kinds of ambidextrous. Your podium results:

1 -- Dixon
2 -- Pagenaud
3 -- Hunter-Reay

Round 7: Texas

An extra 50 kilometers on this race in 2014 means another several minutes of me trying to figure out exactly how many miles that is. Anyway, while I bust out my calculator, here are your podium results:

1 -- Castroneves
2 -- Pagenaud
3 -- Power

Round 8: Toronto

North of the border we go, up to Toronto, where Scott Dixon enjoyed great success this year. Here are your podium results:

1 -- Dixon
2 -- Andretti
3 -- Castroneves

Round 9: Mid-Ohio

We finish the "season," such as Wikipedia has it, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Here are your final podium results:

1 -- Power
2 -- Dixon
3 -- Pagenaud

Final Results

If we give out three points for first, down to one for third; then our final standings end up something like this:

Dixon: 1st (3) 2nd (2) 3rd (0) -- 13
Castroneves : 1st (2) 2nd (0) 3rd (4) -- 10
Power: 1st (2) 2nd (1) 3rd (1) -- 9
Pagenaud: 1st (0) 2nd (3) 3rd (1) -- 7
Andretti: 1st (1) 2nd (1) 3rd (0) -- 5
Montoya: 1st (1) 2nd (0) 3rd (1) -- 4
Rahal: 1st (0) 2nd (1) 3rd (0) -- 2
Carpenter: 1st (0) 2nd (1) 3rd (0) -- 2
Hunter-Reay: 1st (0) 2nd (0) 3rd (2) -- 2

Your 2014 Wikipedia IndyCar Series Champion: Scott Dixon!

Stay Tuned

Next week, on Scoring Indy, we'll have some actual race-preview business to get down to! Be sure to follow @ScoringIndy on Twitter for updates!


-- Guido

Friday, September 20, 2013

Super-Silly Season

Hello Internet! Guido here with another Scoring Indy update. Lately, it seems that IndyCar Silly Season has kicked into full gear. Twitter was all abuzz with the news that Juan Pablo Montoya would be back in the IndyCar Series next year (in a Penske, no less!) Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee (a must listen on 1070 the Fan in Indy or on the internet for the rest of us) focused almost exclusively on Silly Season topics, even when they talked to the most recent race winner: Simon Pagenaud.

Now, here at Scoring Indy, I like to do things a little differently. So, instead of looking at the 2013 Silly Season, this week I'll be projecting the 2018 IndyCar field; we'll call it Super-Silly Season.

A couple of notes, before we dive into this:

1) Yeah, I get it, some of this is probably wishful thinking. (But, I want to contend that what I'm making are reasonable suggestions.)
2) I'm totally guessing on car count. (Also what numbers those cars will run.)
3) I've limited myself to (mostly) the Road to Indy ladder system. This is due two two factors. First, I believe in Dan Andersen and his vision of the ladder. Second, I'm just not that familiar with the European feeder series. Besides, the Road to Indy has seen most of the new entries into the IndyCar Series recently. Ok. Onward!

IndyCar 2018

A.J. Foyt Enterprises

14 -- Connor Daly
41 -- Sage Karam

-- First team, first reach on car count. But, you tell me that this isn't the sort of team the Foyt would like to run. He's already run Connor Daly in the 500, and Karam is in the same mold: young, American, fast (especially on ovals.)

-- Now, if Foyt is only a one-car team in 2018, which it well may be, my money's on Karam for the spot, just because I'm not convinced that Daly won't still be running road courses in Europe.

Andretti Autosport

25 -- Marco Andretti
26 -- Carlos Munoz
27 -- Matthew Brabham
28 -- Ryan Hunter-Reay

-- This might be (by 2018) Andretti's best team since Franchitti, Wheldon, Herta, and Kanaan in 2005. I wouldn't be surprised if there are two series champions (RHR and Marco) and two rookies of the year (Munoz and Brabham) in this foursome when they line them up in five years.

-- This lineup is a testament to Andretti's involvement in all levels of the ladder system. This allows Michael Andretti and company to nurture young talents like Munoz and Brabham, knowing that they'll have a home when they're ready to drive the big cars. I'd like to see more teams do this. Hopefully Dan Andersen makes the case to them effectively.

Barracuda Racing

98 -- Luca Filippi

-- I like what Filippi has shown me this year. Barracuda (especially Bryan Herta) has shown a willingness to stick by drivers, and I think they've got their guy of the future in Filippi. I believe this car (with the right driver/team chemistry) can be a podium contender. And, with The Gallant Fox out of the series by 2018, I need another ridiculously Italian name to cheer for (apart from the Andrettis).

Chip Ganassi Racing

8 -- Simon Pagenaud
9 -- Scott Dixon
10 -- James Hinchcliffe
83 -- Charlie Kimball

-- I'm bundling the two Ganassi teams together into one four-car monstrosity here. I think that's the direction that the program is going.

-- Now this is an interesting lineup. I'm going to take them one by one:

-- Pagenaud: I struggled with where to put Simon. I think in drafts 1-7 of this list he was driving Penske's #2 car. So why now is he in Ganassi's #8? Simple, his association with Honda. Simon Pagenaud, more than any other Honda driver in the IndyCar series right now, seems to be a company guy. He drove a Honda mini-van at Pikes Peak for goodness sake! I think that Pagenaud is in line for a top tier ride in the near future, and this is the only one in a Honda.

-- Dixon: Dixon is Ganassi's guy. I fully expect him to be a two-time series champion by 2018. He's not going anywhere. I would, however, have said similar things about Juan Montoya not too long ago.

-- Hinchcliffe: I think the Mayor of Hinchtown is likely to be in one of Ganassi's cars as soon as 2014. And, if I'm right about that, I think that he'll also step right into the #10 vacated when Dario Franchitti rides off into the sunset.

-- Kimball: I think Charlie sticks around. Ganassi seems suitably impressed with his progress. In fact, as I've said before, I believe that Kimball's success this year is the reason that Ganassi's fourth (as of yet hypothetical car) is an attractive option for such drivers as James Hinchcliffe for 2014.

Dale Coyne Racing

18 -- Zach Veach
19 -- Pippa Mann

-- Coyne's rides (especially the second one) tend to go to whatever driver can show up with a check. There's nothing wrong with this. It gets drivers into the series, and (if we recall from the "Team RSWC" post that I did a while pack) it's worked out just fine for Dale this year.

-- With that said, I've rolled the dice and given these two seats to a couple masters of self-promotion. Zach Veach has basically privateered his way to an Indy Lights ride, and I expect him to be able to do the same in an Indy Car. Pippa Mann is magnetic to fans, and seems to be similarly so to her primary sponsor: Cyclops Gear. It might be wishful thinking, but for now, we'll pencil these two in.

Dragon Racing

6 -- Gaby Chaves
7 -- Diego Ferreira

-- I won't lie. Chaves and Ferreira are basically placeholders here. Jay Penske's team could certainly do worse than these two. Chaves has been overshadowed a little in Lights this year by fellow Columbian Carlos Munoz, but he does have a win at Mid-Ohio. Ferreira, also, has gotten a little lost in the shuffle with Matthew Brabham dominating Pro Mazda, but he has talent and to spare.

Ed Carpenter Racing

20 -- Ed Carpenter / Mike Conway
40 -- Peter Dempsey

-- I'm excited for Ed Carpenter's inevitable transition from driver/owner to full time owner. I realize that sounds a little anti-Ed, which I'm not (by a long road). What I'm shooting at here, is to say that Carpenter strikes me as the right kind of team owner. Anyway, as Carpenter transitions, I foresee a time where he does the often-suggested twisty/oval split. And, who better to split that time with than Mike Conway: Destroyer of Worlds?  I can also foresee Ed adding a second car, when he has time to do more business-related things, rather than race prep. I think Dempsey is an excellent choice for that spot, as by 2018 he may well be a seasoned IndyCar vet...

KV Racing Technology

78 -- Simona de Silvestro

-- I'm not sure that KV is the right team here. But, I fully expect for the Swiss Missile to still be driving Indy Cars in 2018, and I guess that it will be on a one-car team.

Panther Racing

4 -- Ryan Briscoe

-- I think Panther has got their man in Briscoe. I think he'll win races there. I think he'll retire there. I think 2018 will be a competitive year for the Panther/Briscoe combination: maybe even with them making a run at the 500.

Dryer & Reinbold Racing

22 -- JR Hildebrand

-- This is hopeful on a couple of counts. First, I'm hopeful that we see DRR back in the series in the near future. Second, I'm hopeful that JR Hildebrand gets himself back behind the wheel of an Indy Car. However, I could only conceive of this combo as being competitive at best...

Rahal Letterman Lannigan Racing

15 -- Graham Rahal
16 -- James Jakes

-- I would like to see the Rahal/Jakes combo stick together. I've seen flashes of good from both drivers this year, and I think they could really build something if they stuck it out together. I'm not sure how likely this scenario is going forward. Maybe, we'd see Jakes coming BACK to RLL by 2018, but someone like Hawksworth or Dempsey might be more likely.

-- Side note, I don't think you'll keep Graham Rahal down. He's not had a good year at places that aren't Iowa or Long Beach. I think continuity will do wonders for him, and there's no one more invested in Graham's success than his father, Bobby Rahal. 

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

67 -- Shelby Blackstock

-- Blackstock has been a little outshone by his Andretti Autosport teammate in Pro Mazda: Matthew Brabham, this year. In fairness to Blackstock, however, so has the entire Pro Mazda field. I think that after Brabham gets promoted out of the way, we'll see Blackstock's ability shine. And, Sarah Fisher has never been shy about taking a talented young American. It's worked out well so far with Newgarden.

Schmidt/Peterson/Hamilton Motorsports

55 -- Tristan Vautier
77 -- Jack Hawksworth

-- I think Schmidt is a good long-term home for Vautier. I've seen impressive moments from him this year, but nothing earth-shattering. He could really grow into his seat at this team (especially if Pagenaud gets a bigger, better offer). Pairing him with British road course ace, Jack Hawksworth seems like a no-brainer. The timing, however, might not be there for it. Hawksworth just tested with Rahal Letterman Lannigan, and if he gets a foot in elsewhere, it might be difficult to lure him back to the Schmidt team.

Team Penske

2 -- Josef Newgarden
3 -- James Davison
12 -- Will Power

-- Our final team is also deserving of a driver-by-driver breakdown. So, here goes:

-- Newgarden: I think Newgarden deserves a top-tier ride, and this is the only one that I see opening up. Andretti has too much talent in it's ladder system. Ganassi (hypothetically) has Pagenaud. I think that the Captain can recognize talent, and I think Newgarden has it. The issue with this is (as it always is with Penske's third car) that of funding. I'm not sure that Newgarden has a lot of funding attached to him, but I think Roger Penske could sell Josef as a sponsor-target if he needed to.

-- Davison: Now, this may be controversial, but hear me out. I fully expect Davison to be driving Indy Cars full time soon. I imagine that Davison's rise to respectability will coincide with Helio Castroneves' retirement. This opens up the seat in Penske's #3 car. Davison and Will Power already have a good working relationship  and I think that they would make excellent teammates.

-- Power: Penske's rock stays right were he is. I expect that Will will have won a series championship by 2018 (reversing his interminably run of close-but-no-cigar as well as plain horrible luck), and might just be chasing down Dixon, who will (by then) be the active leader in race wins.

Stay Tuned

Take a look at that field. Tell me that you wouldn't tune in week after week to see those drivers race. Tell me that you wouldn't be able to sell that series. I look into the future, and it looks like this: that's why I'm optimistic about IndyCar.

Not sure what next week will bring yet, maybe there will be some schedule news to digest!


-- Guido

Friday, September 13, 2013

Down the Home Stretch

Hello Internet! Guido here with your weekly Scoring Indy update. This week, with no race to recap or preview, we'll bust out the pretty colored spreadsheet, and take a look at how the RSWC looks right now, and how it might look after the curtain falls in Fontana. So, without further ado, here's the spreadsheet:

2013 RSWC Table

de Silvestro24281531

That is where we sit right now, with three races to go. Now, let's take a look at this season's remaining contenders in reverse order of current points.

The Mathematical Possibilities

- James Hinchcliffe: If the target doesn't move any higher than 150, Hinch can tie for the top of the table, and would be awarded the title by virtue of having 4 25-point performances.

- Takuma Sato: Basically, the same as Hinch, but Sato's highest possible total is 151.

- Tony Kanaan: TK is in the same boat with a 154-point ceiling. However, I expect him to challenge in Fontana, with a chance at a Double Crown.

Trying to Stay Above the Conway Line

The Conway Line for a 19-round competition is 95 points. These two drivers have a very realistic chance of eclipsing that mark, and ensuring (at least in the opinion of Scoring Indy) that this season goes down for them as a success:

- Charlie Kimball: Charlie's performance this year (including a win at Mid-Ohio) has single-handedly made Ganassi's (as of yet theoretical) fourth car look like an attractive destination for the 2014 IndyCar Series. Sitting at 82 points, Charlie can assure an Above-the-Conway-Line performance with one outstanding drive or two solid ones at some combination of Houston, Houston, and Fontana.

- Justin Wilson: Back when I did the Team RSWC I was surprised to find that Dale Coyne Racing was in the fourth place on the table, behind only IndyCar's Big Three of Penske, Andretti, and Ganassi. Justin Wilson, Coyne's full-time driver is the big reason why. Wilson should lock up a 95+ performance for the year without much incident. Of course, one never knows. Interestingly, Wilson's teammate for Houston's double-header: Mike Conway, can get himself above his namesake line as well if he duplicates his average performance at double-header weekends this year.

Fringe Contenders

Brace yourselves, math is coming. From here on out, you'll get a driver's current points, max points, average points per race, and final points if the driver hold's true to his average. (All fractions are rounded down.)

- Dario Franchitti:

Current Points -- 101 
Maximum Points -- 176 
Average per Race -- 6.31
Final Points by Average -- 119

As you can see, the Gallant Fox will have to punch well above his weight to make it to the top of our little fake championship this year. Now, based on how Franchitti's year started, 119 RSWC points is an encouraging performance. Dario may be nearing the end of his career, but I think we're still in store for a few more magical moments before he hangs up his Italio-Scottish themed racing helmet. (As a fan of  Mr. Fanchitti's I'm going to humbly request that said magical moments occur at next year's Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, please.)

- Marco Andretti:

Current Points -- 116
Maximum Points -- 191
Average per Race -- 7.25
Final Points by Average -- 137

Marco Andretti has had a wonderfully consistent season. This should be encouraging for all fans of the third-generation Andretti. In years past, Marco has been hot and cold. This year, he's only finished outside the top ten twice. Marco has speed. Wins will come. Both his father and grandfather won a major North American Open-Wheel Championship. I expect that Marco will as well, and this is the type of season that indicates to me that he can. Before this year, I don't know that I could have said so.

- Simon Pagenaud:

Current Points -- 118
Maximum Points -- 193
Average per Race -- 7.38
Final Points by Average -- 140

The 2012 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year is without doubt the hottest driver lately, with performances of 18, 10, and 18 points at Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, and Baltimore. Now, I don't generally subscribe to the theory of momentum in sports. (In auto racing you can make a slight argument because equipment upgrades must be taken into account). But, if I did subscribe to the theory of momentum, I'd point out that if Pagenaud duplicates his last three races in his next three races, he'd hit 156 points. That's enough to put Simon into contention (with a lot of help) for the Race Score World Championship.

In Need of Help

- Ryan Hunter-Reay:

Current Points -- 126
Maximum Points -- 201
Average per Race -- 7.88
Final Points by Average -- 149

Now, as I said, all fractions are rounded down. If Hunter-Reay performs to his average he'll fall just 0.375 points short of 150, which is the current number of points held by Helio Castroneves. It is also important to note that RHR has scored 15 or more points at every oval so far this year except for Pocono (where he was run over by Sato on pit road). This bodes well for the season-concluding Fontana race. RHR hasn't had a good year on street circuits, however, and before the IndyCar Series rolls into Auto Club Speedway there's a street-course double-header in Houston. In short, as the heading suggests, Ryan Hunter-Reay is in need of help to capture the RSWC.

In Control of Their Destinies

- Scott Dixon:

Current Points -- 143
Maximum Points -- 218
Average per Race -- 8.94
Final Points by Average -- 169

This section, featuring the top two contenders for this year's RSWC, is comprised of drivers, who can assure themselves of the championship, simply by winning every race. Dixon falls into this category, since his max points are 218, and the points that Castroneves would record for three second-best drives would be 204. As you can see, 204 is more than Hunter-Reay's max points, ensuring that only IndyCar's Iceman is able to muscle his own way to the top of the table.

Now, if I had to get into the business of prognostication, I wouldn't bet against Dixon yet. I've been saying that he would win this for a good while now, and I'm not going to back off. The only reason (in my opinion) that Dixon isn't currently leading the RSWC points is a combination of a bad strategy (at Mid-Ohio); regrettable, if unavoidable, contact with a crew member (at Sonoma); and regrettable, if avoidable, contact with another car (at Baltimore). Dixon has looked the class of the field ever since Pocono, and I just don't envision him not edging ahead of Helio.

- Helio Castroneves:

Current Points -- 150
Maximum Points -- 225
Average per Race -- 9.38
Final Points by Average -- 178

Castroneves has had a spectacular year. It's been Marco Andretti's year turned up to 11. Consistency has been the watchword for the driver of Roger Penske's Chevrolet, which sports the number 3. Race after race, Helio has found himself in the points, notching the full 25 at St. Pete, Texas, and Milwaukee. He's also pulled down second-best 18 at Barber and the second race in Toronto. Realistically, Castroneves must be considered the favorite to win the RSWC as well as the IndyCar Championship, even if I'm not picking him.

Making the Case

Here's my case for each of the top four drivers to take home the Race Score World Championship.

- The Case for Pagenaud: The case for Pagenaud is momentum. He's driving WELL lately, while the other contenders haven't been putting up results. For Simon to win, he has to string together two podium-type performances in Houston, then hold on at Fontana, hoping none of the other contenders can catch him.

- The Case for Hunter-Reay: The case for RHR is a little harder to make than it is for Pagenaud (who comes into Houston 8 points in arrears). But, I believe that if you wanted to make an argument for the defending series champion it would go like this. 1) Andretti Autosport has not had a good double-header yet. 2) Therefore, the team is due. 3) If the team has a good set up for Houston, it will increase RHR's speed. 4) RHR, with good speed, would get himself into striking distance by the finale. 5) If RHR knows what he needs in Fontana, he will get it, just like he did last year.

- The Case for Dixon: I pretty much made the case for Dixon earlier. But, allow me to reiterate. Dixon would have the lead if any two of these three things hadn't happened: 1) He used the strategy that he used at Mid-Ohio (either a dedicated two-stopper or a three-stopper from the drop of the green would have put him ahead of Castroneves, in my estimation). 2) He had not been penalized for the pit road contact at Sonoma (I still think the penalty was the right thing, but I remember the radio broadcasters saying they didn't think that there would be a penalty at the time). 3) His car hadn't been contacted by Power's at Baltimore. Unfortunately for Dixon, all three of those things happened. And, that's why he's second on the table. If his "luck" continues, such as it is, he'll stay in second.

- The Case for Castroneves: This has hardly been a perfect year for Helio. Yet, he finds himself atop the standings. When things have gone wrong, he's still managed to tally RSWC points. Helio will be Helio for the last three races. And, that will be enough.

Stay Tuned

Next week, here at Scoring Indy we'll gaze into our proverbial crystal ball, and tell you all why we see such a bright future for IndyCar.

See you then!

-- Guido