Jun 26, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
Nine of 16 racing weekends, and 10 of 19 races are in the books in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. It’s a season thus far defined by parity, relative struggles by the long regarded top two teams in the series (Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing), and the emergence of several new stars.
In the first of our two-part midseason review (the second part, each of our top five stories this year, will be posted on Thursday), my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I examine the bests and worsts of the first half of the season purely from an on-track standpoint. At this point, much of the off-track hand-wringing that always seems to pop up in some way, shape or form, has been relatively minor and in the background.
Without further adieu, our take thus far:
TONY DIZINNO: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport. The champion has come out firing to dismiss suggestions his 2012 title was a “fluke,” with two wins, two poles, a 4.6 qualifying average through 10 races and just 9 points off Helio Castroneves.
CHRIS ESTRADA: Helio Castroneves, Team Penske. With just one finish outside the Top-10 this season (and a victory at Texas Motor Speedway), the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner is showing the consistency he’ll need to finally bring home that elusive series championship.
MOST DISAPPOINTING FIRST-HALF DRIVER
TDZ: Alex Tagliani, Barracuda Racing. I like Tag and I like the team. But via some mix of bad luck, bad timing, struggling to acclimate to the 2013 Firestone tires, either the pace or the results haven’t yet synced up on a weekend for the veteran Canadian this year. Through 10 races, I’m sure they expected a lot more than one top-10 finish and two top-10 starts.
CE: Alex Tagliani, Barracuda Racing. Graham Rahal was in this spot until his Top-5 run at Iowa last weekend. As a result, I have to go with Tagliani and Barracuda, who’ve led just one lap all year and have finished outside the Top 20 in the last six races (four of which ended in DNFs). If it wasn’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.
MOST IMPROVED FIRST-HALF DRIVER
TDZ: James Jakes, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. E.J. Viso a close second here, but Viso’s had potential for years. Meanwhile Jakes has undoubtedly risen the most year-on-year, has taken nicely to RLL’s team and setup and starred on multiple occasions.
CE: E.J. Viso, Andretti Autosport. Some of us were thinking the well-sponsored Venezuelan was simply going to be the “money man” for the Andretti foursome. But Viso has taken advantage of his team’s plentiful resources and is putting together the most competitive season of his IndyCar career so far.
BEST FIRST-HALF RACE
TDZ: Brazil. With the level of passing and drama on the streets of Sao Paulo, ending with a last-lap, last-turn pass, it’s hard to say any race beat it – even Indianapolis despite its record 68 lead changes.
CE: Brazil. It was, quite simply, the best street race in IZOD IndyCar Series history and one of the best it’s had overall. James Hinchcliffe’s race-winning pass on the final corner gives this race the award over perhaps the most competitive Indianapolis 500 ever.
TDZ: Texas. Thing is, it wasn’t that bad – it just was a combination of a package that had been slightly overdone and a presentation that left a little to be desired.
CE: Detroit, Race 2. The second doubleheader race around Belle Isle Park ended well enough with Simon Pagenaud getting his first victory, but getting there was brutal – with the low point being a 10-car pileup coming off a restart. For the series, it wasn’t the best way to follow up a thrilling Indy 500.
BEST OFF-TRACK STORY
TDZ: For me, it’s Alex Zanardi attending the Indianapolis 500 and being presented with the car that he made “The Pass” – his legendary move on Bryan Herta at the 1996 CART race at Laguna Seca.
CE: INDYCAR is finally implementing a long-range plan to bring back technical innovation and ramp up the speeds. Fans that have been clamoring for something besides a spec product are hoping it comes off.
WORST OFF-TRACK STORY
TDZ: Aero kits. To me, they’ve been nothing short of a boondoggle since they were first announced in 2010. Now, INDYCAR has announced they’ll finally be implemented in 2015… allegedly. I’ll believe them when I see them, and I’m not sure if they’ll generate much buzz beyond the hardcore fans that are already there.
CE: Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles is certainly working hard trying to boost INDYCAR’s profile, but his apparent preference to end the season around Labor Day is worrisome. Unless he’s also trying to gain warm-weather events that can push the start of the season back into February, we’re looking at six months of nothing again. Not acceptable.
Dec 12, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
The winner of the last IndyCar race of the 2013 season, Will Power, has had a bit of time on his hands since the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in October. He made a pit stop into the IndyCar offices in Indianapolis this week, and one of his engagements was participating in IndyCar’s first…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:40 AM EST
Films nominated for Golden Globes tend to have a decent chance of also being nominated for the Academy Awards. So in that sense, it is very good news for Ron Howard’s “Rush,” which received two Golden Globe nominations Thursday morning. “Rush,” which of course captures the drama and battle for the 1976 Formula One World Championship…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:17 AM EST
Sergio Perez arrived late on Formula One’s driver market for 2014, but the Mexican played his way into a seat anyway after strong performances in the final two races when he knew he was a free agent. Perez shifts from McLaren to Force India for 2014, where he will team alongside Nico Hulkenberg. It’s a…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:45 PM EST
After 11 teams contested this year’s Formula One World Championship, the FIA is now looking for a 12th franchise to join the F1 grid in either the 2015 or 2016 season. Potential entries have been asked to submit a formal expression of interest and an initial administration fee of $5,000 to the FIA by Jan.…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:15 PM EST
We may be on the verge of finding out who will replace the retired Dario Franchitti in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (pictured) for the 2014 IndyCar Series. This afternoon, TCGR confirmed a press conference for tomorrow morning at the Performance Racing Industry trade show that’s currently ongoing in Indianapolis. The release…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test at Barber Motorsports Park is in the books for all of Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000. This test marked the first time all three series ran together while on Cooper Tires, as Indy Lights makes the switch this offseason ahead of 2014, and all…
Dec 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EST
Still searching for ways to improve the on-track product on intermediate ovals, NASCAR staged a second test session today at Charlotte Motor Speedway that featured a series of simulated races for different aero packages in addition to traditional single-car runs. “One of the things that we learned and the reason we’re back here with so…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:11 PM EST
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya is no stranger to Phoenix International Raceway. But for his second round of IndyCar testing with Team Penske on Tuesday, he might as well have been. Because while it’s one thing to navigate “The Desert Jewel” with a heavy stock car, it’s quite another to do…
Dec 11, 2013, 3:07 PM EST
NASCAR has announced details of an executive restructuring, with former General Motors executive Brent Dewar being named as its new chief operating officer. Additionally, NASCAR has promoted three members of its executive management. Steve Phelps (senior vice president and chief marketing officer) and Steve O’Donnell (senior vice president of racing operations) have both been elevated…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:13 PM EST
In 2014, “The King” of the World of Outlaws will be going after the throne, one last time. Tony Stewart Racing has announced that Steve Kinser, a 20-time champion of the WoO STP Sprint Car Series, will make next year his final full season on the circuit. A year-long farewell tour – dubbed the “Salute…
Dec 11, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
As a young boy growing up, I watched a lot of NASCAR on Sunday afternoons and I always pulled for Dale Earnhardt in the famous Richard Childress Racing No. 3 car. I suppose I was drawn to the whole attitude that both he and that number represented – a tough, determined and strong attitude, no…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is finally official. Austin Dillon will move up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014 with Richard Childress Racing, and he’s bringing back the No. 3 to Cup for the first time since 2001. No driver – not even Dale Earnhardt Jr. – has raced with the No. 3 in…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
With a grid of 69 confirmed cars for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, split between 29 prototypes and 40 GT cars, and a further nine cars listed as alternates, no one will suggest the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is lacking quantity or quality of entrants in its four classes. Still, after compiling an entry list…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
Now that we’ve completed our IndyCar and NASCAR season reviews, it’s time for us to focus on everything that went down from Albert Park to Interlagos in the 2013 Formula One World Championship. If you’ve been following us this off-season, you know the drill by now. We’ll start with our respective Top 5 stories of…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
There really doesn’t appear to be much middle ground on Lotus F1′s Twitter account and the rest of its social media strategy. You either love it or hate it; personally, I choose the former but it does have its detractors. Still, after seeing the brilliance the team has come up with in response to F1′s…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:33 AM EST
Sauber has officially passed the 2014 homologation test with its new C33 chassis. Good news for the veteran Swiss team. “The chassis of the C33 has passed all static and dynamic tests of the FIA and is officially homologated. The rear crash test, which is not part of the chassis homologation, will take place separately at…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:11 AM EST
One day after the FIA named McLaren and Force India among the six teams taking part in next week’s Pirelli test session in Bahrain, both squads have pulled out of the three-day session. Among the multiple regulation changes that were released on Monday, the FIA granted Pirelli an opportunity to develop their 2014 tires at…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:17 PM EST
Former Red Bull Racing Formula One driver Mark Webber has closed out Porsche’s testing program for 2013 on its new LMP1 car that will debut next year in the World Endurance Championship. Webber, who announced his move to the WEC this past summer and closed out his F1 career with a runner-up in Brazil last…
Dec 10, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
Preliminary plans from Hulman & Co. to invest state funds into upgrades for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been approved by the Indiana Motorsports Commission. The ambitious plans focus on three areas: track modifications, fan experience and technology. In regards to the track, upgrades identified include the installation of an apron for use in the…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
IMSA and officials at Sebring International Raceway have confirmed Open Test dates in February for both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Both series will have morning and afternoon test sessions on both Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014 and Fri., Feb. 21, 2014 to prepare for the Mobil 1 12 Hours…
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