Skip to content

MotorSportsTalk’s IndyCar 2013 midseason review, Part 2

Jun 27, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

Yesterday my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I took a look back at some of the key players from this 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, in examining the goods and bads this year. Today, we pick our top five stories of the year to date, in no particular order:

Tony DiZinno’s Top Five:

Andretti’s assault on the season: There is no question who the best team has been thus far this year: Andretti Autosport is firing on all cylinders. Defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has come out motivated and determined to silence the critics who said he “lucked” into last year’s championship and is driving like a man possessed – he has six podiums when no one else has more than four, a pair of dominant wins and his qualifying has improved.

Engineering changes in the offseason have actually played to their benefit; renewed with Craig Hampson after his rookie season in 2011, James Hinchcliffe has a series-high three wins and is poised for title contention, Marco Andretti’s offseason work has come to fruition with a solid start to the year, and E.J. Viso and Michael Cannon, together again, have produced some outstanding qualifying efforts that haven’t yet borne fruit in the race. Even rookie Carlos Munoz stunned at Indianapolis by qualifying and finishing second.

Parity early ceding to “big team” rise: Through the seventh race of the year at Detroit, 13 different drivers from eight different teams had scored podium finishes. In the last three races, those numbers have dropped to five and three, respectively. The manic stretch of six races in five weekends has been the ultimate strain on crews and the underdogs who starred early in the season are starting to slip back, if slightly. The authoritative nature of the Andretti Autosport and Team Penske squads, in particular, has started to emerge.

Ganassi more than Honda struggling: Honda hasn’t had the easiest first half but on the days that they have come good, it’s been other teams – Foyt, Coyne and Schmidt – delivering the goods rather than Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s not as though Scott Dixon or Dario Franchitti have forgotten how to drive, but adjusting to this year’s 2013 Firestone tire compounds has been a challenge, as has nailing the setup. A year with only one podium finish and no wins through 10 races is nothing short of a shock.

KV’s changing fortunes: KV always seems on the verge of entering IndyCar’s “top team tier,” but its form is so erratic that it can never truly be mentioned in the same breath as an Andretti, a Penske or a Ganassi. Tony Kanaan’s been revitalized with Simona de Silvestro there to push him, as ever, his oval form has been stellar – including a popular and overdue first Indianapolis 500 victory. But man, for de Silvestro, she needs the road and street courses to come back up. A relatively promising start to the year saw her score three top-10 finishes in the first four races, and feature more regularly at the sharp end of the leaderboard. But on the ovals, she’s been a disappointment, and I’m not sure how much of it is driver versus her car and engine. Regardless, her fast start has fizzled, and she needs to recapture it in the second half.

“Turbo” or bust?: There’s undoubtedly going to be more to come on this front when it premieres July 17, but much of the second half of the season will revolve around how well DreamWorks Animation’s “Turbo” will do at the box office, and the impact it has to a broader sphere of potential viewers. In the first half of the year, we’ve seen the Sunoco/ “Turbo” car on track on several occasions – Kanaan picked up the backing for a four-race deal and has two podiums in his first two races in these colors. Townsend Bell ran the livery for Panther Racing at Indianapolis. Helio Castroneves also had “Turbo” on at the start of the year in an associate sponsorship role. Stay tuned for more.

Chris Estrada’s Top Five:

Tony Kanaan finally wins the ‘500’: We had seen Tony Kanaan come so close to winning the biggest race in the world on numerous occasions. In 2004, he was running second to Buddy Rice when a severe thunderstorm ended the race with 20 laps left. In 2009, he was running third when he suffered a drive shaft failure and slammed into both the backstretch and Turn 3 walls. The next year, he charged from 33rd and last all the way to second before having to pit for fuel with four laps left. But in his 12th Brickyard start this past May, the fan favorite finally got to drink the milk after getting past Ryan Hunter-Reay on a Lap 198 restart. To say it was a well-deserved victory for Kanaan is a vast understatement.

Small teams have their days: With the level of talent as high as it has been in a long while, any victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series these days is a serious accomplishment. In the first half of the season, we saw several of the series’ smaller teams come up big – none as big as KV Racing Technology, who won the Indy 500 with Kanaan. But let’s not forget A.J. Foyt Racing’s first checkered flag in over a decade at Long Beach with Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing’s triumph at Detroit (Race 1) with Mike Conway, and Sam Schmidt’s win in the second Detroit race with Simon Pagenaud. Sato and Pagenaud’s wins were their first in their IndyCar careers.

Ganassi off-Target: After a mixed 2012 season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, I think we all figured a year’s worth of experience on the Dallara DW12 would enable them to find the “sweet spot” and get their drivers, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, back to their normal, dominant selves. But the turnaround hasn’t come in the first half of 2013. Granted, Honda could be doing better but it’s been really surprising at times to see how far off the pace Franchitti and Dixon have looked. Still, no one is going to count this first-class team completely out, not with their resources or pair of “all-world” drivers.

Let’s race two: When former INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard (now with ‘rural lifestyle’ TV network RFD-TV) unveiled the doubleheader format last year for Detroit, Toronto and Houston, the usual “gimmick” charges got thrown around a bit. And there were concerns about how the teams would grind through two full races in one weekend. But the first of those doubleheaders on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park went off smoothly, even if some of the on-track proceedings were cringe-worthy (see my Worst First-Half Race Award). The event also pulled in a hefty three-day weekend crowd as well. Perhaps Bernard was on to something with these doubleheaders.

An emotional issue: INDYCAR took some heat following the Detroit doubleheader for fining Sebastian Saavedra $30,000 after he flipped off Marco Andretti, and putting Will Power and Sebastien Bourdais on probation – Power for throwing his gloves at Bourdais following an accident and Bourdais for comments toward officials on pit road. It all led to questions about INDYCAR muzzling their drivers’ personalities, and with the series fighting for any public attention it can get outside of the Month of May, those questions may be valid. “If a guy gets upset and throws a glove or something like that – it’s a glove, it’s not going to hurt anybody,” Helio Castroneves told the Associated Press at Texas on the subject. “…You can’t just start throwing fines just because the guy had a bad day.”

Latest Posts
  1. Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports airplane tragedy: 10 years later, it still seems like just yesterday

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    (Image courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) (Image courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    This is a column that should never have been written, about an event that never should have happened.

  2. Kentucky native Jack Roush to be inducted into state’s Motorsports Hall of Fame

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Legendary motorsports team owner and innovator — and Kentucky native — Jack Roush will be inducted this Saturday into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame. Roush was born in Covington, Ky.

  3. NASCAR America: Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kyle Petty joined Dave Briggs to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash and how the team recovered from it.

  4. Talladega mystery: Did missing woman even make it to NASCAR race? Second fan to disappear in 18 months

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department) (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department)

    For the second time in 18 months, police in the area of Talladega Superspeedway are investigating the disappearance of a race fan who had intended to go to the Sprint Cup race at the 2.66-mile racetrack.

  5. Enrique Contreras III, nephew of Carlos Contreras, to make first NASCAR truck race start at Martinsville

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    (Photo credit: Enrique Contreras III) (Photo credit: Enrique Contreras III)

    Enrique Contreras III, nephew of veteran Mexican racer Carlos Contreras, will make his NASCAR debut in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Race at Martinsville Speedway.

  6. PWC: GTSport to continue two-car Cayman GTS effort

    Oct 23, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Photo: GTSport Racing Photo: GTSport Racing

    GTSport Racing returns with Jack Baldwin and Buz McCall.

  7. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET for Martinsville outlook

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    141023-nascar-america

    Martinsville preview on tap in Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA.

  8. Caterham could miss Austin as crisis deepens at Leafield

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying Getty Images

    Fernandes claims he didn’t receive full payment for Caterham, the new owners claim they haven’t received their shares, Bernie Ecclestone says he is trying to remedy the situation – but all the while, workers are locked out of the factory, putting the team’s hopes of making Austin in doubt.

  9. South Point, Gaughan to return with RCR to NASCAR XFINITY in 2015

    Oct 23, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Brendan Gaughan back for another year with RCR in XFINITY.

  10. Massa, Perez, Gutierrez confirmed for COTA fan forum

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    MasPerSochi Getty Images

    Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Esteban Gutierrez signed up for COTA fan forum.

  11. Keselowski: ‘I’m not (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) … I’m just trying to do things my own way’

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski is flattered people might compare him with the late Dale Earnhardt, but he’ll be the first to say he’s not the new Intimidator in NASCAR.

  12. Greatest collection of Indy 500 pace cars to be displayed soon

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:18 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway) (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

    Perhaps the greatest collection of original Indianapolis 500 pace cars will soon be on display at an upcoming car show in suburban Chicago.

  13. IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe being toasted for fast-selling beer

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com) (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com)

    For most Canadians, their homebrewed beer choice is typically Labatts or Molson. But countryman and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is starting to get some traction with his own beer brand, Hinchtown Hammer Down (HHD).

  14. NASCAR America: Take a spin around Martinsville Speedway

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around Martinsville Speedway in the NBC race simulator to show why the paper-clip shaped track can be extremely difficult.

  15. NHRA stunner: Jimmy Prock out as John Force’s crew chief

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT

    Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    In a stunning move that could potentially threaten his bid for a record-extending 17th NHRA Funny Car championship, John Force announced Wednesday that veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock has resigned, effective immediately.

  16. Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick will swap crews at Stewart-Haas (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    KurtDanica Getty Images

    Crew chiefs, road crews for Nos. 10 and 41 Stewart-Haas Racing cars will swap starting at Texas.

  17. Statement from Caterham provides unclear future for team’s plans (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    More murky messaging from Leafield as Caterham’s future hangs in the balance.

  18. Drag racer Ron Capps doesn’t let hurricane stop Hawaii appearance

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA, Teresa Long) AP

    When you drive a car that produces nearly 10,000 horsepower and reaches speeds approaching 330 mph, a hurricane with wind speeds over 100 mph is nothing. That was the case Sunday for NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1830)
  2. R. Preece (1661)
  3. R. Newman (1313)
  4. W. Pitkat (1274)
  5. B. Keselowski (1273)
  1. M. Kenseth (1189)
  2. L. Cassill (1179)
  3. D. Coby (1158)
  4. R. Rovelo (1043)
  5. K. Kahne (1011)