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. NASCAR AMERICA: Kahne’s in Chase, but knows he and No. 5 team must improve (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Kahne to NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan: “We need to build off of this…As a team, we need to be stronger together.”

  2. NASCAR AMERICA: Assessing Tony Stewart’s return at Atlanta (VIDEO)

    Sep 1, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    NASCAR AMERICA’S Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman believe that the three-time Sprint Cup champion handled himself well throughout a difficult weekend.

  3. F1: Sochi grandstand to be named for Toro Rosso rookie Kvyat

    Sep 1, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Qualifying Getty Images

    Organizers of the Russian Grand Prix appear to be getting behind their countryman as F1’s first visit to Sochi draws closer.

  4. NHRA: Four first-time U.S. Nationals winners crowned in Indianapolis

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    DeJoriaWin AP

    Richie Crampton, Alexis DeJoria, Shane Gray and Eddie Krawiec captured U.S. Nationals wins on Monday.

  5. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA recaps how Kahne was able at 5 p.m. ET

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Coming up today: Highlights from Kasey Kahne’s clutch Atlanta win; assessing Tony Stewart’s comeback; the Chase outlook with one regular season race left; more problems in pits for Kevin Harvick.

  6. 2014 TORC champions crowned in Crandon (SPOILER)

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    TORCLogo

    Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s TORC: The Off-Road Championship season finale at Crandon, Wisconsin. NBCSN will air the races this Saturday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

  7. NASCAR: Late-season stumbles put Bowyer, Larson on ropes heading to Richmond

    Sep 1, 2014, 3:11 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Practice Getty Images

    For Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson, winning on Saturday night will be all that matters if they want a spot in the Chase.

  8. Carpenter, SFHR top single-car teams in year before fusion into CFH

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    CarpenterCap Getty Images

    Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing end as the top single-car teams in 2014, before merging in 2015.

  9. Feelin’ free: Frustrations end for Chase-bound Kahne, IndyCar champ Power

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Kasey Kahne saves his season in Atlanta, while Will Power changes his career in Fontana.

  10. Carlos Munoz Sunoco Rookie of the Year in a deep IndyCar freshman class

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    MunozROY Getty Images

    Carlos Munoz takes home the top rookie honors after a successful first full season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

  11. Honda preps for first simulations, expresses confidence it can match Mercedes

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Remember the Honda MP4-4 that won five consecutive Formula 1 championships from 1987-1991? Here's one of the cars the late Ayrton Senna drove to one of three Honda-powered titles. AP

    Honda’s motorsport chief provides an update on the company’s F1 engine progress.

  12. IndyCar: Power leads award winners during series championship celebration

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    IndyCar championship banquet goes off quickly, smoothly with a good bit of humor.

  13. Danica Patrick finishes career-best 6th after G-W-C craziness in Atlanta

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:25 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    The result beats her previous high water mark of seventh this past May at Kansas.

  14. Kevin Harvick far from being happy after Paul Menard wrecks him, costing a chance for win

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — It was a rough night for a number of drivers in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

  15. Kenseth clinches Chase berth; Bowyer falls out of Grid with one race to go

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:43 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth enters the post-season with a second place result, while Clint Bowyer finds himself outside the Chase Grid going into next Saturday’s regular season finale.

  16. Kasey Kahne rallies in last 2 laps to win at Atlanta, makes Chase

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

    Kahne wins at Atl 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.

  17. Tony Stewart’s comeback hopes end with rough 41st-place finish at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    stewart atlanta 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.

  18. NASCAR Atlanta Update: Stewart falls back after contact with Kyle Busch; Kenseth leads

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart’s return to competition tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway has encountered some trouble after a restart run-in with “Rowdy.”

  19. Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

    Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

  20. Tony Stewart the obvious fan favorite during pre-race introductions at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    ATL fans pre-race 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — There was no question which driver received the most applause and cheers during driver introductions prior to the start of Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Video from NASCAR America

Tony Stewart does well in return
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches