Nov 1, 2013, 10:00 AM EST
Earlier this year, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I took a two-part look at the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Part one focused on our respective bests/worsts, with the second each of our top five stories.
We’re continuing our comprehensive, full 2013 IndyCar recap this morning with our respective bests and worsts of this year. You can look forward to a number of posts related to this season over the next several weeks. As you’ll see below, Chris and I agreed on several items, but occasionally for different reasons…
TONY DIZINNO: Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. A no-doubter. Four second-half wins including the incredible run of three in eight days at Pocono and Toronto, a revitalized charge at Houston after getting knocked down at Sonoma and Baltimore, and a controlled drive at Fontana all did the trick for Dixon’s third IndyCar title. Helio Castroneves collected points, but Dixon went out and took points away.
CHRIS ESTRADA: Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon’s place among IndyCar’s all-time best competitors has to be secure after he charged from seventh in the standings at mid-season to his third career IndyCar Series championship. His three-race win streak in July (Pocono, Toronto 1 and 2) put him back in the title picture, but he proved how strong his resolve is after suffering twin calamities at Sonoma and Baltimore, and capitalized on the misfortunes of title rival Helio Castroneves in the Houston doubleheader with a win and runner-up. From there, he did what he had to do at Fontana and now he’s back on top of the mountain – a well-deserved triumph for one of the sport’s most tenacious drivers.
MOST DISAPPOINTING DRIVER
TDZ: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Sebastian Saavedra’s a close second for me, but the stats don’t lie: Rahal tied Saavedra with the worst starting average in the field (17.7), had only five top-10 finishes in 19 races, and finished 18th in the standings. Plus, James Jakes hassled him way more than I thought was possible. A midseason engineering change from Gerry Hughes to Neil Fife helped, but it wasn’t enough to make a sizeable difference. Perhaps the addition of Bill Pappas for 2014, announced Thursday, will. I certainly didn’t expect this, and I’m fairly certain these guys didn’t either.
CE: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Things just never really got on track for Rahal in his first full-time season with the family team. He and the No. 15 crew are capable of better as they showed in their flashes of promise this season, like their podium at Long Beach, drive to fifth in Iowa and jumping 17 positions in Houston Race 1 for a top-10 result. It’s moments like those that should make the RLL camp optimistic about what they can do when everything does come together. But 2013 was definitely not that time.
MOST IMPROVED DRIVER
TDZ: Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Either “Newgy” or “Chuck strong,” Charlie Kimball, would be a worthy recipient here, and Chris hits Charlie’s case below. I’ll state Josef’s. The kid overachieved on a single-car team in his sophomore season and eliminated the mistakes that all-too-frequently occurred in his rookie year. He could have won at Brazil had it not been for ill-timed defending by Takuma Sato, and his run to second at Baltimore was one of the drives of the year. There, he started fifth, bounced from front to back to front again, and handled the track’s notorious chicane like a boss. His qualifying could be better but that’s my only demerit; 23rd to 14th is an excellent jump in the standings and in 2014 he should be contending for his first win, and a top-10 points finish, a la Kimball this year.
CE: Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. The IndyCar Series had four first-time winners in 2013, but it can be argued that Kimball’s breakthrough at Mid-Ohio in August was the most heart-warming of them all. It was the climax of a very competitive 2013 for the American driver, who logged two podiums (the other coming at Pocono), three top-5s, and 10 top-10s en route to a respectable ninth-place finish in the championship. Even better: With Kimball’s star rising on the track, he and sponsor Novo Nordisk’s noble work toward diabetes awareness is sure to resonate further off of it.
TDZ: Brazil. Several second-half races challenged it from a drama standpoint – Sonoma, Baltimore, both Houston rounds and the Fontana season finale – but Brazil was the best blend of on-track drama and an incredible finish in my estimation.
CE: Brazil. Of course, this race is currently off the schedule for next season (*facepalm*). Time will tell if it comes back in 2015, but let’s hope so. This year’s running was everything a motor race should be – passes for position galore, daring maneuvers, and a battle that went all the way to the final corner. Even the most hardened oval-racing fans had to love what they saw in the streets of Sao Paulo.
TDZ: Houston Race 2. The battle between Will Power and Dixon for the win was good, and there was decent passing throughout the field. So why does this qualify? The last-lap wreck that sent Franchitti airborne was the icing on the cake on what was IndyCar’s most trying weekend of the season. Franchitti and fans got injured, the national passerby media popped up again questioning IndyCar’s safety, and most folks left with a sour taste in their mouths.
CE: Houston Race 2. If you saw our coverage during the Grand Prix of Houston weekend, you’ll know that the on-track proceedings left much to be desired: Constant schedule changes, temporary chicanes, bipolar weather conditions, the botched setting of the Race 2 grid, and then, Franchitti getting sent into the catch fence on the final lap and scattering debris into the grandstands. Thankfully, Franchitti survived the incident and the injured fans weren’t severely dinged up. But altogether, it was certainly not IndyCar’s finest hour.
BEST OFF-TRACK STORY
TDZ: Going to take a step down to the Mazda Road to Indy ladder for this. The announcement that Dan Anderson and Andersen Promotions will take over Indy Lights, thus putting it under the same umbrella as Pro Mazda and USF2000, is huge. There is more cohesion, more announcements, and more possibilities for growth under one tent than separate.
CE: I don’t really see this so much as a “story,” but more so as “the right thing to do.” Shortly after the events of Houston, IndyCar drivers such as Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon went to a local hospital to visit some of the fans that were hit with the debris from the aforementioned crash. It was a poignant reminder of just how many good people there are within the series.
WORST OFF-TRACK STORY
TDZ: Take your pick of the 2014 schedule and the doubts that raises among some IndyCar fans, the IMS road course race, the lack of a commercial division head or the rash of sponsors that are on the way out at the end of this year. To me, IZOD’s departure is the biggest – and worst – off-track story this year. It was not unexpected as signs of its leaving have been forecast for almost two years. At the moment though, there is little to no buzz about a potential replacement. I had mooted a couple suggestions a month or so ago but neither appears serious as time has passed. IndyCar has a good product, but will remain invisible on a national scale so long as it does not have a key title sponsor to activate and promote the series. This remains Mark Miles and Hulman & Co.’s biggest challenge, and as Miles performs company reorganization this winter, they seek the big fish that can help get this product to the people.
CE: I have to go with the condensed schedule rolled out for 2014. While keeping tabs on the season-finale at Auto Club Speedway earlier this month, I had the rather cringe-worthy realization that IndyCar would be almost two months into its off-season by this time next fall. Nobody wants to deal with the NFL, but the proposed international winter series for 2015 better come off or the series will sink further into irrelevance thanks to its extended hiatus.
Dec 8, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
NEW 2014 VERSION (Photo: Audi) 2013 VERSION (Photo: Getty Images) Meet the new Audi, which basically looks the same as the old one. New worldwide LMP1 regulations focusing on efficiency for 2014 means manufacturers and teams have to reveal new cars, and at first glance, the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro looks remarkably similar to…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
Prior to Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony, the always-entertaining “After the Lap” event for fans took place earlier in the week in Las Vegas. And it was there we learned Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a fever … and the only prescription is more eBay. Dale Jr. already has the popular vote locked…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:36 AM EST
Target Chip Ganassi Racing appears close to unwrapping an early Christmas present, in the form of the replacement for the retired Dario Franchitti in its No. 10 Target Chevrolet for 2014 in the very near future. Reports from both Autosport and RACER this week have more or less narrowed the field of contenders, at least…
Dec 7, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
A few minor bits and pieces of news around the IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy have popped up over the last couple weeks. Here’s a quick roundup, since the last one we did a couple of weeks ago: Besides Tony Kanaan having his first running in Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar machinery, Francesco…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
After a successful first season racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland in Germany, Connor de Phillippi has been retained by the German manufacturer for a second season as a Porsche Junior driver. De Phillippi spent three seasons in Star Mazda here in the U.S., but when options failed to materialize for an advancement to…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson accepted his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at the season-ending Awards Ceremony with humility, class and thanks for his predecessors and the people around him that push him to be better. In opening, Johnson tried to draw off his peers with at least that many titles, the pair of legendary seven-time champions…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Jay Mohr opened last night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2013 Awards Ceremony with a monologue that pulled no punches, yet left the room in Las Vegas in stitches. No one was spared, as the at times controversial 2013 season was captured in comedic genius for the better part of 14 minutes. To open, Mohr recounted…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:10 AM EST
We don’t necessarily spend a ton of time focusing on road cars here on MotorSportsTalk. But when you get a McLaren P1 supercar, and you get it attempting to lap the iconic, legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife in less than 7 minutes, then yes, you focus on it. McLaren has released this stunner of a video. The…
Dec 6, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
UPDATED (7:00 p.m. ET): According to Autoweek, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric has said that team involvement in Australia’s V8 Supercars series “may be a stretch” and instead noted that it could be sponsor-based. Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group recently made inroads into Australia with the September purchase of the Western Star trucking company. And…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship announced its entry list late Friday afternoon, with nearly 70 cars confirmed across the merged series’ four classes: Prototype (P, combination of ALMS P2, Rolex Series DP and DeltaWing, Prototype Challenge (ALMS PC), GT Le Mans (ALMS GT) and GT Daytona (Rolex GT, ALMS GTC). Here’s a link to the…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:35 PM EST
Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson added some more trophies to his mantle during yesterday’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. But he’s not the only driver that was honored during the event. Among the major awards given out yesterday was the NMPA Myers Brothers Award, which went to three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. “Smoke”…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
It’s happened before for Lotus. Can it happen again? In 2013, Romain Grosjean was able to transform from one of Formula One’s most inconsistent drivers to one of its better ones, closing the year with four podiums in the final six races. Now, the Frenchman will be paired with the incoming Pastor Maldonado (pictured), who…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
At last night’s NASCAR After The Lap show in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson indicated that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team’s efforts to re-create “The Hangover” weren’t quite done yet. Sure enough, he was telling the truth. In their re-creations, the group have used everything from stuffed chickens and tigers to a toy baby. Even…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
Formula One’s top developmental league, the GP2 Series, will embark on an 11-race schedule next season with new stops at Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Russia’s new street circuit at Sochi Olympic Park. All 11 events will be held as support races on Formula One Grand Prix weekends. The season will unofficially begin in March…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
It’s very rare in modern racing you hear of “racing for the sake of racing.” But with the 2013 season largely in the books, championships decided, top-10 lists written and all the rest, it’s rare you get as close to a pure event full of “run what you brung” machinery that runs the gamut from…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:14 PM EST
As a rookie stepping into one of the top seats in Formula One, Kevin Magnussen is under no illusions about the challenge he’ll face at McLaren in 2014. The Dane seems to have the right attitude, though, as he has basically been preparing for this role for nearly 20 years. “McLaren has been part of…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
On Thursday, the Coca-Cola Company was awarded the 2013 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Encore Ballroom at Wynn Las Vegas. This marked the third time Coca-Cola has achieved this award, the first time any company has won that. Since 1998, although Coca-Cola has not opted to…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Placing sixth in the…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:15 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Now comes our fifth-place…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. We’ll continue on with…
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