Indy 500 2012: Predicting the Top 10 End-of-Season Finishers in IndyCar

Ben Montedonico@@NASCARBRBenContributor IIIMay 24, 2012

Indy 500 2012: Predicting the Top 10 End-of-Season Finishers in IndyCar

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    The Indianapolis 500 is finally upon us.

    With the most prestigious event in motorsports just four days away, it's almost safe to say the points are of little relevance this Sunday. After all, nobody will remember on Monday who had a good points day. This weekend's race is all about winning.

    But then again, points are still being doled out on Sunday just like every week, and settling for second instead of crashing out going for the win could go a long way in earning one driver that elusive IndyCar points championship.

    Come season's end, the points standings will be of utmost importance. Here, we will take a stab at who will finish in the Top 10 in the end-of-season standings, and who will win that coveted championship trophy.

10. Tony Kanaan

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    Tony Kanaan has struggled to start the 2012 IndyCar season.

    Through four races, Kanaan has managed just one Top 10 with a fourth-place finish at Long Beach. But it's hard to believe this wily veteran will stay down.

    Of the 10 races remaining on the schedule, Kanaan earned Top Fives at six of them a year ago, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    Though Kanaan won't reach the fifth-place mark in the final standings like he did a year ago, the 11-year IndyCar vet should still make the Top 10 by season's end.

9. Takuma Sato

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    Takuma Sato is having a stellar 2012 campaign.

    Through four races, Sato owns a pair of Top 10s, including a third-place finish in his most recent race in Brazil.

    Though strong so far in 2012, Sato is not accustomed to being up front in the standings with a career-best final standing of 21st in 2010.

    Though Sato may slide just a little down the stretch in 2012, expect the Japanese driver to still fair well in the final standings.

8. Simon Pagenaud

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    Simon Pagenaud is setting the bar high for IndyCar rookies in 2012.

    Through four races, Pagenaud has three Top 10s, including a runner-up finish at Long Beach back in April.

    Thus far, all of the races in the 2012 IndyCar Series have been run on road courses. Of the last 10 races, four will be run on ovals, where Pagenaud has no Izod IndyCar Series experience.

    Pagenaud could impress at the ovals as he's done all season, but he could also slide just a little bit. Either way, the favorite for Rookie of the Year should still easily place inside the Top 10 at season's end.

7. Dario Franchitti

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    The shocker of the 2012 Izod IndyCar season may just be Dario Franchitti.

    The four-time IndyCar Series champ has had an abysmal start to the 2012 campaign, sporting just one Top 10 finish and ranking No. 10 in the standings.

    Franchitti's last three IndyCar Series championships have been based off of consistency, something the Scottish driver has yet to show here in 2012.

    It's hard to say he'll stay too far down in the standings the rest of the year, but based on the pace being set by the rest of the competition, seventh place may just be the best Franchitti can do in 2012.

6. Ryan Hunter-Reay

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    Ryan Hunter-Reay will win a race before the 2012 season is up, and he may just earn his best career-points finish, too.

    Hunter-Reay has been rock solid in 2012, earning two podium finishes and three Top Fives in four races.

    Moreover, Hunter-Reay drives for a white-hot Andretti Autosport team that, if not for the powerhouse that is Penske, would be dominating the IndyCar standings.

    Whether Hunter-Reay can stay hot remains to be seen. Despite having two of IndyCar's best potentially leap-frogging him in the standings, Hunter-Reay should still be in for a career year.

5. Scott Dixon

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    One driver has to represent Chip Ganassi's team in the Top Five in points at season's end, right?

    It might as well be Scott Dixon, who so far has been the only bullet with any pepper in Ganassi's arsenal in 2012.

    Despite his teammates' struggles so far this season, Dixon has actually been pretty darn good. The two-time IndyCar champ has a pair of podium finishes and could have made it three if not for a mechanical failure at Long Beach.

    The boys of Penske are too good for Dixon to make a run at the championship, but a Top Five standing at season's end isn't bad.

4. Ryan Briscoe

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    Where, oh where is the Indy 500 pole-sitter in the standings through four races?

    While teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves continue to choke the competition Darth Vader-style, Briscoe sits a whopping 97 points behind his teammates back in eighth.

    To be fair, it hasn't been all Briscoe's fault. An accident in the most recent race in Brazil cost Briscoe dearly and has him playing catch-up with his fellow Penske mates.

    Still, Briscoe isn't likely to stay back there for long while Power and Castroneves continue to win every race. His Indy 500 pole may even ignite a strong, stretch run that gets him in the Top Five by season's end. 

3. Helio Castroneves

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    Helio Castroneves has been solid if not spectacular in 2012.

    Castroneves won the season's opening race at St. Petersberg and added another podium finish at Barber Motorsports Park to go along with a fourth-place finish at Brazil.

    Thus far, Penske has spanked the IndyCar Series field with four wins in four races, and it would come as a surprise to nobody if Castroneves ended the season with a few more victories, himself.

    Should Castroneves end up No. 3 in the standings, it would be his best end-of-season standing since a No. 2 in 2008.

2. James Hinchcliffe

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    Two drivers have finished in the Top 10 in every race this season: Will Power and James Hinchcliffe.

    The latter isn't racing like a driver who's in just his second season in the Izod IndyCar Series, yet the 2011 IndyCar Rookie of the Year has shown signs of greatness in 2012.

    Hinchcliffe has yet to win a race in his Izod IndyCar Series career, but that will change before the season is up. In fact, Hinchcliffe may even win multiple races in the final 10 events of his first year with Andretti Autosport.

    Hinchcliffe believers, unite. This man may even challenge Penske drivers Will Power and Helio Castroneves for the championship in 2012.

1. Will Power

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    Will Power is a man on a mission.

    In case it isn't clear, that mission is to win every Izod IndyCar Series race in 2012 and finally capture that elusive first IndyCar Series championship.

    So far, mission successful with the exception of the season's opening race at St. Petersberg where Power finished...gasp...No. 7.

    Since then, Power has had a stranglehold on the competition, winning all three races since the season opener.

    Power shows no signs of slowing down, and barring any unforeseen disasters, he should end the season as the 2012 Izod IndyCar Series champion.