IndyCar: Predicting the Top 10 End-of-Season Finishers
Well we can all feel good after an inspiring and very entertaining 2012 Indianapolis 500. However it was the first oval race of the season thus far and while Dario Franchitti of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team should get a great deal of praise for putting their Honda’s in the top two spots let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
There are eleven races yet to go in the 2012 IndyCar season with seven road or street courses left and four ovals. As we have seen Team Penske has won all four street/road course races thus far this year and this week they head to Detroit for the fifth road race of the season and we will see who gets an Indy bump.
The series ends September 15th on the oval in Fontana, California so our projections are based on what we know now and what we think will happen from this point forward. Who can come to the track and stay out of trouble put up good numbers finish consistently finishing in the Top 10 and winning races whenever possible.
Sounds simple enough, but it is far from easy. I would be lying if I did not say that the long season favors the drivers on the “Super Teams.” Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport have the resources and the drivers to make sure the points champion is one of their guys. But there are enough talented guys who can sneak in and spoil the party for the “Super Teams.”
So when the sun sets late Sunday afternoon September 15th in Southern California at Fontana who will be the 2012 IndyCar Top 10.
10. JR Hildebrand
This should be a breakthrough year for JR Hildebrand. He and his Panther Racing Honda is improving by the week. There is no doubt that his best years are ahead for this very bright and very talented young man.
He passed up a chance at attending MIT to follow his heart into racing, and this gifted Californian will finish the season with enough points in 2012 to land in the 10th spot and go on to even better things in 2013.
9. Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud does not drive like a rookie. He and his Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda look solid thus far this season. He is new to IndyCar but he already has a Drivers' Championship under his belt in the American LeMans Series.
So he has driven successfully at a very high level and seems very comfortable behind the wheel of the No. 77 car. A Top 10 finish at the end of the year looks good for Pagenaud.
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Many thought that Ryan Hunter-Reay could score a win at this year's Indy 500. There very little doubt that he has the talent to one day be an IndyCar champion. His Andretti Autosport Chevrolet is one of the best and fastest cars in the sport.
Hunter-Reay simply has to learn to win and this season he will become better at finding top 10 and top five finishes and may even find a podium. Right now I have him at No. 8 but he could move up in the rankings before the season ends.
7. Ryan Briscoe
The man on the pole for the 2012 Indy 500, Ryan Briscoe showed what many people already knew and that is he has the talent to be a star. He is someone that Team Penske see's as a long term winner and if he were a stock I would invest in him.
Last season he finished sixth in the points race and right now I have in the seventh spot but he will likely move up on the list as the season progresses. For now I see a little Indy 500 hangover for Briscoe but he can handle it.
6. Takuma Sato
Most people will remember Takuma Sato for crashing his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in attempt to pass race leader Dario Franchitti on the final lap of the Indy 500. Lost in all of that mess was the fine day he had at Indy.
This former F1 driver is getting closer each week to becoming a real factor in the IndyCar series and this looks like the year he cracks the Top 10.
5. Scott Dixon
After a wild second-place finish in the Indy 500 Scott Dixon seems ready to settle down and make his mark on the rest of the season. He did a fine job of getting everything out of that Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Dixon looks dialed in at this point he could be poised to challenge for the IndyCar points race before it all done.
4. Dario Franchitti
Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti has set himself up for another title run. His Honda Target Chip Ganassi Racing car seems dialed in and now he must translate the win into Top 10 finishes. The Indy 500 bump only goes so far and he really needs capture some road wins.
The defending IndyCar points champion deserves respect and he has plenty of time to get back in the hunt to defend his title.
However, this will be a great test of how the Honda engine can break the Chevrolet stranglehold on road and street courses. At the moment Franchitti is their poster boy and Honda is counting on him.
3. Helio Castroneves
With Team Penske out front in the road and street course races it seems that Helio Castroneves is ready to be a contender again. His Chevrolet-powered car has been in the winner's circle once this season and there will be more chances to come before the season is over.
Right now other than the Indy 500 Team Penske has their cars dialed in and Castroneves looks very comfortable near the top of standings. After last season's 11th place finish in the points race you can bet that Spider-Man will stay close to the top of the table.
2. James Hinchcliffe
The best car of the Andretti Autosport crew, James Hinchcliffe has his Chevrolet going perfectly. He has a car that seems to be only real contender to the Penske gang. The next six races are key for Hinchcliffe as he sits tied for second in points with Helio Castroneves.
The Andretti gang have a winner in Hinchcliffe he will be in the Top 5 when it is over and he seems to be a real challenger to the Penske team for a possible points title.
1. Will Power
Through five races in the IndyCar season I see no reason why Will Power can't capture the points title.
He he has won three out of the five races thus far and his Team Penske Chevrolet remains the class car of the series. He had a bad crash at Indy but things happen there that don't happen anywhere else. This week the series heads to Roger Penske's home turf in Detroit and my guess is the street course there will be just what the doctor ordered for Power.
Last season he finished second in the IndyCar points race but it won't happen this year. He is the man to beat and you can bet it won't be an easy thing for the other drivers to overtake him.
Look for 2012 IndyCar Championship to go to Power.