Midseason IRL Rankings: Does Your Driver Make the Grade?
Every credible and major sport needs mid-season rankings for all of its teams, and the IRL is no exception. Here is this writer's look at the IRL season thus far and how each team has succeeded—or failed—in this first combined open-wheel racing season.
Target/Chip Ganassi Racing: A
Ganassi Racing has flat out dominated the vast majority of the opening half of the season, no one can deny that. With five combined wins, Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon are cruising toward yet another points title for Ganassi.
In addition, brownie points are also awarded for Wheldon's charitable donation after his Iowa win. However, the fact that this team isn't quite as strong on road courses as they are on ovals keeps them from earning an A+.
Ganassi is far and away the team to beat. Keep an eye on both Wheldon and Dixon to make strong runs throughout the rest of the season.
Team Penske: A-
Although Penske isn't looking as strong this year as in years past, they're still a formidable opponent. Helio Castroneves hasn't put enough pieces together to get a win thus far this season, however a strong finish at Indy and a pole win at Motegi have been enough to keep him in the hunt for a points championship.
Ryan Briscoe has looked strong since grabbing his first career win at Milwaukee, but a poor finish at Indianapolis mars an otherwise good season. Look for Penske to continue improving and for Castroneves to step it up in an attempt to catch Scott Dixon.
Andretti Green Racing: B
With purported infighting and squabbles, and rumors of Tony Kanaan wanting out, AGR has been in turmoil for most of the season.
Danica Patrick grabbed her first career win on fuel strategy at Motegi, but nobody can forget her mess of a race at Indianapolis. Tony Kanaan finally grabbed his first win of this season at Richmond, but is still over 100 points back from Scott Dixon in the points lead, and his overall season hasn't been up to his standards.
Finally, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh have been steadily improving, with Andretti up to fifth in the points standings. If Kanaan can use his veteran presence to hold the team together, look for improvement throughout the rest of this year.
Vision Racing: B
As one of the smaller teams in IndyCar, Vision has run well in comparison to the big three of Penske, AGR, and Ganassi. Although inconsistency with drivers Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV has kept this team from victory, a strong run by Carpenter at Indianapolis and Foyt at Iowa have given Vision hope.
Rumors are swirling that owner Tony George is looking to bring in veteran Paul Tracy, a move that would definitely help a team with no veteran racing presence. Personnel changes within the team, specifically engineering switches from Carpenter to Foyt IV, should help.
Given more experience, look for this to be an up-and-coming team.
KV Racing Technology: B-
By far the strongest ChampCar team, Will Power and Oriol Servia have definitely helped this team step it up to the IndyCar level.
Power grabbed his first IndyCar series win at Long Beach, and ran strong in the month of May at Indianapolis. In addition, Servia is looking better compared to the start of the season.
However, this team, much like other merger teams, has struggled to find speed on the faster, larger speedways, and this will come back to haunt them.
Rahal Letterman Racing: B-
With Ryan Hunter-Reay snagging his first win at Watkins Glen, RLR is looking stronger by the week. Although this team is a single car operation, Hunter-Reay looks to be getting strong equipment, strong enough to warrant a top rookie finish at Indianapolis and strong finishes at other tracks.
Panther Racing: C
Although Vitor Meira is a strong driver, his finishes just aren't showing it. A second place finish at Indianapolis is his only top-five, and only three top-10s are definitely not helping his points standings either.
Unfortunately, bad luck is keeping Vitor from ending his IndyCar series-leading winless streak, although it's not for lack of trying.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing: C
This team of ChampCar and rookies is catching up to the regulars just as fast as any of the other merger teams, and is the only non-"big three" team to win a race thus far this season.
Both Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson are running strong, albeit inconsistent, races, and look for them to only improve throughout the season.
HVM Racing: C-
EJ Viso had a strong run at St. Petersburg, but other than that, this team hasn't had much to look forward to. However, Viso is running better on ovals, which is a positive step forward for a very small team.
Conquest Racing: D+
Jaime Camara has had major issues finishing races, but ran strong at Richmond, providing what could hopefully be a starting point for better finishes.
Unfortunately, those issues finishing races will not get much better, further causing this team to take a turn for the worse.
AJ Foyt Racing: D
Darren Manning has had top-10s at Motegi, Indianapolis, and most recently at Watkins Glen, but has run poorly otherwise. Given the right equipment, Manning could pull out a race win at a road course, and that would be a huge step forward for this team.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: D
When the best finishes for this team are two eighth-place finishes by Buddy Rice, it's easy to see D&R is struggling.
Milka Duno managed to finish at Indianapolis, but was pulled off the track 26 laps in at Iowa, showing her inexperience and inconsistency. Townsend Bell has the talent, but unfortunately not the equipment, to pull off a decent run while with Dryer & Reinbold.
Roth Racing: D-
John Andretti has had some strong finishes as the only bright spot for Roth Racing. Rookie Jay Howard was benched for Marty Roth in what has been an unwise move, further upsetting what little team chemistry was building.
Pacific Coast Motorsports: D-
When you max out your credit cards just to get the team to Indianapolis, there's obviously both equipment and financial issues.
PCM is trying its hardest to give Mario Dominguez the equipment he needs to compete, but just isn't succeeding. Dominguez failed to qualify at Indianapolis, killing the team's finances and severely limiting what they can do for the rest of the season.
Dale Coyne Racing: D-
Bruno Junquiera and Mario Moraes aren't running well, have poor equipment, and are just struggling overall. Although Junquiera has a major sponsor, the team has countless DNFs and no finish in the top 10.
The only bright spot for this team is that Moraes continues to improve, hopefully improving his finishes as well.
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