Andretti Struggles, New Teams Emerge to Challenge Penske and Ganassi
For the better part of the past decade, the IndyCar Series has been dominated by three teams. While Andretti Autosport seems to be on the decline, there are two teams ready to step up and challenge Ganassi and Penske.
This season was supposed to be the year where Michael Andretti's four drivers made a run at the "red and black" cars. Danica Patrick in a contract year has something to prove. Marco Andretti ready to prove that he is more than just a last name. Ryan Hunter-Reay was supposed to become the vocal leader of the team, and Mike Conway was the fresh face that was ready to make the ultimate comeback after last season's crash at Indy.
This supposed to be their year to make a statement. Apparently, someone forgot to tell them.
We are now eight races into the 2011 IZOD IndyCar season, and of the four Andretti Autosport cars, only one of them can be found inside the top 10 of the championship standings. Danica Patrick climbed into the 10th position after last week's fifth place finish at Milwaukee.
Marco finds himself in 12th, while Conway sits in 14th, despite winning the race in Long Beach earlier this year. Missing out on the Indianapolis 500 really bit him in the rear. The biggest disappointment though has to be RHR, who is all the way back in 21st position in the standings.
In eight starts this year, Hunter-Reay has just one top 10 finish, and has led a total of two laps. More importantly, he has three DNFs.
With the struggles of Andretti Autosport, has it become a Penske and Ganassi battle once again? Some would say yes, but there are two other teams you should watch out for.
The KV Racing Technology trio of Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, and EJ Viso has been quite a story this year. Not only has Kanaan lit a fire under the entire team, but he is also learning on the job from Sato. The knowledge that Sato has of the cars from his days in Formula 1 have gone a long way in teaching Tony about his car.
Despite crashing in four of the first eight races, EJ Viso has showed some potential throughout the season. He finished in the top 10 in both races at Texas, and was running in the top five most of the day at Milwaukee, when he lost control of his machine.
Right now Sato sits in ninth place in the standings, with Kanaan in sixth. Had Tony held on to his car towards the end of that race, he may very well have gotten the win, and put himself in the top four in the championship.
Sato has four top ten finishes this year, including two top fives. He has led 23 laps on the season, and has just one DNF. Kanaan also has just one DNF (last weekend at Milwaukee) to go along with his five top-10 finishes, three top-five finishes, and his unofficial Pole award at Texas.
Then you have the two boys from Newman Haas Racing. The perfect blend of youth and a savvy veteran. James Hinchcliffe has seven starts on the year since he missed the first race of the season, yet he has three top-10 finishes to go along with a top five performance.
Despite missing that first race, he is 16th in the standings, just 13 points behind Helio Castroneves. His teammate Oriol Servia currently sits in third place in the overall championship standings.
Servia trails both Power and Franchitti by 73 points, as the two are tied for the lead going into Iowa this weekend. Oriol has finished every race this season, and has six top-10 finishes to go along with three top five results. He has led 18 laps on the year, which took place at Indianapolis where he qualified on the front row.
While none of the drivers with KV Racing or Newman Haas have won a race or dominated the field the way Franchitti and Power have, they have certainly out-performed all of the Andretti Autosport cars this year. Don't be surprised to see one, two, or even three of these drivers get a win before this season is finished.
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