Will Power leads Penske teammate Helio Castroneves as the series heads to Pocono.
Let’s talk about the spaghetti western that’s been the first half of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s been good, bad and ugly, hasn’t it?
The Verizon IndyCar Series has seen such equality throughout its paddock that there have been seven different winners - five teams - in 10 races; there have been seven different pole winners, as well. Continuing this march of sevens, there are that many different teams in the current Top 10 standings.
Pole position isn’t where you want to start this year - no pole winner has become a race winner thus far. Four race winners have started 17th or lower, including 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay! Gee, I always thought starting up front was an advantage, not a detriment?
This upcoming weekend could tilt the flow of points massively, if one considers that the 200-lap Pocono 500 race at the Tricky Triangle pays double points for all. Hunter-Reay is just two points behind Castroneves, while Houston pole winner (for Saturday’s race) and Sunday’s race winner Simon Pagenaud is 59 points out of Power’s current lead.
We’ve got to love seeing Juan Pablo Montoya revert to form after spending seven years driving NASCAR tin tops. He didn’t come on strong at the start of the season but he’s sure back in the saddle now, posting a podium result last Saturday and hounding Jack Hawksorth for much of the closing laps on Sunday in hot, muggy Houston. He’s currently fifth in points and ascending - Roger Penske is looking a lot smarter for choosing Montoya than he did when the INDYCAR season began.
Andretti Autosport’s foursome has shown flashes of brilliance but has also had crappy luck throughout the first half of the year. Sure, Hunter-Reay won the big dance at Indy and succeeded at Barber, but he’s had a volatile year beyond that. James Hinchcliffe’s luck has been terribly poor, Marco Andretti has managed to tick off his competitors and race control while Carlos Munoz has been steady through much of the season so far.
The smaller teams are looking good: Schmidt/Peterson/Hamilton Motorsports (Simon Pagenaud/Mikhail Aleshin), Bryan Herta Autosport’s Jack Hawksworth, Takuma Sato with AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson and first-time winner (at Houson) Carlos Huertas are all looking good. If they ever found some luck, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Josef Newgarden would be right there with the other four, but they’ve had a run of poor luck that is mystifying.
The weather’s had a lot to do with the results so far; there’s been rain at St Pete, Barber, Indianapolis (during both race meetings) and in Houston this past weekend. It’s thrown some guys off but the weather has also shown who’s got chops for changing conditions.
It would be tough to place bets on who’s going to come through on top, so I won’t. But like many others I’ll be glued to the television or in the pits and trackside to cheer on my (unnamed) favorites as they march toward a rather quick season’s close.
I wouldn’t put it past the little guys at Sam Schmidt’s operation to put together the kind of late-season magic that’s made them seem like the big guys in this sport. Certainly Pagenaud, now a four-race winner in the series has the smarts to drive his way to the top. A great relationship with team manager Rob Edwards (who’s been there for all of Pagenaud’s successes) and Ben Bretzman in the engineer’s box, these guys could turn the Big Three into also-rans.
We’ll just have to wait and see.