Dominance returned to Indycar this season. Chevrolet dominated the engine battle. Drivers dominated races. Penske cars dominated the standings. Simon Pagenaud dominated the championship. Pagenaud had an early run of three straight wins and a couple second places. Will Power had a mid-season run of four wins and two second places. The difference? Power had to sit out the first race of the year due to medical issues.
While Chevrolet won more races and fourteen poles, Honda did show slight gains with two poles and more Fast Six qualifying rounds this year than last.Their two victories were well short of the six wins of 2015. With the aero-kit freeze in place for next year, Honda will focus on engine development to offset the aero disadvantage. It would be nice if the teams could work on the aerokits themselves next year.
There were several dominating drives this year. Pagenaud was clearly the class of the field at Long Beach, the Indy Grand Prix, and Sonoma. Josef Newgarden beat up on the field at Iowa. It appeared James Hinchcliffe had everyone covered at Texas, but he was nosed out at the line by Graham Rahal. Will Powqer led virtually the entire way at road America.
Team Penske won ten of the sixteen races. Pagenaud won half of those. His late season wins at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma were something we hadn’t seen from a series champion in a while. The last few years, the points leader won races early then hung on desperately to either win the title in the last race or lose it there.
Three classic venues returned to the schedule this year- Phoenix, Road America, and Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen was a mid-season replacement for the cancelled Boston race. It was a great upgrade from a street race. I was fortunate to be at all three. It was very exciting to have these three tracks back.
The best races this year, always subjective were Barber, the Indianapolis 500, Pocono, and Texas. There is also something beautiful in the way Newgarden crushed Iowa.
The worst races- Phoenix and Sonoma.
Worst luck driver- Helio Castroneves. He “earns” this honor with the following resume:
Indianapolis- Hit exiting the pits by Townsend Bell, then rear-ended by JR Hildebrand while he had the strongest contending car. Detroit- leading Race 2 but waited too long to pit and was caught by a yellow. Twice at Iowa a yellow came out while he was in the pits for his scheduled stop. At Pocono he was an innocent bystander in the Rossi/Kimball pit incident. In spite of all this, Castroneves still managed to finish third in the standings, but not without a fight from Newgarden.
Runner-up for this category- Scott Dixon.
What broken clavicle? Josef Newgarden somehow escaped a horrific crash at Texas in the first attempt to race, ending up with a hand and clavicle fracture. He was expected to miss at least one race. Amazingly, he was back int he car at the next event at Road America. Two weeks after that came his perfect game at Iowa. The points he lost by crashing at Texas probably cost him third place. He finished two points behind in fourth.
On Wednesday, I hope to have some silly season updates and more thoughts on next year. Overall, it was a great year for Indycar’s image.