Intriguing. Weird. A look into the future.The 2017 Indycar season had all of that. The first half of the season was chaotic and amazing. It looked like there would be a wide open fight for the championship. Yet the Penske armada was lurking, picking up poles and leading laps, but not winning a lot until later on. Then Josef Newgarden jumped into first place at Mid-Ohio and hung on to the end. His path became more difficult with his miscue leaving the pits at Watkins Glen, but winning the pole and finishing as runner-up in Sonoma clinched the crown for him.
The year began with seven different winners in the first seven races. Overall 10 drivers won races. Penske drivers won 10 of the 17 races. Josef Newgarden won four times to lead the series. Graham Rahal was the only non-Penske driver to win more than once with his two wins at Detroit. Surprisingly, Scott Dixon won only once. Despite that he entered the final weekend at Sonoma only three points out of the lead.
Honda’s early engine failures changed the results of races through May. Honda teams used up their engine allotments early and saw their manufacturer lead evaporate since they couldn’t score points in the later races. Reliability improved the second half of the season, but Chevy/Penske was dominating by that time.
I don’t remember as many races in one year stopped by red flags for accidents. Phoenix, The 500, Detroit race 2, and Texas had stoppages for cleanup. The flag at Detroit I thought was a bit questionable. Iowa was red flagged for rain although I thought it could have been stopped sooner.
What color should our car be this week? I know. Blue and white! In several races this season one third of the field was in blue/white liveries, many in the same pattern. This made it difficult to distinguish cars as they approached at the track and was challenging on television to tell them apart.
I thought this was a really fun year, and next year should be even better with the new look aerokits. The new bodywork looks sleek and fast. Josef Newgarden leads a growing field of rising stars including Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones, and Spencer Pigot. The newcomers will have strong competition from the established core of Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud. I cannot wait for St. Pete.
Best wins: Sebastien Bourdais at St. Pete, Newgarden at Gateway, Rossi at Watkins Glen, Takuma Sato at Indianapolis.
Most improved driver: Alexander Rossi
Best races: Pocono, Road America, Indianapolis 500, Watkins Glen
Worst races: Texas, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Phoenix.
Best pass: Newgarden over Pagenaud at Gateway. AyrtonSenna would have been proud of that pass.
Worst decision: Fernando Alonso as sole winner of 500 rookie of the Year. Ed Jones deserved a share of the award.
Honda and Chevy will be testing the new aerokits soon. The last test for Indycar was Tuesday at Sebring. Team testing begins in January.
Carlin seems to be on the verge of having an Indycar team next year.
The 2018 schedule should be out soon, likely with a TBA date. The earthquake in Mexico may push that event back a year. Other than that, the circuit should be similar to the last two years. This consistency is a great thing for all concerned.
2017 drivers without 2018 commitments as of today: Conor Daly, Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, J. R. Hildebrand. Jones is likely to be back at Coyne and Hinchcliffe is likely to be back at Schmidt.
I will be going to the SCCA Runoffs this weekend. This is essentially their national championship event. Past winners include Paul Newman and Willie T. Ribbs. I’ll report about it next week.
Thank you for reading this season.