- Jacques Villeneuve will attempt to make Indianapolis 500 starts 19 years apart, bettering Cy Marshall & Roland Free's 17-year gap set in 1947.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2011 Team And Driver Report Card

The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season is in the books and the grades are in. Each team and driver was scored not just on how well they performed, but on how well they performed in relation to their expectations entering the season.

Chip Ganassi Racing (A+) Seconds after tapping the Backspace button to delete the '+' from Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 'A+' grade I reminded myself, they won the championship, my right hand ring finger quickly made the short trip centimeters across the keyboard to make the correction. Veteran drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon combined for 6 wins, 4 poles and the 1st and 3rd spots in the season ending points standings. I'm sure Chip would take that any year.

Dario Franchitti (A+) Back-to-back-to-back-to-back championships in which he competed. Can you say beast?
Championship Finish: 1st
Results: 4 wins, 13 top 5's, 15 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 884
Pct. Laps Complete: 95%

Scott Dixon (B+) Not fantastic, but another very, very solid season for the Iceman.
Championship Finish: 3rd
Results: 2 wins, 12 top 5's, 13 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 190
Pct. Laps Complete: 99%

Sam Schmidt Motorsports/Bryan Herta Autosport (A+) A pole and win at Indianapolis, 'A+' without a doubt. With the new chassis and engine combination combined with team changes next season, both Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Bryan Herta Autosport will be teams to watch come March.

Alex Tagliani (B+) Crazy quick once again at Indianapolis.
Championship Finish: 15th
Results: 3 top 5's, 6 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 4th
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 25
Pct. Laps Complete: 90%

Dan Wheldon (A+) 2-time Indianapolis 500 winner. RIP DW
Championship Finish: 28th
Results: 1 win, 1 top 5, 1 top 10
Starts: 1
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 6th
Laps Led: 1
Pct. Laps Complete: 100%

Newman Haas Racing (A+) Despite not breaking through with a win -- although many may say otherwise following New Hampshire --  Newman Haas Racing was nothing short of incredibly impressive in 2011. Led by veteran Oriol Servia the #2 Telemundo Dallara finished 4th in points, just behind the two Target Chip Ganassi entries and Team Penske's Will Power. Servia's teammate, James Hinchcliffe, battled back from missing the first race of the season in St. Petersburg because his deal wasn't yet complete, to win the Rookie of the Year title over Panther's JR Hildebrand, Ganassi's Charlie Kimball, Coyne's James Jakes and Conquest's Sebastian Saavedra, despite the one-race deficit. With what looks to be a returning lineup in 2012, expect even more from the duo next season.

Oriol Servia (A+) Could Oriol fly anymore under the radar?
Championship Finish: 4th
Results: 6 top 5's, 11 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 18
Pct. Laps Complete: 99%

James Hinchcliffe (A) A future champion.
Championship Finish: 12th
Results: 3 top 5's, 7 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 4th
Best Start: 3rd
Laps Led: 26
Pct. Laps Complete: 91%

Sarah Fisher Racing (A) Prior to October 2nd Ed Carpenter and the #67 Dollar General crew were having a fairly disappointing season with no top 10 finishes. That all changed at Kentucky when the 30-year-old drove to victory lane for the first time in both his and team owner Sarah Fisher's career.

Ed Carpenter (A) Ed is as good at Kentucky as anybody is anywhere.
Championship Finish: 26th
Results: 1 win, 1 top 5, 1 top 10
Starts: 10
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 4th
Laps Led: 11
Pct. Laps Complete: 99%

KV Racing Technology (A-) Following 2010 where at least a couple crashes each race weekend were a near lock, there was no where to go but up for the KV Racing Technology crew. Brought back for a second season, EJ Viso struggled once again, but the Venezuelan kept the #59 PDVSA Lotus branded car away from the wall most of the year. Takuma Sato on the other hand had a bit more success with several solid showings including 7 top 10's and 2 poles, one on an oval. But the clear bright point came in the form of a 36-year-old Brazilian, Tony Kanaan. Fresh off his release by de Ferran Dragon Racing which followed in the wake of his release by Andretti Autosport just months earlier, Kanaan was signed just 4-days prior to the opening event in Florida. Finishing 5th in points, TK racked up 7 top 5's, a pole, and a couple near wins.

Tony Kanaan (A+) His skills are unquestioned, but no way did I expect TK to be so competitive.
Championship Finish: 5th
Results: 7 top 5's, 9 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 97
Pct. Laps Complete: 87%

Takuma Sato (A-) 2 poles!
Championship Finish: 13th
Results: 3 top 5's, 7 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 4th
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 61
Pct. Laps Complete: 88%

EJ Viso (B) MUCH cleaner than 2010.
Championship Finish: 18th
Results: 0 top 5's, 4 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 7th
Best Start: 5th
Laps Led: 2
Pct. Laps Complete: 84%

Andretti Autosport (B) Andretti Autosport was by far the toughest team to grade. On the one hand their team secured 3 wins spread among 3 different drivers as well as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Danica Patrick all finishing among the top 10 in season ending points. On the other hand they only combined for 10 top 5's in 68 starts and 2 of their 5 drivers failed to qualify at Indianapolis, a roller coaster year to say the least.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (B+) Check out his stats, spectacular mid-season recovery.
Championship Finish: 7th
Results: 1 win, 4 top 5's, 9 top 10's (all in the last 11 races)
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 74
Pct. Laps Complete: 86%

Marco Andretti (B) 2012 will be a huge season for Marco's career.
Championship Finish: 8th
Results: 1 win, 4 top 5's, 7 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 6th
Laps Led: 42
Pct. Laps Complete: 83%

Danica Patrick (B) DP leaves INDYCAR holding a 50 consecutive race streak while running at the finish. Impressive.
Championship Finish: 10th
Results: 1 top 5, 9 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 5th
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 13
Pct. Laps Complete: 99%

Mike Conway (C) Both Mike and the team are much better than their season results. Just didn't click.
Championship Finish: 17th
Results: 1 win, 1 top 5, 4 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 3rd
Laps Led: 16
Pct. Laps Complete: 68%

Service Central/Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing (B-) I didn't know what to expect from the expanded Chip Ganassi Racing entering the season, but a ninth place finish from veteran Graham Rahal was solid enough to earn a 'B-'. Running very competitively on several circuits and a legitimate threat for the win on some, Rahal was a clear bright spot for the young team throughout the season. Rookie Charlie Kimball struggled much of the year, but expect much more from the Ganassi satellite team in 2012.

Graham Rahal (B+) Will be very disappointed if they team doesn't have a 'W' by this time next year.
Championship Finish: 9th
Results: 3 top 5's, 6 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 29
Pct. Laps Complete: 85%

Charlie Kimball (C) Interesting driver. Not sure what to expect next year.
Championship Finish: 19th
Results: 0 top 5's, 2 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 9th
Best Start: 7th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 85%

Panther Racing (C+) The difference between an 'A+' and 'C+' lies in the fourth turn wall at Indianapolis. Just 2,500 feet shy of the yard of bricks rookie JR Hildebrand put the #4 National Guard entry into the wall on the 800th and final turn, resulting in the teams 4th consecutive 2nd place position in the '500'. With the runner-up finish at IMS the clear highlight of the season, Hildebrand either started or finished 19th or worse in 14 of the 16 other events. Entering his sophomore season expect much more consistency in 2012.

JR Hildebrand (C+) When I watch a replay of the last lap at Indy I expect JR to make the final turn clean. I wince every time.
Championship Finish: 14th
Results: 2 top 5's, 5 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 4th
Laps Led: 12
Pct. Laps Complete: 90%

HVM Racing (C) Between her horrific incident in practice at Indianapolis, her crash at Milwaukee less than a month later resulting in a concussion, and her problems getting back into the U.S. missing the race at Infineon, I'm sure 2011 wasn't quite what HVM Racing and Simona De Silvestro had in mind. But, taking into account her unbelievable qualification effort in May while tending to a severely burnt hand and piloting an old, overweight chassis in Porkchop, the season could have been much worse.

Simona De Silvestro (C) Still don't know how she qualified at Indy with that burn.
Championship Finish: 20th
Results: 1 top 5, 3 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 4th
Best Start: 10th
Laps Led: 1
Pct. Laps Complete: 73%

Team Penske (C) Will Power ran very well for much of the 16-race schedule coming just 18 points shy of the title, but sans the 30-year old Toowoomba, Australia native, Penske Racing was a huge disappointment in 2011. Combining for no wins or poles, just 7 top 5's, and an average finish of 12th, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves will both be returning 2012, but their results must improve if they hope to return for a sophomore season running the new formula.

Will Power (A) Bridesmaid for the 2nd year in a row. Tough.
Championship Finish: 2nd
Results: 6 wins, 11 top 5's, 12 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 1st
Best Start: 1st
Laps Led: 518
Pct. Laps Complete: 91%

Ryan Briscoe (D) Just didn't get the results.
Championship Finish: 6th
Results: 4 top 5's, 10 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 45
Pct. Laps Complete: 96%

Helio Castroneves (D) Needs to turn it around come March.
Championship Finish: 11th
Results: 3 top 5's, 7 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 2nd
Best Start: 2nd
Laps Led: 34
Pct. Laps Complete: 90%

A.J. Foyt Racing (C) Nothing too great, but nothing too terrible for Vitor Meira and A.J. Foyt Racing in 2011, very, very average. With Meira and Foyt parting ways in the off season the future is up in the air for both, but what is known is that the #14 will be Honda powered come St. Pete, and Honda should be very competitive.

Vitor Meira (C) Where will he land?
Championship Finish: 16th
Results: 1 top 5, 7 top 10's
Starts: 17
Best Finish: 5th
Best Start: 7th
Laps Led: 1
Pct. Laps Complete: 91%

Dale Coyne Racing (D+) James Jakes was at or near the back of the pack in most race fields and failing to qualify for Indianapolis were obvious black marks on his scorecard, but the rookie did show improvement in the final few events. As tough of a season as it was for Jakes, it was somewhat expected, so most of the disappointment came from the #19 car. Running the full non-oval schedule, Sebastien Bourdais kicked off the season putting the Boy Scouts Car into the wall in practice at St. Pete and was unable to start the event. Bourdais recovered from back-to-back last place finishes in Barber and Brazil with four 6th's and a 9th in his final six races, but was never truly in contention for a 'W'. Alex Lloyd ran the seven-race oval portion of the schedule with even less results.

James Jakes (C-) Showed some potential at the tail end of the season, if he returns, it'll be interesting to see what he can do.
Championship Finish: 22nd
Results: 0 top 5's, 0 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 8th
Best Start: 13th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 80%

Sebastien Bourdais (D+) Improved as the year got later, but expected more. 
Championship Finish: 23rd
Results: 0 top 5's, 5 top 10's
Starts: 9
Best Finish: 6th
Best Start: 5th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 77%

Alex Lloyd (D) Alex is much better than the results reflected.
Championship Finish: 27th
Results: 0 top 5's, 0 top 10's
Starts: 7
Best Finish: 13th
Best Start: 14th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 84%

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing (D) 2011 is a season I'm sure most the folks at Dreyer and Reinbold would like to do over. Losing Justin Wilson for the season after suffering a fractured T5 vertebra in what looked to be a somewhat mundane off road excursion in Mid-Ohio, the #24 entry was driven by Tomas Scheckter, Giorgio Pantano, and Townsend Bell in the final 5 events. Wilson's teammate, Ana Beatriz, had a very disappointing year with no top 10 finishes. With what looks to be both driver and management changes in the off season, 2012 is a complete unknown for DRR.

Ana Beatriz (D-) Not the results she or DRR hoped for. 
Championship Finish: 21st
Results: 0 top 5's, 0 top 10's
Starts: 16
Best Finish: 11th
Best Start: 10th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 86%

Justin Wilson (B-) Hate injuries.
Championship Finish: 24th
Results: 1 top 5, 4 top 10's
Starts: 11
Best Finish: 5th
Best Start: 5th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 97%

Conquest Racing (D) Starting or finishing 23rd or worse in all but one of his fourteen starts, combined with missing the Indianapolis 500 and running just 71% of his laps equals a not-so-good season for Conquest Racing and Sebastian Saavedra. The future is completely up in the air for both entering 2012.

Sebastian Saavedra (D) Will he return for a sophomore year?
Championship Finish: 25th
Results: 0 top 5's, 0 top 10's
Starts: 14
Best Finish: 11th
Best Start: 11th
Laps Led: 0
Pct. Laps Complete: 71%

3 comments:

  1. James: Orial Servia "A+ and Will Power (six wins)"A"? You gotta be kidding?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon: No doubt Power had a better year statistically than Servia, but I graded based on expectations entering 2011. I expected Will to be very good and a title contender, but had no idea Oriol would be so competitive and 4th in points.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can't argue with most of that, but...

    EJ Viso gets a "B" for 4 top-10s in 17 starts (finishing only ahead of Simona and Charlie Kimball among drivers who contested all races, and behind Mike Conway and Alex Tagliani, who both missed one) in a very competitive KV car while Sebastien Bourdais gets a "D+" for 5 top-10s in 9 starts in a mediocre at best Dale Coyne car? Basically, EJ gets the higher grade simply because he didn't crash nearly as much as he did in previous years? That does not compute.

    ReplyDelete

 
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