Monday , 23 October 2017

How is the 2015 IndyCar Season Shaping up?

The 2015 IndyCar season has been a bit of a slow burner to date. We had some woefully dull races early on in the year, despite delivering different winners for each of the first five rounds. However, the last few rounds have been phenomenal, and certainly IndyCar and motor racing at its very best – as Toronto showed. Six races remain, and up to 324 points are on offer, giving a fair few drivers at a mathematical chance of winning the coveted title, but only a handful really have a realistic shot of overhauling Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya. Here is how the championship stands with two long ovals, two short ovals, and two road courses remaining:

  1. Juan Pablo Montoya – Penske – Chevrolet – 374 points
    Wins: 2
    Podiums: 4
    Top 10s: 9

Fan favourite Juan Pablo Montoya has had some phenomenal consistency in his second modern IndyCar series season. Two brilliant wins (including at the double points Indy 500) and finishing in the top 10 on every occasion bar one has seen him assert himself as the Penske man to beat. However, his current form hasn’t been excellent, and he has struggled at times. However, Montoya goes very well at the road courses and on the ovals, so the next six races should suit him quite well on paper.

  1. Will Power – Penske – Chevrolet – 347
    Wins: 1
    Podiums: 3
    Top 10s: 7

Three poles out of the last four races have netted nothing more than two fourth places for Will Power, despite having a few good showings. Some woeful performances, notably at Long Beach has not helped Power’s attempt in retaining his championship crown, but he has delivered some really strong results at times and he is still within touching distance of his team mate. Across one lap, no guy has been quicker this season.

  1. Scott Dixon – Ganassi – Chevrolet – 329
    Wins: 2
    Podiums: 3
    Top 10s: 7

The first non-Penske driver in the standings is Scott Dixon. After starting the season off pretty slowly, he has since notched up two wins, one at Long Beach, and another at Texas. With Dixon notably performing better in the second half of the season in recent history, the 45 point gap to Montoya could come down pretty quickly. The New Zealander has probably been my driver of the season so far.

  1. Helio Castroneves – Penske – Chevrolet – 322
    Wins: 0
    Podiums: 4
    Top 10s: 8

Brazilian Helio Castroneves has been his typical consistent if unspectacular self, picking up useful points on no less than eight occasions this year so far. However, with two of his team mates being notably quicker, he finds himself quite a way back from them at this stage of the season. Castroneves knows a thing or two about performing on ovals however so do not be too surprised to see him possibly overtake at least Dixon in the following races. Yet, it was this point last season which saw Castroneves suffer a massive slump in performance, where he netted zero top ten finishes until the end of the season.

  1. Graham Rahal – RLL – Honda – 283
    Wins: 0
    Podiums: 3
    Top 10s: 6

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Graham Rahal’s performances this season. Whilst he is quite a way behind Castroneves in the points standings (and therefore significantly further behind Montoya), he is due an elusive win, which could bring the Honda-powered driver back into contention. Some absolutely excellent racecraft has seen him notch up three podiums already this season, and he is ahead of some very high-profile names in the points standings. Dixon aside, he is the driver I have been impressed with most this season.

  1. Sebastien Bourdais – KV Racing – Chevrolet – 274
    Wins: 1
    Podiums: 1
    Top 10s: 6

Four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais is another driver who has quietly gone about his business and has set himself up to finish the season with a good points haul. Whilst the ovals may hurt him, the double points finale at Sonoma could well be a chance to spring a surprise, especially if he is within range of the leader come the big day. Ultimately, it has been a pretty strong season to date for Bourdais, who has looked really strong on more than one occasion this season already.

  1. Marco Andretti – Andretti – Honda – 272
    Wins: 0
    Podiums: 1
    Top 10s: 7

Marco Andretti has been arguably one of two saving graces for Andretti Autosport this season, with the other being Carlos Munoz’s surprise win at Detroit, in which Andretti finished second. Four places ahead of Munoz in the championship and a staggering seven ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay has shown that there is well and truly a shift emerging at the Andretti camp. Andretti generally goes pretty well on the ovals too, so there is a chance for him to spring a surprise at the end of the season. 102 points is the gap to Montoya, but it isn’t impossible to beat.

  1. Josef Newgarden – CFH – Chevrolet – 268
    Wins: 2
    Podiums: 2
    Top 10s: 6

Newgarden has been a touch erratic at times this season. His win at Alabama was nothing short of sensational, but his win at Toronto was helped by a touch of luck and good strategy work. Without those two wins, Newgarden wouldn’t have finished in the top six at all this season, and as a result lies all the way down in eighth in the championship. Whilst May was a very tough month for the CFH crew, June, July and August need to be fantastic months if there is any hope on springing a massive upset and beating Penske and Ganassi to the championship.

  1. Tony Kanaan – Ganassi – Chevrolet – 244
    Wins: 0
    Podiums: 2
    Top 10s: 6

Tony Kanaan’s second season with the Ganassi team isn’t necessarily yielding the results that the tail-end of last season promised. Whilst the popular Brazilian has notched up some very strong results so far, not finishing the Indy 500 and a miserable weekend in Detroit really dented his championship hopes. Nonetheless, he is far from out of it, and a few wins on the upcoming ovals could well spring him up into championship contention alongside his team mate Dixon.

  1. Simon Pagenaud – Penske – Chevrolet – 232
    Wins: 0
    Podiums: 1
    Top 10s: 5

Whilst it cannot be denied that the pace has been there for Simon Pagenaud, the results have certainly looked dreadful compared to those of his illustrious team mates. At 142 points behind at this stage of the season, one could say that his hopes of winning the title are already over; however things can change very swiftly in IndyCar. If he can bring down the gap gradually to Montoya and have results go his way at Sonoma, who knows what will happen? He is almost certainly going to have to notch up some serious race wins and top fives for that to happen though.

Ultimately, I am still convinced that this will be a shootout between three of the four Penske drivers. If I had to pick just one though, I’d pick Montoya as my favourite for the title at this stage, and to become the first driver to win both the championship and the 500 since Dario Franchitti back in 2010.

About Craig Woollard

Craig Woollard is an avid motor racing fan and freelance journalist and writer. A mathematics graduate from the University of Essex in 2013, Woollard has ambitions to work within motor racing. He is a member of Autosport's academy programme. In his spare time, he listens to music, sim races, wears hats and drinks cranberry juice.

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