With 9 races left in the season, Andretti Autosport has its trio of Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti all in the top 5 in points. In They are the only superteam to have all of their drivers running up front week after week. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves is leading the points and has been on it as well, but teammate Will Power, who has been in terms of wins the most successful driver in IndyCar since signing with Team Penske in 2009, has not been the same Will Power this year. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti have also been surprisingly off their game this year, with Franchitti struggling the most. Honda’s lack of pace has something to do with it, but Franchitti has not cracked the podium nor won, which marks the first time since 2006 that the 4 time champion does not have a win this late in the season. Dixon, on the other hand and pulled off some impressive drives from the back of the pack to the front, but does not have a win yet.
Hunter-Reay is having a year quite similar to last season when he won the championship. His two wins mirrors his result from last year, but what showed his determination and skill was his run at Iowa. Early race contact with Graham Rahal relegated him to the last car on the lead lap early in the race. He wasted no time picking his way through traffic and made it all the way up to second place by the end of the race. Had it not been for lapped traffic, he may have caught and challenged Hinchcliffe for the win, but catching him is one thing, passing him is another. Hinchcliffe did lead 22x laps and made mincemeat out of the entire field. He has the determination to stay in the game under pressure and move forward when needed. When Power crashed out of the MavTV 500 last season and made a heroic return to the track with to improve his position, Hunter-Reay had to finish in the top 5 to take the crown. Hunter-Reay answered the bell and ran where he needed and backed that up with the finish he needed to take the title.
Hinchcliffe has had a breakout season. Since getting his first win at St. Petersburg, Hinchcliffe had a bout of two poor finishes at Barber and Long Beach, but pulled off a last lap pass on Takuma Sato to win the Sao Paulo Indy 300. Engineer Craig Hampstead said at the beginning of the season that he is excited to see the James Hinchcliffe 2.0, less mistakes, and so far, Hinch has done just that. His race at Iowa was the definition of perfect. Flawless pit stops, flawless restarts, and consistent laps led to one of the best oval performances by a single driver in recent memory. He is in a bit of a hole after poor finishes at Barber, Long Beach, and the Duals in Detroit which has set him back 66 points.
The 3rd generation Andretti is having a career best season. With only 1 DNF at Milwaukee and consistent finishes inside the top 10, he resides 3rd in the standings. Andretti had never been consistent enough in his previous seasons to challenge for championships and race wins, and this season he has turned it around. He is much more comfortable everywhere, and with help from consulting a driver coach in the off season, his road and street course craft has improved, which has translated into great results.
Also noteworthy mentioning was AAs Indy Lights man Carlos Munoz run at the Indianapolis 500. Munoz qualified second and drove an aggressive race remaining in the top 5 all day and had it not been for the last caution with 3 to go, he may have pulled off the ultimate upset with a “500” win.