Thought F1 was close? How about 15 possible winners in Indycar?

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There are several reasons to keep your eyes peeled for this weekend’s Indycar race in Sonoma. First, you may see our own Paul Charsley there as he previewed a few reasons to watch the race right here. Also, if you thought the Formula One season was close, how about 15 drivers all still in the hunt for the title? That’s a close field. Here is how Indycar sees it via their website:

• There are 15 drivers (that’s right, 15) eligible for championship.
• Five points separate front-runner Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport.
• Twenty-eight points separate first through fourth (that happens to be two-time series champion Scott Dixon), and the gap is 63 points between first and fifth (where sits 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe).

Key championship points statistic: The 15 drivers eligible for the title with three races left is the most since 2006 when there were 13 eligible. The most was in 2000 when 24 drivers were eligible, but the schedule was comprised of nine races compared to this season’s 15.

Smallest 1-2 points differential: With three races to go, the 2009 championship battle (4 points separated leader Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti) is the smallest in the past seven years. The final margin was 11 points as Franchitti won his second title.

Largest 1-2 points differential: With three races to go, the 2008 championship battle (78 points separated leader Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves) is the most in the past seven years. The final margin was 17 points as Dixon won his second title. The average separation with three to go since 2006 is 17.6 points.

Championship-eligible drivers with strong results at Sonoma: Will Power has two victories (2011, 2010; both from the pole) in his three starts. Dario Franchitti has an average finish of 3.5 in his six starts (2009 win). Scott Dixon has made seven starts with an average finish of 6.3 (2007 win). Helio Castroneves (2008 win) and Franchitti each have five top-five finishes.

Championship-eligible drivers with poor results at Sonoma: Ryan Hunter-Reay has never finished in the top five in five previous starts. Simon Pagenaud finished 15th in his only start and JR Hildebrand’s average finish in his “home” race is 23.5.

Charting the leaders: With 53 maximum points available at Sonoma, the points lead could change as it did at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5. The championship lead has exchanged hands four times this season (see chart below). The leaders: Helio Castroneves (St. Petersburg-Barber); Will Power (Long Beach-Toronto); Ryan Hunter-Reay (Edmonton); Will Power (Mid-Ohio).

One-race positioning: Will Power went from third in points after Edmonton (26 points behind) to first at Mid-Ohio with a runner-up finish in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Scott Dixon went from 61 points behind at Edmonton to 28 points behind with his win at Mid-Ohio.

We’ve talked about what we feel may happen in the second half of the F1 season but what do you think of the second half of the Indycar season? Who do you think has the best chance? I’ll put my money on Dario because he’s my favorite driver in the series but who do you supposed to de-throne the champion?

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