Scott Dixon didn’t lead his first lap of the year until June; Will Power was nowhere until May; Alexander Rossi is yet to have a bad outing; Ryan Hunter-Reay made it back to Victory Lane; Josef Newgarden looked untouchable in April; Graham Rahal is steady but needs spectacular; Robert Wickens could have two wins but has none; Simon Pagenaud finally came to life; Tony Kanaan needs a result and James Hinchcliffe is trying to overcome his double-points disaster at Indianapolis.
Other than that, not much to talk about halfway through 2018.
It’s time for RACER’s annual mid-season IndyCar report card, and for past 34 years yours truly has pissed people off, made a few smile and prompted successful icons like Roger Penske to cancel their subscription.
Remember, this is a subjective process, but A.J. Foyt never gets the grade he deserves because he smacked me once and I know he’s itching to do it again. And if you don’t agree with what you are about to read, you’re not alone.
Dallara’s universal aero kits have breathed some new life into street and road course racing and they look like an Indy car should. Ovals are still a work in progress, but drivers are lifting again and that’s a great sound.
ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: Rossi’s performance almost pushed this to an A because a win, four podiums, a fourth and a fifth are the results championships are built on. He’s still kicking himself for throwing away 22 points at Detroit, but in three years he’s gone from a driver we didn’t know much about to a factor in every race. RHR’s charge to first at Detroit ended a couple years of frustration but he’s still as formidable as ever. Zach Veach has been the pleasant surprise of 2018, and Marco had one shining moment in Motown with a pole and 22 laps led but continues to fight inconsistency.
CHIP GANASSI RACING: We knew everyone was in trouble because after the Indy 500 Dixie had yet to lead a lap and was still fourth in the standings. Now he’s won the last two races, led 158 laps and owns the point lead heading to one of his favorites – Road America. Yikes. Ed Jones has recovered from throwing away a podium at Phoenix and looks more comfortable every race.
TEAM PENSKE: It would have been criminal if a guy with all Will’s wins, poles and laps led never won Indy, and he took care of that in his rousing May sweep that put him right back in the title picture. Newgarden won at Phoenix and Barber to get his hands around no.1 again before a five-race run of mediocrity. Pagenaud scored his first podium for the year and led his first laps at Texas, so expect him to be right back on pace in the last seven weekends.
DALE COYNE RACING: If there’s ever a case of the points not telling the story it’s Seabass in 2018. A gift win at St. Pete wasn’t even his best drive, as he led 60 laps from the pole at Phoenix and wound up 13th after a bad pit stop, and would have finished no worse than third at Long Beach before getting hosed by a yellow and finishing, yep, 13th again. He’s led six of the nine races and is driving his skinny French ass off, only to be ninth in the standings. His revolving teammates Zachary Claman De Melo, Pietro Fittipaldi and Santino Ferrucci have all given a nice account of themselves under the circumstances.
ED CARPENTER RACING: Winning his third pole, leading 65 laps and finishing second at Indy was almost good enough to get Ed a B, but he’d probably be the first to admit the rest of the season has been disappointing to this point. Jordan King impressed everyone instantly at St. Pete and shows the kind of potential worth hanging on to, but hasn’t been able to put it all together in a race. Spencer Pigot had a good month of May, but is still teasing us for that breakthrough performance.
A.J. FOYT RACING: Kanaan was going to be a factor in determining who won Indy before his flat tire, and he was a rocket at Texas in practice before grazing the wall in the race. The 2013 Indy 500 winner is doing exactly what we expected – strong on ovals and decent everywhere else, but not a threat to win. Teammate Matheus Leist has had flashes of brilliance (he qualified third in his debut) but it’s steep learning curve for anyone – let alone a teenaged rookie. ABC Supply just needs a couple of good results to stay invested.
RAHAL/LETTERMAN/LANIGAN: I’ve started calling Graham Rahal “Vuky” because he reminds me of the Mad Russian’s son. He never qualifies very well on ovals but always goes forward at the green flag. That perseverance serves him well and has him sixth in the points, but he’s not yet put it all together like the past three years. Teammate Takuma Sato hasn’t shown his 2017 form and still seems to be learning with engineer Eddie Jones.
CARLIN MOTORSPORTS: It’s about what anyone could expect from a new team in this series – some major growing pains, but three top-10s between Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton. But give Trevor Carlin a couple years, and then let’s talk.
SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS: Robert Wickens is right there with Rossi in terms of being on pace everywhere, and he’s only an IndyCar rookie. From his debut at St. Pete to his leading role at Texas, he’s as close to an A as possible, and it’s obvious why The Captain is interested. Seventh is the absolute worst he could be in the standings because he’s had zero luck. Fellow Canuck Hinch is responding to his teammate’s challenge and yet to finish outside the Top 10 except, of course, for the Indianapolis 500. And missing the Indy 500 should be an automatic F but the drivers have raised it to a C, so quit bitching.
HARDING RACING: The reality of a one-car team is hitting home after a Cinderella story in 2017. Gabby Chaves is a good little peddler but could use another set of eyes and a voice from a veteran. Let’s just hope these guys find a sponsor.
JUNCOS RACING: Rookie Kyle Kaiser did a fine job at Phoenix and Indy, while Rene Binder seems overmatched but necessary to keep Juncos on track.
MEYER SHANK RACING: It’s tough to be consistent in three starts in three months but you get the feeling if Shank can put a full-time program together, Jack Harvey is one of those guys who can flourish.