The 2018 IndyCar season has been one of the best ever for road and street course racing. Iowa was a pièce de résistance, and Indianapolis a different kind of animal but still intriguing.
But this year has also been one of the most tidy, by far. The drivers have raced close, but as clean as you might expect the top rung of open wheel stars to perform.
Right now, IndyCar is on a record pace for lack of yellow-flag laps. According to some research by longtime Mailbag reader Doug Mayer, the series is going into Pocono next weekend having spent just 195 laps under caution from a total of 1,730 laps for an impressive percentage of 11.3. By comparison, it was almost 20 percent in 2015.
There have been two races – Road America and Mid-Ohio – that ran caution-free. The tight confines of Toronto only had 12 laps under caution, while St. Pete was the clumsiest weekend with 25 of 110 laps spent under yellow. But after a six-month layoff, you’d expect the season-opener to be aggressive, and since then there’s been tons of passing, and not too many chrome horns or stupid moves.
Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power thinks there’s a combination of factors at play.
“The level of competition is a factor because there are no bad drivers in the field anymore, and there’s a lot of continuity among the drivers,” said the 37-year-old Aussie, who has racked up 33 wins in nine years for Roger Penske. “People understand the racing and cars a lot better, and they race hard but fair.
“And IndyCar developed a great package with this aero kit, and you can hang it out but it’s forgiving. The air does not disturb you anywhere near [the way it did with] the old car, so you’re not taking a desperate move. You’re already pretty close.”
Indy featured 41 of 200 laps under caution, which isn’t bad considering how hot and tricky the conditions proved to be, catching out former winners Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan in addition to four-time champ Sebastien Bourdais and top 10 regular Danica Patrick.
Yet Pocono only delivered 13 laps of contact caution a year ago, and Power, who is going for his third consecutive win at the tri-oval, figures it’s going to be fast yet relatively clean.
“It’s very interesting how green the races have been,” he said. “But it’s not surprising with the level of driver talent.”