Editor’s note: We’ve done something a little different with this year’s IndyCar report card, based on a simple question: How would Robin’s grades stack up against the teams’ own assessments of their seasons?
We decided to find out. While Robin carried out his grading process as usual, RACER reached out to all of the full-time IndyCar teams and asked them to issue a grade to their own 2019 seasons. Some of the results were predictable; others are surprising.
A couple of caveats. The initial scope was limited to full-time teams, but Robin also wanted to incorporate Meyer Shank Racing, so you’ll find a Miller grade for them here, but not one from MSR itself. There were also two full-time teams that did not participate in the self-grading exercise.
We’ve arranged the teams in alphabetical order. If you missed the first part of the report, which covered everyone from A.J. Foyt Racing through to DCR, check the link below.
And now, on to Robin – and the teams…
ED CARPENTER RACING
MILLER’S GRADE: C
Another magical May (Ed Carpenter qualified second, Spencer Pigot third and Ed Jones fourth) and the team owner’s runner-up at Gateway were the highlights of a season that again showed promise, but fell short of results. Pigot had six top 10 starts but fifth (twice) was his best result, while Jones placed sixth once but never seemed to get comfortable with his third team in three years.
TEAM’S GRADE: “For parts of the season I could give us a B for bits and pieces. And then a lot of other parts are D, and F and some cases. Though I don’t know what it averages out to.”
Ed Carpenter, team owner:
“We had bright spots, for sure. And we’ve also had a lot of very not-good runs at some places. It feels like a year that we didn’t really perform very well, but at the same time we did have some good results sprinkled in. Really just lacking the consistency that we need. I think our oval program was pretty good this year, top to bottom. Texas was really the only outlier where we didn’t feel like we were as competitive as we normally are.
“But I think we struggled on road courses more than more than we did last year, and then we were searching for different things with each of the drivers. And I feel like we underperformed for what our expectations are, for sure.
“I put it on everyone. When I say inconsistency, we had races like Iowa or Portland, where we had a quick car and still didn’t get qualifying results, and then the races go the way they go. But then we had other events where you would think we would have some strength based on having a good car at one place, and where we just couldn’t really hit on a set-up that anybody liked. I think it’s a bit on everybody.
“I think we all have to be better to take another step and consistently be giving ourselves chances to win races.”
MILLER’ S GRADE: A–
Yeah, yeah, I know they were the fifth Andretti team (wink, wink) and there’s no disputing Nathan O’Rourke’s engineering savvy, but it was a good crew on a small team with such a shaky budget that the mechanics bought parts at one point. They got better, and their pit stops were Penske perfect in the finale when it counted the most. And it’s hard to quantify how impressive it was to watch a rookie beat Dixon and Pagenaud at Laguna Seca – but little Herta is anything but a typical teenager.
TEAM’S GRADE: A–
Brian Barnhardt, team president:
“It’s a little bit all over the place.. I think based on that assessment, I would give the overall grade to Harding Steinbrenner racing an A-. And I would base that on… the highs have been incredible.
“There were only three cars on the grid that had more combined wins and poles than we did, which was the three Penske cars. That’s pretty incredible. And I think the 88 finished a practice session or a qualifying session or a race in the first or second position 16 times.
“So that alone is that A+ when you consider the growth of this team from 2018 to 2019, and I’ll give us a knock down to an A– simply because of some missed opportunities and some DNFs. But other than other than a few of those DNFs and missed opportunities, I’d categorize the year as pretty amazing, to be honest with you. Just in terms of how competitive the 88 car’s been at each and every event.
“You’re bringing, at the beginning of the year, an 18 year old kid – he turned 19 during the season – and it didn’t matter if it’s superspeedways, ovals, a street course or permanent road course, he’s had pace everywhere we’ve been. Even tracks that he had never been to with Indy Lights. So, he far exceeded expectations.
“And I’m extremely proud of the entire group. I mean, to recover from a really difficult period at a time when everybody else is organized, ramped up and moving forward, and we were scrambling. And two weeks before the open test at COTA, we didn’t even have a full crew on the one car, let alone the second car. When that one goes south, you’re still scrambling to fill the crew positions at a time when it’s difficult to find experienced and quality people.
“And we did, at that time of the year, an amazing job, bringing on people that were just absolute diamonds in the rough. We took a chance on some people, and some inexperienced people, but they have a passion for the sport and were shown to be great additions to the race team and our results, beginning immediately. So I’m extremely proud of a really amazing job of how we regrouped as a team on such short notice, and getting through the whole season.”
MEYER SHANK RACING
MILLER’S GRADE B –
Jack Harvey finally got to race again (he made 10 starts) and showed what can happen with a little consistency. He finished third in the Indy GP, qualified fourth at Pocono, and tacked on three more Top 10s. Started third, seventh and ninth at IMS, St. Pete and Mid-Ohio and repaid Mike Shank for his confidence.
[Part-time, did not self-grade]