The 2013 IndyCar season has come to it’s conclusion. A champion has been crowned, and for the third time, that driver is Scott Dixon. It was an incredible title fight, all the way down to the last race. The season was filled with unexpected winners, tight competition, and intense battles on the track. We saw the young guns break out, with James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud winning 5 races. We saw the debut of double headers and standing starts. We saw fingers flipping, gloves being thrown, and the ultimate happy ending in Indianapolis.
It was a season to remember for guys like Dixon, Kanaan, Hinchcliffe, and Pagenaud. It will be one that Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, and Roger Penske will all want to put behind them. There were highs and lows, with plenty of action in between. The return to Pocono and the chance at the Triple Crown provided plenty of excitement for the fans. What they didn’t enjoy, were the long gaps in the schedule, and the non-stop off-the-track drama.
Another IndyCar season has come and gone. As short as it seemed, next year’s season is actually going to be even shorter. There is plenty of buzz surrounding 2014, but we’re not there yet. Here’s a recap of the season that was, and the moments that stood out the most.
Best Race Outside of Indianapolis: Sao Paulo, Brazil
With just a few laps remaining, Takuma Sato was looking to win his second consecutive race. Josef Newgarden was hunting him down, in pursuit of his first career win. After Sato and Newgarden had some close calls, James Hinchcliffe swooped in and challenged the Japanese driver for the lead. Sato aggressively fought off Hinchcliffe, but the Canadian slipped by on the final turn of the race, as Sato went a little high trying to defend. James’ teammate Marco Andretti made a similar move on the last lap to get around Newgarden to grab 3rd place.
Most Disappointing Team: Andretti Autosport
After dominating early, Andretti Autosport faded into the night sky. They won 3 of the first 4 races, and had 3 of the top 4 starting positions in the Indy 500, with 5 cars in all in the top 9. Even with all of those bullets, they failed to win the race. The championship battle came down to Ganassi and Penske, and their highest finisher in the standings was Marco Andretti, who finished in 5th. Expectations were high for them this year, but for good reason. You could just as easily give this to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as their drivers finished 18th and 19th in the final standings. They should be much improved next season.
Worst Crash at Indianapolis: Conor Daly
Fortunately Conor Daly was able to escape this incident in Indy 500 practice without injury.
Biggest Turnaround From 2012: Marco Andretti
After finishing 16th in the championship last year, Marco clearly turned things around in 2013. Not only did his performance on the track greatly improve, so too did his attitude and maturity. He seemed like a different driver above the shoulders this year, both in and out of the car. Despite not winning a race this year, he did manage to finish in 5th position in the standings. He was incredibly consistent this year, a far cry from prior seasons. Honorable Mention goes to Justin Wilson, who rebounded from 15th in the standings last year, to 6th place in 2013. He had 3 podium finishes, and came home 5th at Indianapolis.
Biggest Heartbreak: IndyCar Musical Chairs
There were plenty of people that had a rough time during the 2013 season. The Panther DRR team shut down operations after Indianapolis. Oriol Servia was left without a ride, and his partner JR Hildebrand lost his job after the 500 in May. He filled in with Barracuda Racing at Fontana after they parted ways with Alex Tagliani. There were plenty of opportunities for other drivers though, with Mike Conway making the most of his with a win and 2 podiums in Detroit. In all, 39 drivers competed behind the wheel of an IndyCar this season.
Best Driver Tweet: Scott Dixon (after NASCAR added Newman & Gordon to the Chase)
Can I be in the @NASCAR #Chase
— Scott Dixon (@scottdixon9) September 13, 2013
Biggest Surprise: Charlie Kimball
Charlie finished 19th in the championship standings last year. After Graham Rahal’s exit, he was the “third wheel” in Chip Ganassi’s bunch. He certainly turned some heads this season, especially after his win at Mid-Ohio. His runner-up finish at Pocono made people take notice, and he has been very good over the second half of the season. He also had the best finish of Ganassi’s three drivers at Indianapolis this year, when he came home in 9th position. That is also where he finished in the final standings this year, improving 10 spots from last season.
Biggest Disappointment: Graham Rahal
Rahal failed to live up to expectations this year, after making the move from Chip Ganassi’s team last season. Sure it was his first year, but they expected better results than what they did. Some of it was due to bad luck, but a lot of it was just simply underachieving. Last season he finished in 10th place in the championship standings. This year with RLL, he finished in 18th. Will Power saved himself from landing in this spot with his strong end to the season. He won 3 of the last 5 races, but before that he was in a major slump, and most everyone tabbed him as the championship favorite heading into the 2013 season.
Best Livery: Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
No wrap here, just fresh paint and a lot of man hours put in by the team.
Worst Moment: “The Pit & Hit” at Sonoma
The controversial call against Dixon hung over Race Control like a black cloud. It wasn’t an easy call to make, and regardless of which way it went, 50% of the IndyCar community was going to be furious with the decision. There were some angry words, finger-pointing, and heated arguments. The events in Baltimore the following week with Will Power didn’t help the situation any either. In terms of crashes, you could put Dario Franchitti’s last lap incident in Houston here, as well as Justin Wilson’s accident in Fontana. Both drivers suffered broken bones, but they are both expected to fully recover in time for the 2014 season.
Best Moment: Tony Kanaan Winning at Indianapolis
This one was a no-brainer. Everyone was thrilled to see Kanaan finally get that monkey off of his back. Indianapolis never “owes a driver” anything, but if anyone deserved to win it, Tony did. It felt as if justice had been served, and all was right with the world. Tony’s victory will arguably be the most popular win amongst fans in the history of the event, which speaks volumes. Overall, it was an outstanding race, and in a way, it felt like all of us won that day.