While not technically halfway through the 2014 Verizon IndyCar series season, we are in the midst of the longest break we will see. The last race was two weeks ago, and we’re still another week away from the next event, the Grand Prix of Houston. Luckily it’s a double header event, and there is little stoppage time between then and the end of the season. That being said, here are the grades nearly halfway into this year.
Top of the Food Chain: Will Power
Obviously Power has been the class of the field this year, which isn’t very surprising. He currently has a sizable lead in the standings, and has won two races to go along with his two Pole starts. Still, it’s all about finishing with Power. His late season collapses have been well documented. If he is finally going to win his first championship, he’s going to have to keep up his current pace, and eliminate the dumb penalties.
In The Dog House: Graham Rahal
The struggles at RLL Racing have been well documented. Expectations were high this year for Graham and this team, especially after the personnel moves, and the lucrative sponsorship package they landed. The runner-up finish in Detroit was nice, but outside of that, they haven’t finished better than 12th place in any of the other 9 races so far. The bad luck has something to do with it, but it’s not the main cause for their woes. Graham currently sits in 19th place in the standings, but there is still time to turn things around.
Pleasant Surprise: Mikhail Aleshin
While we have seen impressive performances by Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Munoz, and Carlos Huertas, none have been more outstanding than the run Aleshin has put together. The 27 year old Russian driver had never sat behind the wheel of an IndyCar before this season, and he already has three finishes in the top-seven. He is 15th in the standings, ahead of bigger names like Sato, Newgarden, and Rahal. If this is how he performs as a Rookie, imagine what he’ll do with years of experience under his belt.
Roller Coaster Ride: Ryan Hunter-Reay
After hitting the high point on the roller coaster (the Indy 500), Ryan has taken the nose dive that most Indy 500 winners take. Even before the Month of May, he saw success after winning the Pole at Long Beach, and the race at Birmingham. Since drinking the milk nearly a month ago, Ryan has finished 16th, 19th, and 19th. Despite that, he is still in third place in the championship, and is a threat to win each and every week. Even if the rest of the season doesn’t go well, he still has the pinnacle of all victories to take away from it.
The Best T-E-A-M: Ed Carpenter Racing
So is it Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti so far? How about none of the above? The plan that was envisioned last year at Ed Carpenter Racing is coming to fruition. We’re not even halfway through the season, and the team already has two race wins, in addition to winning the Pole for the Indianapolis 500, again. Playing to their strengths, it’s working out well for Carpenter and Mike Conway. The rest of the team has done an incredible job as well, making key changes to the car between two drivers, and managing another car (Hildebrand) to a top-nine start, and tenth place finish at Indianapolis. It’s a dynamic 1-2 punch that gives this team a legitimate chance to win each and every weekend.
The Big Mystery: Ganassi
Remember the days of Chip Ganassi’s team winning, and winning often? It’s interesting to note that not only has a Ganassi car not been to victory lane at all so far this season, but it’s two best drivers (Dixon and Kanaan) are sitting in eighth and ninth in the standings. It was another forgettable Month of May at Indianapolis, and we’re still waiting for Kanaan and the team to “click”. Still, all four drivers finished in the top ten at the last race in Texas, and most of us believe it’s only a matter of time before they’re back in the winner’s circle.
Next weekend is the start to the second half of the season. The big questions will be answered over the course of the next two months. Will Marco or Graham finally get the top spot on the podium? Will Montoya turn back the clock and get a win? Will Ganassi have a winless season? Can Power finally finish strong and capture his first title? Will his veteran teammate capture the championship that has eluded him for so long? The drama will unfold fast and furious with ten races in the next nine weeks. See you at the finish line.