Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Hunt For IndyCar Rookie of the Year

With only two races to go in the 2010 IndyCar season as I write this, I thought it would be worthwhile to check in with how the race for IndyCar rookie of the year is going. This year, IndyCar has seen some great (and some not-so-great) rookie campaigns. Here’s the profiles of some of the candidates:

Alex Lloyd (Dale Coyne Racing)
Current Standing: 16th (236 points)
Best Finish: 4th (Indianapolis)
Analysis: Alex competed at Indy last year, but is still an overall series rookie, despite first running in 2008. He’s been a backmarker outside of Indy for much of the year, but also managed Top 10s at Texas and Sonoma. It’s been a pretty uneventful year outside of that and Indy, but then again, Dale Coyne racing isn’t usually rushing to the front. He needs some development on road courses, but everyone knows he’s got a lot of talent on the ovals. If he keeps his nose clean for the last two races (both ovals), he should have the most points of any rookie this year.

Simona de Silvestro (HVM Racing)
Current Standing: 19th (218 points)
Best Finish: 8th (Mid-Ohio)
Analysis: Let’s face it, Simona is going to be the emotional favorite for a lot of people for Rookie of the Year honors. That’s not a crime; she’s likable, handles herself well, and I think people see her for a potential series star. Rookie of the Year honors (and 14th place) at Indy helped, but we’ll have to see if she’s got enough in these last two ovals. Her average finish on ovals so far is 21.3 (versus 16.2 on road/street), so she’ll need to step it up a bit at Motegi and Homestead to pass Lloyd.

Bertrand Baguette (Conquest Racing)
Current Standing: 21st (188 points)
Best Finish: 10th (Kentucky)
Analysis: Baguette missed the first two races of the year, which probably killed his chances for Rookie of the Year honors, barring an epic finish to his year. And let’s face it: the Belgian with the funny name was not even expected by many of us to make the Indy 500 field this year. But Baguette has stayed out of trouble for most of the year, and has done far better than expected on ovals. He’s flirted with the Top 10 most weeks in the second part of the year, and has noticably improved as the season wore on. He probably won’t win it, but that shouldn’t take away from a good freshman year.

Takuma Sato (KV Racing)
Current Standing: 22nd (184 points)
Best Finish: 9th (Edmonton)
Analysis: It’s been a nightmarish year for Sato, who has crashed out of nearly every race this season. It’s not that’s he’s doesn’t have any speed or skill; he’s shown flashes of being quite fast. A combination of recklessness, inexperience, and yes, a little bad luck, has made this a campaign to forget. If he returns next year, perhaps he can minimize the mistakes and show us something more than he has, but as it is now, we expect him to meet the wall at some point during a race. At least he’s got the coolest car of any rookie--that Lotus Green paint job deserves better.

Not Mentioned: Mario Romancini, Ana Beatriz, JR Hildebrand, Jay Howard, and others: too few races to matter.

Verdict: Alex Lloyd should take care of business the last two races, and secure Rookie of the Year honors. But neither Baguette or de Silvestro have anything to hang their head about. If only all rookie classes were this promising!
 Sato's rookie season has been one to forget.

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