Friday, August 19, 2011

Rookie of the Year Update, Post-New Hampshire Edition

Time for an updated look at the Rookie of the Year competition. With only five races left, things have tightened up considerably. It really looks like it’s the JR and Hinch Show, but either way, I’d bet it’s coming down to the wire.

1) JR Hildebrand (P13, 234 points)
Let’s face it, the DNF at New Hampshire hurt. Ovals are supposed to be a Panther specialty, and combined with Hinch’s P4, missing out the points here made Hinch within a race’s striking distance. Fortunately, Hildebrand and Panther have actually done pretty nicely on several road and street courses, and I like Hildebrand racing on his native soil next week.

2) James Hinchcliffe (P17, 217 points)
Hinch looked great at New Hampshire. You have to think if he hadn’t missed that first race if he’d be in first place in the Rookie of the Year standings right now. There was a time where I really thought Hildebrand had eclipsed Hinch this year, but now it looks like it’s at least a toss-up.

3) Charlie Kimball (P19, 182 points)
CK isn’t actually out of the running for Rookie of the Year yet, though it seems as if he’d needs some luck and some great results to make it happen. Still, with Mid-Ohio and New Hampshire, it seems like we’re starting to see some of the measured improvement we’ve been hoping for over the course of the season. I think you’ll see him grab at least one or two more Top 10s this year.

4) Ana Beatriz (P22, 157 points)
I often think when we look at Bia’s points, we forget she missed the race at Barber. Still, at this point I think many of us expected some breakout performance from her. It’s been rough, and a bit underwhelming so far. I’d love nothing more than to see her really step it up in the last few races.

5) Sebastian Saavedra (P23, 145 points)
Saavedra hung tough at New Hampshire, a race where many drivers simply didn’t finish with car intact. Expectations are generally tempered with Conquest, but the team’s had an uptick in DNFs this year overall. That speed Saavedra showed in bits and pieces here and there has been dormant most of the year.

6) James Jakes (P24, 138 points)
Very little was expected from Jakes this year, and even less on the ovals. Despite that, he looked pretty solid at New Hampshire before a bad gearbox ruined his day. With the Coyne team coming on relatively strong toward year’s end, it’s not improbable to think he sneaks into the Top 10 one of these races.

Jakesy: Don't count him out yet.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

How do I think it will end? Honestly, I think Jakes has a chance to move in front of Saavedra, though it will be close. I see Bia and Kimball staying where they are (although I think Charlie will make that ROY battle slightly closer in the end). As far as Hildebrand and Hinch, I think both are great for the series. I’ve waffled so many times on this, but I think have to back to Hinch edging out JR, but I think it’ll be close. It’s great to have some young, truly competitive talent in the series.

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