1) Why Yes, We Do Have A Championship Fight…
Edmonton Indy will play host to one of the liveliest championship fights in years. Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of three straight, leads Will Power by 34 points. Behind them, at least five other drivers look to still be in the title hunt. With five races left, we’re coming up to the point of mathematical elimination for a couple of fringe contenders. Since 2008, RHR has an average Edmonton finish of 9.25, including two Top 10s in a row. That sounds good, but Will Power’s is 6.5, including 2 wins and a P2 in the last three races. Did we mention Scott Dixon has also won here twice? If RHR can somehow finish ahead of those two, it would be a big moment on his quest for the championship.
2) Looking For The W
What do James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, and Simon Pagenaud all have in common? They’re all still alive in the battle for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship this year, but have zero victories among them. If they’d like to leapfrog some folks in the standings, that’s about the most straightforward way to go about it. (Yes, winning will give you more points in the standings. I should be a race strategist).
3) Be Aggressive
With many drivers either looking for a win or some sort of positive result, you can bet Edmonton will be an aggressive affair. With 120 seconds of Push to Pass and what we’ve seen of the new car and tire compounds this year, there’s every reason in the world to think this race should see a goodly amount of passing.
4) Battle of the Engines, Round 11
Races Won By Honda: Indianapolis, Detroit, Texas.
Races Won By Chevy: St. Petersburg, Alabama, Long Beach, Sao Paulo, Milwaukee, Iowa, Toronto.
Despite their earlier streak, Honda hasn’t been able to jump back into Victory Lane since June 9. We’ll see if they can answer this weekend, and work on that 7-3 deficit.
An interesting side note: A Chevy has won every event so far this year that’s been sponsored by Honda (St. Pete, Alabama, and Toronto). Honda won Detroit, which had Chevy as the title sponsor. Up after Edmonton: the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Hmmm…
5) Days Of Our Lotus
The fight for Lotus HVM Racing to improve continues, after mechanical issues sidelined their latest attempt last race weekend. Simona de Silvestro’s #78 seemed threateningly close to a sort of respectable midpack status before the implosion in Toronto, so we’ll see what the Iron Maiden can do with what she’s given this week. For the pessimists in the crowd, she’s finished P22 (off course) and P24 (mechanical) at Edmonton, so the odds of a decent result here seem just a hair more negative. Up The Irons, Maiden fans, and hang in there…
6) Paging Mr. Rahal
Graham Rahal had an extremely disappointing early out at Toronto. Right now, Graham is P11 in points, but honestly hasn’t had the sort of season many fans thought he would have in his second year with Chip Ganassi’s crew. He has only three Top 10s outside Texas, and he naturally doesn’t seem particularly pleased with the course things have taken. His father’s first race was at Edmonton (different layout, of course), so it would be sort of fitting for Graham to light things up here. Since 2008, however, Graham has finished P25 or worse in two out of the three races held here. To help him turn it around and get that next win, we’ve included the always-popular photo of what Graham would look like with something akin to Bobby Rahal’s old mustache:
|Original photo courtesy IndyCar Media.|
Mustache courtesy of me.
7) A BIG Mazda Road to Indy Weekend
As the second stop on their Canadian tour, the Star Mazda Championship will run two races at Edmonton this weekend, with English driver Jack Hawksworth holding a 39-point lead over American Connor De Fillippi. If Hawksworth dominates as he did at Toronto last week, the chances of him winning the Star Mazda title will increase substantially. Additionally, keep an eye out for Americans Sage Karam and Gabby Chaves, both of whom have been coming on strong as of late. Of course, we also can’t forget hometown hero Stefan Rzadzinski, who will racing in from of a hometown crowd. Despite not racing at Lucas Oil or Iowa, he remains only a single point behind Ashley Freiburg in the overall standings for P11.
8) A BIG Mazda Road to Indy Weekend, Continued
Just a few weeks ago, I truly thought Gustavo Yacaman could only play spoiler in the Firestone Indy Lights title fight, but he looks to be rounding into good form after an impressive Iowa race and a key Toronto victory. The issue is, with the Lights field down to around 11 entries right now, it’s tough for any driver to mess up enough in terms of points to give someone else a break. Guerrieri holds all the cards right now, but it should still be fun to see how Yacaman, Tristan Vautier, and Sebastian Saavedra respond this week. Peter Dempsey also bears watching after a very nice debut with Belardi Auto Racing at Toronto.
9) The Battle At The End Of The Ledger
We’re not 100% sure how TEAM funds will shake out next year, but it’s a good bet being in the Top 20 is preferable if you want your cut of the fundage. Currently, Ed Carpenter is P20 in the standings. EJ Viso and Mike Conway are only 12 points in from of him. James Jakes and Alex Tagliani are only a single point behind him. Josef Newgarden is 20 behind. Bottom line, the, er, bottom line is nowhere near settled.
10) For The Love of Statistics
You know I love my stats. Here are a few random ones from this season to keep in mind while watching the action this weekend:
-Average numbers of cars finishing on the lead lap: 11.6
-Average number of lead changes per race: 9.5
-Average number of lead changes per race, ignoring the Indy 500’s 34: 6.8
-Average number of lead changes per race, ignoring Detroit’s zero: 10.6
-Average number of lead changes per race, 2011 season: 6.23
-Average number of caution flags: 4.3 (includes the 8 at Indianapolis)
-Only two drivers running at the finish in every race this season: Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter
-Best average finishing position, last three races: Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1.0 (of course)
-Worst average finishing position, last three races: Simona De Silvestro, 20.7
-Worst average finishing position of anyone not in a Lotus, last three races: Dario Franchitti, 20.3
-Lowest Points Total, Full-Time Chevy Driver: Ed Carpenter
-Lowest Points Total, Full-Time Honda Driver: Josef Newgarden
One other note: if you missed it, I’ll be flying out tomorrow for the Edmonton Indy race weekend. Looking at the event online, it’s clear this is a big Edmonton event and the organizers are very proud of the work they’ve put in. I’m looking forward to ensuring I can give everyone a good overview of just what the overall experience is like.