Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Projecting Points For IndyCar's Championship

While it seems almost impossible we’re already down to the last four races of this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, we’re also down to perhaps four serious competitors for the IZOD IndyCar Series crown. These four racers—Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, and Scott Dixon—are within 61 points of one another. While drivers such as James Hinchcliffe (86 points back in P5) still have a shot at the title, it seems increasingly likely this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series champ will come from that pool of aforementioned racers.

Speculation is sky-high on just which driver will pull it off, and you can find plenty of arguments for any of the drivers named. Hunter-Reay had an amazing streak of races, and held onto his lead with a solid result at Edmonton. Helio Castroneves has been the most consistent driver in all of IndyCar this year, finishing more laps than anyone. Will Power is the acknowledged master of the street courses. Scott Dixon is as steady as they go, and knows how to finish well.

We can go around and around with these types of reasons, but what does history tell of us of how these drivers will do? I took the last five seasons, back to 2007, and averaged the drivers’ finished based on each track remaining. While some of the drivers have experience at the finale oval at Fontana, that wasn’t a scheduled race in the years covered. Therefore, I looked at Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, and Baltimore to see how each driver might do, then added those projected points to the current totals to see what sort of potential championship fight we might have on our hands for the finale.

(Click to enlarge)
That asterisk by Will Power’s Sonoma result notes it includes his P25 finish in 2008; he’s won the last two races—if he does so again, he could have a 35 point lead in the final instead of just 7 going into Fontana. Also, keep in mind as the Baltimore results reflect only a single race there, so that’s not exactly the ideal sampling for this.

Yet if trends hold from previous years, it seems entirely possible that we’ll go into Fontana with Will Power again clinging to a narrow points lead. Here’s the rub: Will Power’s end result in IndyCar’s last two season-ending ovals is a P22 average. Even if Helio Castroneves finds himself 30 points behind coming into the finale, he wouldn’t be totally out of it, any more than Dixon would be 37 points behind (although an awful lot would need to go right in that circumstance. Let’s also remember, Dixon and Castroneves have at least some Fontana experience from back in the day.

You can also see some drivers have one race where they need to up their game. Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to do far better at Sonoma, while Helio can ill-afford a repeat of last year’s Baltimore race. Power and Dixon don’t really have any poor result averages per se, but Dixon at least could stand to duplicate his normal Mid-Ohio effort at Sonoma or Baltimore to better close the gap.

Of course, this presupposes no one listed hits a hot or cold streak, which we know is quite likely. Engines blow up; 10-grid penalties will occur (right, Scott Dixon?), and someone will have a DNF or two. In short, all signs point to another championship leading up to a last-race showdown. Showing just how these results could play out in shaking up the result gives every race an awful lot of meaning, which means the results from Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, and Baltimore should build on one another towards the crescendo of this unbelievable IndyCar season.

4 comments:

  1. Great analysis! I love the number crunching. Also it would be insane to go into Fontana with those totals!

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  2. Interesting analysis. These final four races are going to be exciting.

    Of the final road/street course events, Baltimore will be the wildcard race I think. And Fontana will be an interesting 500 miles to the championship.

    I'm excited.

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  3. I'm just hoping Edmonton was truly the turning point of Will's problems since Indy .. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that this season end doesn't go the way the last two did for him

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  4. We'll have to see! I think he's in a good spot headed into the final few races.

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