Wednesday, June 19, 2013

IndyCar Advocate's Mid-Season Awards

It seems hard to believe, but we are coming to our halfway point in the INDYCAR season. With this being an IndyCar blog, you know it's time for the requisite mid-season awards, where we take a look at the highs (and a couple of lows) from the season's first half. Let's get to it:

Best Moment: This had to be Tony Kanaan finally getting his big victory at Indianapolis. It was emotional, hard-fought, and as popular a win as we will ever see, I suspect. The ceremony and extended celebration around TK's 500 victory were not to be missed, from his drinking the milk to the talk show tour.

Honorable Mention: James Hinchcliffe's victory in the season opener gave IndyCar's most entertaining driver a long-sought victory, and was our first suggestion this season would be anything but ordinary.

Best Trend: The marketing juggernaut of Dreamworks is gearing up for Turbo next month. If you have children, you've probably seen plenty of commercials, and we're starting to see the toy tie-ins and publicity interviews as well.

Honorable Mention: Dale Coyne Racing winning and/or competing like crazy.

Worst Trend: The continual over-analysis of every race, argument, wayward comment, inference, and Twitter reaction, that our micro news cycle and impatience breeds. Not everything spells doom or salvation, and certainly not one thing on its own.

Best Move: James Hinchcliffe had fought and fought to attempt to pass a, well, "defensive" Takuma Sato in Sao Paulo. Hinch's fake-out, over-under, last-turn, last-lap pass racked up his second victory of the season.

Best Finish: The best finish of the year so far is in the INDYCAR family, but belongs to Peter Dempsey and company in Firestone Indy Lights. Four cars, four-wide, a wild charge from behind--ok, just go watch it again.

Worst Moment: Dreyer and Reinbold Racing having to take a step back and shutter the doors on the remainder of the season was a nasty knock. There's nothing to do there but to hope for the best for 2014.

Most Disappointing: Team Barracuda and Alex Tagliani are an awesome, fan-friendly team and driver combo, but they haven't finished in the Top 20 since Brazil. Other teams or drivers (ahem, Dragon Racing) have had equally rough roads, but their expectations aren't as high, it could be argued. As popular as they are with the engaged fanbase online, there should be plenty of interest in watching Tag and Bryan Herta's folks try to rebound in the season's second half.

Honorable Mention: Graham Rahal's first year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has had some good moments, but the team has been fighting through some massive struggles in recent weeks. Plenty is expected of this pairing, so any sort of disappointment is magnified. More weekends like Long Beach could turn this around in a hurry.

Most Impressive Prospect: This one has to be a tie. Matthew Brabham has been tearing through Pro Mazda, winning nearly every race so far this season. The only driver  who's been more impressive might be Carlos Munoz nearly winning his rookie Indy 500, though the Lights driver is now facing some stiff competition in the form of Sage Karam. This one is still up for grabs.

Most Improved Driver: It would be easy to say one of the first-time winners, such as Sato or Hinch, but they were already at a pretty high level and capable of winning. I'd go with Josef Newgarden. After not grabbing a single Top 10 his rookie season, Newgy already has four this year, and is making much better decisions on track. He could do much more before the season is out.

Honorable Mention: EJ Viso was showing signs of settling in nicely last season, but he's been excellent so far this season for Andretti Autosport. I'm also not counting out James Jakes just yet.

Best Team: Andretti Autosport. Four wins, and at least two of their drivers in contention for the championship.

Best Odd Couple: Takuma Sato and AJ Foyt. Taku is thriving, and Foyt's team is a frontrunner again.

Most Likely To Win The Championship Battle: Ryan Hunter-Reay. Helio Castroneves is having a banner year, but the defending champ looks to be hitting prime form. Either way, it's going to be a good one.

Most Likely To Crash The Championship Battle: Scott Dixon. This looks to be a Chevy sort of year, but he's still sitting there, P5 in the standings, like a red-headed, consistent ninja, ready to reel off four or five podiums in a row. And you'll never even see him coming.

Most Likely To Win A Race This Season: Marco Andretti is the most consistent driver in the field, so gets the nod.

Honorable Mention: Scott Dixon or EJ Viso.

Best Story: TK has to win this one, too. Our generation's Lloyd Ruby finally got his victory, and secured his place on Indy's all-time greats list.

Honorable Mention: Mike Conway hopping in a car on a Friday, and winning on Saturday in a one-off at Detroit for Dale Coyne Racing.

Best Livery: 
Courtesy IndyCar Media. Credit: Mark Reed.
Your mileage may vary.

Best Personal Moment: Chatting with friends about IndyCar at Indianapolis and Milwaukee, and taking my daughter to her first race.

Worst Personal Moment: Getting sick the night before the 500, missing the Mazda Road to Indy races, and a shot at an "early bird" jaunt through IMS.

Second Half Big Mover: James Hinchcliffe. I don't believe he's done with his winning ways this year.


  1. I agree with the bulk of your picks, but how is Marco Andretti not the most improved driver?

  2. Ken @AbuelosDeTreceJune 20, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    As usual... Excellent Read Zack! I agree with just about everything you said. One thing's for sure, if the second half of the season is anything like the first, we've got about 15 drivers who could really shake things up down the stretch. What happens if Dario starts winning races? What happens if EJ has 6 Top 5 finishes in a row... not just Top 5 starts? What happens if someone's tires don't fall off at the end of a stint? I'm really looking forward to seeing how it plays out!

  3. Agree with zyxaaron above -- I'd have to vote Marco as Most Improved. No arguments on the others. Great column Zach