Clock Is Ticking for Andretti, Rahal

GrahamThere is a show on ESPN about numbers and statistics, called “Numbers Never Lie”. While there is some truth that philosophy, it is not always the case. Statistics can show us a lot of things from a different angle. Things that we wouldn’t normally see without them. While many people were sick of hearing the name Danica Patrick, she was a very polarizing figure during her time in IndyCar. She was a high-profile driver that many people (including myself) considered to be wildly overrated. I decided to put her statistics up against two of today’s high-profile drivers, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal. The results were very interesting.

When applying this to IndyCar, there are several factors you have to take into consideration when comparing drivers. First and foremost, you have to consider the era in which they raced. Times change, and things evolve rapidly, especially in motorsport. Second, you have to consider the teams and equipment that they drivers have, and how those compare. Third, you must look at many different aspects of the sport. While winning is important, it isn’t the only thing that matters.

All three of these drivers have competed in the same era, against the same competition for the most part. Both Danica and Marco drove for Andretti Autosport, the team owned by Marco’s father. Graham has been with multiple teams, most recently with Ganassi and his father’s team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. None of these drivers have been stuck with non-competitive teams. All of these things put them on fairly level ground.

Obviously there are expectations with Marco and Graham, because of their family trees in the world of open wheel racing. While they may never live up to be the next generation great drivers people thought they would be, there doesn’t seem to be much criticism over their performance over the last few years. It’s very interesting to see where they rank when you put their numbers up against Danica’s. I’m using her as a comparison because her numbers are actually better, and she was always criticized and labeled as overrated.

The chart below focuses on the number of years in IndyCar, how many total races they participated in, number of wins, career average finishing points position, and their career average finish in the Indianapolis 500. chart It’s interesting to note that Graham’s only win came in his first career start, which means he is on an 84 race winless streak, counting the two races from this season. Marco is now in his ninth season, and Graham in his seventh. After two races this year, they are 17th and 18th respectively in the current championship standings. Their seats are secure for obvious reasons, but it’s about time they start performing.

Graham has no more excuses this year. He has one of the best race engineers in all of racing, plenty of resources, years of experience, and the most lucrative sponsor package in IndyCar. Just performing better than his teammate would be an excellent start. Marco has shown he can compete each weekend. Over the past two years, he has matured more than anyone in the paddock. He is focused, and determined, but it seems we only see him up front on the ovals. He’s a better road and street course driver than people give him credit for, but he needs to start showing that.

Someone recently posed the question, “Who will win another race first, Marco or Graham?” It’s a good question. One that I hope the answer isn’t neither.

This article also appeared on Open Wheel Now.

Mike Conway Wins at Long Beach

MCSometimes things have a funny way of working themselves out. On a weekend that saw Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, and Josef Newgarden separate themselves from the field, it was Mike Conway that stole the show. Starting in 17th position, Conway drove the Fuzzy’s sponsored Ed Carpenter machine to victory lane as he became a two-time winner at Long Beach (2011). Will Power dodged another controversial incident to finish in second place. Carlos Munoz finished third, giving him two podium finishes in just five career IndyCar races. Juan Montoya and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five in Sunday’s race.

Obviously the big storyline that everyone is talking about was the incident that collected the three best cars in the race. Was it Hunter-Reay’s fault for being too aggressive? Was it Newgarden’s fault for not letting the inevitable pass take place? Hunter-Reay’s boss, Michael Andretti, and teammate (Hinchcliffe) both acknowledged that it was Ryan’s mistake. It may not have been the wrong time, but it was definitely the wrong place.

It was a tough break for Newgarden and team owner Sarah Fisher. After taking the high road on television, Sarah went the opposite route on social media. In fact, there was plenty of venting/drama to be found on Twitter shortly after the race. Hinchcliffe suffered a sprained thumb, and will need to get approval before getting back in the car. Regardless of the blame, it was just an unfortunate situation for everyone. Well, everyone except Dallara.

There weren’t many drivers that actually had a good day on Sunday. Graham Rahal spun Justin Wilson and was given a penalty. Rahal himself was turned later in the race. Simon Pagenaud was running in 2nd place when he was spun by Power, who was surprisingly not given a penalty. After the race, Power said that he was surprised that he wasn’t given a penalty, and that he felt really bad. Pagenaud was visibly (and understandably) upset after the race, despite rebounding for a top five finish.

Sebastien Bourdais put his car into the tire barrier multiple times, and received two separate pit road penalties. He was battling for the lead on cold tires during his first incident. Ganassi saw two of its cars have engine issues, with Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe. Kimball was running 6th at the time his engine let go. It was the second straight race that Jack Hawksworth was collected in an accident after having a very strong day.

Click here for the full results of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

So it took two whole races for Ed Carpenter’s big decision to pay off. This shouldn’t come as a total shock to anyone, because Conway really is that good. Remember, he won a race last year in the other Dale Coyne Racing car. With so many road and street circuits on the schedule, and double points for the big oval races (for Ed), things are looking good for Ed Carpenter Racing. Conway is currently second in the championship standings.

The next race on the Verizon IndyCar schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 27. The telecast will begin at 2:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. This is the final race before teams begin the Month of May at Indianapolis.

Hunter-Reay Earns Long Beach Pole

RHRIt will be an Andretti front row to start the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the pole, and James Hinchcliffe will start beside him. It’s the sixth career pole for Hunter-Reay, his first since Mid-Ohio last year. Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden claimed row two, and Jack Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud will share row three. The four drivers that just missed the Firestone Fast Six; Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, and Justin Wilson, round out the top ten starters.

For the first time since the Firestone Fast Six was created in 2005, there weren’t any Penske or Ganassi cars in the final round. It was a strong day for the Honda-powered teams, as they took five of the top six (9 of the top 12 overall) starting spots in qualifying.

There are some heavy weights that will be starting in the rear of the field on Sunday, including Will Power. Most expected Power to contest for the pole, but he will start tomorrow’s race in 14th position. His Penske teammate Juan Montoya will start one row behind him, in 16th position. Tony Kanaan and Mike Conway will also start in the rear, with Graham Rahal starting in the 23rd and final position. Graham is running out of excuses. His teammate, Oriol Servia will be starting in 12th on Sunday.

Click here for the full starting lineup for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

It was an impressive day for Hawksworth, who continues to turn heads around the IndyCar paddock. Carlos Munoz did well too, earning himself an 11th place starting position. Tomorrow marks the 40th running of the race in Long Beach, and will feature a standing start. Race coverage begins at 4 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.