Only three races remain on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, and there are plenty of drivers and teams trying to join the remarkable pool of ten different winners 2013 has seen so far. So which driver who hasn’t won in 2013 will join the list of this year’s winners? That the question we put to our bloggers for this week’s round table:
Eric Hall, anotherindycarblog: There is no coincidence that one of the highest placed drivers in the championship without a win, Justin Wilson, is also the guy with the best chance to become the eleventh different driver to stand atop the podium in 2013. The double header weekend in Houston will present Wilson and Dale Coyne racing with an excellent opportunity to capitalize on another street circuit weekend. Wilson and a handful of other drivers, have recent experience on the Houston street course, albeit with different machinery in 2007, giving him an idea of what to expect; the first laps around the track on Friday morning won’t be the first of his career. This will allow the team to get right into race and qualifying setup mode from the drop of the green over practice one.
Wilson will be joined at DCR this weekend by street racing ace Mike Conway, winner of round one at Detroit earlier in the year. This pairing makes one of the most potent street course driving combos in the paddock taking the wheel for a little team that can hassle the big boys on a regular basis. Wilson has not visited victory lane since June of 2012 at Texas and has not taken the top step of a non-oval event since July of 2009 at Watkins Glen. With his prior experience, a teammate for the weekend that can help him with setup, and simply driving for always feisty Dale Coyne Racing, Wilson is primed to have a great weekend.
Zachary Houghton, IndyCar Advocate: Ten winners. That’s as diverse a group of winners as you’ll see in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The battle hasn’t just belonged to the Ganassi or Penskes; it’s belonged to the KV Racings, the Dale Coynes, and yes, the A.J. Foyts, too. This year, anyone can win, but who will make it happen in the three races remaining?
I actually like two different drivers for the remaining race weekends. Justin Wilson has been as strong as anyone when it comes to the street courses this season, and he’s been right in the hunt for multiple victories. Dale Coyne’s top driver absolutely has what it takes to run up front, as he keeps showing us time and again, race weekend after race weekend. Wilson has experience in Houston, and it will be interesting to see what of that knowledge transfers over. With Honda running off an impressive string of victories and with Wilson’s sparkling finishes on the twisties, it truly just seem like a matter of time until Sheffield’s Own is back on top of the podium.
As for Fontana, while I don’t doubt Wilson could win on the big oval, I have another driver in mind. As much as I like Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter to finish strong, Chevy needs to win me back after Honda’s great run. I’m looking at Graham Rahal, a driver stuck in the midst of likely his most frustrating IndyCar season. In recent weeks, though, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has started to show signs of life, and despite not showing in the box score, I think the team is getting zeroed in on some of the issues they’ve had this year. Call it an upset special if you want, but I think Graham Rahal and company have a big win before the season is done.
Steve Wittich, OpenWheelWorld: The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season has seen a diverse list of 10 winners make it to the top step of the podium. However, looking at the deep and talented list of non-winners is almost as impressive and seeing an 11th (or even 12th) different winner would not be that big of a surprise.
To determine which driver has the best chance of joining the current half-score of race winners will require a semi-scientific (OK not really) methodology. The simple computation takes the average finishing position blended with the topography of two circuits remaining to narrow the potential list of winners down to four. Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Ed Carpenter, and Justin Wilson all make this first cut.
The second cut necessitates adding the scorching hot engine competition between Chevrolet and Honda to the mix. Utilizing the results at the super-speedway Pocono IndyCar 400, the twin Honda Indy Toronto races and the Grand Prix of Baltimore, gives us a solid baseline for determining which engine ‘should’ have the edge in the remaining races. Honda Performance Development has dominated those races, and thus our group of four has become a group of two: Dario Franchitti and Justin Wilson.
We’ve now reached the point in our journey where gut instinct replaces complicated algorithms. Nothing in the stats jumps out at you as an: Ahhhhh… yes I must pick him. In eight street circuit races in 2013, Franchitti has an average finishing position of 9.3 while Wilson has an average finishing position of 10.0. 2013 has seen the IZOD IndyCar Series compete on five ovals with Wilson averaging a finishing position of 9.4 and Franchitti a 12.0.
So what does my vast gut tell me: It’s grumbling really loudly to go with Wilson (hopefully it’s not the fish and chips I had for lunch) who should be a double threat to win at Houston or Fontana. Mark it down in pencil, but I think the Dale Coyne Racing crew is going finish the season strong.
Mark Wilkinson, New Track Record: As I pondered the question of what driver who has not won a race this year is most likely to win at Houston or Fontana, The Byrds came on my Spotify account (New Track Record's Indy 500 if you want to want to subscribe to my playlist) singing "Wasn't Born to Follow." That was just the inspiration I needed to make my pick! Of the drivers left who have not won this year, who "Wasn't Born to Follow?" That limited the possibilities to Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, scions of great racing fathers. They were born to race, and occasionally, win. Which one will it be? Marco has very quietly driven to 4th place in the standings, and when did anyone ever say Marco did anything on the track quietly? Graham is mired in 18th place but has had seen huge improvement recently with new engineer Neil Fife. So which one will be humming that old Byrds' song in Victory Lane? The answer is Marco Andretti. He'll be competitive at Houston but watch for the win at Fontana.
So ... do you agree or disagree with any of our blogger experts? What about Sebastien Bourdais and Dragon Racing, whom is a two-time defending Grand Prix of Houston race winner? Simona De Silvestro is having a fantastic second half of the year, what are her chances? And E.J. Viso -- an unheralded 2013 season, finding him in 12th overall in the Andretti Autosport stable. There's too many good drivers with no wins this year, so comment freely below!