Welcome! While the series is on hiatus for a couple weeks prior to the final two races of the season, we have sat down and answered several pertinent questions. Tonight we are discussing the remaining two races and their impact on the championship standings, as well as, the year’s biggest disappointments!
Question 1: Who will win the last two races in the 2015 season?
Dylan: I think Juan Pablo Montoya wins at Pocono. He’s the defending champon at Pocono and won the 500 in May at a very similar track. Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power were very strong all month long in May at IMS and there’s no reason to think the Team Penske cars won’t roll off the truck as the quickest of the bunch at Pocono. If Montoya’s at or near the front late at Pocono he’ll likely be battling Team Penske cars and for one reason or another I have no doubts he ends up winning that battle…Will Power is my pick to win at Sonoma. He’s won the event 3 of the last 5 years and is simply due to come through for another win this season. I think the lightened pressure of not being in the championship picture at the season-ending race combined with his dominance at Sonoma makes him an easy favorite.
Parker: Nearly every race this year has been predictably unpredictable… whether it is the weather and track conditions or a single yellow flag that throws everyone’s strategies out the window; it’s just so hard to predict who will win. With that being said I certainly have favorites for both races. It’s hard for me to choose against one of the big Chevy teams in Penske or Ganassi on any race, but for Pocono race I’m going to go with a dark horse pick… Ed Carpenter. Admittedly the CFH team hasn’t been extremely fast this year on the ovals, but the No. 20 car has continually improved during on the ovals (33rd, 22nd, 22nd, 10th, and 6th); not to mention, Josef Newgarden has had some good results for CFH at Milwaukee (5th) and Iowa (2nd). Also lingering in the back of my mind is how fast Ed’s car was at Indy prior to the pole day crash.
As for the Sonoma race, Will Power will be the race winner. It was a tough decision for this race as the road courses have proven to be the strength of many drivers this year… I was close to choosing Sebastien Bourdais, but I think that this test in Sonoma this week will benefit the larger teams of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti to the point where they will have the greatest chance of winning.
Question 2: Who will win the 2015 championship?
Dylan: Juan Pablo Montoya will win the championship. I expect him to win at Pocono (see the previous question). Graham Rahal’s Honda-power, qualifying struggles, and “law of large numbers” inevitably for bad luck or an aggressive move gone wrong are all working against him going into these last two races. While the Honda cars have shown much more speed in the latter half of the season I don’t expect them to be able to truly compete with the Penske and Ganassi cars at Pocono. Even during this incredible run of race results Graham hasn’t qualified well and while he’s worked his way through the field through strategy, talent, aggression, and luck that will find a way to haunt him in one of these last two races. Montoya hasn’t been spectacular late in the season but he’s still been a model of consistency and as long as he stays out of trouble I don’t see him losing this championship.
Parker: This is a tough question… logically there are just two drivers that have a realistic shot of winning the championship, Graham Rahal and Juan Montoya. Over the course of the first fourteen races of the season Rahal has shown a slightly better average finishing position of seventh compared to Montoya’s 7.214. Needless to say, this title race is close.
This isn’t the first time a Team Penske driver has been in this position, trying to hold onto the top spot of the standings going into the final races. Last year Will Power successfully held on took his first IndyCar title, but not after several close attempts in the years prior, which shows how hard it is to hold onto that lead.
With just two races left to determine the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Champion I’ve decided to go with the hot hand: Graham Rahal. In a “what have you done for me lately” type of world Graham has simply been better than Montoya… and the entire field for that matter. Graham has an extremely impressive average finishing position of 3.6 over the last 5 races. Compared to Montoya’s finishing position of tenth, Graham looks to be unstoppable. In fact the next lowest average finishing position in the last five races is Tony Kanaan with an even eighth place average.
So there it is… probably not a surprising pick for those who know me, but I think Graham Rahal will win this year’s championship
Question 3: What team/driver has been the most disappointing to date?
Dylan: For me there’s no question that the No. 22 Team Penske/Simon Pagenaud combination is the biggest disappointment of the season. It’s not just that they’re surprisingly only 10th in points, it’s that outside of moments of dominance in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race this team hasn’t challenged for a win. I was skeptical that Pagenaud and the new 4th car at Team Penske could simply show up and win a championship even after Simon’s success at SPM, but I fully expected sporadic moments of dominance and a couple wins from this team at this point in the season. Simon Pagenaud is a proven talent and will come good at Team Penske given time but I’m very surprised this group hasn’t been stronger this season.
Parker: For the majority of the season I wouldn’t say I have a specific driver or team that has been most disappointing. Initially I was going to choose Honda as a whole to be considered most disappointing based on their general lack of speed in the first half of the season. However, I can’t even call the Honda’s a disappointment because they have continually improved throughout the season and have shown that Honda powered cars can legitimately win races against the, in my opinion, far superior Chevy teams.
If I were to select a driver I am most disappointed with… I’d have to go with Will Power. Even though Power is still sitting in fifth place in points, a man that has continually been a dominating force in the series the last few years, especially on road courses, has just been sub-par by “Will Power” standards. Power has only claimed TWO podiums all year… I can’t believe that is even true. All season I’ve expected him to be right there at the end of races competing for the win and that simply hasn’t been the case.