Monday, March 13, 2017

Winners and Losers: St. Petersburg

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg:

Winners

Sebastien Bourdais
Where did this come from? I thought the Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing would be a solid combination, but winning in their first race back together after starting last? Bourdais did catch a lucky yellow, but he was incredibly fast when he got into the lead. Is this a one-hit wonder or is he a championship contender?


Honda
After thoroughly getting destroyed be Chevrolet at just about every stop over the last couple of seasons, Honda finally has some confidence building for the 2017 season and potentially a title-run.


Simon Pagenaud
It looked like after qualifying, Simon Pagenaud was in for a rough start to his title defending season. No matter, as Simon managed to use strategy and skill to finish P2. I think the rest of the IndyCar field should be worried.


Scott Dixon
Despite taunting race control after the race, saying that they ruined his third place effort, Scott Dixon got just the start he needed to his championship effort. I was worried that with all of the offseason stresses, this team and car would not be up to snuff this year, but they did a great job.



Losers

Chevrolet
Chevrolet serious got their asses handed to them in the first round of the championship, which is something that has seldom happened in the aero kit era. Had it not been for Team Penske, Chevrolet would have been a mockery.


AJ Foyt Enterprises
Part of the Chevrolet woes included AJ Foyt Enterprises, who did not have a great start to their new era. Carlos Munoz was involved in accident on the first lap and would later retire, while Conor Daly, who was woeful in practice sessions, was pacey in the race but could not pull together a good finish. Can this team fulfill the hype generated this offseason?


Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal collided with, who else, Charlie Kimball, on the first lap of the season. Kimball wasn't exactly in the wrong on this one, but Rahal, who figures to be a championship contender, has another rough outing in St. Petersburg.


ABC
I wonder how many of us will either a) go to the doctors today to take care of our bleeding ears from listening to the commentary from ABC and/or b) not spend our money from the 564,331 commercials we were subjected to yesterday.



Cone of Shame



Jon Bouslog
Will Power lost his strategist, Tim Cindric, to Team Penske newcomer Josef Newgarden. Power got Juan Pablo Montoya's old strategist, Jon Bouslog. Their first race together did not go very well. While running third in the late stages of the race, something happened. Some speculate that Power's engine needed to be cycled because it wasn't running at 100%, while others say he was going to be drastically short on fuel. Whatever the circumstance, Power got the call from the stand to slow way down so he could hit a number. There's hitting a fuel number, and then there's looking like a complete fool on the track. Power got passed by everyone, which reminded me of the days where drivers like Milka Duno and Hiro Matsushita were roaming the track. It was so bad that Power was black flagged for falling below the minimum speed limit, and they just retired the car altogether. Just what in the hell were they doing on that pit stand? Would Cindric ever have called a strategy like that? If he's that short on fuel, make a splash-and-dash. If his car has issues, bring him in, don't leave him out there to dry. Just pitiful.


Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fantasy Indycar Picks: St. Petersburg

Here are the picks for the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg (rookies highlighted in green):


Name Twitter Handle                               St. Petersburg
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Kanaan Helio Aleshin RHR Sato
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Pagenaud Newgarden Power Helio Bourdais
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 Power Hinch Helio Sato Rossi
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski Power Kanaan RHR Newgarden Sato
Conor Daly conordaly22 Pagenaud Newgarden Rossi Daly Bourdais
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Rahal Power Daly Hinch Helio
David Redner IndyCART Power Helio Andretti Chilton Rahal
DJ Jordan Indycardj32 Pagenaud Power Helio Aleshin Pigot
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy Pagenaud Power Aleshin Dixon RHR
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Pagenaud RHR Sato Aleshin Daly
James Alban TheKing0fSwing Rossi Pagenaud Aleshin Dixon Daly
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Power Pagenaud Munoz Pigot Hinch
Jason McVeigh JaseKM1 Helio Pagenaud Power RHR Hinch
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider Kanaan Helio Sato Hinch Rahal
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Kanaan Aleshin Bourdais Pagenaud Andretti
Josh Shimizu MayorofShimtown Helio Hinch RHR Dixon Bourdais
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli Newgarden Rahal Pagenaud Dixon RHR
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 Power Daly Pagenaud Newgarden Bourdais
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Newgarden Sato Munoz Hinch Kanaan
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG Pagenaud Newgarden Power Helio Hinch
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN Power RHR Helio Kanaan Sato
Michael Friedman mfriedman_63 Rossi Kanaan Rahal Munoz Newgarden
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Daly Rahal Power Helio Bourdais
Morgan Polizzi morganpolizzi Power Aleshin Bourdais Helio Pigot
Paige Hill paigehilll Power Dixon Bourdais Chilton Sato
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi Power Helio Newgarden Hinch Rahal
Sam Klein sklein31 Pagenaud Power Helio Pigot Sato
Sandy Lamparello npssandy Hinch Pagenaud Power RHR Daly
Sarah Connors sarah_connors Hinch Newgarden Rossi Pagenaud RHR
Sarah Hall SarahHall_528 Aleshin Helio Hinch Newgarden Sato
Sean Kennedy _6thgear_ RHR Power Helio Bourdais Pagenaud
Stephen King stephenVking Power Kanaan Bourdais Helio Hinch
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan Aleshin Bourdais Dixon Pagenaud Power


Penalties: N/A

Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

Friday, March 3, 2017

Winners and Losers: 2016-17 Offseason

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2016-2017 IndyCar Offseason:


Winners

Josef Newgarden
It really happened. America's great hope for glory in IndyCar has landed on the best team after years of "will he, won't he" speculation. Roger Penske made the call, and Josef Newgarden will be in the deuce for the foreseeable future. One of the best drivers the last two seasons in IndyCar, Newgarden is the fresh face that IndyCar can build around. Here's hoping the two flourish together.


JR Hildebrand
JR Hildebrand has been very patient since the 2013 season, where he was fired from Panther Racing, and it has finally paid off. Hildebrand has been running part-time with Ed Carpenter Racing since the 2014 season. With Newgarden off to Penske and Hildebrand's close ties with the team, the decision to promote JR to full-time was easy. Hildebrand should be an instant threat to win races.


Takuma Sato
While Takuma Sato was a bit of a enigma at AJ Foyt Enterprises, the Japanese veteran can be a force to be reckoned with at Andretti Autosport. While he still has the potential to be rough around the edges during a race, Sato was still plenty fast the last couple of seasons. Can he keep it together at one of the best teams in IndyCar?


James Hinchcliffe
While many of us IndyCar faithful understand how cool James Hinchcliffe is on and off the track, many Americans got a chance to witness the awesomness of James as he took part in Dancing With the Stars. While he finished just short of winning the Disco Ball, Hinch managed to captivate audiences with his story, personality, and dance skills. Hinch managed to put another notch in the "drivers are athletes" belt. The community of Hinchtown is growing.



Losers

KV Racing
The only "bad" news this offseason came at the expense of KV Racing, a team that started back in 2004. Jimmy Vasser, 1996 CART Champion, and Kevin Kalkhoven, owner of Cosworth, decided that the 2017 season would not be in the cards financially. The team sold its cars to Juncos Racing, while an auction is coming up to sell-off the remainder of their assets. Never good to see a team leave, especially in the fragile state of IndyCar.


Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya got "fired" from Team Penske. Despite looking for a ride elsewhere in IndyCar, Montoya ultimately resigned with Team Penske for the Indianapolis 500 and potentially other races in Penske's fifth car. So while he's still in the show with the best team, his loss of a full-time ride has to hurt the ego.


Jack Hawksworth
This might be the last time I ever mention Jack Hawksworth in my blog, unless I'm referencing his historically bad 2016 season or a "how to" guide on how to throw your team under the bus. He was put out of his misery by AJ Foyt Enterprises this year and now is probably going to have a modestly-average sports car career.


Honda
The aero-kit freeze came at an inopportune time for Honda, who played catch up with Chevrolet for most the season, especially on road courses. Honda proved equal on ovals for the most part, but without any development of the kits in the offseason before moving to a universal kit in 2018, Honda could have a tough year ahead. They swapped the Foyt cars for Ganassi cars, which will boost their competitive levels.



Cone of Shame



Target
It would be one thing for a sponsor to leave a no-name team after a couple seasons for financial reasons. It's another thing to see Target leave Chip Ganassi Racing after 27 years of service. Both sides are healthy and had a thriving relationship. Over the years, both sides yielded multiple championships and Indianapolis 500 wins, while the exposure Target had is immeasurable. People don't forget those cars anytime soon, especially when the winning car is plastered all over television, newspapers, and social media. But what's most frustrating about it is the direction Target is taking. Flashy 120 second commercials with millennial rap stars costs about as much as a half-seasons work for Scott Dixon. I tried watching the whole thing but I got concussed halfway through after bashing my head into a cinder block. I appreciate Target's support through the years as well as their impact on IndyCar, but I've lost so much respect for them.


Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Worst Team Seasons

Many of you enjoyed my blog post from the other day on who I thought the greatest team-driver combinations since 1979 were, so many of you pondered, who are the worst? Well, I dug through some old numbers and came up with 15 teams and their drivers that had brutal seasons.

There are disclaimers with this. I excluded single car teams, as it is tough to tell if a bad season was a mix of a bad team, a bad driver, or both, so only full-time multi-car teams were chosen under these guidelines. Because of this, most of my research focused on 1996 to present day because before that, most teams did not run full-time programs and thus it's hard to determine how bad they really were. That, or many cars were well funded, and if a driver was performing poorly they could be fired and replaced, whereas nowadays, most drivers have paid for the rides and thus it's legally challenging for teams to fire those drivers. Finally, I took emotion out of my rankings. I analyzed average finishing position relative to the average size of the field and came up with a number. The closer to the number 1, the worse their season was. Again, sometimes it is easy to see why a team did not perform (based on their drivers), but there are some drivers on here that were very good who ended up on bad teams.

Again, in each paragraph, I reference a rating. Rating = average combined finish from the teams' drivers / average field size on the season. The closer to one, the worse the team finished. Average finish can be deceiving if the field sizes were large/small. This helps normalize it. I used this as a guide to the rankings, but it wasn't the ultimate deciding factor.

Here are fifteen teams that I determined to be the worst teams since 1996:



15) Arciero-Wells Racing - 1998

#24 Hiro Matsushita / Robby Gordon
#25 Max Papis

A team that was very embattled after the split was Arciero-Wells Racing. Featured at the back of the grid for their first several seasons while developing the Toyota engines, Arciero-Wells had a tough time in 1998. To be fair, any team with Hiro Matsushita is going to have an uphill battle. Fortunately for the team, Matsushita was set to retire a few races into the season, and Robby Gordon would take his seat for the rest of the season. Max Papis was much faster than his teammates in his second full season. Combined, the two cars averaged a finish of 15.9 out of an average field size 28.0, or a rating of 0.568.


Max Papis races in the MCI car in 1998 (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)



14) Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing - 2013

#15 Graham Rahal
#16 James Jakes

Not a team that stands out in the eyes of most as an all-time bad team, but the 2013 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing outfit reeked of terriblness. In a surprising move, Graham Rahal joined up with his dad, Bobby Rahal, for their first full-time season together. Joining them was well funded Brit James Jakes. It's surprising to see how bad this team was in 2013 given how well they're doing today. Ill handling cars followed them everywhere, especially on ovals. The team was auspiciously bad in almost every race. Between the two, they averaged a finish of 15.2 in an average of 25.1, or a rating of 0.606.


GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Definitely a year to forget for Graham Rahal (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)


13) Fernandez Racing 2001

#51 Adrian Fernandez
#52 Shinji Nakano

Second year IndyCar driver and former Formula 1 driver Shinji Nakano joined forces with veteran IndyCar driver Adrian Fernandez, who co-founded Fernandez Racing following the 2000 CART Season. As most first year teams go, they immediately struggled. Once a proven winner with various teams, including Patrick Racing, Fernandez struggled. Meanwhile, Nakano, who appeared to be in the car at the good graces of his sponsors, failed to raise any eyebrows (even though "the team" (his sponsors) brought him back in 2002). The two combined averaged a finish of 16.1 in an average field size of 26.0, earning a rating of 0.619.


Shinji Nakano qualifying in 2001 (Photo: PBase)


12) PacWest Racing - 2000

#17 Mauricio Gugelmin
#18 Mark Blundell

This one is all on the team. Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin were proven badasses on the track, but their teams inability to decide whether to go to the 2000 Reynard chassis or stick with the 1999 chassis meant the team was behind the eight ball from the beginning. Despite strong success in 1996 and 1997, 1998 and 1999 were average seasons at best. 2000 was a train wreck. Other than a Gugelmin podium at Nazareth, the team did nothing right. The two averaged a finish of 15.4 in an average field size of 24.7, giving them a rating of 0.623.


Mark Blundell racing in 2000 (Photo: Peter Burke)


11) Chip Ganassi Racing - 2005

#9 Scott Dixon
#10 Jaques Lazier / Darren Manning / Giorgio Pantano
#33 Ryan Briscoe

You know a season is really bad when Chip Ganassi considers firing Scott Dixon after it. I've heard some rumblings that Ganassi was considering parting from the 2003 champion after a second straight season of misery in IndyCar. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. Still, this is easily Ganassi's worst season since he established dominance in 1996. Darren Manning was fired for sucking, leaving Jaques Lazier to mop up on the ovals and Giorgio Pantano on the road courses. Fast rookie Ryan Briscoe showed flashes in some races, while inherit rookie mistakes in other races. He did not finish the last two races of the season after a horrifying crash in Chicago. Dixon at least put a cherry on top of his misery by winning at Watkins Glen. Still, an average finish of 14.9 in a small average field size of 22.7 earns this team a rating of 0.656.


Scott Dixon battles with Ryan Briscoe (Photo: Motorsport)


10) AJ Foyt Enterprises - 2015-2016

#14 Takuma Sato
#41 Jack Hawksworth

The newest team to be added to this list is AJ Foyt Enterprises. The unique thing about them being on this list is they are the only team to have back-to-back futile years with the same drivers. Takuma Sato, aka Dallara's Secret Stimulus Package, and recent Indy Lights graduate Jack Hawksworth, both struggled at just about every race. In a staggering feat, Hawksworth could not manage a single top-ten in the 2016 season, where most field sizes were just 22 cars large. To Sato's credit, he was consistently faster than Hawksworth. In 64 combined races, the two averaged a finish of 15.2 in a combined average field size of 23.5, giving them a rating of 0.647.


Sato leads Hawksworth at Mid-Ohio (Photo: Indycar)


9) All American Racing - 1998

#36 Alex Barron
#98 PJ Jones / Vincenzo Sospiri


Dan Gurney's team, All American Racing, never really got going in CART, and they appear one other time on this list, meaning that at least this wasn't their worst season. All American Racing, which is a walking contradiction since Vincenzo Sospiri, who replaced the PJ Jones who had decided that he will be going elsewhere in 1999 and opted to step aside for the final couple of races, was Italian. An Italian driving for All American Racing? Anyways, these two combined with young gun Alex Barron all managed nothing in the season. Seems like the only positions they earned was from attrition. The three averaged a finish of 18.3 in an average field size of 28.0, earning a rating of 0.654


PJ Jones in 'The Eagle' (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)



8) Dale Coyne Racing - 2011

#18 James Jakes
#19 Alex Lloyd / Sebastien Bourdais

The first of a couple appearances on this list, Dale Coyne Racing did not have a very good 2011 season. On the plus side, this is and probably will be the last time Dale Coyne Racing will end up on this list because starting in 2012, the team finally got it going. With well-funded rookie James Jakes in one car and Alex Lloyd (ovals) and disgraced Formula 1 driver and former IndyCar champion Sebastien Bourdais (road courses) splitting the second car, the lineup looked solid on paper. However, other than a couple good finishes from Bourdais, the three averaged a finish 18.2 in an average field size 27.4, which earned them a rating of 0.664.


IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at Las Vegas - Day 2
It was a forgettable year for James Jakes, who suffered a nasty crash during practice at Las Vegas
(Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)


7) KV Racing - 2010

#5 Takuma Sato
#8 EJ Viso
#32 Mario Moraes

All I can say is God Bless this year for KV Racing. It was one of the most comedic seasons I've ever seen out of a single team. They were not slow, not even close, which is why them being on this list is a little more funny. Most of the time, Formula 1 veteran and rookie Takuma Sato, and third year drivers EJ Viso and Mario Moraes were all fast. But my god, their race craft was absolutely awful. It was so awful that a tribute video was made them to recap all of their incidents. In total, the team combined for 26 crashes on the season... 26!!! On the season, the three combined for an average finish of  18.2 in an average field size of 26.7, giving them a rating of 0.682.


Sao Paulo Indy 300
The car before the further white stripe... Yeah that's Takuma Sato... Also, Mario Moraes
used Marco Andretti as a brake / ramp in the top of the photo during the start of the
2010 season at Brazil (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images North America)


6) Arciero-Wells Racing - 1997

#24 Hiro Matsushita
#25 Max Papis

Gracing the list for the second time, Arciero-Wells Racing and their duo of "veteran" Hiro Matsushita and second year driver Max Papis struggled with poor equipment and Toyota engines. Not much else to say other than to give you their miserable numbers: they averaged a finish of 18.8 in an average field size of 27.5, earning them a rating of 0.684.


Matsushita probably getting in someone's way at Milwaukee in 1997 (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)


5) All American Racing - 1997

#36 Juan Manuel Fangio II
#98 PJ Jones

The All American Racing team led by *laughs* Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio II and American PJ Jones did not have themselves a very good 1997. Just like the team listed at number six, AAR also had Toyota power and their own unproven chassis. The moving road blocks could only manage a season high three 10th place finishes in 36 starts. Overall, the duo averaged a finish of 19.1 in an average field size of 27.5, earning them a rating of 0.695.


The All American Eagles of 1997 (Photo: Canam Cars)


4) Payton-Coyne Racing - 1996

#19 Hiro Matsushita
#34 Roberto Moreno

Gracing his presence for the third time on this list is none other than King Hiro himself (common pattern). Joining him, with his own nickname of Super Sub, is full-timer Robert Moreno. Driving for Dale Coyne and NFL Legend Walter Payton, the two drivers, well, sucked. Moreno was only marginally better than Matsushita, who still managed to get in everyone's way. Overall, the two averaged a finish of 19.1 in an average field size of 26.8, giving them a rating of 0.715.


Hiro Matsushita drives around in the Panasonic car (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)



3) Conquest Racing - 2008

#34 Franck Perera / Jaime Camara 
#36 Alex Tagliani / Enrique Bernoldi

Conquest Racing was always a team that was small in stature but big in ambitions. Their team would often rotate drivers to give some new blood / old dogs a chance to race (often for financial reasons). Unfortunately, the small team would just be gluttons for punishment in the 2008 campaign. After starting with Franck Perera in the first couple of races, he was relieved in favor of Indy Lights graduate Jaime Camara. Camara showed signs of life in some races, while flat lining on others. Jaime's only real claim to fame came at Richmond, where he led many laps before crashing from the lead. F1-reject Enrique Bernoldi started in the #36 car, but that finished as well as his tour at Arrows. Veteran Alex Tagliani would finish off the sesaon in the car, but overall, it was an utterly futile season. Between the four drivers, they averaged a finish of 18.8 out of an average field size of 26.3, or a rating of 0.713.


Camping World Indy Grand Prix
Jaime Camara chases Enrique Bernoldi at Watkins Glen
(Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)


2) Dale Coyne Racing - 2010

#18 Milka Duno
#19 Alex Lloyd

Okay, you had to see this one coming. I mean, you had to know SHE was going to make this list. The she in this situation is quite undoubtedly the worst IndyCar driver I've ever seen: Milka Duno. 2010 marked the only season where she graced the IndyCar grid on a full-time basis. Teammate Alex Lloyd, who doesn't deserve to be in the same sentence as Duno (as in he's not even close to being that bad), raced for Dale Coyne Racing, a small team that needed funding from their drivers to keep the team going. Milka had massive Citgo sponsorship, while Lloyd had the backing of the Boy Scouts / his boss Dale Coyne. While Lloyd put up a reasonable average finishing position of 16.9 (especially in poor equipment), Duno averaged an astounding 22.9 average finish. While Lloyd finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500, Duno didn't even make the field. Her best finish on the season was 19th. Overall, the two averaged a combined finish of of 19.6 in an average field size of 26.7, giving them a rating of 0.734.


Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Practice
Milka Duno races at Barber (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America)


1) Payton-Coyne Racing - 1998

#19 Michel Jourdain Jr.
#34 Dennis Vitolo / Gualter Salles

Well, I have officially found the worst team of all-time. Poor Dale Coyne finds himself on this list for the fourth time. Heavily funded Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr., who ran in only his second full-time season, struggled immensely in the car. But even he couldn't hold a candle to Dennis Vitolo, who many people will point out is one of the slowest drivers in IndyCar history. Vitiolo was god awful at just about every race he started in. He shared the seat at various parts of the season with Gualter Salles. Salles was significantly faster, securing the one and only point for the #34 car that season. Still, this trio stands alone as statistically the worst IndyCar team season since 1996. The three averaged a finish of an incredible 20.8 out of an average field size of 28.0, with a list high rating of 0.743.

Dennis Vitolo sits on the grid at Vancouver (Photo: racebyrace.com)

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Greatest Driver-Team Lineups

So, I was thinking about the greatest driver-team lineups we've seen in IndyCar, and I created a list. I based it on statistical success, team success, and how the drivers panned out in their careers. Feel free to share comments on the list. Also, since my expertise is on the CART Era and beyond of IndyCar (1979-2016), I have based the list on those years. I'm sure there are great teams before the CART Era, but I honestly don't know enough to say one way or the other. Here's the list!


12) Pagenaud - Power (Team Austrailia / Walker Racing - 2007)

Despite not being statistical juggernauts, this team lineup at Walker Racing in the final year of Champ Car would turn out to be one of the best one-two punches in IndyCar. Will Power was one of the few drivers who could actually challenge Sebastien Bourdais for a championship in the dying ages of Champ Car. Simon Pagenaud began his career in IndyCar in 2007 with the iconic green and yellow colors. Despite modest results from both in 2007, they would both end up being champions in the sport. It's rare to find two eventual champions start out as teammates many years before they blossom.

Teammates turned rivals turned teammates again (Photo: Champ Car)


11) Franchitti - Tracy (Team KOOL Green - 1998-2002)

Dario Franchitti's switch to Team KOOL Green and Barry Green marked a dramatic switch to the team for years to come, as brash veteran Paul Tracy also joined the team. The iconic green and white cars were often seen battling up front, despite not winning any championships. Still, history has been very kind to this team, their drivers, and their cars will never be forgotten. The two managed 15 wins over 5 seasons.

A couple of beasts (Photo: Team KOOL Green)


10) Andretti - Andretti (Newman-Haas Racing - 1989-1992)

How often have we seen a father-son team lineup in which bother drivers were full-time? We got to see this for several years at Paul Newman and Carl Haas's team between Formula 1, IndyCar, and Indianapolis 500 champion Mario Andretti, and seasoned youngster and son of Mario, Michael Andretti. Michael would win the championship in 1991 and would be a consistent championship threat, while Michael's arrival to the team signaled the downward trend of Mario's career. Still, this team stands among the few that had two legends driving for them. While Mario never won (Michael earned the team all 20 wins over the four seasons), he was a consistent podium threat and was as fast as ever.

Michael in the #1 and Mario in the #2 (Photo: Brinkworth Models)


9) Rahal - Unser Jr. (Galles-Kraco Racing - 1990-1991)

One of the more underrated driver combos was the legends of Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. at the Galles-Kraco Racing stable from 1990 and 1991. In their first season together, Unser Jr. won the championship and Bobby finished fourth. In 1991, Rahal finished second in the championship and Little Al third. In just two seasons, the duo amassed 9 wins and 35 podiums in 33 races before Rahal went off to start his own team in 1992.

Little Al leads teammate Bobby Rahal (second car in line) at Mid-Ohio in 1991 (Photo: Jerry Winker)


8) Castroneves - de Ferran (Team Penske - 2000-2003) 

Roger Penske was looking for a new direction after struggling for many years. In 2000, he ditched the Penske Chassis, the Mercedes engines, and his old drivers and brought in proven veteran Gil de Ferran and scrappy youngster Helio Castroneves (then known as Castro-Neves). Ever since starting in 2000, the duo were dominant. In the midst of a tricky political landscape, both drivers performed well in a host of different cars, tracks, and situations. Gil de Ferran would win both of the CART Championships for Penske in 2000-2001, and would be a championship contender in both seasons in the IRL, including winning the 2003 Indianapolis 500. Helio Castroneves won both the 2000 and 2001 Indianapolis 500s, but could not capture a championship. Wherever these two went, success followed.

de Ferran and Castroneves lead the field into turn one at Laguna Seca in 2001 (Photo: Champ Car)


7) Andretti - Mansell (Newman-Haas Racing - 1993-1994)

One of the most iconic duos in the history of IndyCar was the world-class driver Nigel Mansell and the legendary Mario Andretti. After much drama over in Europe, Nigel Mansell packed his bags and came to CART to race for Newman-Haas Racing. While Mario Andretti was once again solid in both seasons, it was Mansell who was the man to watch. He picked up CART like he had been doing it for decades. He dominated the 1993 season on his way to the championship as a rookie**** (****he was far from a rookie persay). While 1994 would be the last season for both drivers in IndyCar, seeing a legendary driver in Formula 1 leave in his prime to race in IndyCar is something that we may never see again.

Andretti on the inside and Mansell on the outside (Photo: motorsportretro)


6) Castroneves - Montoya - Pagenaud - Power (Team Penske - 2015-2016)

The most recent team to join this list is the dominant Team Penske juggarnaut lineup from 2015 to 2016. As if three Penske cars wasn't terrifying enough, the legendary outfit added a fourth car in 2015 for proven stud Simon Pagenaud. Couple this with proven winner Helio Castroneves, and former champions Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power meant this team was epic. Despite throwing away a championship in 2015, 2016 was a dominant year for the outfit that saw Pagenaud win his first championship. In two years, the four drivers amassed 13 wins and 37 podiums in 32 races.

Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Castroneves leads Power and Pagenaud in practice. Not pictured is
Montoya (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America) 


5) Mears - Sullivan - Unser (Team Penske - 1985-1989)

All you have to do is say the three names on this team roster to understand why they are on this list: Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, and Al Unser Sr. The three drivers all won one Indianapolis 500 during these five seasons (Sullivan '85, Unser '87, and Mears '88). Unser and Sullivan would both win championships. Unser's only full-time season in these years was in 1985, though he was still a threat to win races while part-time.

One of the first ever "Death Star" teams in modern IndyCar. Mears on the inside,
Sullivan in the middle, and Unser on the outside (Photo: IMS)


4) Vasser - Zanardi (Target Chip Ganassi Racing - 1996-1998)

1996 officially marked the arrival of the Chip Ganassi Racing that we know of nowadays. With Jimmy Vasser returning from his first season with the team and newcomer and relative unknown to the CART community Alex Zanardi. Zanardi proved to be blisteringly quick, but he failed to finish in key situations. Meanwhile, Vasser was the model of consistency and went on to win the 1996 championship. The next two seasons were all Zanardi, winning two straight championships through savage speed,  aggressive moves, and breathtaking passes. Overall, the two drivers won three straight championships, won 23 races, and podiumed 43 times out of a total of 52 races. Ganassi was now the team to beat in IndyCar.

Vasser and Zanardi in Portland, 1997 (Photo: JungleKey)


3) Fittipaldi - Unser Jr. - Tracy (Team Penske - 1994)

I think the 1994 Team Penske lineup had statistically the greatest single season in IndyCar history. I can think of nothing as dominant as that Mercedes engine, Penske chassis, and three iconic drivers wheeling the cars. Formula 1, IndyCar, and Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, Indycar and Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr., and young gun and future champion Paul Tracy all had a chance to show what they were made of in 1994.

Al Unser Jr. would do The Double, winning the Indianapolis 500 and the Championship in the same season. Emerson Fittipaldi would finish second in the championship, and Paul Tracy would finish third. Think about that: a one-two-three finish in the championship against names like Andretti, Mansell, Rahal, Vasser, Luyendyk, and Villeneuve, and it wasn't even close. In sixteen races, the threesome won 13 of the 16 races. Of the possible 48 podium finishes earned by a team, Penske collected 29 of them, including four 1-2-3 finishes.

Some historians argue that the Mercedes-Ilmor engine in the back of that Penske is what drove Tony George to creating the IRL to rival the CART Series starting in 1996. If you haven't read The Beast by Jade Gurss, do so immediately. But this individual season by the 1994 Team Penske lineup is one of the greatest of all-time.

Al Unser Jr. in one of "The Beasts" in 1994 (Photo credit not given)


2) Dixon - Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing - 2009-2010*, 2011-2013**)

It is pretty unprecedented to see two teammates win four championships in five seasons (five of six if you count Scott Dixon's championship in 2008 when Dario wasn't there). But Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti went on an absolute tear in 2009 and onwards. Franchitti would win the 2009, 2010, and 2011 championships and the 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis 500. Dixon won the Indianapolis 500 and the Championship in 2008 (even though Dario wasn't his teammate) and the 2013 Championship.

It's rare to see such dominance, especially in an era of IndyCar where most everything was controlled: everyone had the same chassis, same tires, and same engines in 2009-2011 and relatively same power units between 2012-2013 despite multiple manufacturers. But it became apparent that the Target cars were always going to contend no matter what track it was and how well the other teams were racing.

The statistics for these two drivers through their five years as teammates is staggering. In five seasons and 85 races, these two collected 29 wins and 72 podiums. These two will go down as two of the greatest drivers in IndyCar history, and this five year stretch has a lot to do with that.

*Two-car team.
**Starting in 2011, Chip Ganassi Racing expanded to four cars, but the two additional cars were a part of the satellite program and thus not included in the statistics.

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 3
The iconic red Target cars of Franchitti and Dixon (Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images North America)


1) Franchitti - Herta - Kanaan - Wheldon (Andretti-Green Racing - 2003-2005)

This team, while being statistically one of the best teams, wasn't as good as others on this list. This team didn't have drivers that at the time would be considered elite, top-class drivers. This team didn't include big money sponsors. They were not a vastly experienced, well established team like that of Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske, who dominates the majority of this list. What this team did have was something you don't find too often in the cutthroat world of racing: cohesiveness, a family-like mentality, personality that attracted fans from everywhere, and a passion for winning.

This team lineup was the brainchild of retired driver Michael Andretti. CART veterans Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, and Tony Kanaan jumped over to the rising oval-only IRL Series in 2003 (they would introduce road courses in 2005) with relatively unknown Brit Dan Wheldon joined forces for their first full-time season in the IRL under the Andretti-Green Racing banner. With injuries, retirements (Andretti did race a couple of races before his first retirement for IRL), and a "breaking-in" period, 2003 wasn't a good measuring stick for the squad. In 2004, the team would be utterly dominant. Tony Kanaan would win the championship and established a record that will likely never be beaten: he finished every lap in the season. Kanaan ran away with the championship, while Wheldon finished second, Franchitti sixth, and Herta ninth.

2005 was the year Dan Wheldon established himself as an IndyCar great. He won four of the first five races, including his first of two Indianapolis 500 wins. He would continue to wow fans with his aggressive, no-holds-barred driving style on his way to two more wins and the championship. Kanaan would finish second, Franchitti fourth, and Herta eighth. After 2005, Wheldon went to Ganassi and then various other teams before losing his life in 2011, Herta would drive for the team one more year before retiring and becoming an owner, Franchitti would switch to NASCAR in 2008 and then Ganassi in 2009-2013 before a forced retirement, while Kanaan still drives today for, you guessed it, Ganassi.

Still, these four drivers and their team owner did something special. It was unprecedented to see four full-time cars at all, let alone four full-time cars who worked so well together to push the team forward. This officially marked the dawn of Andretti-Green Racing (now known as Andretti Autosport) as a super-team in IndyCar. As individuals, these drivers may not stack well against the Zanardis, Meers, Andrettis, or Foyts of the world, but make no mistake, this was the greatest driver lineup ever assembled in IndyCar.

Over the three seasons, the foursome amassed 21 wins and 63 podiums in 49 races. They were also the first team to complete a 1-2-3-4 finish, doing it at the inaugural IRL road race in St. Petersburg in 2005.

#7 Bryan Herta (Photo: Getty Images)

#11 Tony Kanaan (Photo: Speed Sport Magazine)

#26 Dan Wheldon (Photo: Motorsport)

#27 Dario Franchitti (Photo: Motorsport)

(L to R) Franchitti, Kanaan, Andretti, Wheldon, and Herta (Photo: Motorsport.com)

One of the last known photos of the four of them together
(Photo from Bryan Herta's Twitter Account)

 Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey