Around the Horn: September 2014

Around the Horn is back for another installment! Around the Horn is a show that airs on ESPN, where a panel of journalists discuss sports related issues. I have assembled a panel to discuss Indycar issues once a month. Your job as the reader is to share your opinions with anyone you agree/disagree with! Please make your voice heard! Here is this month's panel (make sure to give them all a follow on Twitter):

  • Jake Neely, Twitter handle is @indycarfan25, answers are labeled as JN
  • Lynn Weinberg, Twitter handle is @lynnweinberg, answers are labeled as LW
  • Sophie Hanson, Twitter handle is @Sophie_Hansons3, answers are labeled as SOPH
  • Brian Keifer, Twitter Handle is @briankeifer, answers labeled as BK
  • Sarah Hall, Twitter handle is @flywheel011, answers labeled as SAR
  • James Alban, Twitter handle is @TheKing0fSwing, answers labeled as JA
  • Mathew Gruenholz, Twitter handle is @IndyCarSTIG, answers labeled as STIG
  • Me, Twitter handle is @Indycar_MN, answers labeled MH

1) The First Word (opening topic)

Thoughts on Will Power winning the championship?

Will Power - MAVTV 500 - Day 2
He's finally done it (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

JN: If you read my tweets you know I'm not a William Power fan at all but let's be honest the guy was due to win a championship. He should have won 2 or 3 already. So I'm happy for him because he went through so many heartbreaks to get to this point.

LW: Not many drivers evoke such a wide array of “love/hate” as Will Power. I’ve always been indifferent, I liked him ok, but I never thought he deserved the championship, until this year. Now that he’s proved himself on all types of tracks, he’s earned it, and I’m happy for him. Most people know I’m a huge Helio fan, but I’m also a fan of good racing, and Will and Helio Castroneves provided that right up until the end! What a great year!

SOPH: I am so happy for Will Power winning the championship, I think he needed it for Roger Penske and for himself. With Helio Castroneves having Indy 500 wins, and Will not having any and also no championship wins, I think this definitely secures him a spot on Penske for a long time. I think it is a confidence boost for him, he finally won a life long dream after coming so close many times before.

BK: It was overdue. I’m not a Will Power fan, but I certainly respect all of the work he’s put in to making sure he’s one of the best all-around drivers in the series. With the Astor Cup monkey off of his back, it will be interesting to see if there’s a difference in his driving next season.

SARWill Power deserves it. I'm far from his biggest fan, as I'd like to see him learn to keep a cool head when he needs to, but he IS in a class of his own. And it's always nice to see someone's lifelong dream come true.

JA: Definitely well deserved! You could hear the emotion as he crossed the finish line and the tears were flowing! Congrats to DJ Willy P!

STIGWill Power fought REALLY hard for this one, he impressed many with his determination and skill, as well as burned a few bridges with over aggressive driving (and blocking). In the end though, he deserves it.

MH: Everyone knows that I am really not the biggest Will Power fan, but I was really happy to see a driver get their dream to come true. Congrats to him and all of Team Penske. Can't wait to see the #1 car back next season!

2) Buy or Sell (buy = agree with statement, sell = disagree)

Simon Pagenaud will be back with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports in 2015.

Simon Pagenaud - GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma: Day 3
Where oh where will Pagenaud land? (Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images North America)

JN: Sell, I read some of Simon Pagenaud's press conference after the finale and he was thanking the SPM for a great 3 years. It almost sounded like Dario in 2007 before he went to Nascar.

LW: SELL-I read an article a while back where Simon Pagenaud stated that his priority was being somewhere with top-notch equipment. Andretti could provide that. No matter what someone says, money is always going to be a factor, and I just don’t think SPHM has the resources to give him what he deserves.

SOPH: Sell. I was in line for the autograph session with his very close friend from racing in France, and from what I understand Simon Pagenaud has a couple good offers. But, we also don't have to worry about him going to F1 because he loves racing here. So, I will be veryyy shocked if he ends up back with SPM.

BK: Sell. I think Simon Pagenaud’s stock is still on its way up and that we’ll see him under the Andretti Autosport banner next year. With that said, I’d rather see him stick with Sam and keep a small team in the running both for individual race wins as well as the championship.

SAR: Buy. SPM has made quite a statement this year, and it'll be good for Simon Pagenaud to continue to develop a strong relationship there. I think we will see him with a top team eventually, but he has time for that.

JA: Sell...Some may think Simon Pagenaud might be headed to Formula 1 as he is testing the power unit for Honda soon. Possibly Andretti Autosport might suit him better.

STIG: SELL (but not an impulse sell) Simon Pagenaud did VERY well with Schmidt and is a hot commodity right now and a bigger team like Andretti could most likely sign him, we'll see in the next few months.

MH: Simon Pagenaud has a special thing going with Sam Schmidt and Rob Edwards, but at the end of the day, passing on a deal to go to Andretti Autosport would be kind of foolish. I could see Pagenaud returning, but only if Michael Andretti can't find funding for a fifth car.

3) Out of Bounds (issue about Indycar outside of the track)

Do you see Mikhail Aleshin making a full mental comeback (as in he will still keep his fearlessness that we've seen) on the ovals after his terrible crash at Fontana?

Mikhail Aleshin - Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Hope Aleshin is back 100% next season (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images North America)

JN: Yes I fully believe Mikhail Aleshin will return with the same fearlessness he showed up with. The guy is a real racer and nothing can ever take that away from him.

LW: I don’t think we know enough about Mikhail Aleshin’s medical condition at this point to answer that question. He certainly drives pretty fearlessly, so I hope that during the off season, he would be able to recover fully.

SOPH: I see Mikhail Aleshin making a complete comeback. I don't think it will faze him once he gets back in the car. He seems to be a fearless driver and can't wait to see him back in the car!

BK: I really hope so. Mikhail Aleshin brings a new audience to the series and the lengths to which he went in order to introduce himself to the current fans really made me want to see more of him. Oh, and he’s also a darn good driver.

SAR: Oh my gosh I hope so. Mikhail Aleshin's fearlessness is what caught my eye in Indy, and what made me such a big fan and supporter of him. Plus we all know how badass he really is, so I think it's more likely that we'll see the same Mikhail in 2015!

JA: Not right away. Give Mikhail Aleshin some time, hopefully the off season testing will help. But at some point, he shall be back 100%.

STIGMikhail Aleshin will be fine, his racing mentality is intact. Just a bump in the road for this Russian.

MH: Part of what makes fans love Mikhail Aleshin is his fearlesness and his ability to push the ragged edge. I do not think this crash will have an impact on him. We've seen drivers like Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, and Simona de Silvestro make comebacks after terrible accidents, so Mikhail will do the same.

4) Showdown (conclusion)

Who was your biggest surprise and biggest disappointment from the 2014 season in your point of view?

Juan Pablo Montoya - Texas Motor Speedway: Day 2
The panel, and a lot of fans would agree that JPM was the biggest surprise of the season
(Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

JN: Biggest surprise for me would have to be Juan Pablo Montoya. We all knew he would do well but as well as he did I would have never guessed that. Biggest disappointment would have to be James Hinchcliffe. After winning three races last season I thought this would be a championship year for him but he just never got the season going with all the bad luck.

LW: Biggest Surprise - From a Fantasy IndyCar perspective, I’d have to say Ryan Briscoe. About 6 races into the season, I decided to calculate everyone’s average finish. I was surprised to realize that Briscoe was very consistently finishing in the top 12. I know that’s not great, but picking him in Fantasy IndyCar was a good, safe bet, because he had no 30th place finishes. Biggest Disappointment - I think I would say Josef Newgrarden. This guy needs a win. He needs to prove himself. I hate to say that, because by all accounts, he seems to be a nice guy and the team is very well liked, but something isn’t clicking, and it’s been 3 years now.

SOPH: Biggest disappointment I think was Tony Kanaan. I loveee TK as a person and a driver, but since he moved to the big team of Ganassi he was not having the results we expected out of him. Biggest surprise was Juan Pablo Montoya, he definitely came back stronger than ever and I did not think he was going to be able to do that after many years of being out of an Indycar.

BK: The biggest surprise for me is Juan Pablo Montoya and how well he did on his first season back. My biggest disappointment is (and always will be until it happens) the absence of a strong Andretti/Rahal rivalry. RLL should have been contenders this season with all of the money and talent they acquired last offseason.

SAR: My biggest surprise is the combined talent of the 2014 rookie class. We all knew we'd be seeing Carlos Munoz killing it, but I don't think anyone saw Jack Hawksworth, Sage Karam, and Mikhail Aleshin making names for themselves as well. My biggest disappointment was Andretti Autosport; they've been up and down over the hears, but I really thought they had found something last season that would carry over.

JA: Biggest surprise: The victory by Carlos Huertas at Houston! Biggest disappointment: Graham Rahal's season. He had a rough year, some decent finishes, but I thought he would've had at least one victory.

STIG: I wouldn't say it was a big surprise, but Josef Newgarden charging through the field and contending for the win in multiple races was a pleasant and welcome one! A disappointment was Takuma Sato, so many mistakes, WTFs? and unimpressive races this year really got us scratching our heads about him, maybe he'll turn it around in 2015.

MH: Biggest surprise was all of the rookies, especially Mikhail Aleshin. No one saw him having the type of season that he had. Biggest disappointment was Justin Wilson. I hardly heard his name called all year. Wonder what was going on at Dale Coyne Racing this season.

Thanks to everyone for reading! Stay tuned at the end of each month for a chance to end up on next month's panel.

-Matthew Hickey