Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top 10 Things We Will Remember From 2015

2015, like most years, was an eventful year for the Verizon Indycar Season. There were lots of ups and downs, gaffs and triumphs, winners and losers (and cone of shame winners). Here are the Top 10 things that I think we will be remembering most from the 2015 Indycar Season:

10. Josef Newgarden's first win / Barber
Josef Newgarden's first win was an absolute treat to anyone who watched it. The young American who has been battling with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for years to be relevant had a breakthrough race, sticking it to the big dogs of Indycar on his way to his first career win. It was an easy win to celebrate for fans across Indycar, as Josef is one of the most likable guys in Indycar. But again, the whole Barber race was an absolute fire cracker of a race. A track that has hosted some snoozers in the past sure put on one hell of a show in 2015.


9. NOLA
NOLA is on this list for all of the wrong reasons. It probably goes down in my books as one of the worst races in the history of Indycar (or even racing). The start of the race was calm on the soaked track in Louisiana. The calmness was followed by caution after caution, making for a terribly boring and uneventful race. The checkers were thrown after it became a timed race, and James Hinchcliffe was declared the winner. Icing on the cake? NOLA turned out to be screwed from the get go, as corruption and financial issues wound up booting NOLA off the schedule for next year. What a joke.

Kanaan gets stuck in the race. I was too lazy to make a metaphor about this spin at NOLA in comparison
 to NOLA no longer being on the schedule for 2016 (Photo: Indycar Media)

8. Graham Rahal makes an epic run
Many will look back at 2015 and smile at the fantastic run Graham Rahal made. He came very close to winning the championship despite many critics who said he wouldn't have a chance. With two terrible years behind him, he and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing completed their complete 180 of a season by finishing fourth in the championship with two wins. I really do hope this is a sign of things to come because Graham can be a fan-favorite if he is known more as a champion rather than Bobby's son.


7. Penske throws away title hopes
In heroic fashion, Team Penske came into the final race with three legitimate chances (Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, and Helio Castroneves) to win the championship, and all three left with nothing. Power was even generous enough to take out his teammate Montoya, who had the best chance of all of them, along the way. Helio was a non-factor from the start of the race, which lines up perfectly with his championship clinching performances in years past. The fact that neither of them were fast enough to stop Scott Dixon and the well oiled machine over there at Chip Ganassi Racing was frankly embarrassing for Roger Penske. Look for the captain's revenge in 2016.


6. Sage Karam vs. Ed Carpenter
In one corner, you have the willy, seasoned, stubborn, 'I'm never wrong,' team-owner/driver Ed Carpenter. In the other corner, you have rookie, young gun, fast, and correagoues rookie Sage Karam. Karam, who was becoming known more for his off the track antics than on track maneuvers (deleting tweets, referring to Takuma Sato's crash at Indy as 'Japanese takeout,' posing without shirts on Instagram, etc.) needed a result to point at as a highlight of his season. This would eventually come at the expsense of Ed, who was being raced hard, and dirty in his mind, in the late stages at the race in Iowa. Karam came home with a podium, while Ed was left angry. The two exchanged words after the race, and they continue to poke fun at each other to this day.



          


5. Indianapolis 500
Per usual, the Indianapolis 500 was a phenomenal race that many people will look back on as being epic. Great action, drama, and a fantastic finish all made the event great. In the end, Juan Pablo Montoya carved through the field after facing early issues to hold off Will Power for the win. It was an epic dual between two amazing drivers. Both were aggressive, yet knew when to back off. Just add it to the list of great Indianapolis 500s, especially in recent memory.


4. Goodbye Fontana
This one hurts. The 2015 MAVTV 500 may be the most exhilarating race I have ever seen. Many drivers and fans clamored over the returning of pack racing on a fast track. However unintentional it was, Indycar produced a product that got everyone talking about this race. There were media posts about the race weeks after it concluded. Constant two, three, even four-wide racing was seen throughout the race. While the pack would eventually sprawl out through long green-flag runs, many still considered the race unskillful and unnecessary. I think it is one of the best races of all-time. Graham Rahal won, and it will also be remembered for the huge crash we sat at the end between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe. I will miss this type of racing so much, as we probably won't see a race like it for another five years.

Photo: Indycar Media

3. Aerokits
The aerokits that Randy Bernard had envisioned for the DW12 ever since it was selected way-back-when was FINALLY put to use in 2015 to the joy and dismay of many. The pros of the aerokits were they: gave the cars more grip thus making them faster, they gave a chance for Chevrolet and Honda to flex their creative muscles, and it attracted attention from leading engineers and aerodynamicists (and fans who liked innovation) to Indycar. The cons of the aerokits: they cost too much, they can create huge performance gaps between Honda and Chevy, the winglets were too fragile, and they made the cars seem bulky and uneasy on the eyes (if you know what I mean), While I myself am not offering a stance on aerokits here, I am noting that 2015 will be remembered as the year aerokits were introduced to Indycar.


2. Carnage leading up to the Indianapolis 500
The buildup to the 2015 Indianapolis 500 was marred by a series of frightening and nearly fatal accidents. Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, and Ed Carpenter all flipped their cars during practice and qualifying week. All three walked away unhurt. Pippa Mann had a nasty run in with the pit divider wall. While at first it seemed like all she suffered was a limp. it later became apparent that her leg injury was a fracture. She was able to race on. James Hinchcliffe suffered a fluke mechanical failure that saw him crush the wall, causing a piece of suspension to pierce his leg. Hinch almost bled out in the car but was saved by the safety workers. He would not race for the rest of the season. All-in-all, it was a terrible week for Indycar, one that the national media skewered the series for.


1. The loss of Justin Wilson
The death of a driver, as tragic as it is, seems to overshadow the events of a season. Justin Wilson, a veteran to Indycar and one of the most liked guys in the paddock, died in the second-to-last race at Pocono after his head was struck by debris from a crash. His death put a bitter taste if the mouths of everyone as the season concluded. Wilson's death came at the end of the season and began to be overshadow the season, just like Greg Moore's death in 1999 and Dan Wheldon's death in 2011. It leaves a black cloud over the season just like those other two examples because like Greg and Dan, Justin was an amazing driver and an amazing person. It's hard to imagine Indycar without certain people racing in it. As tragic as Justin's death is, Indycar must do their best to learn from the accident and move forward. Sadly, the 2015 Indycar Season will likely be remembered as Justin's final season as a driver, one that many will look back on with sadness.


Photo: Indycar Media

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