Honest Thoughts: 2016 Drivers

Well, there's not a whole lot to introduce other than to say, here are my unfiltered thoughts on the drivers we saw compete in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series as well as a keywords that sums up their year (alphabetical by first name):

Alex Tagliani

Tags was pretty much performed as expected driving for AJ Foyt Enterprises, the worst team in 2016, doing virtually nothing with his seemingly un-ending chances in IndyCar. 200-something starts, and Tagliani has still done nothing for me. Think it is time for this veteran to retire.

Keywords: Hawksworth outperformed him.

Alexander Rossi

The king of double points races, Alexander Rossi was equal parts impressive and equal parts unimpressive. His win at Indianapolis was nothing short of special, but many other races on the year he was a non-factor. An impressive rookie campaign sets him up for years of success in IndyCar. I think he should be much better overall next year.

Keywords: Please don't go back to Manor.

Indianapolis 500
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America

Bryan Clauson

Bryan Clauson raced his last IndyCar race for Dale Coyne Racing and Jonathan Byrd in the 100th Indianapolis 500. He did lead laps, but it was ultimately a participation race for Bryan, who didn't factor up front. It is very sad that he is no longer with us. Rest in peace Bryan.

Keywords: Led the 100th lap of the 100th 500.

Buddy Lazier

Buddy Lazier had a much better program this year, versus in years past where he would get on track on Fast Friday and expect to do something in the race. While he got more practice, Buddy once again needed a buddy in the race but, again, he was a non-factor. I think the team has a chance to grow if they start developing a driver or if they consider starting an Indy Lights team and going from there.

Keywords: Worthless. But at least Quiznos likes him.

Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz had a rough start to the season, but again proved himself to be a talented and very fast driver. His second place finish at Indianapolis was part epic and part heartbreaking given his emotional distress in the pits. Still, finding a way to finish highest in points in a team like Andretti Autosport is impressive.

Keywords: Future championship contender.

Charlie Kimball

I am so tired of Charlie Kimball doing absolutely nothing at Chip Ganassi Racing. We all know clear as day that this is a paid ride from major sponsors that, coupled with a personal relationship with Chip Ganassi, keeps Charlie in the car. It May be on "Ganassi's B-Team," but he still struggles to qualify and to stay consistent. He flashes speed and brilliance in some races and sheer ineptitude in others. He's also gotten into a lot more incidents than in years past.

Keywords: Human pinball.

Conor Daly

Some tough breaks, like a bad pit stop in St. Petersburg and a part failure while in P6 at Road America, deflated Conor's standing in the championship. While there is definitely areas that need to be worked on (especially on ovals, though it's tough to determine how much of that was in the car, since his teammates struggled too), Conor has unlimited potential in IndyCar if he is given the chance in a winning car.

Keywords: Someone sponsor him next year.

Ed Carpenter

As I've highlighted in the past, Ed Carpenter has become a marquee owner in the IndyCar Series. Meanwhile, his driving has continued to suffer. It's weird because ever since Josef Newgarden arrived at ECR, Ed has been worthless when it comes to results. Sure, a lot of results come at the expense of mechanical failures, but still, something has to give. Unforunately for the rest of us, Ed Carpenter is keen on keeping Ed Carpenter in the seat of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing machine.

Keywords: Well, he's not going to fire himself.

Gabby Chaves

While the results were supremely disappointing for Chaves, we have to remember that on ovals, Dale Coyne Racing was very unimpressive. Still, despite good results going, something seemingly always went wrong at every race. A pit limiter failed, the drink bottle failed, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever it is, Gabby Chaves didn't do much for me this year.

Keywords: Positively unimpressive.

Graham Rahal

Once again, Graham Rahal was the lead Honda in the championship standings surrounded by a score of Chevrolets. An amazing win at Texas capped off a solid year where some things didn't go their way, but in the end, it was still a great season.

Keywords: Rahal 4, Andretti 2.

Helio Castroneves

I'm sure many of you are aware of my stance on Helio: I don't care how good your statistics are or how many Indianapolis 500s you've won: if you haven't won a championship, your name doesn't belong in the same sentence as Rick Mears, Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and the many other greats of IndyCar. Low and behold, no wins and no championship again for Helio.

Keywords: The best to never win a championship...?

JR Hildebrand

Tough luck at GPI and a solid run during the Indianapolis 500 caps off another sparse year for JR Hildebrand in Indycar. JR spent the year again with Ed Carpenter Racing. He's got the stigma of being a young, disgraced from Panther Racing driver who won't be given a shot anywhere else. It's a shame for him really.

Keywords: IndyCar's most valuable test driver.

Jack Hawksworth

I have never seen such an unimpressive season than I saw from Jack Hawksowrth. In an average field size of 22, Jack did the statistically impossible of not scoring a single top-ten in sixteen races. How the hell is that even possible? You figured sheer dumb luck would carry him to a random top-ten somewhere. Even Hiro Matsushita got a top-ten here and there. I would not be surprised if we've seen the last of Hawksworth in IndyCar.

Keywords: Guess blind squirrels don't find nuts after all.

James Hinchcliffe

What a comeback story for James Hinchcliffe, who almost lost his life in 2015. Still, I was the eternal pessimist who wanted to look past the comeback story and thought to my self, can James actually do anything at a "small" team like Schmidt Peterson Motorsports? Take away the fluke win at NOLA in 2015, and I had my doubts. Well, Hinch did an unreal job in 2016. Some rough races here and there, but overall, he was the Hinch we saw at Andretti Autosport. He was great this year.

Keywords: Hammerdown on the dance floor.

Sonoma Raceway - Day 1
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden followed a long awaited breakout year in 2015 with a consistent and gutsy 2016 season. With speculation following him all season on where his future would be in IndyCar, Josef put in great efforts at nearly every race. A P3 finish at the 100th Indianapolis 500 is greater than he'll elude to, but his races at Road America and beyond after breaking his collarbone and his hand in a nasty crash in Texas was nothing short of amazing. He was part cyborg. Now that his time appears to be beginning at Team Penske, the sky is the limit for Josef.

Keywords: Pack your bags, we're moving to Charlotte!

Juan Pablo Montoya

A year filled with many ups, like winning again at St. Petersburg, and many lows, like finishing last in the 100th Indianapolis 500, made it a tough year for Juan Pablo Montoya. There was something bothersome about Montoya's season though. It was the races that you expected him to perform well at where he was seemingly non-existent. Pocono and Texas are two that come to mind, both races where he snuck into the bottom of the top-ten but was irrelevant for a majority of the race.

Keywords: The red-headed step-child at Penske.

Luca Filippi

Luca Filippi got another chance in IndyCar, this time with Dale Coyne Racing. With that came some time to cope with ovals. Unfortunately, Luca failed to make an impression, so much so that Dale Coyne gave his seat to Gabby Chaves for May. That doesn't bode well for the future of Luca in IndyCar unless he finds sponsors.

Keywords: The only guy to really be bumped for the 500.

Marco Andretti

Oh my lord, Marco Andretti was so bad this year. To his credit, Marco has accepted the criticism placed at his feet for driving so poorly, but it's not like the criticism should just go away because he's being humble about the situation. His qualifying was absouletly horrendous, he was unflattering on ovals, and he only had a couple finishes in the top-ten.

Keywords: #*insert number here*in17

Matthew Brabham

Matthew Brabham got a deal inked well before May to race for Team Pirtek Murray and KV Racing, and the deal came to fruition. While Matty didn't get good results with his time in the car, the experience is surely something he'll bring to the table in the future.

Keywords: That last name rings a bell.

Max Chilton

Max Chilton completed the jump to IndyCar with a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. While the expectations were high, he ultimately fell short. Max was fast on natural road courses and the short ovals, but was pretty dog shit on street courses and high-speed ovals. He has the potential to do great things, he'll just need time to grow. With financial backing, he'll get more time for sure.

Keywords: Anything is better than a seat with Marussia.

Sonoma Raceway - Day 1
Photo: Lachian Cunningham / Getty Images North America

Mikhail Aleshin

Ah, it's so good to have Mikhail Aleshin back in IndyCar. The Mad Russian shows his badassary through his driving and his skills, while also being a badass on camera. A mix of good results, bad results, and bad luck means Mikhail has done enough to merit a ride again in 2017. Hopefully he'll continue to be a badass in the future.

Keywords: Mad Russians are mad.

Oriol Servia

Another year, and Oriol Servia still manages to get on the grid in some way, shape, or form. Servia had some impressive passes at Indy, but I wonder how many more years he has in him before he retires.

Keywords: Penske's 5th wheel.

Pippa Mann

Back with Dale Coyne for the fourth straight year, Pippa Mann scraped together an Indy 500 deal plus a chance to race at the other oval she loves on the schedule, Pocono. Representing those without a Y chromosome, Pippa did okay in the 100th Indianapolis 500, and did whatever she could with an ailing oval setup at Pocono. There's no reason to think the favorite amongst many IndyCar fans won't be back in 2017.

Keywords: Pink is the new black.

RC Enerson

Not going to lie, RC Enerson was quick in his three races with Dale Coyne Racing, but I don't think he's the next greatest thing just yet. We said the same thing about Jack Hawksworth early on in 2014. His Indy Lights pedigree isn't that outstanding, but he is young and has a lot of potential.

Keywords: Ray Charles.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Man, Ryan Hunter-Reay was painful to watch this year. He was either fast and finished well, fast and had something go wrong, or all-around slow. The worst was the Indy 500, where he maybe had the best car, only to get into an incident with teammate Townsend Bell. It's good that he and DHL worked out a long term deal for him to stay at Andretti Autosport, but hopefully a better 2017 is in store.

Keywords: Still better than Marco.

Sage Karam

Many cult followers of Sage Karam like myself were quite disappointed when Sage did not get a full-time deal together for the 2016 season, so we had to settle for Sage racing at the Indy 500. It's just a damn shame he crashed, as the race could have vaulted him back into the contention for many races in 2017. While hope isn't lost, Sage can't afford to squander many more opportunities.

Keywords: He wore a shirt this year!

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon had a couple unfortunate situations transpire in 2016. The chief amongst which was a mechanical failure at Road America a handful of laps in. Normally, Dixon starts out very slow in the championship and eventually works his way up to the top of the sheet. This year, he started out fast and suffered in the mid-portion of the season. With new sponsors next year, expect to see a different kind of Dixon in 2017.

Keywords: No longer has a bullseye on his back.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais was a mix of talented and unlucky. His unorthodox season of doing well on every oval while simultaneously struggle-bussing on some road courses was a bit odd. I know he's progressed quite a ways on ovals, but not to the point where he was the only one to finish in the top-ten on all five ovals this season. Still, many first lap incidents threw him out of contention in three races.

Keywords: First lap is the hardest *sing like 'The First Cut is the Deepest' by Sheryl Crow*.

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud was equal parts dominant and mad gangster out on the track. You could see early on that the first year at Team Penske wasn't indicative of his skill level or speed. In a year where another poor season would call into question whether he should be at Penske or not, Pagenaud proved his worth by being a factor at every race. He was a couple of misfires (Road America, Indianapolis) from being close to a near perfect season. Now he has the label of IndyCar Champion for the remainder of his career.

Keywords: Darth Pagenaud.

Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600
Photo: Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images North America)

Spencer Pigot

2015 Indy Lights Champion Spencer Pigot got his mandatory three race deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at St. Petersburg, GPI, and the Indianapolis 500. Of those three, he was easily most impressive at St. Petersburg. After putting in performances that proved he could race an IndyCar, Ed Carpenter brought him in to the ECR stable to race the #20 car on road courses following Indianapolis. Pigot made the most the opportunity, scoring some good finishes at Road America and Mid-Ohio. While he still needs time to grow, it was a positive start to Spencer Pigot's IndyCar career.

Keywords: No, he and Josef are not related.

Stefan Wilson

A long awaited Indy 500 debut came to fruition for Stefan Wilson in 2016. The Englishman, who only started one other race three years ago at Baltimore, didn't do a whole lot for me at Indianapolis. Some things I've learned is that he's a really nice guy, he loves doing the little things for fans, and he is a talented driver. But to be completely honest, I think one of the key factors that got him a ride was that he Justin Wilson's little brother. He'll have to find sponsorship to keep racing because I don't think he's earned one on merit. His Drive 2 Save Lives campaign was a solid one though given the heroic actions of his brother to donate his organs. Those Wilson boys are some of the nicest you'll find.

Keywords: Fine Stefan, they can take my Kidneys.

Takuma Sato

I think we finally have been put out of our misery and will see the last of Takuma Sato in 2016. The long ennammered one-time winner in IndyCar continues to be Dallara's biggest asset. While he put in some very good races like a P6 in St. Petersburg and a top-five in Toronto, Sato continues to not be consistent. The most classic of Sato moments happened at Pocono, where he was on record saying that turn three would be tough with the wind but it shouldn't be a problem. The green flag came out, Sato got to turn three and, well, crashed. To make it worse, it was his sponsors home race. The poor sponsors were left to root for Jack Hawksworth. That's like trying to root for one of our presidential candidates.It'll take deep pockets from Honda or Panasonic (or both) to keep Sato in IndyCar, because teams won't touch him with a ten-foot pole otherwise.

Keywords: Japanese Takeout.

Tony Kanaan

There was a time halfway through the season where Tony Kanaan, who every keyboard gangster had decided last season would be replaced by Josef Newgarden, was still set to be replaced by Josef Newgarden this offseason despite being second in points (which is confusing). Some great results at Road America, Texas, and a solid finish in a sea of young guns at Indianapolis put Kanaan in good form in the championship. Only complaint? No wins since Fontana 2014. Still, Kanaan will be somewhere next year, and I think that is a very good thing.

Keywords: 40 is the new 20.

Townsend Bell

First off, it never hit me that Townsend's name is Townesend. That's an interesting one. I'm not really in the position of laughing at other people's names, but it just struck me that his name in Townsend. Anyways, the guy who is now famous for being in the NBCSN booth still graces us with his presence at Indianapolis every season. He got a deal with Andretti Autosport, who turned out to be the strongest team at Indianapolis this year. Much to no one's surprise, Townsend was incredibly fast from the start. Also much to no one's surprise, he blew it in the race. He was fighting with drivers like it was the last lap on lap 44, and he made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the pits, taking two strong cars out of contention.


Will Power

Will Power was one ear infection away from having a legitimate chance at taking the IndyCar Championship fight to Simon Pagenaud. While Power was only down over 40 points to Pagenaud heading into Sonoma, 4 points would have been a lot more manageable. Also, the fact that he even got as close as 40-ish points, which was insanely difficult based on the incredible start Pagenaud had to his season, shows just how good Will Power can be.

Keywords: Why don't you say Wanker anymore?

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-Matthew Hickey