Still In the Mirror

Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2006 | 0 comments »
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“With 10 (laps) to go, I thought everything was good, but I saw an orange dot in my mirror, and I couldn’t believe (Meira) caught us like that.” – Helio Castroneves
So it goes for Vitor In the Mirror, who for the third time this season was phenomenal yet finished in the winner’s mirror in second place. The Mirror Man is getting quite a bit of publicity for his run of second-place finishes, and it seems he has turned into the IRL’s version of Susan Lucci by becoming more popular by NOT winning.

What is just as impressive is that the Mirror Man has two third places to go along with his three runner-up finishes. In his career he has 21 top 5 finishes in 57 starts, which is rather exceptional when you measure him up against the titans of the IRL. Here are the current drivers' Career Top 5 finishes.

Kanaan: 42 in 61 races (68.9%)
Wheldon: 36 in 60 races (60.0%)
Castroneves: 42 in 77 races (54.5%)
Hornish: 52 in 96 races (54.2%)
Meira: 21 in 57 races (36.8%)
Dixon: 18 in 60 races (30.0%)

How you like those apples? Now look at this list with Career Wins.

Kanaan: 7 wins
Wheldon: 10 wins
Castroneves: 11 wins
Hornish: 17 wins
Meira: The Big Donut
Dixon: 6 wins

Note the others on the list have had the benefit of driving for one of the Big Three teams (Penske, Ganassi, AGR), and poor Vitor got the boot from RLR last year after Paul Dana showed up with a sponsorship in hand from Ethanol. In retrospect, this was probably a blessing, as the Panther Racing team continues to show how to compete with a one car operation. Not to get off the subject, but this is the team that had success with Scott Goodyear and Boulder Sam before suffering through two seasons of The Wrecker. Clearly John Barnes and the rest of the Panther team are showing that you don’t have to field two to four cars to be competitive.

OK, the Mirror Man has no wins, but at this point 57 races without a win – and with all those top 5s - is a pretty impressive streak. On the one hand I’d like to see him win, but like Lucci he has reached the point where he can stretch more publicity out of NOT winning. Who else is going to get repeated stories for finishing in second place?

And in case you were wondering, should the Mirror Man get into the winner’s circle, then next habitual runner-up would be Ed Carpenter George. ECG has 45 starts without a single top 5, and he has but one top 10. It appears he could go without a win for a looooooooong time.