2007 Season Cheat Sheet

Posted by Iannucci | 3/16/2007 | 3 comments »
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It only seems like an Ice Age ago, but the IndyCar season will begin at Homestead a mere 6 months, 14 days, 3 hours, 27 minutes and about a dozen seconds (give or take) after the checkered flag fell on the 2006 season. The time is at hand to fire up the Ethanol and get those Honda-powered Dallaras back to racing.

Here are the facts you need to know about the drivers for the upcoming season, noted in order of predicted finish in the final ICS championship points standings. Bear in mind I’m considering not just the finishes last season but also the addition of two road courses in Detroit and Mid-Ohio as well as the new short track in Iowa. Also note that predictions are for amusement purposes only – don’t blame me for your problematic gambling habit.

1. Spiderman – Were it not for a couple of run-ins with the Notorious E.C.G. last year, Castroneves would have delivered Roger Penske his first ICS championship. Don’t think that doesn’t burn him up, because the series championship is the one accomplishment Castroneves has yet to achieve in an IndyCar. A talented driver on a mission with top notch equipment looks like a winning combination.

2. Iceman – Many people conclude that Dixon’s mastery of road courses means he’s an inferior oval driver. Umm, no. Dixon – who won the series title in 2003 when there were NO ROAD COURSES – was one bad pit stop at Infineon from winning the 2006 title. Two more road courses this year play to his strength, so expect him to content until Chicagoland.

3. El Nariz – Kanaan was the ICS champion in 2004, runner-up in 2005, and AGR engineering victim in 2006, but still managed to win at Milwaukee. He’s generally regarded as the master of restarts, but there were so few yellow flags last season that he was unable to capitalize on this skill. Not only do early results from testing at Homestead look like the engineering gap has closed between AGR and the Red and White Brigade, but Kanaan should also be able to capitalize on all three of the new courses.

4. Well Done - Wheldon won the series title in 2005 and tied for the title in 2006, so he’s the odds on favorite to reclaim the title in 2007, right? Wrong. His average finish on the road courses is 12th, and the Ganassi record on short tracks is bewildering. Those new tracks will hurt his title chances, although he’s still a contender in every race he enters – especially at Indy.

5. Uncle Sam – Hornish won the 2006 series title by tie-breaker over Dan Wheldon, and finished only a few points ahead of Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. The 2007 season features two more road courses, where Sam’s average finish is 11th. Other than repeating at Indy, winning on a twisty will be his 2007 challenge. He needs to dominate at the 12 ovals to have a shot at repeating as champion, but with other teams closing the gap it will be more difficult than last season.

6. The Mirror Man – Meira is so due for a win it’s not even funny, garnering six (six!) podium finishes last season for a one-car team. He may be 0 for 59 in his ICS career, but only Scott Dixon had more points after Indy last year. Panther is back with sponsorship cash and a two-car team, so Meira is going to make more noise in 2007. Too bad for him all those other drives are returning as well.

7. Andretti 3.0 – He’s very young and he’s very good – especially on road courses – but don’t get carried away with the hype. Aside from a Top 5 at Milwaukee (where all four AGR drivers finished in the top 7), Andretti managed no better than 8th on five of the last six ovals last year. Experience will help him improve on that and his desire to race in F1 make success on non-ovals a priority, but don’t expect miracles this season.

8. Danica! – There are many things Michael Andretti is not. He’s not tall, he doesn’t have his face on the Borg Warner trophy and he’s not stupid. Aside from doing everything he can to help his son win, he knows the priority for both his team and the league is to get Patrick in Victory Lane. Super speedways are her specialty (what weight advantage?), and if she can improve at qualifying then she might finally snag a “W”.

9. Jesse James – Instead of closing up shop or switching to Champ Car (isn’t that the same thing?) Dreyer and Reinbold hired more engineers last winter. The cars are faster and now they have an experienced winner in Rice to help turn around their fortunes. After two years of Distractionica, Rice is ready to show everyone he still knows how to drive. He’s also another driver who will benefit from the additional road courses.

10. Mr. Judd – Despite all of his skill and credentials, this season Franchitti may end up relegated to the Bryan Herta role of Test Driver for AGR. If he is it would be a shame since he’s still a good driver on ovals and a really good one on road courses. Expect another solid, consistent but unspectacular season from the Scotsman as well as more fun interviews with his wife.

11. The Wrecker – His wreckage level went way down last year, but the Vision team will need a whole lot of luck for Scheckter to come anywhere near victory lane this season. Perhaps having an inferior ride is teaching him patience, which is a trait that can often lead to random top 5 finishes for a driver of his skill level. But inferior is still inferior, and cracking the Top 10 at any race will be incredibly difficult.

12. The Immortal – After separate forgettable seasons for both Sharp and Rahal, the two have united in the hopes of improving each other’s fortunes. This will be easier said then done, since the stiff competition this year gives them little margin for error. As he proved in Kentucky in 2005, Sharp is still capable of winning a race with competitive equipment. However the season is long and there is much work to be done.

13. Spock – How is it a driver can finish in the top 10 in six of the last seven races last year and be predicted to finish 13th OVERALL? The other drivers are that good. Simmons is perhaps the last driver on the list who could actually win a race in 2007, but that doesn’t mean he will. While he appears to be comfortable with his Ethanol sponsorship, a solid season could place him in contention for replacing any possible NASCAR exports from the more successful teams.

14. Sukiyaki – In the song “Sukiyaki” Kyu Sakamoto sings “Looking up while walking so tears won’t fall.” While no one ever called Matsuura a crybaby, he’s probably feeling somber about having a talented driver like Hideki Mutoh auditioning in Indy Pro for Matsuura’s job. With Panther engineering it is conceivable for Matsuura to sneak into the top 5 at any given race, but this is probably his farewell tour through the ICS.

15. Ed Carpenter George – After wrecking at Motegi last season, Carpenter managed to finish in the top 12 in every race except Milwaukee. It’s true. He still only has eight Top 10s in 48 starts, but six of those came last year. Michael Andretti is a better bet to win a race in 2007, but Carpenter is no longer a punchline with his career finally on the upswing.

16. Danger Mouse – It could be safely said that you could return AJ Foyt to his prime as a driver and put him in the current Foyt entry and still struggle to make the Top 10 at any point this season. The difference between the #14 and the others above is so significant that being passed on ovals will seem like Groundhog Day to Manning. That said, the road courses will provide him a better opportunity to show he has improved from his 2005 Ganassi Festival of Carbon Fiber.*

17. Quattro – In 48 career starts Foyt has finished in the Top 10 exactly 3 times. Combining him with a struggling Vision team won’t make for a promising season, and he’s also got that little run in with the law to deal with at some point. But hope springs eternal, right?

18. The Fisher Queen – Running only the 12 oval races will kill her standing in the championship points, but at least her D&R team looks like they’ll be putting better cars on the track. In two races last year Fisher drove to her car’s potential and brought the equipment home. Simply doing that should allow her to snag some top 10s this season and get her IndyCar career back on track.

There are other drivers who will likely show up somewhere with a ride, but for now they will be considered as footnotes for the upcoming season. Included in this list are:

Marty Roth’s speed (specifically his lack therof) may be suspect, but last season he appeared to be no less safe at the track than other drivers. It’s reported that Roth will only race the domestic ovals before and including Indy before possibly calling it quits.

Buddy Lazier currently has no ride for 2007, but he’s too skilled to not resurface at Indy. Should a new team appear during the season, his name will most certainly be on any short list.

PJ Chesson continues suffer hard luck both on and off the track. After reportedly having a full season ride in place he’s back to pounding the pavement for sponsorship. He certainly gets a lot of coverage for a guy who races so infrequently.

Milka Duno keeps getting linked to possible teams, and having sponsorship in hand means she will likely appear somewhere in an IndyCar this season. If (likely when) she does get a ride, expect lots of frothing male fans as well as backmarker finishes.

Alex Barron has a ride for Homestead. It's a start, but it's more likely to be closer to the finish to his ICS career.

Davey Hamilton...I'll reserve judgement for now. He was good driver a decade ago, but it's been a while since he has raced at these speeds.

*Bona fide Pressdog catch phrase.


  1. Jennifer Coomer // March 16, 2007 8:54 AM  

    the season hasn't even begun and i'm already sick of marco.

  2. Anonymous // March 16, 2007 9:39 PM  

    without a doubt you have greatly underestimated the Vision Racing squad. I think you'll be surprised.

  3. Jeff Iannucci // March 18, 2007 10:19 PM  

    It's very possible I underestimated teams like Vision, as well as Rahal or Foyt. Heck, I just picked the two guys who won the last two championships to both finish outside of the top 3.

    Sometimes I think I make predictions just to see how very wrong I can be.

    Truth be told I would love to see other teams start winning. The more competition the better, because it's the competition that makes this league so much fun.