A few days have passed since the IZOD IndyCar Series concluded its 2013 season. Scott Dixon is champion, which is the easiest statistic to look at. But here’s some other intriguing bits of note from the season:
There were 10 different race winners, one shy of tying the record set in the 2000 and 2001 CART seasons. They were: James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, Mike Conway, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Will Power.
Some 20 different drivers scored at least one podium finish. Any of the above 10 were joined on the rostrum at some point this year by: Marco Andretti, Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais, Simona de Silvestro, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal, James Jakes and Carlos Munoz.
Dixon’s title run was fueled by a second-half surge, as he scored 337 points in the last nine races, and no one else scoring more than 289. The top 10 scorers in the last nine races: Dixon 337, Power 289, Pagenaud 267, Wilson 245, Bourdais 237, Kimball 234, Castroneves 218, Franchitti 216, de Silvestro 210 and Andretti 207. Hinchcliffe (183), Newgarden (166) and Hunter-Reay (146) were next up.
That second-half change made for a drastically different overall top 10 compared to the first half of 2013, paced by Andretti Autosport. The points after 10 races were: Castroneves 332, Hunter-Reay 323, Andretti 277, Hinchcliffe 266, Kanaan 253, Pagenaud 241, Dixon 240, Sato 233, Wilson 227 and Power 209. E.J. Viso (203) and Franchitti (202) were next.
Power was the year’s best starter. The Australian’s starting average of 4.316 led Hunter-Reay (5.368), Andretti (8.895), Hinchcliffe (9.053), Castroneves (9.156) and Dixon (9.579). Those six were the only full-time drivers to boast a starting position average inside the top 10. Worst in the field was a tie between Rahal and Sebastian Saavedra, 17.737.
Power’s 103 laps led at Fontana also meant he led the most laps this year, with 351 of a possible 2,433 on point. Others over 100 included Hunter-Reay at 297, Hinchcliffe on 264, Andretti 259, Dixon and Castroneves each with 239, and Sato with 187. In all 25 of the 38 drivers who took the green flag this year led at least one lap.
Dixon scored the most points on road/street courses with 420 to Pagenaud’s 371 and Wilson’s 342, while Castroneves led the oval points with 215 to Hunter-Reay’s 209 and Kanaan’s 202. The separate Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt Trophies for road/street and oval championships were quietly retired this year, and not awarded.
Despite starting only 12 of 19 races, Oriol Servia scored only three fewer points than Saavedra (233 to 236), who was the lowest-placed driver to run all 19. Saavedra ended 21st in the standings.
Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.
Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.
Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.
Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.
But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.
“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”
Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.
Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.
“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”
The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.
But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.
“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”
Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.
The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.
“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.
“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”