IndyCar: Crunching the numbers post-Barber

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I crunched some numbers after the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Even though the top few positions are a bit top-heavy, the ridiculously tight and competitive nature of the Verizon IndyCar Series field stretches through all 23 cars.

Qualifying Notes

  • After there were zero Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing entries in the Firestone Fast Six at Long Beach, they made up half of it at Barber.
  • Josef Newgarden was the lone non-Penske/Ganassi/Andretti Autosport driver in the Barber Fast Six. This also marked his first time making back-to-back Fast Six appearances, and was also his first career Fast Six on a permanent road course. His previous two came at the Baltimore and Long Beach street courses for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team.
  • Graham Rahal posted his best start of 2014 at Barber, although it was only 18th. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan and rookie Jack Hawksworth have seen some wild swings in qualifying form. Kanaan’s best start of second at St. Pete is balanced by 23rd at Barber; Hawksworth fell from fifth at Long Beach to 22nd at Barber.
  • Mike Conway and Marco Andretti’s qualifying positions have fallen off in each race, while Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves have improved their grid spot each races. Castroneves, additionally, became the 12th driver to make the Fast Six this season.

Laps Led Notes

  • Of the 259 race laps in three races, Ryan Hunter-Reay (91) and Will Power (89) have led 180 of them for a grand total of 69.5%!
  • Sebastian Saavedra has led 14 laps, the first 14 of his career. That, right now, is more than Conway (4), Castroneves (2), Andretti, Newgarden and Justin Wilson (1 each), combined with 9 laps led this season.
  • No driver has led in all three races; 12 drivers have yet to lead a lap this year.

Post-Race Points Notes

  • Power (125) and Hunter-Reay (107) are the two drivers over 100 points through three races. Last year, no driver was able to do that.
  • Wilson is seventh in points (67) and Ryan Briscoe 16th (52), with only 15 points separating 10 positions. Additionally, Sebastien Bourdais in 17th (48) and Oriol Servia in 23rd (36) are only separated by 12 markers. A total of 31 points separate seventh from 23rd; meanwhile 33 separate Power from third-placed Simon Pagenaud.
  • Here’s a look at the breakdown of where each driver was after three races last year, and where they are now in terms of points position and points:
# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
20 Conway 27, 5 (1 start) 5, 82 +22, +77
12 Power 8, 62 1, 125 +7, +63
28 Hunter-Reay 6, 73 2, 107 +4, +36
77 Pagenaud 13, 58 3, 92 +10, +34
17 Saavedra 25, 25 13, 55 +12, +30
67 Newgarden 19, 46 10, 58 +9, +12
10 Kanaan 12, 59 9, 62 +3, +3
11 Bourdais 18, 48 17, 48 +1, 0
9 Dixon 3, 89 4, 87 -1, -2
19 J. Wilson 5, 81 7, 67 -2, -14
25 Andretti 4, 87 6, 73 -2, -14
27 Hinchcliffe 10, 61 18, 46 -8, -15
15 Rahal 7, 66 20, 46 -13, -20
16 Servia 14, 57 23, 36 (2 starts) -9, -21
83 Kimball 11, 60 22, 37 -11, -23
3 Castroneves 1, 99 8, 66 -7, -33
14 Sato 2, 93 15, 53 -13, -40

Different Driver, Same Car 

# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
2 Montoya 26, 18 (2 starts, Allmendinger) 11, 56 +15, +38
18 Huertas 24, 30 (Beatriz) 19, 46 +5, +16
7 Aleshin 21, 42 (Vautier) 14, 54 +7, +12
34 Munoz 16, 52 (Viso) 12, 55 +4, +3
8 Briscoe 16, 52
98 Hawksworth 17, 50 (Tagliani) 21, 42 -4, -8

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.