MotorSportsTalk 2014 IndyCar Season Review: Bests and Worsts


After we looked at our respective top five stories of the year yesterday, time for my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I to hand out some completely unofficial hardware from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. No, we did not look at each other’s thoughts before compiling:


TONY DIZINNO: Will Power, Team Penske. Little else needs to be written here that won’t be elsewhere in terms of season-review type posts, but, in a year when drivers rose or fell depending on their circumstances, their setup or their temperament, Power had the best balance and resiliency throughout the field. With three wins, including a dominant drive when the title was on the line at Milwaukee, a near doubling of his laps led and finishing every lap but one, there was nobody better.

CHRIS ESTRADA: Will Power, Team Penske. The Aussie showed how you win a championship: Get the big results whenever possible, salvage the days when your car isn’t where you want it to be, and stay off the wall. Here’s an interesting stat: The closest anybody came to Power’s three wins and seven podium finishes was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had the same amount of wins and just one less podium.

Power had zero DNFs. Hunter-Reay had five.

The lesson is old but remains valuable: If you want to finish first, you must first finish.


TDZ: Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. While I gave this distinction to him last year as well, this year represented the quantum leap that propelled Newgarden into “top tier in IndyCar” discussion (some of us have felt this was a long time coming). The qualifying gain was immense – a seven-spot average improvement from 17th to 10th – and really he was unlucky to have not converted more results. Potential podiums went begging at Long Beach and certainly Mid-Ohio, and there were other great qualifying results that didn’t bear fruit come race day. I’ll be interested to watch his growth – again – with a teammate and a Chevrolet engine at CFH Racing next season. Kudos go to the 23-year-old for being the biggest thorn in the “big teams’” side this year.

CE: Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. This one’s no contest. At multiple stages of the 2014 season, it looked like the American was going to break through for his first career win only to have downright abysmal luck derail him. Nonetheless, he and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing camp fought valiantly enough to have me excited to see what he can do as part of a multi-car operation at CFH Racing (SFHR + Ed Carpenter Racing).


TDZ: Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS Racing. Saavedra I wanted to do well this year. He’d earned a third chance – rare in modern-day IndyCar – and did so with a top-flight operation in the team that was the defending Indianapolis 500 champions. But while a ninth at Long Beach, 14 laps led and that fantastic pole in mixed conditions at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis seemed to indicate he was turning the corner at last, that stall from pole and heavy crash from others about summed up the frustration and missed opportunities from there. It was hard to notice Saavedra the rest of the season, and he fell to last among full-timers in points for the second year in a row.

CE: Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS Racing. I suppose I could have put James Hinchcliffe or Justin Wilson in this spot too, but I was expecting a lot more out of the Colombian upon his ascension to KV. He now had a decent team to work with, and he got Sebastien Bourdais as a teammate to help him evolve as a driver. Instead, Saavedra was pretty much just a field-filler in a season where he collected just one Top-10 in 18 races and sustained five DNFs.


TDZ: Houston Race 2. The Indianapolis 500 finish stands out, but it had been a fairly methodical race up to that point. Meanwhile, a race I wanted to expunge from memory as fast as possible last year was one I wanted to re-watch over and over this year. There was the combination of domination up front (Simon Pagenaud), two first-time podium finishers (Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth), Hawksworth’s incredible dice with Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball, the contact and controversy between Helio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais and varying pit strategies throughout the order. Funny how that works. Good for Houston to go out on a high note, as it won’t be back for 2015.

CE: Sonoma. The penultimate round of the championship had pretty much everything: An opening-lap crash, fuel/pit strategies galore, the championship leader spinning out (and racing back to the front), and a breathtaking final lap that had said championship leader in the middle of it all. In my eyes, a fair representation of the series in its current state.


TDZ:  Toronto Race 1. It was a pretty diabolical period from the race that was meant to occur on the Saturday and then was shoehorned and shortened into an already jam-packed Sunday. Teams were stuck in on-off-on-off mode for three hours on Saturday, from an already late 3:40 p.m. ET start time, waiting whether the race would go ahead. Power spun out, and then he and two others got sent to the back of the grid on Sunday even though the race hadn’t technically started. A first lap red flag occurred following contact between Simon Pagenaud and Luca Filippi, which blocked the track. It was more a race to endure than enjoy, although it at least ended with a popular return to victory lane for Bourdais.

CE: Grand Prix of Indianapolis. As I tweeted during the race, nobody would say this inaugural running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course wasn’t memorable. But it wasn’t always for the right reasons. A nightmarish standing start crash, Martin Plowman going airborne over Franck Montagny, an exasperating restart crash with Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal, and James Hinchcliffe getting concussed by a piece of stray bodywork were among the lowlights.


TDZ: Verizon coming on board as title sponsor is the obvious, but seeing Sam Schmidt take laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May didn’t leave many dry eyes in the house. The SAM Project is an inspirational story and was the highlight, by far, of Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend at IMS.

CE: We’ve learned over the years that sponsors who don’t activate are pretty much useless for a series struggling to gain a bigger national presence. So I looked at Verizon with a bit of a sideways glance when they took on title sponsorship of the IndyCar Series. But it turns out I need not have worried. Their deal came together late, but they still put in a good effort to push the series across various platforms. I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll expand their role in 2015.


TDZ:  Schedule angst. I hit this in the “top five” yesterday but the teeth gnashing and hand wringing about the schedule is both justifiable and frustrating at the same time. There’s so many layers to the schedule, between date changes, condensed timing that drives the crews nearly insane with almost zero off days, oval races being in the crosshairs with perceptively low attendance (even if some are bigger) and now the long offseason always seems to get everyone’s knickers in a twist. One of the areas where NASCAR excels, even if some dates get shifted, is that they’ve consistently had a similar schedule of 36 races, most on the same dates for date equity, since 2001. IndyCar’s is a round robin of dates, venues, attendances and the like. It’s a conundrum that is as old as the series itself.

CE: As an old IRL fan growing up, it pains me to behold the sea of aluminum that greets the current series whenever it visits an oval outside of Indianapolis. Texas Motor Speedway’s days of pulling in nearly 100,000 are long gone. Milwaukee’s attendance is flat despite Andretti Sports Marketing’s efforts. And constant date changes have had a negative impact on the crowds at the season finale at Fontana. You can’t get ditch speedways or else IndyCar loses an essential piece of its identity, so something drastic has to be done. Single-day events with support from multiple ladder series? Co-promotion with tracks? Whatever. It just needs to be tried.

Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale