IndyCar: Stats to digest through Barber, and first four races of 2015

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Through four races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, there have been plenty of stats that have emerged and really proven only one thing: no one team is dominant.

The concerning, early-race narrative has been that Team Penske’s pace has been too much to match. And while yes, the team is a perfect four-for-four in pole positions and front row sweeps (seven poles and five front row sweeps in a row dating to 2014), the Penske prowess hasn’t carried over to race day entirely.

Several other Chevrolet teams – Chip Ganassi Racing, KVSH Racing and CFH Racing – have really stepped up from a performance standpoint and are right on pace. It’s meant that Honda’s best – notably Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Andretti Autosport – have been seventh or eighth, there or thereabouts, on pace before moving forward in the race.

But in looking a bit deeper at the stats, the parity is still prevalent through the first quarter of the season, and in some respects, it’s improved through four races this year compared to 2014.

Here are the stats of note:

  • Closer points standings. Last year, 47 points separated the top four in points through four races (149-102). This year, 45 cover first through 10th (136-91), from Juan Pablo Montoya to Sebastien Bourdais. Just 17 cover first to fourth, Montoya to Josef Newgarden.
  • More podium finishers. Each of the last two years there have been a wealth of different podium finishers (19 in 2014, 20 in 2013). We’re already off to a good start this year with nine from the first four races, trending one ahead of last year when there were eight in the first four races.
  • Same four-for-four winners streak, with four new winners. There were 11 winners last year in 18 races, and 10 winners in 19 races in 2013. Last year opened with four winners from four different teams in four races (Will Power, Penske, Mike Conway, Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson), and so has this year, with four different drivers (Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson, Scott Dixon, Ganassi, Josef Newgarden, CFH).
  • No front row winners yet. Your winning starting positions thus far in 2015? In order, fourth, 16th, third and fifth.
  • Barber’s best day, statistically. There were eight race leaders and 10 lead changes Sunday at Barber, which broke the old records of six (2014) and nine (2012), respectively.
  • Fewer yellows. The first two races this year: 57 laps: 11 cautions, 48 laps, 8 DNF. The last two races in 170 laps: 3 cautions, 13 laps, 0 DNF. At Barber, and a hat tip to my colleague Steve Wittich for this stat, 35 percent of the field led the race and all but two possible laps were completed.
  • Dixon’s perfect podium but winless streak at Barber lives. One of the most obscure and amazing stats in IndyCar: Scott Dixon is a perfect six-for-six at Barber in terms of podium finishes, without a win. His third on Sunday followed four straight seconds from 2010 to 2013, and a third last year.
  • Top-10 finish numbers. No single driver has four top-10s in four races. Four drivers who have completed all four races, Charlie Kimball, Stefano Coletti, Gabby Chaves and Francesco Dracone, have gone the four races without a single top-10 finish.
  • Andretti’s strange stats start. Sunday all three Andretti Autosport drivers posted top-10s at Barber. But the team has not yet led a lap in four races, with any of its four drivers.
  • Chevrolet still pacing the laps led. Through 327 laps completed this year, Chevrolet has led 285 laps, and Honda 42.
  • Penske’s quartet has led more than half the total laps. Helio Castroneves is the only driver to have led a lap in all four races (1, 1, 31 and 18), with his total of 51 laps led shy of teammates Will Power (75) and Juan Pablo Montoya (59). Simon Pagenaud has led 5 to give the team a total of 190 laps led in 327 total laps (58.1 percent of all laps).
  • Penske, Chevrolet Firestone Fast Six prowess continues. Of 18 possible Firestone Fast Six appearances: Team Penske 10, all other teams 8 (was split 3-3 at Barber). By engine/aero kit, the breakdown is Chevrolet 16, Honda 2.
  • Still four with four top-10 starts in four races. Castroneves, Pagenaud, Bourdais and Tony Kanaan are the four drivers with four top-10 starts in as many races to open the year.
  • Consistent Chaves should be No. 17. He’s in the No. 98 for Bryan Herta Autosport, but leading rookie driver this year, Gabby Chaves, could argue No. 17 has been his most regular number. His starts this year have been 22nd, 17th, 17th and 17th, with finishes of 17th, 15th, 17th and 16th. He’s 18th in points, only one point behind 17th placed-Jack Hawksworth
  • Simona’s points haul still endures. In two races, Simona de Silvestro has 44 points and ranks 20th. In four races, Stefano Coletti has 41 and ranks 21st.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”