Ryan Hunter-Reay’s first victory in a year at last night’s Iowa Corn 300 has kept alive the possibility of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season setting a new record for the most different winners.
Back in June, we took a look at the pursuit of the record that currently stands at 11 from 2000, 2001 and 2014.
Hopes of a new record appeared to be fading after Josef Newgarden became a repeat winner at the Honda Indy Toronto, leaving the figure at seven with six races remaining.
In the three races that have followed, though, another two new winners have emerged in 2015. Graham Rahal ended his win drought at Fontana, and with Hunter-Reay winning last night’s race at Iowa Speedway, the figure stands at nine with three races to go.
So although the record remains within reach, it is still a long shot. Hitting the magic number of 12 would require a winless final trio of races for Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden and Carlos Munoz.
The ninth winner is James Hinchcliffe, who was ruled out for the rest of the reason due to injuries sustained in a crash at Indianapolis ahead of the Indy 500 back in May.
It is worth noting that some big names are missing from 2015’s list of winners, meaning that the record is perhaps not as unthinkable as first thought.
The leading winless driver in the standings is Helio Castroneves. Ranking third and with just 54 points to make up to Montoya at the top, the Brazilian is very much in the thick of the title race despite never gracing the top step of the podium.
Castroneves has come close, though. He has claimed three pole positions and led the most laps at three races, and very nearly completed a last-to-first charge in Milwaukee last weekend. If anyone is going to become the tenth different winner of 2015, it will be Helio.
Don’t discount the other Brazilian on the grid, though. Tony Kanaan is another driver who arguably should have won a race in 2015, coming closest at Fontana when he finished just three-tenths of a second behind Rahal at the checkered flag.
Had it not been for an engine issue on Saturday night in Iowa, the Kanaan may well have been in the fight for the win at the end. He is another driver to look out for in the final trio of races, particularly at Pocono given Ganassi’s strength on ovals so far this year.
So on the assumption that Castroneves and Kanaan win a race apiece in the final three rounds, 2015 will match the record. But who could be Mr. or Ms. 12?
Marco Andretti certainly has a good case given his consistency across the course of the season. The American has finished outside of the top ten in just three of the 13 races, lifting him to seventh in the standings with two podium finishes to his name.
Simon Pagenaud’s first year with Penske has been more about stability than success as he becomes accustomed to the team. The Frenchman has just two top tens in the last six races, though, and would need to buck the trend of his recent form if he wants to claim his first win of the year.
In reality though, another winner could come from anywhere. Sage Karam proved on Saturday that he has the fight and tenacity to battle at the front (even if Ed Carpenter was less than impressed). Charlie Kimball got in the mix at the Indy 500 back in May, finishing third overall. Takuma Sato is also a former winner.
The race to hit 12 is not yet over, and if we were to add another three names to the list of winners in 2015, it would have serious implications on the title race.