IndyCar

IndyCar Season In Review: Top 10 stories of 2018

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With 2019 right around the corner, it’s fitting to end the year with a recap of the top 10 stories of the Verizon 2018 IndyCar Series season (plus a few more additional mentions):

1. Scott Dixon wins fifth IndyCar championship. The outstanding New Zealand native moved into second place on the all-time championship list with his fifth title, including three in the last six seasons. Only A.J. Foyt has won more titles (seven). Dixon also moved into third place on the IndyCar all-time race wins list (44 victories), behind only Foyt’s 67 wins and Mario Andretti’s 52 triumphs.

Will Power wins the Indianapolis 500 (Getty Images)

2. Will Power wins 2018 Indianapolis 500. Power is no stranger to success at Indianapolis, having won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis three times (2015, 2017 and 2018). But he had never finished better than second (2015) in the biggest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. That is, until 2018, when the Australian native roared to the front late in the race and finally captured what he had chased for his entire career.

3. Robert Wickens critically injured in crash at Pocono. The plucky Canadian IndyCar rookie was involved in one of the worst crashes the series has seen in many years, suffering several injuries – including a spinal cord fracture that left him a paraplegic – in a horrendous wreck at Pocono Raceway on August 19. Prior to that injury, Wickens had enjoyed an outstanding debut season. Even with missing the final three races of the season due to his Pocono injuries, Wickens still managed to earn Rookie of the Year honors, he was so dominating prior to his fateful crash.

4. James Hinchcliffe fails to qualify for Indy 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a vexing place for the Mayor of Hinchtown. The Canadian driver suffered the most serious crash of his racing career while practicing for the 2015 500, came back to earn the pole in the 2016 edition of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, and then failed to qualify for the 2018 500, running out of time to make one last effort on Bump Day. But Hinchcliffe vowed to come back stronger than ever in the 2019 500. A win would definitely be in order, given all he’s endured at IMS.

5. Emergence of Alexander Rossi as bonafide championship contender. Rossi came out of virtually nowhere to win the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 as an IndyCar rookie. But he would prove not be a one-hit wonder. He’d finish 11th in 2016, improve to seventh in 2017 and finished runner-up to Scott Dixon in the 2018 season, including earning three wins. The Dixon-Rossi rivalry will likely be one of the most-watched in 2019.

6. NBC to air all IndyCar races in 2019, including the Indy 500. There was major news off-track on March 21, 2018, when IndyCar signed a three-year media rights deal with NBC Sports Group to televise all IndyCar races starting in 2019, including the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the first time the Greatest Spectacle In Racing has been televised on anything but ABC/ESPN in more than a half-century.

Danica Patrick’s final race of her overall racing career was the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (Getty Images).

7. Danica Patrick’s final IndyCar race. Both ends of Danica Patrick’s “Danica Double” – her final races in both NASCAR Cup and IndyCar – ended with less than stellar finishes. Patrick wrecked in her final Cup race, the Daytona 500, and finished 35th. Then, three months later, Patrick again made an early exit, crashing out on Lap 67 of her final Indianapolis 500. And with that, Patrick’s two-plus decade racing career, dating back to when she first began piloting go-karts, came to an end.

8. Resurgence of Ryan Hunter-Reay. After several difficult seasons, the Andretti Autosport driver had a huge comeback campaign in 2018. Not only did RHR finish the highest (fourth) since he won the IndyCar championship in 2012, he also broke a two-year winless streak, earning victories at Belle Isle 2 and the season finale at Sonoma. He also finished second four times (Birmingham, Belle Isle 1, Road America and Portland). Given the year he had in 2018, Hunter-Reay is already among potential contenders for the 2019 IndyCar title.

9. Harding Racing takes some big steps. After a part-time dabble in IndyCar racing in 2017, Harding Racing began a quick climb toward prominence in its first full season in 2018. It started the season with two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. hired as a “consultant.” But Little Al proved to be so much more by wearing numerous hats, from strategist to advisor to driving coach. He further showed his commitment to the organization by moving from his lifelong home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Harding’s base in Indianapolis. But Unser was only part of the puzzle. The team hired two of the most promising young drivers at season’s end – 2018 Indy Lights champ Patricio O’Ward and runner-up Colton Herta – to lead their two-car operation in 2019. And shortly after the 2018 season ended, the organization changed its name to Harding-Steinbrenner Racing with the addition of George Steinbrenner IV as a full partner going forward.

10. Tony Kanaan endures worst season of IndyCar career. This was not the kind of season the Brazilian native had hoped for when he joined AJ Foyt Racing for 2018. More than anything, Kanaan had hoped for a resurgence in his career. But the opposite happened, as the 43-year-old Kanaan – who turns 44 on New Years Eve – struggled to his worst campaign in 17 seasons on the IndyCar circuit, finishing 16th overall. He managed just four top-10 finishes, with a top showing of sixth at Toronto, seventh at Belle Isle 2 and eighth at both Phoenix and Long Beach. But while the season was rough, there were still some highlights: Kanaan ran his 300th consecutive IndyCar race (at Sonoma), and he and wife Lauren welcomed their first daughter, Nina, to go along with three sons.

Newly promoted IndyCar President Jay Frye. (IndyCar)

And a few others worth mentioning:

A. Last week’s announcement of the promotion of Jay Frye to President of IndyCar.

B. The introduction of the new-style Indy car body not only brought about great racing, it was a big hit in terms of popularity with fans.

C. The addition of Portland Raceway back to the IndyCar schedule for the first time since 2007.

D. The end of a 14-year run at Sonoma Raceway (to be replaced in 2019 as the IndyCar season-ending venue by WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway)

E. Losing ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway) for the foreseeable future. However, the Phoenix area’s loss will become Austin, Texas’ gain as IndyCar announced a few months ago that it will race for the first time ever at Circuit of the Americas in 2019.

F. Sebastien Bourdais winning the season-opening race at St. Petersburg for the second straight year.

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Cooper Webb, Shane McElrath win Anaheim II Supercross

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Cooper Webb entered the Anaheim II weekend winless in Supercross. He left as a winner and did so in dramatic fashion. Webb was almost perfect in the Triple Crown format. He won the first two Mains and swept the podium with a third-place finish in the final.

Marvin Musquin was the only other driver in 450s to sweep the podium. He did not win any of the Mains, but with a finish of third in the first and second-place results in the last two, he was grabbed the second spot in the overall results.

Eli Tomac won the final Main after finishing fourth in the first two features, which put him third in the overall results.

Trouble continues for last year’s champion. With nine minutes remaining in Main 3, Jason Anderson got into a shoving match with Chad Reed. Knocked out of his rhythm, he finished 17th in that Main and was ninth overall.

Justin Barcia went down hard after being thrown from his bike with five minutes remaining on the clock. He got cross-rutted before being ejected. Barcia was helped from the track by the medical staff.

The 250 class featured three winners in the three Mains. Leading the points by one entering Anaheim II, Colt Nichols was determined to hang onto the red plate. He won the first Main, then finished third and fourth in his next two outings.

Dylan Ferrandis was the runner-up to Nichols in Main 1, but charged back to win Main 2. He finished third in the final Main.

The overall winner of the night, Shane McElrath just got better in every Main. He finished third in the first feature, was second in Main 2 and won the final. That elevated him to second in the points – two behind Nichols.

Nichols holds onto the red plate for the third straight week.

450s

Main 1: Cooper Webb won over Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. … Roczen took the hole shot and steadily increased his advantage until Lap 6. Webb was in a battle of his own with Eli Tomac, but still closed the distance and overtook him on the final lap. The two riders went handlebar-to-handlebar on the final lap with Webb grabbing the lead on the run up to the finish line.

Main 2: Webb (cumulative: 2 points) won over Musquin (5) and the opening round winner Justin Barcia (10). Emboldened by his Main 1 win, Webb led checker-to-checker. Running third on Lap 8, Roczen (7) went down after his foot came off the peg. He fell back dramatically, but held onto third in the class points through two mains. Tomas finished fifth in the Main and was fourth in class points. 

Main 3: Tomac (cumulative: 9 points) won over Musquin (7) and Webb (5). Tomac led flag-to-flag, building an advantage of 6.825 seconds at the halfway point. He did not need to keep pushing that hard and allowed Musquin to shave two seconds off his lead, but still had a dominant margin of 4.787 seconds at the end.

250s

Main 1: Colt Nichols won over Dylan Ferrandis and Shane McElrath. … Adam Cianciarulo took a fall after leading three laps and dropped 10 seconds off the pace, but he held on to finish fourth. … Nichols grabbed a lead of more than three seconds and cruised to victory.

Main 2: Ferrandis (cumulative: 3 points) beat McElrath (5) and Nichols (4). … Nichols led the first seven laps of 12 until he made a mistake exiting to whoops and fell. Ferrandis leaped past to take a more than two second lead. Cianciarulo (18) went off track while running fifth with less than a minute on the clock. He dropped to 14th. RJ Hampshire (9) was fourth in class after the first two mains.

Main 3: McElrath (cumulative: 6 points) won over Cianciarulo (20) and Ferrandis (6). Nichols got the hole shot , but Cianciarulo led the first four laps. He could not hold off McElrath, however, who had the overall victory in his sights. By winning the final Main, McElrath took the overall victory. RJ Hampshire rode a steady three races with results of fifth, fourth, and fifth to take fourth overall.

Click here for overall results

Points Leaders

450s
Ken Roczen (63 points)
Eli Tomac (61)
Cooper Webb (57) (1 win)
Justin Barcia (56) (1)
Marvin Musquin (56)

250s
Colt Nichols (70 points) (1 win)
Shane McElrath (68) (1)
Dylan Ferrandis (63)
Adam Cianciarulo (62) (1)
RJ Hampshire (57)

Next race: January 19, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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