Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.
Whether Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America represented a shift in favor of the bigger, better–funded organizations or not, one thing is for certain. Outside of two bad finishes on high-speed ovals, Scott Dixon has been the rabbit of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season to date. It is also apparent that our continued disrespect of Simon Pagenaud must end immediately. While the rankings committee has looked more at the end game scenarios, the Frenchman seems to be reverting to the form that bagged him the title in 2016.
Things are going smoothly for the above two options, but the same cannot be said for Will Power. There is no question that in a perfect world, the Australian is the best of the bunch on any road course one could face. The problem in 2017 is consistency. Team Penske swept the first two rows in qualifying; but in race trim, he suddenly found himself behind his three teammates.
So while the team rankings stay mostly untouched, the drivers top ten has seen some movement.
1. Team Penske (Unchanged)
The Captain’s quartet did not grab the brass ring in Wisconsin, however placing four in the top-five is nothing to sneeze about. As noted earlier, Power’s hit or miss practices in 2017 is a head scratcher. If anything, Josef Newgarden should be the one doing that being in his first year with Penske, not the Aussie. As for Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, we are starting to get an idea that their title challenges are legit after all.
2. Chip Ganassi Racing (Unchanged)
Difficult to fathom that Dixon was minus a victory before Sunday, yet his consistency put him on top of the points table. One has to be getting nervous that the Kiwi now is adding P1s to his long line of top-fives. The Iceman was not alone though in the laurels of success. Charlie Kimball enjoyed his best effort of 2017 with a sixth-place finish, while Indy 500 top lap leader Max Chilton scored a ninth.
3. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (+1)
Yes, one is the loneliest number – unless you are referring to RLLR and Graham Rahal. For the third straight year, the No. 15 Steak N’ Shake Honda is shaming most of the giant fish in the IndyCar pond and once again is joining the conversation for another top-five result at season’s end.
4. Andretti Autosport (-1)
The weekend started bad and ended worse. Marco Andretti was unable to make the most of a good grid position and placed 18th. Contact with Tony Kanaan may have hampered Alexander Rossi’s 13th-place effort, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato were mired in the bottom half of the order throughout the proceedings. They are no longer a 1-A to Ganassi’s number official number one placement in the Honda camp. Thanks to RLLR they may not be the second in the queue either.
5. Dale Coyne Racing (+1)
If Road America form continues onward to Iowa and beyond, Ed Jones looks set to lead DCR back into the victory conversation started by Sebastien Bourdais at St. Petersburg. While winning one of the remaining events is not a lock, it would be far from a shocker for more or less the 2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year.
6. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport (-1)
A top-ten finish for Mikhail Aleshin was well earned considering the Russian suffered from a lack of track time due to a visa snafu. James Hinchcliffe meanwhile, has undergone a complete reversal of fortune. After opening 2017 with three straight top-tens, the Canadian has just one of those placements since. With Honda starting to close in on trumping Chevrolet, Schmidt Peterson appears to have missed the depart time and has been left at the gate so far.
7. Harding Racing (Unchanged)
Inactive until Pocono, yet nothing from Carpenter or Foyt merits dropping them down the list.
8. A.J. Foyt Racing (+1)
Carlos Munoz deserved better than an eleventh-place output at Road America, but that pretty much explains the lack of competitive drive shown from this team and its pilots. 2018 cannot come soon enough.
9. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)
Road course ace Spencer Pigot could not save the sinking ship and after multiple issues on Sunday, settling for 12th. Once again, J.R. Hildebrand made zero impact and came home 18th. If Iowa does not provide comfort, painful outcomes seem stuck to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s home team for the remainder of 2017.
10. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (=)
Season’s over, but 2018 Indianapolis 500 could be promising if the team continues the same course with Sage Karam. The driver-squad pairing seems perfect for one-off outings.
1. Scott Dixon (+1)
People of New Zealand, we sincerely apologize. If there were any questions about the Kiwi’s ability to maintain his solid pace, those worries were silenced on Sunday. On to Iowa.
2. Josef Newgarden (+1)
Right now the pronunciation should be NEW-GUARD. The Tennessee-native has fit in well with Team Penske and appears capable of challenging for a championship in year one, much like Al Unser, Jr. did with success in 1994. Another Iowa tour de force will make his effort official.
3. Simon Pagenaud (+3)
We continued to doubt the staying power of the reigning IndyCar king and the Frenchman has continued to admonish us for doing so. Second in points and deservedly so.
4. Helio Castroneves (Unchanged)
The Brazilian squandered yet another front row start and settled for third at the checkered flag. While the results continue to keep him in the conversation, Spider–Man must find a way to end a 53-race losing skid.
5. Will Power (-4)
Well, our crystal ball premonition did not mean all that much. A fifth-place result is alright, but iffy when all his Penske counterparts finished ahead of him. Iowa on paper is not the place for a bounce back.
6. Graham Rahal (+1)
The Ohioan proves that a single-car team can still prosper, even when this same performer questioned whether that was still possible earlier this season. Four top-tens in a row headed to Corn City.
7. Takuma Sato (-2)
Just when the Japanese hero looked set to be a mainstay at the front of the IndyCar lineup, along came Elkhart Lake. The Kohler Grand Prix was a complete clunker for Sato, who never made a positive impact in qualifying or the race. Skeptics are returning to this conversation.
8. Alexander Rossi (Unchanged)
Unlike his Andretti compatriots, Rossi showed promise until his meeting with Tony Kanaan. While TK found the fence, the 2016 Indy 500 champion must have damaged his car as he faded outside the top ten in the final laps. Only a sub-par bottom half of the rankings keeps him in the top ten this week.
9. Ed Jones (Unranked)
The on the list, off the list syndrome for the Dubai-based entrant would come to a head if more consistency were present. Just a friendly suggestion while looking ahead to Iowa Speedway.
10. Max Chilton (Unranked)
We have a new customer! While the ex-Formula One racer has not set the IndyCar world on fire in 2017, he does have four top-tens in the past seven races. That’s something most in the full-time fleet cannot claim.
Dropped Out: Tony Kanaan (Was No. 9 after Texas), James Hinchcliffe (Was No. 10 after Texas)
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.