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.
With the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg officially in the record books, it is time to update the team rankings from this past week. Recall, before the season, the rankings were released based on last year and off-season changes. Click here to refresh your memory.
It is also a chance to debut the top ten drivers on the circuit. Keep in mind, the rankings you will see here do not necessarily follow finishing positions from Sunday.
So buckle up folks, here are the results!
1. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)
2. Team Penske (-1)
3. Andretti Autosport (No Change)
4. Dale Coyne Racing (+3)
5. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (-1)
6. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1)
7. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)
8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)
Dale Coyne Racing is no surprise the biggest mover, jumping from No. 7 to No. 4 in the run up to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske swap places at the top as CGR went beyond where they were expected to be in its return to the Honda engine and aerodynamic options. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport were a push this past weekend, so they line up in positions two and three.
The early elimination of Graham Rahal and the bad luck with the second full course caution hampering early race leader James Hinchcliffe means both Rahal and Schmidt drop a place on the list. And while Spencer Pigot made noise early in the race for ECR, they fall to No. 7 following the opening round. Foyt rounds out the list after disappointing outputs from both Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly.
1. Scott Dixon
Following my views on the teams’ list, Scott Dixon moves to the top with his solid third-place effort at St. Petersburg, a performance hurt by the debris caution that shuffled the running order. The Iceman’s performance also puts the 2008 Indy 500 champion as my early favorite for the 101st edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, as he has shown impressive oval savvy in recent runnings.
2. Will Power
St. Pete was a throwaway race for Power, who also was negatively affected by the caution and then sidelined by mechanical failure late. Before his eventual elimination, Power showed enough in both qualifying and the race to merit the number two spot ahead of race winner Sebastien Bourdais.
3. Sebastien Bourdais
While DCR showed the potential to be a consistent frontrunner on at least the road courses, a back-up of its first showing at Long Beach is necessary before Bourdais challenges for the top two spots.
4. James Hinchcliffe
The Mayor of Hinchtown also deserves a second chance at Long Beach after a solid effort to make the Firestone Fast Six and two strong early race moves to vault from the second row at the start to the early lead. Hinch could also be primed for a further jump after the Toyota GP if Honda continues to show superiority over Chevrolet in the power and handling department.
5. Simon Pagenaud
Pagenaud did well to salvage his weekend with a runner-up finish; however, the yellow flag aid, plus a lackluster qualifying performance drop him to fifth in the rankings.
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Andretti Autosport had a decent opening act for 2017 as Hunter-Reay finished best for the team with a fourth-place result.
7. Takuma Sato
Sato finished fifth in his debut with AA. He also qualified fifth — solid first day at the office for the Japanese racer.
8. Josef Newgarden
Newgarden’s much-anticipated first race with Penske wasn’t spectacular, but not terrible either. He finished eighth after starting the race fourth.
9. Tony Kanaan
Kanaan opened the 2017 campaign with a 12th-place result after qualifying sixth.
Castroneves started 16th and picked up 10 positions in the 110-lap event to end up sixth on the day.
I also give honorable mention honors to Spencer Pigot, who before his suspension failure entering the pit lane, was perhaps the most aggressive driver with the eye test. If he can make the checkered flag at Long Beach, Pigot could join the top ten after two events.
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