1. Will Power #12 Team Penske Chevrolet
All he’s done is overcome starting 9th and 12th to win the last two races. He’s had two Fastest Laps and Fastest Leader Laps. The one race he didn’t win was simply due to being caught out on pit stop sequence. Prior to this season, the criticism of Will was he couldn’t race his way to the front from back in the field. Judging by this year’s performance, that obviously isn’t the case. Will Power IS the Machismo of Indycar.
2. Simon Pagenaud #77 Schmidt/Hamilton Racing Honda
He’s arguably the best Honda in the field. Three races, three magnificent drives by Pagenaud. Had the race at Long Beach been just two laps longer, he would have chased down Will Power for the win. Pagenaud combines excellent qualifying with high finishes; something not so common amongst the Honda powered rides this year. He’s getting a win before this year’s up. Go ahead and hand him the Rookie of the Year trophy.
3. James Hinchcliffe #27 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
In his second season, Hinch’s lowest finish is 6th at Barber. He’s also the only driver to make the Firestone Fast Six at every event so far. Hinch got his first career podium finish at Long Beach, slicing his way from 16th to 3rd, granted the 3rd came via a penalty to Ryan Hunter-Reay for his contact with Takuma Sato. At this point, I’m thinking Hinchcliffe is the #1 in the Andretti stable.
4. Helio Castroneves #3 Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio was set for a Top Ten at Long Beach until he was given an avoidable contact penalty on the last turn of the last lap when he, for some reason, dive bombed Justin Wilson going into the hairpin. Helio has a win and a third, but his performance at Long Beach was rather uninspired. The reason Helio stays this high is his win at St. Pete and a solid drive at Barber. Let’s see if he can regroup at home in Brazil.
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay#28 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
If not for the unfortunate incident with Takuma Sato on the last lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay would have earned a respectable 4th place finish. Ryan’s saving grace this weekend was coming up to (essentially) 4th from 13th. I find it hard to get a grasp on RHR at times because he seems to fly under the radar so much. Drama just seems to follow him around, be it by his own actions, or the actions of others.
6. Ryan Briscoe #2 Team Penske Chevrolet
Briscoe and Hunter-Reay are very similar characters to me. They both have solid runs, but never really seem to stand out. I’d say Briscoe has had the better career, but RHR has the upper hand this season. Briscoe’s run at Long Beach was fairly solid, but he still hasn’t had that inspired run we all know he’s capable of.
7. Scott Dixon #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Had it not been for a mechanical problem at Long Beach, Dixon would be much higher. He’s led more laps than anyone, and was previously second in both the other races. However, it seems as if early season woes caught back up to Dixon this past weekend. While Dixon started 5th, he was never really a contender all day. Scott can’t let bad finishes compile, so getting things back together at Brazil is a must.
8. Rubens Barrichello #8 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Rubinho has arrived. After essentially taking two races to learn the car, Rubens had a truly inspired run at Long Beach, bringing his car up from 22nd to 8th place. Best of all, Rubens has a full head of steam going into HIS biggest race of the year at Sao Paulo. Rubens has finished Top Ten in two of three races, and the one where he didn’t was due to a mechanical.
9. J.R. Hildebrand #4 Panther Racing Chevrolet
J.R. came from 20th to 4th, having a most quietly strong race at Long Beach. His name was never mentioned with the leaders, but anyone watching the race noticed how he methodically worked his way up through the field. This race made up for J.R.’s issues at St. Petersburg, giving him the top finish he should have had. It’s Time to see if Hildebrand can improve on his finish yet again at Brazil before trying to redeem himself at Indy.
10. Oriol Servia #22 Lotus/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus
Being the top Lotus deserves some sort of recognition. Yeah, Bourdais is two spots higher in standings, but Servia deserves some recognition for keeping his Lotus in one piece and not stuffing it into a barrier like Bourdais has on several occasions. In the end, look for Servia to top Bourdais in overall standings.
Honorable Metion: James Jakes
Yeah…James Jakes. He passed Dario on several occasions and ran in the Top Ten for a good portion of the day. Jakes is quietly having a pretty decent season in an underfunded ride. Throw out tagging the wall at St. Pete, and he’s finished 16th and 11th. The kid has some ability for pace, he just hasn’t had the ride to show it.
The “Oh Crap” Award: Josef Newgarden
First lap…First turn…..Good run on Dario…Wait, what’s that? BAM! It’s a wall. You can argue that Dario pushed up on Josef, or you can chalk it up simply to a rookie mistake. The bottom line is that’s a mistake you can bet Newgarden won’t make again.