The NTT IndyCar Season Finale took place over a week ago on the Streets of Long Beach and I am just now getting to my blog post. I’ve actually been stuck in quarantine so you’d think I would have had plenty of time to get to this. My oldest has Covid. We were preparing for him to go to Basic Training for the Air National Guard when he started feeling sick. He was unable to attend his drill weekend which pushed back his Basic Training dates. He will now leave on November 16. Thankfully, he was sick less than a week and no one else in the house is sick (yet). So now that things have settled down here let’s discuss IndyCar.
Covid continued to change plans and dates. While we knew for quite some time that Long Beach would be the season finale it was still quite strange. The beautiful views of the fountain usually mean it’s Spring and we have plenty more racing to look forward to. This year it marked the end of the season. It looked like a great place for the finale and I heard several fans and drivers say they wished the season always ended in Long Beach.
Alex Palou was the points leader going into Long Beach and even after a crazy qualifying session that had him starting mid pack he was able to maintain the points lead and become the 2021 Champion. Wow! In his Sophomore season and first with Chip Ganassi racing that is fairly incredible. Watch out Scott Dixon! It’s really to soon to say if he will continue to be a driver to watch for the next decade or two but right now I’d definitely say he is one to watch. Drivers often seem to struggle in the sophomore year but Palou showed that is not always the case. He won 3 races, 1 pole and of course was crowned champion. Alex has a sweet tradition of eating fried chicken after a win. He enjoyed it after winning the championship too.
Colton Herta would also be on that list. Colton won the race and made it all look easy. He started 14th but it didn’t take him long to be leading. When he is out in front he just pulls away from everyone, every race. Colton sometimes needs to learn patience but in general he is a fast, entertaining driver to watch. I’m sure he will be fighting for that Championship in the next few years. Colton also has a traditional meal after a win and he had some celebratory tacos after his win.
Pato O’Ward was second in the points going into Long Beach. He started near Palou in the middle of the field. The greatest concern is being taken out on lap one by an accident and of course that is exactly what happened. Ed Jones made an attempt to pass and ended up getting into O’Ward. Palou was able to escape the accident but just barely. With that accident O’Ward watched his dream of being the Champion slip away. Palou would need to crash out for Pato to have any chance and that didn’t happen. Sadly in the end Pato dropped to third in the standings.
Josef Newgarden was the long shot for the championship but with O’Ward’s accident he was able to place second in the championship. Josef and Team Penske had their struggles this year but still show that they are and will remain competitive. Josef had two race wins and 4 poles for the 2021 season.
Scott Dixon had a quiet season. Palou took most of the limelight but Dixon won in Texas and remains the active driver with the most IndyCar wins (51). As long as Dixon keeps winning he will have a place at Ganassi.
Alexander Rossi once again had a horrible season. I’m not sure what is going on there because we all believe he is a good racer but if we don’t see some results he might find himself looking for a new ride in the future.
Graham Rahal also did not have a good season. No wins and no poles. Graham continues to struggle in qualifying. He can make his way up through the field and is often among the cars that have moved up the most. If he could start closer to the front I believe he would have more race wins. Graham finished 7th in the standings. His best start was from the 5th position in Portland. His best finish was 3rd in Texas.
Marcus Ericsson probably had the best season of his life. I’m not sure we will continue to see such great results from him in the future because I think a lot of luck was involved in his race wins. When Will Power’s car would not start after a red flag during race 1 at Detroit, Ericsson inherited the lead. On lap 1 in Nashville, Ericsson launched over the car in front of him. You had to assume he would have too much damage to finish the race and definitely not win. Marcus, however, won the race. You have to have a lot of things fall into place to win and if I had to guess he won’t be as lucky next year. I do like him though and look forward to seeing if he can keep the momentum and luck going.
Simon Pagenaud finished 8th in the standings but had a forgettable season with no wins and no poles. Simon will be moving from Team Penske to Meyer Shank racing for the 2022 season. He will reunite with former Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. I look forward to seeing what that team can do in 2022.
Will Power had one win and one pole. His win was on the road course at Indy where he has won several times before. That was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that he only had one pole. He has won 63 poles in his career, I really expected him to add three or four to that number in 2021. O’Ward and Herta each had three poles this season and Power has his work cut out for him if he wants to keep winning poles. Power will remain with Penske for the 2022 season.
When I started writing this post I didn’t intend to make it a “through the field” kinda post but I did want to touch on the Championship, silly season and my thoughts so it turned into that. I will wrap up the top ten now and return with thoughts on others in the next few days. Thanks for reading.