It’s near impossible to peg a favorite in IndyCar these days.
Seven races, seven different winners so far in the open-wheel circuit. Parity is even prevalent in the winners, too, with five different countries being represented. A couple Frenchmen, an Aussie, two Americans, a Canadian and now a Japanese driver have all visited Victory Lane.
The winners have hailed from powerhouse teams such as Team Penske to smaller shops such as Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The safe bet is to look for another different winner when the series comes to Texas Motor Speedway next Saturday for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on its new carpet-like surface. The race is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
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“This season just goes to show you that you never know who is going to win these things,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “Every race matters and the drivers are all trying to win them so hard. The cars, the equipment is really good right now.
“You’ve got some teams you don’t normally see at the front of the field that are competing and having a chance to win. So I think that’s spectacular. It’s really, really good racing right now.”
An argument, though, could be made that having more consistent winners is better for the sport so they become household names. Dynasties can be just as desirable as parity. After all, fans love to see front-runners either win it all or become victims of a big upset.
Think of Jimmie Johnson’s dominance in NASCAR in the mid-2000s.
“Well, it’s also been said that Jimmie winning all the time is not good for NASCAR,” Gossage said. “So, the bottom line is, you drop the green flag and the fastest driver to the finish wins. That’s all you can do – offer that level field to everyone to compete.”
So far, it’s been as level as possible. Anyone has a chance to win on a given weekend.
On Memorial Day, Takuma Sato accomplished a feat nobody from his country (Japan) had done – winning the Indianapolis 500. In order to do so, Sato had to pass three-time Indy champion Helio Castroneves with five laps to go and hold off a late charge.
“Would’ve it been a bigger story if Helio had won his fourth Indy 500? I don’t know,” Gossage said. “All I know is it’s a big deal to me that Takuma Sato became the first Japanese ever to win the Indy 500. And it’s not a fluke. He’s won before.
“So it is what it is. I think it’s a good thing to think that when you sit there and watch the field take the green flag. There’s a whole bunch of guys with a chance to win.”
Sato had only one other IndyCar victory, in April 2013. He had gone 71 races without a win, but had a couple top-10 runs earlier this season.
“That just shows you how competitive IndyCar is,” Sato said. “It’s a great privilege to win the Indy 500. Every race should be special and the 500 is even on top of that.”
Similarly, James Hinchcliffe snapped a 20-race winless drought by taking the checkered flag at Long Beach in the second race of the season.
“The competition in the series is as good as it’s ever been,” Hinchcliffe said. “We’ve seen this in the past – the talent in the field and how exciting and unpredictable it is. Texas is usually one that’s a nail-biter too.”
Hinchcliffe knows that all too well after losing to Graham Rahal by 0.0080 of a second last June. That just speaks to the unpredictability of Texas in recent years.
TMS has had eight different drivers win its IndyCar race since 2010 (including two winners in the 2011 twin races).
Much like IndyCar this season, the drivers have come from powerhouse teams such as Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves winning in 2013 to lesser known drivers such as Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing in 2012.
Factor that in with the new surface the track installed before the season and it’s anybody’s guess who will visit Victory Lane.
As Gossage said, “You never know.”
Spreading the wealth
A look at the past five IndyCar champions at TMS:
Dale Coyne Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing
Chip Ganassi Racing
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing