2011 IndyCar Series Season Review

The 2011 IndyCar Series season was tragically overshadowed by the death of Dan Wheldon at the season-ending Las Vegas race, but prior to that, much focus was on the thrilling championship battle between Dario Franchitti and Will Power, which was waged both on and off the track.

In the second of six feature articles, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon rates the performance of each of the drivers who appeared over the course of the season, and takes a look at some of this year’s drivers who will be wanting to improve their results next year…

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40. John Andretti

John Andretti

The veteran keeps turning up each May and keeps running very quickly, so it is not time to tell him he is over the hill. Making his customary appearance at the Indy 500 again this year, Andretti finished in 22nd place and will no doubt be back to try again next year.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Richard Petty / Andretti Autosports
Starts: 1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 16 C’ship Position: 42nd

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39. Jay Howard

Jay Howard Jay shows potential when he gets in the car. If he were able to secure a full-time ride for 2012, as is being rumoured as a possibility for a Rahal seat, we may be able to see this potential benefiting from a full season of experience.

Perhaps too old or too experienced to be returning to Indy Lights, Howard needs to continue to race as often as he can and continue the learning process to grow into a more complete and in-demand driver.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Sam Schmidt Motorsports; Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Starts: 3 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 27 C’ship Position: 40th

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38. Townsend Bell

Bell is rapidly approaching veteran status in the IndyCar series, if he isn’t there already, and he will probably be the first to tell you that first a full-time season and some stability would be what he craves.

Townsend Bell Debuting in top-flight American open-wheel in 2001 with two starts for Patrick Racing at the Lausitzring and Rockingham, Bell hasn’t completed an entire season in open-wheel since Indy Lights that same year. Recent appearances at the Indy 500 and further occasional appearances have proven Bell is as quick as they come, but all he needs is that permanent home to show what he is capable of.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Sam Schmidt Motorsports; Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 2 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 40 C’ship Position: 35th

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37. Buddy Rice

Rice, a former Indy 500 victor, is struggling to return to his former glory in the middle of the last decade and with the exception of Las Vegas 2011, has only made one start Buddy Rice since 2008.

There’s no doubting his abilities, however with such infrequent action, one cannot reasonably expect Rice to simply jump into the car and turn into his best each time out. I don’t believe Rice is done yet so if he secures regular race action, he is capable of surprising us again.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Panther Racing
Starts: 2 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 1 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 42 C’ship Position: 34th

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36. Sebastian Saavedra

Sebastian Saavedra Will somebody please give this kid a car in which he can show us what he is capable of? I highly doubt Saavedra is content running at the back for a team almost literally living hand to mouth on the contributions of pay drivers. This kid is quick, deserves a better car and a team he can build around himself. Give him that, and he will give you the results.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Conquest Racing
Starts: 14 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 5 Points: 178 C’ship Position: 25th

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35. Martin Plowman

Martin Plowman

I was really impressed with Martin Plowman’s three appearances in 2011, especially Infineon, where he put his vastly more experienced team-mate Alex Tagliani in the shade. With the experience he has gained in IndyCar this year, I would suggest one more year in Lights before coming back in 2013 stronger and hungrier than ever.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: AFS / Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Starts: 3 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 49 C’ship Position: 33rd

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34. Pippa Mann

Now that glamour girl Danica Patrick has departed for the tin-top shores, Pippa is more than capable of stepping into the role of the competitive yet highly marketable female racing superstar.

Pippa Mann IndyCar sure could use another one, and like Danica, Pippa is capable of great things. You won’t find her near black cats or walking under ladders anymore, as she has sure used up a career’s worth of bad luck, including an overnight hospital stay after getting banged up in the Las Vegas wreck. Despite this, Mann can follow in the footsteps of Sarah Fisher and Danica and perhaps even go further.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Starts: 2 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 32 C’ship Position: 38th

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33. Bertrand Baguette

Bertrand Baguette

Bertrand had a good year in 2010 and adapted to the series better than many thought he might. It was a shame not to see him more often in 2011, but a couple of laps from the end of the Indy 500 this year, we came very close to seeing him chugging the milk bottle if not for the late fuel stop he had to make to ensure he finished at all. Although Baguette is still a European road-racer at heart, it is nice to see Formula 1 has been put aside and IndyCar success is his focus.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Starts: 1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 1 Laps Led: 11
DNF: 0 Points: 30 C’ship Position: 39th

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Check in tomorrow for our next IndyCar Season Review, where we will rank positions 32nd to 25th in our end-of-year rankings!

[Article by Matt Lennon; Images via AutoWeek, iRacing, LAT, MP2 Photography]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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