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 third 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 he has ranked from 32nd to 25th…

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32. Davey Hamilton

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Unfortunately Davey is still known mostly for that crash in Texas which shattered his legs and nearly ended his career. Unfortunately Davey’s last race will also be known for a monstrous crash, and it looks like he will be hanging up the helmet in order to continue focusing on his Indy Lights team.

There are rumours of a top-flight IndyCar team of his own but these have cooled off a bit for now. We may see him again at Indianapolis, but as an owner, not a driver. A stellar career for the twice IRL series runner-up.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 3 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 26 C’ship Position: 41st

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31. Wade Cunningham

Wade Cunningham In Cunningham, I believe Sam Schmidt sees another Scott Dixon, and rightly so. 2012 will likely bring more spot-races for the young Kiwi, but it won’t be long before we see full-time participation from Cunningham. A former winner of the World Karting Championship and also the Freedom 100 on Indy 500 weekend, the flag of New Zealand will continue to fly long after Dixon decides to hang it up, although I hope that isn’t for a while yet.

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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: 1 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 36 C’ship Position: 37th

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30. Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

Despite three seats with three different teams in 2011, Pagenaud had a really consistent year in terms of his on-track results. Running at the finish in all three of his starts, and running in a fairly high position considering the fact that each of his races came about at very short notice. Now signed to Sam Schmidt for the entire 2012 season, the experienced Pagenaud is one to watch.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; HVM Racing; Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Starts: 3 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 1 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 56 C’ship Position: 31st

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29. Tomas Scheckter

Have we seen the last of Tomas Scheckter in IndyCars? Does he have more to give?

imageIf someone gives him a chance, it is going to take some pretty good results to re-establish Scheckter as a major force in IndyCars. Although his two career victories have both come on ovals, he needs to show he can get the job done on road and street courses, despite this discipline being his racing background. If I were a betting man, I would sign Scheckter, but on a tiny retainer and hefty performance bonuses.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: SH Racing; Sarah Fisher Racing; Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 3 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 1 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 52 C’ship Position: 32nd

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28. Alex Lloyd

Alex Lloyd If Sebastian Bourdais ends up putting his full-time return to IndyCars off a year in order to satisfy Peugeot in the Le Mans Series, Coyne should put his faith in Lloyd once again for a full year. I believe Lloyd wrung the neck of his car more often than not and got the most out of the car that it was capable of delivering. The former IndyCar Rookie of the Year still has his best years ahead of him.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Starts: 7 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 2 Points: 85 C’ship Position: 27th

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27. Paul Tracy

Paul Tracy Look, Paul still appears to be as quick and aggressive as ever. I can’t prove otherwise. I’m sure if somebody could, Paul would call it quits. For these reasons, Tracy is every chance of contesting a full season in 2012 and no current driver can bring the level of experience Tracy has garnered in 20 years at the top of American open-wheel racing. 2011 wasn’t a great year, but jumping between teams rarely results in uninterrupted success. If Tracy can land a competitive drive for 2012, I think those at the sharp end of the grid will find themselves keeping an eye on him next year.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dragon Racing; Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 6 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 68 C’ship Position: 29th

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26. Ana Beatriz

Ana Beatriz

Aside from Barber, which Beatriz missed due to an injury, 2011 wasn’t that bad of a year for the South American fighter. As the year went on, the results were definitely getting better, peaking with a best finish of 11th at Toronto. However there is still improvement to be made, but with more time, this will come.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 16 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 3 Points: 212 C’ship Position: 21st

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25. Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson

Justin wasn’t having a bad year up until his season-ending accident at Mid-Ohio. Wilson had four top-ten finishes prior to this and was looking to bring D&R further up the grid. The Sheffield-born driver remains one of the hottest properties in the driver market for 2012 and has been linked to no less than six teams for his technical expertise and experience. It would be great to see Wilson back up the front of the grid next season.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Starts: 11 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 1 Top-10 Finishes: 4 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 183 C’ship Position: 24th

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Check in tomorrow for our next IndyCar Season Review, where we will rank positions 24th to 17th in our end-of-year rankings!

[Article by Matt Lennon; images via AutoWeek, DayLife, LAT, Zimbio]

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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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