2012 IndyCar Series Season Review

Now that the New Year has begun, the anticipation will slowly start to build for the new IndyCar season, which will kick-off again at St Petersburg, Florida on the 24th of March. But before the race to another IndyCar Series champion begins, let’s take a trip down memory lane to recount ourselves with the year that was in 2012.

In 2012, the IZOD IndyCar Series underwent a period of rebirth, reflection and renewed optimism. As a new Dallara chassis began life with the associated unknowns of what it may deliver, the series as a whole had to pull itself up from the tragedies of losing a comrade at the end of 2011 in Dan Wheldon, and over fifteen nail-biting rounds, proceeded to deliver one of the best seasons of wheel- to-wheel racing seen in many that came before it.

The following season review is a look through the 35 drivers who strapped themselves into one of the Dallara chassis over the course of the year, and is an opinionated account of the season that was.

Who will take the coveted Number 1 position, and who has earned the right to be canned in last spot? Find out over our special five-part series…


35th Place: Jean Alesi

Jean Alesi Jean Alesi Jean Alesi

Choosing the driver to occupy last place is usually as difficult as choosing who occupies first, but not this year. Some may call it harsh, some may call it controversial, but I have no hesitation in firmly consigning Jean Alesi in last place in this countdown.

Don’t get me wrong, his placement here is done with no intended disrespect, as Alesi’s motorsport career is long and distinguished. Why he decided not to leave well enough alone in a comfortable and well-earned retirement in order to attempt the Indianapolis 500 – and oval racing in any case – will be debated for years to come.

Alesi’s association with Lotus is admirable, as is his long career in Formula 1 and the DTM series. However, all of the experience racing on road and street courses in the world cannot prepare you for a serious attempt at an oval racing debut at the age of 47, and at the Indianapolis 500 no less.

It beggars belief why Alesi even entertained the thought of trying to be competitive at the “grandest spectacle in motorsports” with the world watching, as Alesi turned his first laps ever in the oval discipline.

The problems with the Lotus engine are well documented, which only adds to the laughingstock. A merciful “Did Not Qualify” would have been the ideal outcome, however a simple lack of entries ensured Alesi would start the race on May 27 this year in 33rd place on the grid.

So after 201 starts in Formula 1 with a single, extremely popular victory 17 years ago in Canada, and five seasons in the DTM Series with four victories, Jean Alesi’s last effort in motorsport for now saw the likeable Frenchman told by the stewards to park his car, for safety reasons to the rest of the field, because he was too slow. Alesi said this month he had given up on sourcing funding to have another go next year, and for the sake of the same thing happening again, this writer says “Thank you for the memories Jean”.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Fan Force United Lotus
Starts: 1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 13 C’ship Position: 34th



34th Place: Giorgio Pantano

Giorgio Pantano Giorgio Pantano Giorgio Pantano

Stepping in to substitute for an injured Charlie Kimball, Pantano again found himself in the unenviable position of having to re-learn an Indycar – a brand new chassis at that – in the short two weeks between Edmonton and Mid-Ohio to race at the scenic mid-west venue. Pantano used his considerable experience to finish a respectful 14th, an impressive result, all things considered. It would be nice to see a team field Pantano for a full season, as he is far from a spent force.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
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: 31st



33rd Place: Ana Beatriz

Ana Beatriz Ana Beatriz Ana Beatriz

Unfortunately, it was another year of high-speed road blocking for Ana Beatriz in 2012. With only two starts to her name, both due to sufficient sponsorship in her homeland of Brazil and at the Indy 500, Ana’s best result in both was actually qualifying 13th for the great race, a feat which far exceeded expectations.

Unfortunately, she went backwards from here, finishing last of those still running at the end in 23rd position, and 10 laps behind at that. Ana must try and put together a sponsorship package to secure a drive for a full season to try and improve, or she will sadly find herself as little more than a bit player for more years to come.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Andretti / Conquest Racing Chevrolet
Starts: 2 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 0 Points: 28 C’ship Position: 29th



32nd Place: Bruno Junqueira

Bruno Junqueira Bruno Junqueira Bruno Junqueira

The former three-time Champ Car Series runner-up is another who has been consigned to the role of a bit player in recent years, only surfacing for an appearance in the Indy 500 or as a substitute driver, as he did at Baltimore this year.

Subbing for an injured Josef Newgarden, who was rehabilitating his hand following a nasty coming-together with Sebastien Bourdais the week prior in Sonoma, Junqueira had a largely uneventful race, keeping his nose clean until mechanical gremlins forced him out with eleven laps remaining in the race.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
Starts: 1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 12 C’ship Position: 35th



31st Place: Michel Jourdain Jr

Michel Jourdain Jr Michel Jourdain Jr Michel Jourdain Jr

Fans of the old CART and Champ Car Series were pleased to see the return of Michel to open-wheel competition after a number of years away, and the two-time race winner showed he hadn’t lost any of his pace, comfortably qualifying on Bump Day and not threatened thereafter. However, a sixteen- year gap between his two Indy 500 starts showed a fair bit of rust on Race Day, as Jourdain Jr came home in 19th place, a lap down on the winner, albeit still running. A respectable result considering his time away, but clearly showing a willingness for more time behind the wheel in coming years.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
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: 32nd



30th Place: Wade Cunningham

Wade Cunningham Wade Cunningham Wade Cunningham

It’s tough to imagine the surprise on Wade Cunningham’s face when he was hastily phoned a few days before the season-ending event in Fontana and told he would be taking the place of Mike Conway, who had decided enough was enough and he no longer felt comfortable on high-speed ovals, perhaps understandable after two major accidents in three years at Indianapolis.

And so it was that Cunningham dashed to southern California for the race, and with hardly any practice, put in his second start of the year, kept himself out of the wall and finished a well-deserved 14th. The young Kiwi has plenty of potential and AJ Foyt needs to give this kid the car for the whole season to see what he is capable of.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda
Starts: 2 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 29 C’ship Position: 28th



29th Place: Bryan Clauson

Bryan Clauson Bryan Clauson Bryan Clauson

Clauson was a product of the Randy Bernard mandate to re-establish a road for the champion of the United States Auto Club to compete at the Indianapolis 500, and the USAC National Midget Racing champion was a popular addition to the field among long-time open-wheel fans familiar with the concept.

He was, however, clearly out of his depth without more time to practice on the Indianapolis oval, and despite his obvious talent, he crashed while attempting to qualify on Pole Day. His team managed to repair the car in time for Bump Day, and Clauson scraped onto the final row of the grid for the start.

Race Day wasn’t exactly a shining light in his career, however, and Clauson again crashed out, this time in the first quarter of the race. However all is not lost, as Clauson made two appearances in the Indy Lights series at Milwaukee and Iowa, finishing 10th in both events.

Indianapolis will be regarded as unfinished business for the youngster, and he has time on his side to prepare for another attempt in coming years.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
Starts: 1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0
Top-5 Finishes: 0 Top-10 Finishes: 0 Laps Led: 0
DNF: 1 Points: 13 C’ship Position: 33rd



Stay tuned for our next instalment in the 2012 IndyCar Series Driver Rankings, which will be published tomorrow!

Matthew Lennon
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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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