SJ Blog #107 - January 22, 2020
JT – With the calendar just turned to 2020, it’s time to take a look back at the Indy Car, F1 and sports car racing news and events that made the biggest impacts in 2019. I’ll kick things off by asking what you think is the single biggest story of last year?
SJ – Roger Penske buying Indy Car, I think, has to be the biggest story. It’s very significant and everyone’s very excited about it. You really couldn’t ask for a better leader for any racing series and I think you’ll see him start adding some exciting things to Indy Car quickly. It’s the best thing that could have happened to Indycar in my opinion. It’s interesting that it’s pretty much the only major racing series left that is run by someone from inside the industry, most other championships have migrated away from being run by the founders or have been bought out by larger groups who then put their own people from the outside in charge of running the business. Roger Penske is the only leader that I can think of that has not only built a colossal global business empire, but also has the background, experience and detail knowledge in motorsports that will prevent many of the costly and often wrong decisions we see being repeated in some of the other major series in the world.
JT – Looking back at Indy Car’s year seems the best place to start. It continued to gain momentum in 2019 and remained the most competitive open wheel racing series in the world. Field size averaged 22-24 cars and drivers among ten teams with several more drivers and teams appearing in single or multiple races. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden won the 2019 driver’s championship, his second Indy Car title.
He was chased closely all year by teammate Simon Pagenaud (who won the 2019 Indy 500), Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. These drivers finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the championship.
A strong rookie class included Felix Rosenqvist (the top rookie) Colton Herta (who won two races), Santino Ferrucci, Marcus Ericsson and Pato O’Ward. O’Ward raced only a partial season in 2019 but joins the series full time in 2020 with rookie-teammate Oliver Askew in the newly formed Arrow McLaren SP team.
Apart from the Penske news, what most impressed you about the 2019 season and what did Scott Dixon think of it?
SJ – By Scott’s standards it wasn’t the greatest year. It always seems to be that way the year after he wins a championship (Scott won the 2018 championship). It’s always an average kind of year for him. Things just don’t fall into place quite right. But last year really came down to mechanical failures more than anything. That’s what really dropped him out of the championship.
But then it seems the same for almost anyone who’s won the championship the previous year, they always seem to have an average season following the Championship win. This just shows how difficult it is to win in this series. No one will ever have a huge car advantage, all the teams are good today, and the level of drivers is getting stronger each year.