Tired of the Pope’s visit yet? Us too. Writing about the Pope of IndyCar proves difficult however without at least mentioning Roger Penske’s majestic reign. With more wins than any team owner and more money than God, Penske’s Papal presence in the sport and over a great many fans fortunately doesn’t affect us in the slightest. IRR is in fact unafraid to point out painful truths – even at the risk of heresy – and report that it wasn’t the best season for Pope Penske. His Holiness’ IndyCar efforts fell well short of infallible.
Penske’s supposedly sainted drivers gave the Pontiff even more reason to be ashamed this season, as if Will Power weren’t already enough. Power and Montoya’s utterances at Fontana were distasteful, unbecoming and wrong. There were also the bitter intra-faith squabbles, like when Helio and Power took each other out in Detroit‘s second race. In the season finale at Sonoma the expanded four car team couldn’t crack the top five, failing to attain another championship – and their lofty goal.
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Juan Cardinal Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 before humbly screaming into his headset, “Yes! So Bad! That’s how you do it!” In the end however he failed to win the championship race he’d led nearly the entire season. JCM also won the season opener at St. Pete appropriately enough, adding nine top fives and thirteen top ten finishes. Miraculously, the Colombian was running at the finish of fifteen races. When Holy Roger counted on him in the finale though, he came in sixth which wasn’t good enough to beat Dixie. Embellishing the Pope’s gaudy podium total, he finished third at Pocono – which he won last year – the GP of Indy and Long Beach.
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“Mad Monk” Power fell short in defending his championship despite an awe inspiring six poles, scoring a solitary win at the Grand Prix of Indy. He had seven top fives, ten top ten finishes and ran at the finish in thirteen races. His second place in the Indianapolis 500 gave Pope Penske a sweep of the top two positions on Memorial Day Sunday. No fan of ovals, the Mad Monk’s tenth at Iowa surprisingly was tops for the backsliding team.
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Archbishop Helio Castro Neves suffered through his second disappointing season in a row, failing to win a race for just the second time since 1999. It’s not that he was bad, as the aging Brazilian did contribute four poles, six top fives and nine top ten finishes while running at the finish thirteen times. He came close with second place finishes at NOLA, Long Beach and Milwaukee and took third at both Texas and Toronto. Ironically, the Archbishop of IndyCar railed vociferously against the sin of blocking after the Indy 500, damning Charlie Kimball as the new “biggest blocker.”
Receiving Roger’s blessing as newcomer, Father Simon Pagenaud had a worse year than with SPM in 2014, also unable to win a race. The Pope’s Frenchman earned a pole, four top fives and nine top ten finishes. On a positive note, he at least showed some consistency running at the finish of fourteen races. Priest Pags finished third at Mid-Ohio and in Detroit‘s abbreviated first race, fourth at Long Beach and that’s pretty much it. Sacre Bleu!
Obviously, Il Papa Roger’s IndyCar God squad had a less than heavenly year. The all important question is, do they have the faith, patience and perseverance to endure another?
2015 Grade: B
2015 Midseason Grade: B
2014 Grade: A