The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.
This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.
Photo from twitter.com
Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.
Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.
Photo from indycar.com
The most shocking moment by far came at the Indy 500 when Takuma Sato kept it off the wall and drank the milk in victory lane. After so many failed attempts, it was something to see Taku finally win. However, seeing Michael Andretti’s cars win year after year is getting old. Our coverage was extensive and insightful, helping to make up for an anticlimactic 101st 500.
Probably the best thing to come out of the season was an American champion – albeit in fairly drama-less fashion – even though he’s now driving for The Cap’n, who after all has won three of the last four titles. By far the best thing about the upcoming season is the close of the aero kit era and a return to actual open wheel cars that look like IndyCars.
We’ve been on the cutting edge – nay, ahead – of that ugly story since its inception. Other articles that ranked among our best coverage this season were Gateway Preview, “Escape From East St. Louis,” clear crowd favorite “Time To Call It Quits Tony Kanaan” and our “Seventeen (Or So) Predictions for the 2017 Season,” which pretty well summed up the season back in January.
Farewell to J.R. Hildebrand at ECR, Carlos Munoz at Foyt and Tony Kanaan at Ganassi. The last one not only isn’t surprising, but also should be a strong retirement signal to the series’ eldest driver who became an accident waiting to happen this year. Farewell also to series title sponsor Verizon after three years with the sport. We wonder, were three years of sponsorship really worth sitting through all those paid plugs at Watkins Glen?
All in all the season was a decent ride, for the letdown after the 100th 500 was to be expected. This year’s 500 result was not. The most significant outcomes are an American champ and the return of a decent looking car for a change, and we’ve got both of those to look forward to in 2018.