By: Spencer Neff
November 8, 2018 | 10:20 AM
Now that the dust has settled and we have had a little time to breathe, November presents a great opportunity for Open-Wheels’ senior writers Spencer Neff and Tanner Watkins to go back and take a look at their preseason predictions!
Below we will revisit each category and the predictions made by both Spencer and Tanner, coupled with brief summarizations of how their predictions played out over the 2018 season. If you’re interested, you can check out the full preseason roundtable we had by clicking here.
Some were right, some were wrong and some were floating in between… So sit back and re-live the 2018 season with us!
Spencer’s Pick: Josef Newgarden
SN: Newgarden started off strong with two wins in the first four races. Dixon took the points lead midway through the season and never looked back, despite a late charge from Alexander Rossi. Look for all three to be among the handful of 2019 title favorites.
Tanner’s Pick: Scott Dixon
TW: Wow, I was right on this one! I actually correctly predicted the top five finishers as well – Dixon plus Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden – and going into this season it just felt as if the cream would rise to the top with a level playing field of sorts in a universal aero kit. The car didn’t disappoint and we saw some great finishes.
Indianapolis 500 Winner
Spencer’s Pick: Helio Castroneves
SN: The three-time 500 winner recorded the fastest time on Bump Day but would qualify eighth a day later. Although he did earn the fastest lap of the race, Castroneves crashed out and teammate Will Power won. Castroneves is confirmed back with Penske in 2019 for the race. Look for a determined racer in the No. 3 at IMS in May.
Tanner’s Pick: Helio Castroneves
TW: I was drinking the Helio Castroneves Kool-Aid as well this past May. The three-time Indy 500 winner qualified well and was holding serve in the top ten before crashing out on lap 145. Like many others that day, Castroneves was caught out by the lack of downforce on the universal aero kit coupled with near record-setting heat on race day. Maybe his luck will be better in 2019.
Rookie of the Year
Spencer’s Pick: Zach Veach
SN: Veach made progress as the year progressed and ended with a few solid runs. Robert Wickens’ season at SPM was one of the best from a rookie in a long time though. Here’s hoping he can return soon and we can see 2018’s best continue to battle it out.
Tanner’s Pick: Robert Wickens
TW: This seemed like another no-doubter, picking Robert Wickens to win rookie of the year. Back in March I stated that there were a lot of rookies to “like” in 2018, but only one to “love” and that was pretty much the case. Zach Veach did well to improve consistently through the season as a rookie runner-up, but even in an abbreviated campaign it was Wickens stealing the show.
Spencer’s Pick: Pietro Fittipaldi
SN: Fittipaldi started a solid 10th in his debut at ISM Raceway in April before crashing out early. A sports car crash forced him to miss the Indianapolis and Texas races. He did manage a career-best ninth at Portland in the penultimate race. With Dale Coyne expected to pair with Santino Ferrucci, Fittipaldi’s IndyCar future remains uncertain at best.
Tanner’s Pick: A.J. Foyt Racing wins a race
TW: It is safe to say I missed the mark on this one. While Foyt did notch a few top-10 finishes (four to be exact, all from Tony Kanaan) the team’s best chance at sniffing a podium, nonetheless a win, was at Indianapolis when Kanaan led 19 laps before crashing out on lap 187. It does seem as if the team made some small gains throughout 2018, so look for them to be slightly improved for next season.
Spencer’s Pick: James Hinchcliffe
SN: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports got off to a rocky start in 2018 with both Hinchcliffe and Wickens underperformed at the February ISM Raceway test. When the season started, both drivers turned it around and ran consistently in the Top 10 through most of April.
Hinchcliffe struggled mightily and shockingly did not qualify for the ‘500 in May. The No. 5 team made some personnel changes following the Indianapolis disaster and turned in a stellar performance to win at Iowa.
Tanner’s Pick: INDYCAR stays with ESPN
TW: Why was I so negative? At the time, television negotiations between INDYCAR and their interested parties were moving at a snail’s pace and I was unsure that the governing body would take a chance and leave ABC/ESPN after a 54-year relationship. Just about two weeks later, INDYCAR announced they were shifting to NBC for 2019 and beyond, leaving many to rejoice.
It will be interesting to see how much supplementary content NBC produces alongside basic race, qualifying and practice session coverage. NBCSN is packed with daily NASCAR content, so we will see how they view INDYCAR in the grand scheme of things soon.
Bold Topic of Choice
Spencer’s Pick: More than 5 part-time/one-off drivers will finish Top 10 at the Indianapolis 500
SN: Three drivers who fit that description made the Fast 9 in qualifying (Ed Carpenter, Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves). Carpenter earned his third ‘500 pole and led the most laps before finishing second. The owner/driver would be the only major contender of the group. One-off drivers Oriol Servia and Stefan Wilson did lead late in the race before pitting for fuel.
Tanner’s Pick: Harding Racing will finish in the top-12 of points
TW: Well, if you add up all the points Harding accumulated across four drivers in 2018 (Gabby Chaves, Conor Daly, Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta) the quartet still would have only mustered a 16th place points finish this year. But that doesn’t mean I won’t pick them again next year: the duo of Herta and O’Ward returning full-time in 2019 is an exciting prospect and we could see Harding in the top-10 much more often next season.
Header image courtesy of Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.