AR1 Head-to-Head: IndyCar 2015

Another season, another championship for Scott Dixon.

It’s been nearly six weeks since the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season concluded at Sonoma Raceway. In dramatic fashion, Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon earned his fourth series title edging out Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya.

Of course, there was drama throughout 2015, and today with the benefit of a little perspective, AR1 IndyCar Correspondent Lucille Dust and Senior Columnist Brian Carroccio look back on the 2015 season in the latest installment of AR1 Head to Head. Enjoy!

Question Lucille Dust Brian Carroccio
Best race You had to be in Fontana to see the cars go by you on the track! What a nail biter. The drivers commented about the pack racing before the race started and I give them credit for hanging on and putting on a great race. Fontana was memorable and for numerous reasons, and will remain a talking point for years to come. But for the sake of being different, I’ll go with Barber. Rahal closing a nearly 20-second gap on Newgarden in the closing laps and almost winning was as thrilling as it gets for me.
Best Maneuver Graham Rahal passing Scott Dixon for 2nd place in the closing laps at Barber. The Hondas we're definitely struggling in the beginning of the season. I look back on that pass and that race as the turning point for Graham’s season. I’ll go same race, different move. Josef Newgarden going from 5th to second on the first lap at Barber, set the tone for that exciting day.
Best driver Rahal gets my vote. He showed the Honda aero kit could win races. No argument there. For the first 2/3 of the season, Rahal WAS the Honda attack.
Biggest Surprise Odd as this sounds, no one had Scott Dixon winning the championship going into Sonoma. It sort of seemed to come out of nowhere. I hate to repeat my answer from above, but I still haven’t gotten my head around Graham Rahal’s emergence from absolutely nowhere.
Best Rivalry in IndyCar Penske v. Ganassi. The two teams (usually) make nice publicly, but up close they thrive on beating one another. 2015 was merely the latest installment. We’re agreeing too much today, but you’re 100% correct. I’ll also point out that Ganassi has won the title in 6 of the last 8 seasons, with a Penske driver having a chance to win the title in the last race every time.
Best Rookie Sage Karam had some flashes this season and would be my pick but he did not get to run all the races. Gabby Chaves was getting good results with his team by the end of the season. Look for even better results in 2016 I like Chaves as well, and if you meet the kid you can’t help but come away impressed. He’ll be an IndyCar winner at some point. But I tend to place a premium on upside when it comes to evaluating rookies. And Sage Karam showed loads of promise on numerous occasions.
Most disappointing driver Ed Carpenter I think he did not have enough testing time with the aero kit. Carpenter definitely had a drop off, and seemed to be more on edge than I remember. However, the answer to me is Simon Pagenaud. While he ran better than his results would indicate, I expected more than 2 podiums from the Pagenaud-Penske combination.
Most disappointing team Andretti Autosport had a rough season adjusting to the new Honda aero kit. They did start to improve by Milwaukee. To me the answer is Foyt as I truly believed the expansion to two cars would yield a lot more than one podium finish.
How surprised would you have been if I told you after St. Pete, Team Penske would win only two more races? I’ve had said you were crazy. With 4 top drivers, all capable of winning races, I’d have thought at least 6 wins for last season. The drivers were relaxed and confident all year. Races just did not fall their way this season. I agree with that. Although I will say that they seemed to get hosed pretty often by untimely cautions, and as Will Power told us the races are more random than ever. Still, after St. Pete I was thinking we might be looking at 1994 all over again, which seems silly in retrospect.
When you look back on 2015, what storyline will you remember most? Aero kits. The Chevrolet kit had pieces that looked out of place on the car. The Honda kit had over 100 pieces that could be interchanged, yet the Honda teams still struggled mightily.. All the different factors and the teams’ struggles to get the right combination was an enduring storyline throughout 2015. For me the answer would be the week-in/week-out nonsense in INDYCAR Race Control. Granted, INDYCAR has never exactly been a model of precision in this regard but from the baffling re-appointment of Brian Barnhart to stuck fuel probes, drivers running over air hoses, etc., etc., it seemed worse than ever in 2015.
New 2016 event you’re most looking forward to. Boston. First time street races draw a huge, curious crowd. This will be good for the East Coast fans. Even though we don’t know the full schedule yet, this one is easy: Road America.
Josef Newgarden and Carlos Munoz became IndyCar race winners in 2015. Looking ahead, which driver do you believe is most likely to become the next first-time winner? Presuming he’s back at Ganassi, I’ll go with Karam. Yes, Karam showed the most potential of the rookies. Presuming he’s back, I think he wins an oval race in 2016.

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