2016 IndyCar Series season review: Pagenaud topped Team Penske's 1-2-3
The Frenchman Simon Pagenaud captured his first IndyCar Series title in the 2016 season after he won five (of sixteen) races to beat Team Penske’s teammate Will Power. As Helio Castroneves finished third in the points, it was the 1-2-3 result for Team Penske, for the first time since 1994. For Roger Penske’s team, this is 14th title in fifty years of running.
The second Frenchman on the top of the American open-wheel racing
Pagenaud and Power entered the season’s finale at Sonoma Raceway as only title contenders but Power’s luck turned its back on lap 36 when he was forced to retire because of clutch malfunction. Pagenaud has won the last race, becoming only the second Frenchman in a history of the American open-wheel racing to take the title.
Power finished as the championship runner-up for the fourth time in his career. He missed the opening race at St.Petersburg, where he qualified on the pole, but was diagnosed with a concussion shortly after the conclusion of the session and was forced to miss the race. Later in the season, Power has won four races.
Eight drivers scored victories during 2016
Beside Pagenaud and Power, six more drivers recorded victories during the season. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) is the only multiple winner among those six, finishing on the top podium spot at Phoenix International Raceway and Watkins Glen.
Alexander Rossi – Indianapolis 500 winner and the Rookie of the Year
The latter one was the winner of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The IndyCar rookie Alexander Rossi scored a sensational victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the greatest American race with a fuel gambling ahead of Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) and Josef Newgarden.
At the end of the season, Rossi finished 11th in the overall standings, taking the Rookie of the Year title. Other full-time rookies in the series were Conor Daly and Max Chilton, whilst 2015 Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot participated in ten races for RLL Racing. RC Enerson also debuted in the series, driving the #19 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing in three races.
Two circuits returned to the IndyCar calendar
The 2016 calendar featured six races on the permanent race tracks, five street races and five races at ovals. The Grand Prix of Boston was announced but canceled. IndyCar Series returned to the Road America instead, for the first time since 2007. The Phoenix International Raceway was also the returning venue on the calendar, for the first time since 2005.
The Firestone 600 race at Texas Motor Speedway started on June 12 and finished on August 27. The original date was June 11, but the race was postponed for one day due to heavy rain. A day later, race has begun and lasted for 71 laps but new rain showers caused a red flag. Because of the bad weather forecast and logistical issues, the re-start was postponed to August 27. James Hinchcliffe was a leader after 71 laps, Graham Rahal was the winner after 248 laps.
Many changes for 2017 season
For the 2017 IndyCar season, the calendar is already revealed, with all sixteen races returning to the schedule, plus Gateway Motorsports Park as the new venue. The race track in Madison, Illinois, hosted Indy Car machines last time in 2003. Some significant changes are announced among teams and drivers. Chip Ganassi Racing is switching from Chevrolet to Honda, AJ Foyt Enterprises is switching in opposite direction, from Honda to Chevrolet.
Takuma Sato is leaving AJ Foyt Enterprises after four seasons with the team, joining Andretti Autosport as a replacement for Carlos Munoz. The Colombian is moving from Andretti to AJ Foyt’s team, together with Conor Daly, who is leaving Dale Coyne Racing. His replacement would be the 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones. Sebastien Bourdais is also joining Dale Coyne Racing. The biggest transfer is Josef Newgarden’s move to Team Penske, as a replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya in the #2 car. The future of Montoya isn’t known yet, except his one-off participation with his former team at Indianapolis 500.