Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007 IRL Predictions

Allow me to go on record with some more "brilliant" predictions in the 2007 racing season. If you decide to visit my NASCAR predictions, you'll see I have little to no idea how things will play out. But hell, I'll play anyway.

Champion: Dan Wheldon
Chip Ganassi Racing had a renaissance last year in the IRL, with Wheldon and Dixon posing a formidable team throughout the year. In Nextel Cup this season, their program has really come on strong (which I did predict) with the addition of Montoya. To boot, the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona. As much as I'd love to say Kanaan or Marco, I think TK is past his championship-level driving and Marco is another year or so away from being a threat week-to-week.

Biggest Surprise: Vision Racing
Nepotism aside, I really like what Vision Racing has done from 2006 to 2007. I've always believed in the talent Tomas Scheckter possesses and Ed Carpenter seemed to improve last season. Don't get me wrong AJ Foyt IV is still a no-talent driver who will be a backmarker, the #2 and #20 will steadily progress up the ladder with Scheckter a contender for some wins.

Biggest Disappointment: Rahal Letterman Racing
Amazing how a few years can change everything for a race team. In 2004 Buddy Rice piloted a RLR car to victory in the Indy 500 and team looked even stronger in 2005 with Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira driving the other two cars. Patrick and Meira scored numerous top 10 finishes and the team looked to be moving in the right direction, competing on a weekly basis with the best of the best. Then, 2006 happened: the team didn't keep up with the changes on the cars, Meira was let go, and his replacement, Paul Dana, died in a practice crash before the season finale. The team never seemed to recover from that devastation. Now, Patrick is gone and the team has brought in Scott Sharp to try and turn the team around somewhat. Alas, I just don't see that happening.

First-time Winners: Danica Patrick, Vitor Meira
I honestly would have predicted this last year as well. Danica is now with Andretti Green and she has big expectations in a car that Bryan Herta did record a victory in 2 years ago. No question she has the talent and AGR has the equipment. Mentally, she has to put it together now. As for Meira, he ran surprisingly well with the Panther team last year that was on life support and rallied to finish in the top 5 in the points standings. Meira could very well claim the title of Best Driver Without A Win in the series, and here is hoping both of these talented drivers earn their first career IRL wins.

Finally, I'll go ahead and tell ya who will win the race Saturday night. Last year, the answer to that question was basically H, C, W, or D. You could pretty much count on Sam Hornish, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, or Scott Dixon. Occasionally, someone like Kanaan or Meira would challenge... but those other guys were simply better. This year, though, could be different. I think some other teams have either caught up or nearly caught up to that level. Certainly AGR will be contending and Meira will carry the torch for Panther. My surprise pick Vision Racing could contend at some of these places, especially with Scheckter. But I'm going to be gutless and pick Sam Hornish. Just seems like this is a race he'll win.

1 comment:

Bram said...

Good calls on your IRL predictions, especially Meira getting a win this season. Kanaan took Japan, but I think we'll see Penske/Ganassi flipping coin to see who's turn it will to be to win from race to race. Wheldon will have the 2007 IRL Champ trophy, in my opinion