Thursday, May 7, 2015

It Came To Me In The Shower

Why a shake up at A.J. Foyt Racing could be for the better of IndyCar
As I was showering this morning, I was thinking about the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and was thinking about how IndyCar teams would be ranked from top to bottom. Obviously the top three are Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. Then I was thinking CFH Racing would be the fourth best team as they have combined the resources of Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and have Josef Newgarden paired with two really good teammates in Luca Filippi on road/street course and Ed Carpenter on ovals. I had Schmidt Peterson Racing rounding out the top five as they took a slight step back losing Simon Pagenaud but did hire a good driver in James Hinchcliffe but downgraded from Mikhail Aleshin to James Jakes.

The bottom five teams I thought could be split many different ways. I had KV sixth because they have S├ębastien Boudais, won a race last year, won the Indianapolis 500 two years ago but haven't accomplished as much as they could have considering who the team owners are and the amount they have invested into the team. I had Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next despite a disappointing 2014 season, ahead of A.J. Foyt Racing because while Foyt's team has shown speed, especially in qualifying, they rarely get the results that match their speed. Bryan Herta Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing round out the rankings. Herta does well for a single car team but aren't setting the world on fire and Coyne could be much, much higher but look at the crappy drivers they "hire" and you can see why they are at the bottom.

I thought long and hard about Foyt and about Takuma Sato. This is Sato's sixth season in IndyCar and he is the same driver he was ten years ago when he drove for BAR-Honda in Formula One. He is fast but will find a way to have his race end in a retirement and fail to get the result that lives up to his qualifying pace. The most podiums he has scored in a season in his IndyCar career is two. The most top fives he has scored in a season is three. The days of hoping he will hone in his mistakes are over. Sato is 38 years old. He is never going to hone in those mistakes. He deserves a spot in IndyCar because he catches lightning in a bottle two or three times a year and even though it seems he is a brush with the barriers waiting to happen, he runs at a competitive pace at majority of the races.  

And as I stood in the shower, it hit me.

A.J. Foyt Racing should trade Takuma Sato to Dale Coyne Racing and Honda should step up to fund it.

Why?

1. Coyne would get at least one competitive driver.
2. Foyt will now be able to hire a driver who is more likely to bring the car home in one piece and compete for victories.
3. The Sato-to-Coyne deal gets Honda one more competent on the grid and seeing as how Chevrolet has the top five active drivers in victories, Honda needs that driver to take the fight to Chevrolet.
4. It improves the quality of the IndyCar grid.

Sato would make Coyne competitive. Instead of having both Coyne cars starting on the final two rows and multiple seconds off the pace of the leaders, Sato gives Coyne a shot to make it to the second round of qualifying on the road and street courses and gives Coyne a shot at finishing in the top ten.

With Sato at Coyne, the #14 Foyt seat is now open for a contender Honda desperately needs. Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe, Conor Daly and Simona de Silvestro are the first four names that come to mind that could get the best out of the #14 Honda. I think Wilson and Briscoe are the better two options because they have loads of IndyCar experience and they could definitely help Jack Hawksworth. I am not sure Daly or de Silvestro could take that senior teammate role to Hawksworth. In fact, Hawksworth has more starts than Daly and that would be a big shift in that team as the sophomore driver would become the leader and I bet he wasn't expecting that role when he signed on. De Silvestro has more experience than Hawksworth but, outside of her two races at Andretti earlier this year, she only worked with a teammate for one season and that was with Tony Kanaan at KV and she has been out of a car for the better part of year.

Any of the four drivers listed above would be an upgrade for the IndyCar grid. If it reduces Coyne to just one car being shared by a rotation of below-average drivers, than that is a big plus for IndyCar and for Honda as it adds another weapon to their arsenal. Honda needs more experience. Honda might have 11-12 cars on the grid each week but this season, with the drivers Coyne has been fielding they are giving Chevrolet two less cars to worry about beating them on the race track.

It's a little too late to do this for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Coyne has been rumored to be hiring the likes of James Davison, Katherine Legge or Vitor Meira for the Indianapolis 500. However, it would be an interesting story post-Indianapolis and heading to Belle Isle and the halfway point of the 2015 season.