Monday, January 2, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: How Ed Carpenter Can Win the 2017 Championship

We have made out of the year from hell that was 2016 and we have entered what hopefully is a step-forward in the year of 2017. While we are only in the second day of the New Year, the motorsports season starts today and there are a few events waiting for us at the end of the week but until then, here is a run down of what got me thinking.

How Ed Carpenter Can Win the 2017 Championship
The second season of the Dinner with Racers podcast dropped at the start of December and the series takes you through the diverse scene that is the motorsports world. Before getting into the new season, I listened to a few from season one I hadn't gotten a chance to hear last year. The one thing I noticed from season one was the only IndyCar competitor to appear was Simon Pagenaud. Bryan Clauson had also appeared in season one but he only competed the Indianapolis 500.

Pagenaud was the only IndyCar regular on during season one and he ended up winning the championship. Which means only one thing: If you are an IndyCar competitor and appear on Dinner with Racers, you will win the championship the following season. It is obvious. While picking through the season two episodes one-by-one, I noticed one IndyCar regular that was featured and therefore I would like to be the first to congratulate the 2017 IndyCar champion... Ed Carpenter.

Ed Carpenter... yeah... he is going to be the one lifting the Astor Cup at Sonoma... maybe not. At least not if he continues running the partial schedule he has been running for the last four seasons.

How can Ed Carpenter win the 2017 IndyCar championship?

There are 17 races on the 2017 IndyCar schedule. For Carpenter to win the championship, he is going to have to return to being a full-time driver. That means no Spencer Pigot or RC Enerson or Zach Veach or Jack Hawksworth or Jack Harvey in the #20 Chevrolet on road and street circuits. It wouldn't be impossible but Carpenter would need to be near flawless.

Carpenter would need to systematically break the championship down by points. Should there be no changes to the points system, Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma remaining double points and Indianapolis 500 qualifying points remaining, the maximum possible points for the 2017 season would be 1,056 points. Since 1979, the average percentage of maximum points for a champion is 61.38% but since reunification the average percentage of maximum points for a champion is 62.47% meaning the 2017 IndyCar champion will likely need somewhere between 648-660 points.

However, since the start of the DW12-era in 2012, the average percentage of maximum points for a champion is 58.78% with Pagenaud's 2016 skewing the numbers as he scored 65.57% of the maximum points. The previous four champions in the DW12-era had all failed to score more than 58% of the maximum points. If you take the median percentage of maximum points for a champion in the DW12-era, that would bring the lower figure down to 57.73%, meaning the range would be anywhere from 609-660 points.

Of the 1,056 points available, 415 points are available from the six oval races. Ed Carpenter would need all of those 415 points. He would have to win all six races from pole position and leading the most laps along the way. While that seems like a good points haul, 415 points would have only put him 14th in the 2016 championship but in 2015, that would have put Carpenter tenth in the championship.

Let's just say Carpenter needs to get to the low end of that 609-600 range to be champion and he accomplishes the daunting task of scoring all 415 points from the oval races. He would need to score 194 points in the 11 road/street course races. That would be an average of 17.6 points per race. Twelfth-place pays 18 points and while that doesn't seem like much, 12th is asking a lot of Ed Carpenter on a road/street course.

Carpenter made 49 road/street course races from 2005 to 2013. In those 49 starts, he finished in the top 12 six times with his best finish being sixth. His average finish in road/street course races is 17.34. If Carpenter finished 17th in all 11 road/street course races, he would score 156 points. Add that to his 415 points from ovals and he is on 571 points. In 2016, 571 points would have gotten Carpenter second in the championship. In 2015, Carpenter would have won the championship with 571 points. However, 571 points is only 54.07% of the maximum points for the 2017 season and that would be the lowest percentage of maximum points since Gil de Ferran won the 2001 CART championship with 45.22% but in an entirely different points system.

However, what if Carpenter finished 15th in each road/street course race? Considering there might only be 21 cars on the grid for each road/street course race, he would just need to keep the car on the road, not have any mechanical failures and maybe have a strategist that rivals Dale Coyne to get him 15th but let's say he can get 15th in each road/street course race. That would be 180 points, add that to 415 points from the oval races and he would have 595 points. Once again, that would have been good enough to get him second in the 2016 championship and would have won him the 2015 title. While it doesn't reach the 609-point mark, 595 points is 56.3% of the maximum amount and it could be enough for the title especially when looking at the other champions in the DW12-era.

In all likelihood, Ed Carpenter will not lift the Astor Cup as a driver come Sonoma in September. He seems comfortable in his oval-only role but after everything that happened in 2016 you cannot say it won't happen and if it were to happen, how would people respond to a driver who was impeccable in six races but was mediocre for nearly two-thirds of the season? Would fans cry for change? Of course. Would the series react and change the points system? Maybe. If IndyCar was NASCAR, definitely. I can't help but feel it would be viewed as a black eye for the series, regardless of who won the championship.

Even though Carpenter won't likely do it in 2017, it is still possible. In fact, the type of scenario I have laid out is just the ripe scenario for Marco Andretti to become IndyCar champion and leave a swarm of fans angry and arguing that despite winning six races, including the Indianapolis 500, Andretti would still be a talentless driver who only has a ride because of his father. I kind of want to see that just to see the grandstand turn red.

Winners While We Were Away
Here are some notable results since the last time we met on a Monday:

On December 17th, the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Davide Rigon, Giacomo Piccini and Michael Broniszewski won the Gulf 12 Hours. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Andrea Rizzoli took the Pro-Am victory. The #77 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Jacques Duyver, Marco Zanuttini and David Perel won in the Gentleman class. The #5 Graff Ligier-Nissan of James Winslow, Gregory Taylor and Neale Muston won in the Prototype class. The #50 Scuderia Villorba Corse Maserati of Patrick Zamparini, Piotr Chodzen and Antoni Chosen won in the GX class.

Romain Grosjean won a Andros Trophy race at Alpe d'Huez on December 17th. Olivier Panis won the race the day before.

Coming Up This Weekend
The Dakar Rally begins today.
The AMA Supercross season starts in Anaheim.
Asian Le Mans Series runs it penultimate round of the 2016-17 season at Buriram.