The Verizon IndyCar Series recently handed out season awards at its Victory Lap event in Indianapolis, but IndyCar.com isn’t done doling out special honors.
We’re diving deep into the analytics of the 2018 season to find the drivers who had the best year in a number of categories according to our data.
Analysis of raw loop data from INDYCAR’s timing and scoring at every track will help us decide the winner of each award. The driver with the most awards will be crowned the Speedy "Driver of the Year." But back to today’s award.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, Major League Baseball awarded its top closer, the relief pitcher brought in to save wins for the team. While relief drivers are a thing of the past, INDYCAR’s definition of a closer is quite similar.
It’s the driver who gained the most positions in the final 10 percent of each race. This week, we’re handing out the Speedy for the top closer – or the James Hinchcliffe “When It’s Time to Go, You Go” Award, if you’d like.
The finalists are:
Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Known for his motto, “No Attack, No Chance,” Sato definitely lived up to that at St. Petersburg (three positions gained) and Barber (six positions gained). The 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner finished the season with 13 total positions gained in the final 10 percent of all races, for an average gain of 0.76 positions per race.
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske
Pagenaud shined at the Indianapolis 500 when he gained four spots (10th place to sixth) in the final 50 miles of the event. A steady performer in the closing portions of the race, Pagenaud gained spots in six races and finished the year with 11 total positions gained and a position gained average of 0.65.
Max Chilton, Carlin
Chilton gained at least one position in the final 10 percent of nine of the 17 races this season and had 10 total positions gained. The Carlin driver was one of the few full-time drivers to never cede a position in the closing 10 percent of races and picked up an average of 0.53 positions per race.
So, the winner of the Speedy as top closer is Takuma Sato.
Gaining 13 positions when it counts means the Japanese driver is the guy you don’t want to see in your mirrors when it’s go time. Because, chances are, he’s going by you.
Previous Speedy Awards presented thus far:
Alex Zanardi Overtaker of the Year: Alexander Rossi (read story here).