Although he did not win a race all season, Justin ran strong week in and week out. If it weren't for a few tough breaks, Justin is easily a race winner and Championship contender. Wilson was a front runner on every type of circuit. At Indy, Justin was the highest finishing Honda, moving up from 14th on the grid to 5th. If it weren't for the late yellow that gave the win to TK, Justin may very well have been in contention for the victory.
Justin Wilson qualifying for the 2012 Indy 500 (Photo Credit: David Leiting)
Best New Comer: Carlos Munoz
Since we only had one full time rookie, and I didn't think that Rookie was deserving of the Rookie of the Year award, I decided to take into consideration all of the rookies. When looking at all the drivers who made their Indy Car debut this season, without question, Carlos Munoz was the most impressive. Carlos could have easily won at Indy if the last 3 laps were all green. Carlos also did a great job filling in with such short notice, multiple times.
Best Race: Fontana/Brazil
For me, this was a tough winner to pick. I had it narrowed down to Brazil and Fontana, but I still couldn't pick just one.
-Brazil was a good race until the last 10 laps, then this race turned to unforgettable. Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, just to name a few, were all contenders in the final few laps. Three-wide out of the final hairpin at one point..WOW! Then there was Hinchtown's last lap, last corner pass on Taku, absolutely stunning.
-Fontana was one of the best oval races, outside of Indy, that I have seen in a long time. The car control some of the drivers had when they sliced through the field was outstanding. The tire wear had cars all over the track. There was those nasty seams in the corner that forced the drivers to hold a steady line all the way through the corner. It was amazing to watch the cars dance around with each other, just searching for a line around the 2 mile oval. This race had high attrition rate written all over it, and that is exactly what happened. This race resembled the CART 500 milers from the late 90's and early 2000's
Best Pass: Hinchcliffe on Sato in Sao Paulo.
If this pass didn't have you on your feet yelling, then you aren't wired right. Taku goes to block Hinch, and James pulls the old over-under, on the final corner of the race! Words cannot explain how awesome this finish was, so here is the link to the final 5 laps! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVl2PuojmJg
Feel Good Moment of the Year: Tony Kanaan
Anyone who has followed IndyCar racing over the past 10 years knows what this victory meant to Tony and the speedway. For someone who has attended the 500 the last two season's, I truly saw what this victory meant to the fans of Tony Kanaan. Those grandstands went absolutely insane. Thousands of fans rushed him on his victory lap to congratulate him. Just as many stuck around for the post race interviews back by the media center, just to see the man of the hour.
TK takes a victory ride at Indy (Photo Credit David Leiting)
Biggest Face Palm of the Year: JR Hildebrand Runs Into Will Power Under Yellow
This was another close one. It was between Takuma Sato hitting RHR in the pits at Pocono and JR going up and over Will Power under caution at St. Pete. Well at least Taku was just trying to make up time, JR just wasn't paying attention. I know it's happened before to others, but you'd think these drivers would learn to be a little more careful under yellow flag conditions.
Biggest Surprise of the Season: Juan Montoya Signs With Penske
While this was not a season defining moment, the news was released in the latter stages of the season. I think this news had most of our jaws on the floor. Montoya seemed as though he was headed back to the Cup series, after him and Andretti could not work our a deal. Just days later, it was released that JPM would be signing with the Captain. This is a move that will definitely shake up the 2014 season.
Biggest Disappointment of the Season: Graham Rahal
Sadly, this seems to be a reoccurring theme. The young American showed so much promise in his first two seasons with Newman/Hass, but ever since then, it seems like he is going backwards more than forwards. This year looked to be a re-energizer, after being partnered with his dad, but Rahal struggled to finish races or even crack the top 10. As a fan of his, I hope with new engineer Bill Pappas, Rahal can start running up front again. That would be wonderful for the series.
Graham Rahal in the Pits at Milwaukee (Photo Credit David Leiting)