First of all – what a season! The finale lacked that final twist of drama, but that would be being far too greedy and demanding to paint that as a negative.
Understandably, in all the excitement of who would be crowned champion a few topics had to be sacrificed, so I thought I’d pick up on one of them: the impact of double points on the final points standings. Unlike Formula One’s cynical adoption of the concept, IndyCar’s awarding of double points for certain races carried a logic beyond guaranteeing a more interesting finale, instead rewarding drivers who were strong on the big oval races of 500 miles, counteracting the effect of double-header street races on the points battle. Of course, there was a chance that double points could have produced a last-race decider where there might not have been one or even a different champion, but it would have required a specific, unforeseeable set of circumstances.
First of all, let’s see who gained most and who lost out because of double points. There’s no hard cut-off to place a dividing line, but generally you would want to be as high on the list and as far away from the bottom as possible.
Note: both Jack Hawksworth and Mikhail Aleshin missed a Triple Crown race due to accidents in practice. Both were awarded half-points as if they had started the race but finished last. In both cases this amounted to 8 points. Bonus points are not included.
The clear winner in all of this was Juan Pablo Montoya, gaining more than two race victories’ worth of points. Team-mate Helio Castroneves was the next-highest beneficiary and comparing him to his other team-mate Will Power, his first two results helped to keep him in the hunt for the championship. Power himself lies in the middle of this table, suggesting that double points were a largely neutral factor in his championship challenge, apart from the two other Penske drivers benefiting considerably.
The table doesn’t quite tell the whole story however. Graham Rahal gained the least amount of points from the Triple Crown races, but how does that compare to the rest of the season? Sure he failed to capitalise on the opportunity, but maybe these were just normal results for him? To answer that we should look at those points’ impact on their total:
3 races from “22” (turning the double points races into extra races for the purpose of this analysis) makes 13.6% so a driver would look to be above that mark for double points to have had a beneficial effect. In this table, a new name jumps to the top: Ed Carpenter, who was towards the middle in the first table. But there’s a good reason for this: the Triple Crown races constitute half of all the races Carpenter entered, as he only ran on the ovals. Oddly though, the 26% figure tells us that actually Carpenter did slightly worse at under double points, as he only raced in “9” races, so really the figure we are looking for is 33%, which he falls under. Of course, that is all down to the incident at Indianapolis which meant he finished far down the order instead of possible winning. Carpenter’s only victory of course came in Texas, which is not a Triple Crown race.
So we look to the next name on the list and it’s Montoya once more, confirming that he was the best driver at utilising the opportunity double points provided (or perhaps covering up for his failings in other races, considering the Triple Crown extra points made up a fifth of his total). Tony Kanaan actually hit our 13.6% marker, showing that he wasn’t just good at these three races (and he didn’t even enjoy a good race at Indianapolis).
Below Montoya are the same drivers as before in roughly the same order and it’s a similar story down the bottom. This is no surprise – if you didn’t do well in three races with 300 points on offer, your final tally isn’t going to be that great! But there are quite a few drivers who did even worse in the Triple Crown races than was their usual, such as Rahal. The stand-out name there is Power, but when you consider he took away 66 extra points divided almost evenly across the three races it perhaps indicates how good the rest of his season was rather than a poor Triple Crown performance.
The thing this data really tells us is that the purpose of double points was fulfilled.Look at the top names on both lists and they all have one thing in common: they are known for being good on ovals. Saavedra in the second table is a bit of an anomaly, but he didn’t have a very good year on most tracks; small wonder that the double points races gave him a boost.
So, there we are. Double points complemented or reflected the drivers’ strengths and seasons. In that regard, it can be considered a success.