RACER.com continues its breakdown of each team's season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Today, a look through all of the full-season midfield teams, with each driver, points total and finish, wins/poles or best start/finish, average start, points per race and laps led, if applicable.
KV RACING TECHNOLOGY (Chevrolet)
Tony Kanaan / (351, 9th)
Rubens Barrichello / (289, 12th)
E.J. Viso / (244, 20th)
Best start: 3rd (Kanaan, Fontana, Barrichello, Milwaukee)
Best finish: 2nd (Kanaan, Milwaukee)
Avg. Start: Kanaan 12.2, Barrichello 12.7, Viso 14.1
Points Per Race: Kanaan 23.4, Barrichello 19.3, Viso 16.3
Laps Led: Kanaan 54, Viso 27, Barrichello 3
Some teams end up better than the results might indicate and for yet another year, that's how it seemed KV Racing Technology fared. They nearly had two of the top-10 drivers in the final championship standings but it rarely seemed like KV was really at the front of the field. Changes will come in the offseason with the first domino to fall GM Mark Johnson announcing he was resigning.
I doubt he'd admit it publicly, but you have to wonder if Tony Kanaan tires of the “miracle worker” act on a weekly basis. Like Oriol Servia, he was a passing demon from race to race – in five races he finished at least 12 spots higher than he qualified – but he was only needing to do that because the team's qualifying pace simply wasn't on par the second half of the season. A brutal end to his season saw three results of 18th or worse in the last five races, and he fell from fifth to ninth in the final standings as a result. This was despite three podium finishes, all on ovals, a demon second-to-last restart at Indianapolis when he went from sixth to leading and nearly winning the A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy.
What of Rubens Barrichello in his first season? It certainly seemed better than his last in Formula 1, and he made no bones about enjoying the IndyCar atmosphere, but the chemistry within the team seemed less harmonious as the year went on. Back-to-back top fives at Sonoma and Baltimore lifted him in the final rankings but despite seven top-10s finishes and the Rookie of the Year honors at Indy, it all felt like there could have been more. Chalk that up to a lack of experience in these cars and needing to learn all the tracks; he'll be better with a second season.
Meanwhile, E.J. Viso ended 20th in points – his worst finish in five seasons, all either 17th or 18th previously – but it felt as though he'd had his best season. Four top-10 starts including two Firestone Fast Six appearances in the first eight races wasn't anything to scoff at, nor was his drive at Milwaukee where he should have had a podium. But his second half – 16th or worse in all but one race – dropped him down the order. He retired only once due to contact, an accident not of his doing in Iowa, and his only real “old Viso” moments came in contact with Dario Franchitti in the pits at Indy and holding up the field while slower at Detroit. Like Charlie Kimball a spot ahead of him, this was a leaner, meaner, cleaner Viso – but the results don't show it.
SERVICE CENTRAL/NOVO NORDISK CHIP GANASSI RACING (Honda)
Graham Rahal / (333, 10th)
Charlie Kimball / (260, 19th)
Giorgio Pantano / (16, 31st)
Best start: 3rd (Rahal, Texas) / Best finish: 2nd (Rahal, Texas, Kimball, Toronto)
Avg. Start: Rahal 12.4, Kimball 17.4
Points Per Race: Rahal 22.2, Kimball 18.6
Laps Led: Rahal 28, Kimball 3
If at times in 2011, Graham Rahal and the Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing team posed a sincere threat to the upper Target squad, the times achieving those same stratospheric heights in 2012 were few and far between. By contrast, the final results table didn't reflect the improvement his teammate Charlie Kimball made in the Novo Nordisk camp.
Rahal, who you easily forget is only 23 given he's been in the top level of American open-wheel racing since 2007, remained the team leader and easily outpaced Kimball. And from Texas on, his results were consistent, ranging from second there to 11th in eight of nine races, with only his early accident at Toronto outside that realm. They weren't bad but given his desire to want to run top five every weekend, it felt like the potential and talent was never fully realized. He only started in the top 10 twice in that stretch, and that made it all the more difficult to have to make ground up every weekend. Texas, obviously, was incredibly frustrating as Rahal had the race won before contact on the exit of Turn 4 with those few laps left.
On paper, you look at Kimball and think, “OK, he was 19th his rookie year and 19th year two. What changed?” But that was really the only similarity. He had six top-10 finishes compared to two a year ago, finished both 500-mile races in eighth and 10th, scored 27 more points in three fewer races, and had potential top-10s fall off at Long Beach and Baltimore when he ran great races. Second at Toronto was richly deserved with one of the passes of the year, going past both Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud at Turn 3. His pace isn't still fully there in qualifying, and it shows in a field this deep, but he was easily among the most improved drivers of the year. Only once did he retire due to contact, at Texas, after doing so five times in 2011.
Rahal is off to (he hopes) greener pastures for 2013 and who Kimball's teammate is will say a lot about how this team can grow and foster into the true challengers it could be given the Ganassi name on the transporters. If it's a veteran like Ryan Briscoe, they could flourish, while if it's a less-experienced IndyCar driver, a la Barrichello, the team could fall back, as Kimball is not quite a team leader just yet. Giorgio Pantano – who deputized admirably as Kimball's fill-in at Mid-Ohio – could work given his potential, but not as a team leader given he'd be a full-season rookie.