Take his runner-up finish at Indy out of the equation, and Dan's best results this year have been on a street course and a road course. Given his previous record, that's a shock, but the simple fact is that he races far better than he qualifies, so when the strategy all goes right, he looks decent.
BEST: Mixing it with the Penske and Ganassi cars on the opening day of practice at Watkins Glen.
WORST: Crossing the white line at the bottom of the track during his super-quick qualifying laps at Kansas. He got sent to the back of the grid and then spooked himself trying to charge forward in the race, resulting in a lame 15th-place finish.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Dan needs to shine again like he did in his first years with the IRL. The field is more competitive than when he was at Andretti Green and Ganassi and now he has no teammates and probably less means, so he needs to give more of himself than ever before. One-car operations will always be handicapped compared to bigger teams, but I believe he should be a contender more often than he is. Hats off for Indy, though: once more he showed how playing it smart can take you to the front even without being in the fastest car. In my opinion he needs to make it happen again before the end of the season.
Enigmatic as ever. Some days he leads the Andretti Autosport charge as at Barber (qualifying and race), Indy (qualifying), Iowa (first part of the race), and Watkins Glen (qualifying). And other days you get the impression he's brutalizing his car with no sense of the big picture.
BEST: The opening laps of a damp St. Petersburg where he made everyone else look like they were stroking.
WORST: From the moment he lost the lead at Iowa.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Marco has the fire, talent, desire – and more commitment than people think. Somehow he needs to gain consistency. It's like he's an advanced student who burned some early stages during his learning process and now lacks some of the lessons that provide mind structure that allow him to see the full picture of a race weekend. Put him in an underdog position and he will show his best, but he needs to find a way to do it every weekend.
Unlike her three teammates, Danica hasn't taken advantage of Andretti Autosport's upswing. She defeated all her teammates to take a well deserved runner-up finish at Texas, but her road and street course form, which started glimmering last year, has been extinguished once more.
BEST: Dueling for the lead with Ryan Briscoe at Texas with a weaker car.
WORST: Any road/street course qualifying session post-Sao Paulo.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: I am a true Danica fan – me and another 200 million people…A talented and hot lady! So what is it she's missing this year? I want to see her go back to the mindset of when I met her racing in the Atlantic Series. She was ready to fight all challenges that would stand in her way and was not taking anything for granted. To get the best out of you often takes searching deeper than one may imagine. It is only up to Danica to find setups that work for her. The competition is harder than ever before in her career, but if she can find her rooted DNA of a racer, she can shine again, even on road courses.
Like Marco Andretti, Raphael Matos is an enigma in that he can be strong one race, anonymous the next. But unlike Marco, Rafa has the excuse of having three fewer teammates at Dragon De Ferran. If only team co-owner Gil was in a second full-time car…
BEST: Fast all weekend at Watkins Glen and had to really use his brain and restraint to get that fourth-place finish.
WORST: Nowhere in qualifying at Long Beach, a track where he started third last year.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Zanardi, Montoya, Bourdais, Mansell, Castroneves…every Indy car rookie who shone straight away had a top teammate to learn from. It is not just speed, it's knowing what to ask from the car, engineers, mechanics, timings… Rafa is in his second year, we all want and expect more from him. With the right setup and teammate, I have no doubt he would be at the front but opportunities are not always perfectly tailored. From midseason on, he needs to make things happen. At Watkins Glen, he showed a lot of maturity and talent when he was able to maintain his fourth position while on black Firestones and everybody around him was on reds.
Who expected Meira to score his best result on a street course? It was great that it came in his comeback race from his back injury and occurred on home soil in Brazil. But other than good drives at Kansas and Iowa, A.J. Foyt Racing appears to be struggling, and there's little he can do about it.
BEST: Winning the duel with compatriot Matos for the final step on the podium in Sao Paulo.
WORST: Only qualifying 30th at Indy, a place where he normally shines.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Vitor is a truly dedicated professional and his results show that year after year. It doesn't matter if it is oval or road coarse, if there is an opportunity to shine, he will use it. I believe the team is at a crucial point where, with a bit more funding, they could be challenging the top six very often. Driving for a such big family team must have some challenges and Vitor seems to be able to handle that better than anybody else.
FAZZT's lows have been what you might expect from a rookie team, even with a swift Indy car veteran driving and equally proven talents in the staff, but the highs have exceeded expectations, especially for a one-car entry. Now Alex needs results. Toronto would be a good place to start…
BEST: Qualifying on the front row on the team's debut in Brazil, or beating a Ganassi car to fifth on the grid at Indy.
WORST: Over-ambitious maneuver at Long Beach which resulted in bent suspension and a DNF.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Tag is doing what any other driver with some years in the paddock would dream of. He has been able to put a team together, hand-picking the best guys he has worked with through his career. He has hired many names that are in my top 10 list and, once more, it shows that good brains can often overpower bigger budgets. I give him a 10 out of 10, not only for putting a great operation together but, more than anything, for being able to focus on the driving as he has. We all know how good Tag is, but we also know how intense and probably over-controlling he can be. What he is doing is not easy and yet he has been able to embarrass top teams and drivers in MANY races in FAZZT's first year of running. Bravo, Alex! Keep your hands on the wheel and let Rob Edwards handle all team operations during the season and you will be a frontrunner at all times.