Back in 2004, NASCAR ended its inaugural season with
Sprint Nextel at Homestead. Many (myself included) believe it was the best season in NASCAR since the epic 1992 season. The 2004 season had it all: the new title sponsor (Nextel), the new points format (the Chase 1.0), a new trophy (Nextel Cup), a popular rookie (Kahne), an epic win (Junior at Daytona), an unstoppable qualifier (Newman), a late season comeback charge (Johnson), and a CLOSE championship fight down to the last laps (Busch over Johnson).
IndyCar now ends its inaugural season with IZOD at Homestead (for the last time, allegedly) . Was this season like NASCAR's? It had some similarities: the new title sponsor (IZOD), a new trophy (that artsy unicyclist), a popular rookie (Simona), an unstoppable qualifier on road courses (Power), a late season comeback charge (Dario in the points, Helio in the win column), and a CLOSE championship fight (twelve points). Sure there were similarities, but it just wasn't as epic nor as good.
That's a good thing moving forward.
NASCAR's 2004 season was them hitting a peak. They haven't relived that "high" since. Perhaps an epic championship finish to a mediocre season can be a good start of a climb to a similar peak for IndyCar. What kind of finish can we expect?
THE FAVORITE (BEST RED CAR): Scott "Remember me?" Dixon
Ha! You thought I was going to pick either Will or Dario, didn't you? Last year Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe were by far the best on the track and Dario stole the title with a daring call. It's hard to believe that after what we saw at Kansas that he would be winless on an oval since. Also this isn't F1, so even if Chip tells Dixon that "Dario is faster than you...." Dixon can reply "not fast enough" (we hope). After all, that's exactly what happened at Sonoma with Dixon passing and finishing ahead of Dario….
THE BEST OF THE REST (BEST NON-RED CAR): Ed "Rebel Commander" Carpenter
Fate is the only thing keeping him from defeating the Red Car Empire. Eventually something has got to give. He's been too good to keep down. Let's hope that either Fuzzy or Menard signs him a check for at least the oval schedule next year. By the way Ed, try to keep your stepfather away from the track this time. He wasn't there when you won the pole at Kentucky, and he was when Helio stole the race from you. Coincidence? Think again.
THE MARTY "SLOTH" ROTH BACKMARKER (NOT NAMED MILKA): Yep, you guessed it….
Come on….Lotus increasing its sponsorship/involvement with KV Racing is for only one reason: job security for the aero-kit builders at Lotus in 2012.
….and drum roll please….
THE CHAMPION: Will "Too Much" Power
Dario drained the luck bank for two straight IndyCar title races ('07 Chicagoland, '09 Homestead). Third time wont be a charm. He'll make it close and finish ahead of Power in the race, but it won't be enough points.