We’ve hit our first longer break of the IndyCar season, which gives us a good time to take a look at how the season has been playing out so far. Josef Newgarden leads both the actual points standings as well as in xPoints, which isn’t a big surprise given just how dominant he has been driving so far. He has been the most consistent driver all year in terms of the average deviation between his finishing positions, which is just 1.3 positions. The next best driver in terms of consistency, of those who have raced in all four of the first races, is Ed Jones at 3.1 positions. The difference between first and second should tell you a lot about how impressive Newgarden has been driving.
Two practice sessions took place at COTA today ahead of IndyCar’s first race at the circuit this Sunday. Practice one was relatively slow on track with all drivers doing ten or fewer laps, but the second session of the day saw more people come out and run quality laps.
The third and final full length practice session has finished up at St. Pete and now teams will head out and qualify this afternoon. A few red flags came out this morning that took away some practice time, but every driver still got some solid time on the track on the black tires.
Both of Friday’s practice sessions for the season opener at St. Petersburg have finished up, which means we can take a closer look at the sector heatmaps from each of these sessions.
As a reminder the heatmaps show the percent above or below the field average a driver’s sector time is. Purple is above average (good) and red is below average.
St. Petersburg has had on average about four cautions per race since 2005, making it very likely we’ll see multiple caution flags waved on Sunday. Frequent cautions are a product of street courses, and St. Petersburg has some especially tight sections that make it prone to contact with the wall and other cars.
With St. Pete also the first race of the year after a long offseason, drivers are itching to get going and start off the season well when they are here (meaning they’re more likely to make dumb mistakes or be extra aggressive).