Wickens, Dario Very Much Underrated, Here’s Why

INDIANAPOLIS – We’re down to the final four races of the NTT IndyCar Series season. As we sit here today, we get another reminder on why Robert Wickens and Dario Franchitti were underrated race car drivers.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Lets start with Wickens. Everyone was talking about how good he was last year, but I don’t think we really appreciated just how good he really was.

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Robert Wickens following his runner-up finish at Mid-Ohio last July – INDYCAR Media Site

Wickens, left last year’s race at Mid-Ohio on the heels of a runner-up finish, his second of the season. He was sixth in the points standings. This year, all the rookies combined for two top two finishes, Wickens had that by himself at this point last year. Yes, Colton Herta did win in COTA but he’s also 14th in the standings. Roseqnvist, also just finished second in Mid-Ohio but he’s ninth in the standings.

The rookie class right now sits 9-13-14-15 in IndyCar points. Last year, Wickens was only outside the top 10 just twice and the first was because he was involved in a crash in the closing stages of the season opener in St. Pete. He was in the lead when that happened, so naturally his finishing order was his points standing. From then, other than one other bad result, he steadily moved up and spent most of the season 6th to 8th in the points standings. This year, all of the rookies have been outside of the top 10 for a majority of the way.

Wickens, had four straight top five finishes at this point last year and seven for the year itself. The most among this class is Santino Ferrucci with five overall. Between Rosenqvist, Herta and Marcus Ericsson, Wickens had scored more top five finishes last year than they do combined right now.

That’s not an insult to those rookies, it’s a praise for just how good Wickens was. I mean, if you go back to the last 11 rookie classes, no one with the exception of Carlos Munoz and Simon Pagenaud can hold a candle to Wickens.

The Canadian was a bad ass in the car and had the skill and bravery to compete with literally anyone.

The top rookie in 2017 was Ed Jones by default. He finished 14th in the final standings with one top five. The top rookie in 2013 was the same way with Tristian Vautier (1 top 10) as the only rookie. He finished 20th in points.

2016’s top rookie was Alexander Rossi. He had one win, two top five finishes and six top 10’s. He finished 11th in the final standings.

2015’s Rookie of the Year was Gabby Chaves who finished 15th in the final standings with just two top 10 results. Stefano Coletti was the only other full time rookie and he was 19th.

2014 was Munoz who had five to top five finishes, three of which being podiums to go along with eight top 10’s. He finished eighth in the final standings. The rest of the rookies were P16 (Mikhail Aleshin), P17 (Jack Hawksworth) and Carlos Huertas (20th).

2012 was likely the next best rookie option with Simon Pagenaud. He had six top five finishes, four of them being podiums and nine top 10’s. He finished fifth in points. Josef Newgarden (1 top 10) and Katherine Legge (1 top 10) were the other two drivers in that rookie class.

2011 saw a ton of rookies with James Hinchcliffe (11th in standings) taking the crown. He had three top fives and seven top 10’s for the season. JR Hildebrand (14th) had two top five finishes and five top 10’s while Charlie Kibmall (19th) had just two top 10 finishes himself.

I could go on but you should get the point by now. WIckens, was a star last year. Despite seeing none of these tracks before, he was a contender each week. Most of the other drivers on this list had came from this list had Road to Indy experience and been a part of these tracks before. Wickens, wasn’t.

That’s why I feel we didn’t honestly talk about him enough and give him the praise that he deserved.

Same for Dario. Yes, he was talked about enough, but I don’t think totally grasped how good he really was either. Just look at his stats in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10 entry then and look at the stats of that car now.

In his five years in that ride, Franchitti had 13 wins, 51 top five finishes, 63 top 10’s and two Indy 500 triumphs. He also won the championship three years too, all coming consecutively.

Care to wonder how that car has done since Franchitti stepped away?

1 win (2014), 22 top five finishes and 49 top 10’s. Prior to this year, that car had zero wins, five top five finishes and 15 top 10’s the last two years COMBINED. Now, they have a valued replacement as Rosenqvist has four top five finishes and eight top 10’s this season alone. The Swedish rookie nearly has as many top five finishes in 13 races run in 2019 than Ed Jones and Tony Kanaan had in the two previous season combined. Did I mention he’s just a rookie?

I think we all expected Franchitti to be good in the No. 10 Honda and didn’t pay enough attention and give him the credit that he deserved. We all thought it was part car for giving him that success when it was more the driver it seems.

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