This is part of a set of articles previewing the 2016 IndyCar season. I recently predicted that the 2016 IndyCar Champion would score between 548 and 561 points and win four races. Based on those predictions, I classified drivers into the following categories based on how I anticipate they’ll perform in 2016: long shots (part one and part two), potential winners, threats for multiple wins, dark horse championship threats, and championship contenders. Here I preview the threats for multiple wins. Check back with Slipstream Network regularly for more IndyCar season previews.
Sebastien Bourdais scored his first unified IndyCar win in 2014, and followed that up with a pair of wins in 2015. For a small team like KVSH Racing, that’s the best-case-scenario for any season. KVSH is too small to compete with Team Penske and Ganassi Racing for a championship;winning a few races each year is a realistic goal. Bourdais has a chance to win several races in 2016, especially with his skill on road races.
For Bourdais fans interested in the final point standings, there’s reason to be optimistic about 2016. Bourdais finished tenth in points in both 2014 and 2015, and based on his average road course finish last year, he has the potential to do a bit better in the future. Bourdais averaged a 14th place finish on road courses in 2015, down from 8.0 in 2014. If he can keep his average finishes on ovals and street courses constant and return to earlier form on road courses, Bourdais could be seventh in points at the end of 2016.
I’m slightly concerned about what will happen to Bourdais’ win total if Honda cars are roughly equal to the Chevrolets in 2016. Improved Honda cars would likely mean more wins for Honda drivers. IndyCar is a zero sum game, so those additional Honda wins have to come at the expense of Chevrolet drivers. Bourdais drives for one of the smaller Chevrolet teams that won a race last year, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise if his wins decline in 2016.
Potential weakness: ovals
Bourdais isn’t strong enough on ovals to challenge for a championship. He had his best average oval finish in four years in 2015, but the average was only 12.0. In his defence, his average oval finish improved by over three positions each of the last two years, so he does seem to be getting more comfortable on ovals.
The question Newgarden will answer in 2016 is whether he can continue the season-to-season improvement he’s shown during his first four IndyCar seasons. Newgarden earned his first two career wins in 2015, so he would ideally win at least another pair of races and begin to show more consistency from race to race.
Potential weakness: consistency
Newgarden had 11 finishes of ninth or worse in 2015. That’s a non-issue for a driver who isn’t competing for a championship, but I’m holding Newgarden to a higher standard. If Newgarden wants to grow into a championship contender in a few years, he’ll need to score more points on the days he doesn’t win. He proved that he’s capable of winning and running well last year. His next step is to run well more often than not. It’s an arbitrary number, but Newgarden should aim to have eight or fewer finishes of ninth or worse in 2016.