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An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.
Just weeks away from the season-opening event in St. Petersburg, FL, we examine a few prospects for the upcoming season. Aside from the usual suspects in the hunt for the championship, here are a few dark horses who may take the IndyCar title in 2013.
1. Sebastien Bourdais
In his second year with Dragon Racing, Sebastien Bourdais is due for a return to his winning ways. The Frenchman won the final four titles of the now defunct Champ Car series in dominant fashion and showed all the potential in 2012 that he displayed from 2004-2007. Battling engine gremlins with the underdog Lotus power-plant, Bourdais was largely hindered from showing the Jay Penske owned team’s potential. With a committed effort for 2013 and Chevy power, Bourdais banks on his best bet to compete for wins and podiums since his Champ Car days.
2. James Hinchcliffe
Hinch enters his third year in the IndyCar series coming off a solid sophomore year performance with Andretti Autosport. The young Canadian moved into the prime GoDaddy seat vacated by Danica Patrick at the end of 2011. Following a year of steady results highlighted by a few podiums and, at one point, running as high as second in the standings, The Mayor looks as a prime candidate to grace the top step of the podium this season. With Andretti Autosport’s knack for colluding (and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s championship-winning experiences from last year,) there’s plenty of potential for Hinch to threaten the veterans in 2013.
3. Josef Newgarden
A rookie in 2012, Newgarden showed flashes of brilliance at times. Driving for the underdogs Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden moved mountains on a shoestring budget. The American put his DW12 on the front row at Long Beach, just his third race. His aggression got the better of him, however, as he put it in the wall trying to overtake past champion, Dario Franchitti, in the opening laps of the race. Reliability issues and rookie mistakes hampered the 22 year-old as his best finish was only 12th at Mid-Ohio. Heading into 2013, Newgarden has gained invaluable experience and could easily see the front of the pack this season.
4. Oriol Servia
Servia, the always underrated Spaniard, signed on with Dreyer Reinbold Racing for 2012 after the untimely and unfortunate demise of Newman/Haas Racing. Making the most of Lotus power, Servia placed 11th in the Sao Paulo round, one of the highest placings for any of the Lotus powered cars. After Sao Paulo, DRR dumped Lotus and signed on to a joint effort with Panther Racing. With the partnership, Oriol welcomed the shift to Chevy power. In his first race with the new engine maker, Servia placed fourth at Indy. Servia added a few more fourths to the season tally. Although never on the podium in 2012, Servia remained consistently in the top-10 for much of the second half of the season. In 2013, Servia looks to build on the moderate successes of the previous year and could be a serious threat in the points when the circus arrives at Fontana.
5. Simon Pagenaud
In his full-time return to American open-wheel racing since Champ Car’s demise, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud put in some amazing drives for the one-car effort of Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. Few picked Pagenaud to immediately join the front runners when he emerged as the Honda-powered team’s driver at the opening of last year, but they should have. In his first start, Pagenaud finished sixth. Pagenaud frequented the top-10 in 2012, finishing as high as second at Long Beach. Despite his consistent finishes on road and street courses, Pagenaud seemed to find difficulty in figuring out the oval side of the IndyCar schedule. He managed to muster out a top-5 at Iowa as his best finish on an oval in 2012. After a year to gain confidence on the ovals, however, Pagenaud’s building chemistry with his team could prove a formidable threat to the usual front-runners in the championship.
As reported by Brake Glow on February 4th, the IZOD IndyCar Series announced a deal has been agreed upon to bring the series back to the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Few formal details were released with the announcement but the race is scheduled for Father’s Day weekend, June 15th & 16th.
Talks were ongoing between the Mile and IndyCar as late as last week when concerns were raised regarding a suitable promoter for the event. Michael Andretti’s Andretti Sports Marketing answered the call and was announced as the promoter of “Milwaukee IndyFest.”
The series is trying a different approach from years past with the race taking place on a Saturday. The motive behind the Saturday race is the hope it might draw more fans from the Chicago area. Typically, the race has been held late Sunday afternoon. The late starting time made the race somewhat undesirable for Chicago IndyCar fans trying to return home at a decent time. The hope is the change will entice Chicago fans out of the woodwork and out to the racetrack.
The Firestone Indy Lights will also race the same weekend with other series possibly being added to the weekend ticket.
Tickets for Milwaukee IndyFest go on sale March 1st.
The Starworks Motorsports entry that was set to drop out of the Rolex 24 has made a revival and will be on the grid later today at the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The entry was originally slated with drivers Tony Kanaan, E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Due to a cut in funding, however, Viso and Kanaan were forced out of the seat and the status of the No. 2 Starworks Daytona Prototype left unknown. Speed.com’s John Dagys reported late Friday night the car will race in the twice around the clock event albeit with a new driver line-up.
Hunter-Reay remains aboard but is the only staple from the initial driver list. The entry will now consist of Hunter-Reay, Michael Valiente, Scott Mayer, Miguel Potolicchio and the surprise, last-minute addition of Marco Andretti. Marco is already in Florida for a private IndyCar test at Palm Beach Raceway and accepted the deal less than a day prior to the Rolex 24’s starting time.
The addition to the Andretti Autosport driver’s already crammed schedule means an IndyCar test Saturday morning with a banzai run to Daytona International Speedway to take his first stint in the Riley-Ford DP. Early Saturday, the 24-year old began to realize the strain that could amount. “Do they make a 40 hour energy drink,” asked Andretti via Twitter. “Going to be a long couple days but there is no better place to be than the cockpit!”
When Marco straps in for his first stint later Saturday, it will mark the first time the third-generation IndyCar driver has seen the Daytona road course (in competition) and his first time in a Daytona Prototype. Saturday’s Rolex 24 is not the first time Marco has seen the cockpit of a sports car however. In 2008, Andretti frequented the cockpit of then Andretti-Green Racing’s Acura LMP2 car in the American LeMans Series.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off at 3:30 p.m. EST live on Speed.
James Hinchcliffe announced via Twitter he has signed to drive the Andretti Autosport GoDaddy.com car, vacated by Danica Patrick.
The seat had been destined for Dan Wheldon but the team was left scrambling for a driver following Wheldon’s untimely death at the IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas. Stepping into what would have been Wheldon’s ride left Hinchcliffe with some reservations. “There’s no doubt that weighed on me from the first phone call,” he said.
Hinchcliffe was humbled by his nomination for the former Champion and Indy 500 winner’s seat, “I’m going to think about him every time I get in that car. There’s no doubt that a part of me will be driving for Dan this year,” he added.
Details of Hinchcliffe’s contract were not released at the time of publishing.
Hinchcliffe will step into the black and green liveried GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport with Chevrolet power. The 2012 IndyCar season kicks off on March 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Unfortunately I am without internet access this week. I actually came to a McDonald’s just to write a brief blog explaining my absence.
I am in Denver visiting some family. I was, however, able to see the Edmonton race yesterday. Here are a few of my thoughts on the only race north of the border this year.
AGR: What is going on within AGR? Danica had been holding up Marco and TK for quite a while until Marco dove to the inside of Danica and made contact with her left rear. Was it intentional? Kanaan is the team’s best bet for a championship and, if Danica is hurting his chances, I could see Marco trying to redeem himself to TK following their incident at Indy. AGR hosted a closed door meeting following the race, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Martin. None of the drivers, or team owner, Michael Andretti, were willing to give much detail about the meeting. Conspiracy theories, anyone?
DIXON: Scott Dixon won again on Saturday. Putting him yet another step closer to locking up the championship. The Kiwi’s season would have to take one hell of a plunge for any others to catch him. He seems to be nearly unstoppable.
Another man in red: Justin Wilson also needs to receive some praise for his excellent podium finish this weekend. A nice drive for the Brit.
Toronto and Edmonton?: Ya, sure, you betcha. The Indy Car teams better start taking a liking to that northern accent. The 2009 ICS schedule will indeed include Edmonton, as well as Toronto. Which, to anyone paying attention, should come as no surprise following Andretti-Green’s purchase of the rights of the Toronto Grand Prix.
’09 Schedule: As for the ’09 schedule itself, rumor has it that it could be released as soon as Wednesday. For some reason, I’m not buying that time estimate, though. Also, if you’re still wondering about Road America; like I said when I released some of the rumors I had been hearing, don’t hold your breath. I would love to see the 4.048-mile road course return, but I haven’t heard a peep about it for a while now. Potentially 2010 or 2011. Here’s to wishful thinking.
Tracy: If Paul Tracy’s fourth place finish didn’t draw any body’s attention, I don’t know what will. For this being a one-off ride, from a team that was assembled with something like 9 days before the event itself, it was an immaculate drive. He’s a great publictiy asset, and (apparently) still driver with a lot of talent. Subway, keep sending a check to Derrick Walker so he can keep Paul fielded in an Indy Car.
As for me, it’s back on the road. Leaving Denver for a few days of bumming around the southwest. If I run into any internet connections, I will make sure to keep everyone posted on the latest happenings around the Indy Car paddock. If not, I will talk to you all next weekend when I return.
Now that I’m home from Nashville and Mid-Ohio, let’s reflect on the past two weekends of Indy Car racing.
Danica, look out: Indy Lights driver, Ana Beatriz, scored her first victory in Nashville. Her showing was not quite as strong at Mid-Ohio, but she drove a solid race on Sunday and posted a 5th place finish amidst all the carnage plaguing the field. This girl is good. If she makes it to Indy Cars, Danica will really have to work to maintain her spot as top female. And, in case you’re wondering, Ana (or Bea, as she’s known through the paddock) is running third in points in Indy Lights.
Weather: Both races these past two weekends have been affected by weather. But the rain is not the problem. It was the heat. Mid-Ohio’s date is fine because pleasant days are possible in Ohio in July.
Nashville, on the other hand, is ridiculous. While Nashville is basically DOA for the ’09 schedule, if by some miracle it does return, the date needs to be changed. Granted, it is a night race but most of the weekend’s activities take place in the afternoon and Nashville in July is way too hot. I was there from July 10th to the 17th and the coolest day was 88 degrees with 60% humidity. It is nothing short of remarkable that one of those Tennessee Indy Car fans did not collapse from heat stroke. Nashville is an interesting track with its concrete surface and Indy Car gets more attendance than Nashville’s Nationwide and truck race, but if it comes back; please, change the date to a cooler month.
On Danica and Milka: I’ve seen enough of it already. All sports programs, please stop looping the footage. It’s giving me a headache.
(Just wishful thinking. I know, I know… publicity for the series.)
On Rahal: I must admit, I was surprised Graham Rahal did not have a stronger showing at Mid-Ohio. The 2.4- mile course is Graham’s home track, and with the changing conditions at the beginning of the race, I figured he would burst through the field. Instead the Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver only managed a 16th place finish. Oh well, Edmonton’s next. And Graham has had some good luck on street circuits adjoining with airports.
History repeats itself: AFS-Andretti/Green Indy Lights driver, Raphael Matos, has won the first race of every Indy Lights double-header. This weekend was no different. Last year’s Atlantic champion led from the pole on Saturday, and never let it go. If Kanaan were to leave AGR next year, Matos will almost certainly replace him. Matos is second in Indy Lights points, only one point behind.
What the…?: In case you haven’t already heard, Sunday’s Indy Lights race was chaotic, to put it mildly. Most noteworthy is Johnny Reid and James Davison.
For a little background, Davison was running second at Nashville when Reid moved up on Davison on the backstraight. The two made contact, and the incident ended both of their races.
In race 2 at Mid-Ohio, Reid was leading when the yellow came out towards the end of the race. The race was going to end under caution, and it looked to be Reid’s win. However, water got into Reid’s radio before the race even started. He had no contact with his team. As they were coming to take the checkers with Reid in first and Davison in second, Reid pulled in to pitlane expecting the others to follow him. They did not.
Davison went on to take the win. Reid would wind up ninth.
Later on, Davison remarked how he wondered if this was Reid’s way of making Nashville up to him.
Red Domination: Once again this weekend, the podium was basked in red driving suits. Briscoe, Castroneves, and Dixon claimed the top three spots. Chances are it will continue again next weekend.
Will it ever change? Of course. But probably not until the new chassis arrives.
Up next is the Rexall Edmonton Indy. This will be the first and only race with Atlantics as a supporting event. Hopefully, in ’09 they will have a prominent presence at Indy Car races, but don’t hold your breath.