After the eternal IndyCar offseason it’s finally time to get back to racing! I apologize for falling off the map last year after only a few blogs but it was hard to get any momentum going when you start midseason. So I pulled into the pits and went back to the garage. But I’m back now to take the green, so let’s get started!
I prefer to focus on the future of IndyCar rather than the past so I’m not going to get into all the craziness that went on in the offseason with management changes. The one thing I will say about the offseason was it was slower than usual with driver changes. I feel this is a good thing, IndyCar could use some more stability in its driver lineup. There were a few driver changes but it wasn’t as crazy as it has been in the past. Heck, even Oriol Servia stayed with the same team! When is the last time that happened? I can’t recall but it’s been a while.
With that out of the way, let’s get on to previewing the 2013 season that starts this Sunday at St. Petersburg (Noon on NBCSN). I’m going to start an IndyCar fantasy league for anyone who wants to join, the information for that will be provided at the end of this blog. My plan is to provide a preview and recap for each race as well as other miscellaneous blogs about news happening in IndyCar throughout the season. I’m going to predict winners for each race, so that at the end of the season you’ll all be able to tell me how wrong I was.
Here’s my team/driver preview for 2013:
AJ Foyt Enterprises – Takuma Sato: Sato has always been fast, there’s no questioning that. However he tends to tear up a lot of equipment. If that trend continues it will be interesting to see how Super Tex reacts to his parts bills. If Sato can keep his equipment under him, I could see him challenging for a win this season. He was fast in preseason testing.
Andretti Autosport – Marco Andretti: Marco is a very talented driver but for some reason, other than his win at Iowa in 2011, he usually seems to be off the pace of his teammates the past couple of seasons. IndyCar needs for him to be a more regular winner. I look for that to change this season. If you follow Marco on Twitter he has been training hard this offseason and I also heard a report that he worked with a European driving coach this offseason. I expect Marco to run more up front this season and have better finishing results with a win or two.
Andretti Autosport – James Hinchcliffe: The mayor of Hinchtown is due for a breakout season this year, especially after being reunited with his former Newman Haas engineer Craig Hampson. Hinch started off really strong last year but faded towards the end of the season. Look for him to be more consistent this year and challenge for wins.
Andretti Autosport – Ryan Hunter-Reay: I look for the 2012 series champ to pick up where he left off, being good on all the different types of circuits IndyCar races on, bringing his equipment home in one piece, and contending for wins on several different tracks.
Andretti Autosport – EJ Viso: Perhaps a change of scenery will help elevate EJ’s status in the series. He’s always been a hard racer but historically tears up a lot of equipment. I’ll give him credit that he brought it home on a more consistent basis this past season and with 3 other high quality teammates perhaps it will motivate him to be more consistent. I see more top 10s in his future.
Barracuda Racing – Alex Tagliani: Tag was very fast on several occasions last season after the team dumped the pig…I mean Lotus engine and got on board with Honda. This is a smaller but very efficient, cohesive team and I look for them to be up front consistently this season.
Dale Coyne Racing – Ana Beatriz: This deal came together pretty late which is SOP for Coyne. I’m not 100% sure what Bia’s deal is for this season as I also read that Stefan Wilson (Justin’s little brother) might drive the car in some races too. I’ll hold off on any predictions on this one for now.
Dale Coyne Racing – Justin Wilson: Justin is always an animal on the road/street courses and look for that to continue. The big surprise last season was his win on an oval at Texas. This team is capable of winning races and I look for Justin to contend on occasion. I think if you ask many of the drivers they’d tell you they’d be worried about him dominating if he ever got a Penske or Ganassi ride.
Dragon Racing – Sebastien Bourdais: I’m a big Bourdais fan and he is one of the most talented drivers in the series. Unfortunately he was stuck with the Lotus for several races last year and so the team was behind all the other Chevy teams once they got on board with Chevy. I look for Bourdais to challenge for top 5s this season.
Dragon Racing – Sebastian Saavedra: Saavedra only ran a couple races with Andretti Autosport last year so it’s hard to predict how this season will play out for him. I expect top 15s with an occasional top 10 finish in there.
Ed Carpenter Racing – Ed Carpenter: I don’t think anyone would argue Ed’s strength is the oval tracks as he has won on them the past 2 seasons. I look for him to be strong on the ovals again and this is a team that CAN win the Indy 500 if everything goes their way. Given his sponsor, Fuzzy’s Vodka, is sponsoring the triple crown (more on this later) this year, he will be highly motivated to win those 3 ovals. Until I see something different, I expect Ed to be mid to back of the pack on the road/street circuits.
KV Racing Technology-Simona de Silvestro: Stuck with the Lotus all of last season with no chance to even compete for a mid-pack finish, Simona has to be chomping at the bit to get going this season. She has said she is shocked by the level of power her new Chevy engine has compared to the Lotus. She was quick in preseason testing and I expect her to be consistently towards the front of the field this season.
KV Racing Technology-Tony Kanaan: Always popular with the fans, TK should be consistently fast and challenge for top 5s this season. Could this finally be TK’s year to win the Indy 500? I wouldn’t be surprised. The place might go nuts if he did. It went nuts with him simply taking the lead in the race for a bit last year.
Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing – Charlie Kimball: Now the sole car in Ganassi’s “G2” operation, it will be interesting to see how this team performs. Charlie had a couple really good races last year and could start challenging for top 10s this season.
Panther DRR-Oriol Servia: Servia FINALLY finds himself with the same team two seasons in a row. I look for that to pay off big for him and the team and challenge for top 5 finishes. Nobody passed more cars than Servia last season, he just didn’t have the results to show for it. Look for that to change this year.
Panther Racing-JR Hildebrand: They will be good at Indianapolis, they always are, and probably will be a mixed bag at the other tracks. JR Hildebrand is a young American that needs to be a race winner for the series to promote, so let’s hope for great things.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Mike Conway: As of now Mike only has a deal to run Long Beach where he has won before so I do not have any expectations for this situation. Mike no longer wants to run oval races.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-James Jakes: Nowhere to go but up for James. He should start having better finishes being with RLL.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Graham Rahal: Graham teams back up with RLL for a full season. Graham will be top dog on this team and I think the pairing will do well. I look for Graham to contend all season long for wins and his team is usually strong at Indy so not out of the question for him to win the 500.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing-Josef Newgarden: With occasional flashes of brilliance last year and also lots of bad luck, I predict better things for Josef this season with a year under his belt. A very personable guy and a great ambassador for IndyCar, it would be great to see him run closer to the front his year. If he could start winning, even better.
Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports-Simon Pagenaud: The little team that could will keep on doing this year. Simon is very talented and has a great team behind him. I predict a win this season.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Tristan Vautier: The 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year (hey he’s the only candidate this year) has been impressive in preseason testing and was impressive last year in Indy Lights. This is a rookie who could potentially win. Look for him to challenge his teammate Simon and elevate the game for Simon.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing-Scott Dixon: Dixon is always a threat on any circuit. Look for more of the same this season.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing-Dario Franchitti: Dario will be gunning for his 4th Indy 500 win this season so that will be interesting. Other than winning Indy last year, there weren’t a lot of highlights for Dario. Is father time catching up with him or was it just an off season, only time will tell. As always, he’s a threat to win anywhere, just like Dixon.
Team Penske – AJ Allmendinger: Dinger gets a shot at redemption after being fired from Penske’s NASCAR program last season for a failed drug test. It’s been 7 years since AJ has been in an open wheel car so while he is a fantastic driver, I’ll reserve any judgment for now. Right now he’s just scheduled to do the Barber race and the Indy 500 but I expect the team will come up with sponsorship and we’ll see him more than that. Does he have the talent to challenge for top 5s? Heck yes…but we will see.
Team Penske – Helio Castroneves: Like Dario, Helio is going for his 4th Indy 500 win this year. Always fast at Indy, and in a Penske, he has a shot. I look for another good season for Helio, with a win or two and consistently finishing in the top 10.
Team Penske-Will Power: Will this finally be the year Will Power gets the monkey off his back and wins the Championship? I think it is. If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have none at all. Power is a beast on the road/street circuits and continues to improve on the ovals. I look for more of the same this season with lots of poles and wins. Will is my pick for the 2013 Championship.
Things to Look for this Season:
1. Dario and Helio are both gunning to join the 4 timers club of winners of the Indy 500. It could happen this year.
2. The return of Pocono Raceway to the schedule after being gone for many years…should be a great track for IndyCar and look for an exciting race.
3. Triple Crown – Another blast from the past for IndyCar, pays a million to win Indy, Fontana, and Pocono
4. Doubleheaders – we’ll have doubleheader weekends with two complete points paying races at Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.
5. Standing Starts – This should create a new challenge for what I already consider the most diverse drivers on the planet. Champ Car tried this in the past with a lot of success so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Standing starts will be tried in one of the doubleheader races at both Toronto and Houston.
6. Can Will Power finally do it? I say yes!
Predictions for St. Pete
I predict a Will Power victory! However turn 1 at St. Pete is a bit of a tricky one to get all the cars through on a double-file start so strange things can happen and a lot of good cars can be taken out and we’ll see if anyone surprises us with a victory in this one. Either way, I can’t wait to get this season started!
IndyCar Fantasy League
I’m starting an IndyCar Fantasy League for any that would like to challenge me. It is free to participate and join.
1. Go to fantasyindycar.com and sign up for a free account. After creating your account you can pick your drivers. It will ask if you want to join a private league and the league number is 44. Password for the league is: indycar2013
2. If you have any issues joining or questions, email me directly at email@example.com Thanks and good luck!