IZOD IndyCar Series Season Preview: Andretti Autosport


andretti autosport logo# 1 RYAN HUNTER-REAY

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 1 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet# 5 EJ VISO (IN CONJUNCTION WITH HVM RACING)

EJ VISO 2012 SEBRING# 25 MARCO ANDRETTI

Marco Andretti, No. 25 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet# 27 JAMES HINCHCLIFFE

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE 2013CAR NUMBERS: 1, 5, 25, 27, TBA (CARLOS MUNOZ; INDIANAPOLIS ONLY)

SPONSORS: DHL, SUN DROP, CITGO, RC COLA, GODADDY.COM

ENGINE: CHEVROLET

Andretti Autosport enters the 2013 IndyCar campaign as the defending IZOD IndyCar Series Champions but find a long road ahead of them on their journey to repeat.  While Ryan Hunter-Reay’s amazing 2012 campaign has been well documented, it almost completely overshadowed the struggles of the other two members of the team.

Ryan Hunter-Reay 2013 shot

When Ryan Hunter-Reay returns to the grid in St. Petersburg he will be thrust immediately into the defense of his title.  By no means should Hunter-Reay’s title be cast aside as lucky or fortunate as he finished the season with a daring win at Baltimore and finished finale at Auto Club Speedway while his rival found the Turn 2 wall.  That being said, Hunter-Reay has the bullseye of the #1 affixed to his DW12 for 2013 and the entire field will be coming after him.  He and his team must do it better this year if he’s to win consecutive championships.  It will be incredibly difficult for Hunter-Reay to have back-to-back five win seasons which he needed to counterbalance some mechanical woes that removed him from contention at Indianapolis, Texas, and Mid-Ohio.  Hunter-Reay enters 2013 with a great deal of momentum as the defending champion, but his teammates are a different story.

Marco Andretti 2013 Shot

It seems that whenever Marco Andretti has a season where he looks to have turned a corner the following campaign turns out much like 2012 did.  Although his first IZOD IndyCar Series win came on a road course, since that time Andretti has suffered from poor qualifying results on these circuits.  Road and Street Courses are notoriously difficult to pass on so starting at the back of the field makes constistent, strong, and points paying finishes almost impossible.  Coupled with Andretti’s competitive pace but tough luck on the ovals, the poor results mounted to a frustrating campaign and a number change for 2013.

James Hinchcliffe 2013 shot

The 2012 campaign for James Hinchcliffe could be described as a tale of two halves.  From St. Petersburg through Iowa, Hinchcliffe had every driver, team member, and analyst in INDYCAR saying that the No. 27 GoDaddy car would find its way to victory lane, but after a difficult weekend in his hometown of Toronto, Hinchcliffe’s season seemed to go dead weight.  The top six qualifying positions and competitive race pace seemed to inexplicably go away.  2013 will be Hinchcliffe’s third full season in the IZOD IndyCar Series and he will be asked to be fast at all times and break through to Victory Lane.  Ryan Hunter-Reay has solidified himself as the lead driver on this team, but Hinchcliffe will look to move to position 1A on the roster.

EJ Viso 2013

HVM Racing suffered the worst season in history in 2012 resulting in the loss of its driver and sponsorship.  Owner Keith Wiggins turned to former driver EJ Viso to see if a program was possible for 2013.  The result is a car fielded by Andretti Autosport in conjunction with Wiggins HVM outfit and driven by Viso with sponsorship from CITGO and Team Venezuela.  Viso has shown flashes of being competitive but has lacked consistency in every seat he has entered.  Perhaps, Michael Andretti’s top-tier team will be able to help Viso find the competitive balance.

Indy Lights veteran will join Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis so stay tuned for news on that entry coming in the next 90 days.

IZOD IndyCar Series Season Preview: A.J. Foyt Racing


a.j.-foyt-enterprises

Takuma Sato Foyt 2013

CAR NUMBERS: 14, 41 (INDIANAPOLIS ONLY)

2013 DRIVER: TAKUMA SATO, CHASE AUSTIN (INDIANAPOLIS ONLY)

2013 SPONSORS: ABC SUPPLY CO.

2013 ENGINE MANUFACTURER: HONDA

Overview:

Move over Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, we have a new odd couple in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013.  After a season of mixed results in 2012 with Mike Conway culminated with Conway’s resignation from oval racing, AJ Foyt Racing was forced to find a new pilot for its Honda-powered Dallara sponsored by ABC Supply Company.  The free agent list in IndyCar was extensive but AJ Foyt dropped a bomb on the racing world by hiring Japanese driver Takuma Sato as the full-season participant for the team.  An odd couple it may seem, but Takuma Sato could be just the kind of driver needed to catapult Foyt’s operation to a consistent contender on a weekly basis.

The Upside:

Foyt’s team has always seemed to suffer from lack of pace, but if there is anything that Takuma Sato has proven in his three year tenure in INDYCAR that he is anything but slow.  Sato spend 2012 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing showing flashes of being the fastest driver in the Paddock and put his competition on notice.  A brilliant drive in the Indianapolis 500 that ended in the wall caught the attention of everyone on the grid.  Expect to see the No. 14 with consistent, competitive pace but whether they enjoy a breakout season is in the hands of the driver.

The Cause for Concern:

Nobody doubts Takuma Sato’s ability to push a car to its limits getting every ounce of speed but what is open to doubt is whether Sato can temper his aggressive tendencies that have so often resulted in contact with the barriers separating the racing surface from those in the grandstands.  Takuma Sato will, undoubtedly, crack the top echelon of the grid at points in every race this season, however, transferring his quick pace into points paying finishes will be what to watch for.  AJ Foyt is certainly hoping his roll of the dice in signing Sato will result in a major leap forward for his team which has, historically, been mired in the bottom third of the IZOD IndyCar Series grid.

PREDICTION:

Takuma Sato will breathe a shred of new life into AJ Foyt Racing giving them something to be excited about.  Qualifying towards the front of the grid on Road and Street Circuits should be a regularity but Sato will suffer from a lack of engineering expertise to qualify well on the ovals, but should make his way to the front.  Sato will have a difficult time finishing races resulting in a 15th place or lower finish in the final points but could climb higher if the finishes match the potential.

IZOD INDYCAR SEASON PREVIEW: TEAM PENSKE


# 3 HELIO CASTRONEVES

# 6 RYAN BRISCOE 

# 12 WILL POWER

2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8

2011 SPONSORS: Shell V-Power, IZOD, Verizon Wireless, Guidepoint Systems, PPG, Penske Truck Rental, Transitions Adaptive Lenses, Hitachi, CINTAS, Itaipava, AAA

2011 REVIEW:

Most teams would jump at the chance to finish a season with six wins and runner-up honors in the championship, but this is Team Penske we are talking about.  For the second straight year, driver Will Power led Team Penske’s championship charge in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car winning six races including his first ever oval track win at the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway but alas fell short in the championship for the second year in a row.  Much of the result can be attributed to bad luck and poor choices on the part of race control.  A picture says it all:

Power’s title hopes were finally dashed when making a pit stop at Kentucky Speedway when was hit in the left side pod by a car exiting their pit box as Power was entering his punching a massive gash thus taking the car out of contention for the win.

This cost him the championship as Power had the best car on the track that day and was driving away from everybody.  Power was involved in the 15-car crash at Las Vegas and was one of four drivers to become airborne during that race.  Power suffered fractured vertebra in the accident.

Power’s two teammates suffered amazingly sub-par seasons in 2011 starting at the drop of the green flag in St. Petersburg where Helio Castroneves missed his braking point on the start causing a turn 1 crash that collected teammate Ryan Briscoe as well as Marco Andretti.  Castroneves returned to controversy in Long Beach where he, again, misjudged a turn spinning his teammate Will Power whilst Power was in contention for a race win.

 Castroneves season was one of unusual inconsistency and poor choices on the racetrack finishing outside the top-10 in points for the first time ever while Briscoe was often caught up in other people’s misfortune.  He had a top-5 finish stolen from him at Barber when Ryan Hunter-Reay tried to make a pass in an ill-advised portion of the racetrack and was also booted by eventual champion Dario Franchitti at Motegi.  Briscoe finished 6th in final points in 2011.  Castroneves and Briscoe fell winless in 2011…a first for both drivers since they joined Roger Penske’s stable.

Team Penske is known for success at Indianapolis and 2011 could be their worst year since 1995 when no car from Team Penske qualified for the race.  Will Power showed expected speed in qualifying inside the top-9 for the race, but Castroneves and Briscoe struggled mightily to find speed.  Castroneves lined up 16th on the starting grid, his worst start since his rookie effort in 2001, while Briscoe crashed on Fast Friday practice having to go to a backup car for Pole Day and just never found the speed to get into the field on the first day of qualifying eventually griding the car on Bump Day.  None of the cars for Team Penske were really factors in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 which was a huge disappointment.  Although Team Penske finished runner-up int he championship as a team, 2011 should be deemed as a disappointing overall campaign…one they must rebound from.

2012 CARS:

# 2 RYAN BRISCOE


# 3 HELIO CASTRONEVES

# 12 WILL POWER

2012 ENGINE: CHEVROLET TWIN TURBO V6

2012 SPONSORS: IZOD, SHELL V-POWER, VERIZON WIRELESS, PPG, SKF

2012 PREVIEW:

Going into the 2011 offseason, rumors were circulating that Team Penske would downsize from three cars to two in 2012 which brought interesting conversation as to which driver, Castroneves or Briscoe, would be the one left without a chair when the music stopped.  Team Penske squashed these rumors in early December when they announced that the entire three-car driver lineup would return in 2012.  Team Penske charges into 2012 looking for a huge rebound from 2011.  The rebound could begin with the Chevrolet Twin Turbo Poweplant which is engineered by Ilmor who built all those dominant engines for Penske over the years.  Castroneves is making the switch from right to left foot braking in 2012 which could be something to watch.  Team Penske should be more evenly balanced in 2012 due to the DW12 formula being more immediately suited to the driving  styles of Castroneves and Briscoe than Will Power.  This team will be a force to be reckoned with in 2012 and, if they work together, have an outstanding opportunity to finally take Target Chip Ganassi Racing down.  Team Penske will look, especially, at Indianapolis as a rebounding opportunity.  Seldom is Team Penske held down at Indianapolis for too long.

2012 PREDICTION:

Each Team Penske driver should contend for the championship this season and all three should capture race wins.  They will be very difficult to beat at Indianapolis.  Since they won three straight Indy 500s in 2001, 2002, and 2003, Team Penske has gotten wins in 2006 and 2009…every three years.  It’ll be the three years this year so it’s about time!


IZOD INDYCAR SEASON PREVIEW: SARAH FISHER HARTMAN RACING


2011 CAR:

# 67 ED CARPENTER

2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8

2011 SPONSORS: Dollar General, Direct Supply

2011 REVIEW:

Since its inception in 2008, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has run only partial IZOD IndyCar Series schedules and 2011 was no different.  Driver Ed Carpenter had a strong showing at the Indianapolis 500 finishing 11th.  Carpenter showed pretty competitive pace on the oval tracks in 2011.  Running mostly the oval portion of the schedule, Carpenter gave Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing the team’s first win at Kentucky Speedway holding off Dario Franchitti.

2012 CAR:

# 67 JOSEF NEWGARDEN

2012 ENGINE: Honda Single Turbo V6

2012 SPONSORS: Direct Supply, others to come

2012 PREVIEW:

For the first time, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing plans to run the full IZOD IndyCar Series campaign in 2012 hiring 2011 Firestone INDY Lights champion Josef Newgarden to pilot their new DW12 chassis.  The team already has funding from Direct Supply with additional sponsors, undoubtedly, to come.  SFH starts the season a little behind some of the other teams as they found it difficult to get an engine contract.  SFH will run the Honda Single Turbo V6 in 2012 with help from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who were planning to run Luca Filippi full time but his program will not come together until the Indianapolis 500 in May.  RLL, therefore, agreed to give SFH their second full-run engine contract.  Going from a 6-7 race schedule to the full season is a big jump for this team and there will definitely be some growing pains in that process.  Josef Newgarden has a steep learning curve ahead of him, but if he shows the pace that he did in Firestone INDY Lights he could be surprisingly competitive as the season progresses.

2012 PREDICTION:

Don’t really know what to make for a prediction for this team in 2012, but a top-15 in points would be a spectacular result for this team.  A win is unlikely but could not be counted out!  Stay tuned!

IZOD INDYCAR SEASON PREVIEW: SCHMIDT HAMILTON MOTORSPORTS


2011 CARS:

# 77 ALEX TAGLIANI

# 77 DAN WHELDON (KENTUCKY AND LAS VEGAS ONLY)

2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8

2011 SPONSORS: Bowers & Wilkins, Magnolia, William Rast

2011 REVIEW:

At the start of 2011, Sam Schmidt purchased the FAZZT Race Team rebranding it in his name.  Paint Schemes and sponsorships were retained as was driver Alex Tagliani.  In a huge upset, Tagliani won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 and followed it up by winning the pole at Texas Motor Speedway as well.  Tagliani showed flashes of brilliant speed and ability but never found victory lane due to being caught in others misfortune and bad luck.  Tagliani sat out Kentucky to allow Dan Wheldon to run as a primer for his five million dollar challenge run at the IZOD IndyCar World Championships two weeks later.  Wheldon fielded the car at Las Vegas while Tagliani moved to satellite operation Bryan Herta Autosport.  The season ended tragically for the team as the race claimed the life of Dan Wheldon after just eleven laps causing Sam Schmidt to consider retirement.

2012 CAR:

# 77 SIMON PAGENAUD

2012 ENGINE: Honda Single Turbo V6

2012 SPONSORS: Hewlett Packard

2012 PREVIEW:

After months of deliberation where owner Sam Schmidt mulled the team’s future in the wake of the death of Dan Wheldon, Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced they would continue competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 and hired veteran Frenchman Simon Pagenaud to drive the car.  Pagenaud subbed a couple of races for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing due to injuries to drivers Justin Wilson and Ana Beatriz.  Schmidt has also partnered with veteran driver Davey Hamilton giving Hamilton an ownership stake in the team and bringing along sponsor Hewlett Packard to support the team’s effort in 2012.  Pagenaud should be a whiz on road and street courses this year, but likely has some work to do on the oval discipline especially if he expects to be competitive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He is a definate threat to win some races this season and should not be counted out.  Look, also, for Schmidt Hamilton to partner up with other race teams to run more cars at the Indianapolis 500.

2011 PREDICTION:

Simon Pagenaud could crack the top-10 in IZOD IndyCar Series points this season with a win a strong possibility.  Pagenaud has shown his versatility in the past running sports cars so getting the handle on the DW12 shouldn’t be an issue.  

IZOD INDYCAR SEASON PREVIEW: RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING


2011 CARS:

# 30 BERTRAND BAGUETTE (INDANAPOLIS 500 ONLY)

# 30 PIPPA MANN (NEW HAMPSHIRE, KENTUCKY, LAS VEGAS ONLY)

# 88 / # 15 JAY HOWARD (INDIANAPOLIS, TEXAS, LAS VEGAS ONLY)

2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8

2011 SPONSORS: ASPRIA, NATIONAL TIRE & BATTERY, SERVICE CENTRAL

2011 REVIEW:

It has been since the 2008 season that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has run full-season operations in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  Instead, they have been relegated to part-time and Indianapolis 500 only operations as they found sponsorship difficult since the economic crisis began in the fall of 2008.  That being said, the team has always shown competitive pace and almost stole the Indianapolis 500 in 2011 but, like much of the field, simply did not have enough fuel in the tank to pull it off.  Driver Bertrand Baguette led laps in the late stages of the race but was forced to pit lane for fuel with less than ten laps to go.  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing combined with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to run Jay Howard at Texas and ran Howard under their marque in Las Vegas.  Pippa Mann joined the team for races at New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Las Vegas.

2012 CARS:

# 15 TAKUMA SATO

# 30 LUCA FILIPPI (JOINING TEAM AT INDIANAPOLIS)

*(PAINT SCHEME UNKNOWN AT THIS TIME)

2012 ENGINE: Honda Twin Turbo V6

2012 SPONSORS: Mi-Jack, Interush, Panasonic

2012 PREVIEW:

Rahal Letterman Lanigan finally gets back into the IZOD IndyCar full-season fold in 2012 with driver Takuma Sato.  Sato became available when KV Racing announced their move to Chevrolet and given RLL’s long history with Honda and the move was logical.  Takuma Sato is a Formula 1 veteran which could allow Rahal Letterman Lanigan to get the jump on the DW12 faster than most due to Sato’s experience dealing with different types of open wheel cars.  The big obstacle for this team is keeping Sato from getting in the way of himself.  In 2011, Sato showed flashes of speed and competitive driving but always seemed to get caught up in accidents and incidents of his own making or just plain bad luck.  If Sato can stay on the track in 2012, a win is definately possible.  Starting at Indianapolis, Luca Filippi will join the team.  The delay is due to sponsorship and engine contract issues plaguing many teams to start the season.  Filippi is an Italian driver with GP2 experience, but will be regarded as an IZOD IndyCar Series rookie contendor given that he will have to run ovals as well.  Not sure what to expect from this driver, but we will soon find out what he brings to the table.

2012 PREDICTION:

Takuma Sato should finish near the top-10 in final points with a win or two possible where as Filippi’s success will be measured how quickly he adjusts to a new formula.

IZOD INDYCAR SEASON PREVIEW: PANTHER RACING


2011 CAR:

# 4 JR HILDEBRAND

# 44 BUDDY RICE (INDIANAPOLIS, KENTUCKY, LAS VEGAS ONLY)

2011 ENGINE: Honda Indy V8

2011 SPONSORS: NATIONAL GUARD, FUZZY’S VODKA

2011 REVIEW:

There are few teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series with more storied winning traditions than Panther Racing.  That being said, it has been since the 2005 race at Texas that Panther Racing has been in victory lane despite some top flight drivers including Dan Wheldon and Vitor Meira in the fold.  For 2011, John Barnes decided to go a different route in going with a bright up and coming rookie in JR Hildebrand.  Hildebrand was a veteran of the Fireston Indy Lights ladder and a former winner and champion of that series.  2011 could be considered a transition year for Panther Racing as the main goal was getting Hildebrand comfortable in the car.  The Army National Guard was retained as primary sponsor.   The season featured up and down results and Hildebrand finished second in the rookie of the year battle.  Indianapolis had to be the highlight of the season as Hildebrand came one turn away from drinking the milk in victory lane as the winner of the Indianapolis 500, but it was not to be as a slight misjudgment landed Hildebrand in the turn 4 wall giving the win to Dan Wheldon.

2012 CAR:

2012 ENGINE: Chevrolet Twin Turbo V6

2012 SPONSORS: The Army National Guard

2012 PREVIEW:

2012 is the season for Panther Racing to GO!  The team retains driver JR Hildebrand and sponsor National Guard from 2011 giving the team some stability as they try and unlock the potential of the new DW12 IndyCar.  Panther Racing returns to Chevrolet reuniting the team with the brand with whom they won all of those races and championships in what seems like ancient history.  This season is their big opportunity with the DW12 being new to everybody and having the Chevrolet Twin Turbo powerplant behind Hildebrand could make Panther Racing competitive everywhere in 2012.  Look for Panther to challenge for top positions!  If they don’t, it will be regarded as a disappointment.

2012 PREDICTION:

JR Hildebrand should easily make the top 10 in final points this season and could challenge for some wins.  Watch out at Indianapolis…Hildebrand almost stole the 2011 race!