St. Petersburg Race Recap: Oh, Canada!


2013 St. Petersburg StartIt had been 190 days since the IZOD IndyCar Series went dark for the long, cold winter when the engines fired once again for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to open the 2013 campaign for the series title.  Will Power started from the Pole Position after winning the inaugural Verizon Pole Award on Saturday.  Power set sail early leaving the field looking small in his mirrors.  Things changed on lap 19 when Dario Franchitti, exiting the pits, found his way to the wall on cold black primary tires.  Tires would become a central story as the race unfolded.

The ensuing restart saw Power’s Team Penske teammate grab the lead on a brilliant outside pass, a move that Power questioned Race Control about in a post-race interview.  Nonetheless, Castroneves’ pass was legal and Helio set sail in clean air looking much like his teammate did in the first stint leading the most laps through the middle portions of the race.  Then things got crazy.

Sebastien Saavedra brought out the caution flag when his No. 6 Dragon Racing entry found its way into the tire barrier at the exit of turn 10 bringing out the full course caution flag.  The leaders ducked into pit lane for fuel and tires for the final stint of the race.  The exchange of pit stops saw JR Hildebrand pass Simona de Silvestro under the caution flag putting the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car behind the Verizon machine of Will Power.  Coming to the restart, Hildebrand, apparently distracted, drove over the right rear tire of the car directly in front of him which, unfortunately, all but ended the day for the race’s polesitter.  Power’s car was repaired and he rejoined the fight, but he would find the tire barrier in the wining stages of the race saddling him with a disappointing 16th place result to begin his campaign.

Helio Castroneves made his only mistake of the day on the following restart when he was a fraction of a second late getting on the brakes getting into turn 1 locking the right front tire and opening the door for James Hinchcliffe to claim the lead.  While Castroneves attempted to chase Hinchcliffe down, the battle behind them was the thing to watch in the closing stages of the race.

Simona de Silvestro began her final stint on a used set of the red alternate tires which, according to teams, began losing their grip after as few as four laps at speed.  Chasing her first career podium, de Silvestro was holding on for dear life to keep third position but was unable to hold off a hard charging Marco Andretti who passed her coming to take the race’s white flag signalling the final lap.  Teammate Tony Kanaan followed Andretti through but it was far from over for the de Silvestro as she had to try to fend off Scott Dixon and EJ Viso in a crazy three wide finish back in the pack while James Hinchcliffe captured his first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  De Silvestro would bring it home in 6th which is a major turnaround from the 2012 she endured.

UP NEXT:

The IZOD IndyCar Series takes a week off for the Easter holiday after which they load into the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.  Will Power looks for his third consecutive win at the facility where he came from 9th place on the starting grid to win the 2012 race.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (FOLLOWING ST. PETERSBURG):

1. James Hinchcliffe (Leader)

2. Helio Castroneves (-8)

3. Marco Andretti (-16)

4. Tony Kanaan (-19)

5. Scott Dixon (-21)

6. Simona de Silvestro (-23)

7. EJ Viso (-25)

8. Takuma Sato (-27)

9. Justin Wilson (-29)

10. Alex Tagliani (-31)

14. Will Power (-35)

18. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-39)

25. Dario Franchitti (-46)

CONGRATULATIONS TO JAMES HINCHCLIFFE AND ANDRETT AUTOSPORT

WINNERS OF THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

James Hinchcliffe 2013 St. Pete Victory Lane

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


 IT IS ALMOST TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

Get ready IndyCar fans!  As of today there are 25 days remaining before the drop of the green flag on the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Season!  It is TIME TO GET EXCITED!  The 2012 grid could be the most evenly balanced, talented, and competitive in the history of IndyCar racing.  From top to bottom, anybody in this field could pull into victory lane and stand atop the podium on any given weekend.

Just a taste of what’s to come:

http://www.speedtv.com//video/auto-racing/indycar-penske-sebring-test-1432070750001/2#_vtop

The offseason in the aftermath of 2011 has been anything but quiet for the IZOD IndyCar Series.  The days since October 16, 2011 have been filled with pain, healing, testing, and major changes regarding those in charge of the series.  Danica Patrick has moved on to new opportunities driving stock cars in NASCAR,  Brian Barnhart has been removed from competition director and director of race control in favor of a man with the same initials, and the series has moved toward providing a safer, but still exciting, product.  Barnhart will remain technical director for the series but will no longer be making the decisions regarding how the races are officiated.  That task now falls to Beaux Barfield’s purview who promises to allow more protecting and harsher penalties for avoidable contact.  Double-file restarts have been eliminated from events and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Auto Club Speedway for safety reasons.  Texas returns to the 550k format instead of the Twin 275k run in 2011.  New event in Qingdao, China and the return of the Belle Isle Grand Prix are exciting new opportunities for IndyCar.  Hopefully, these changes will breed closer, and safer, competition in 2012.

On March 25, the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock can finally, mercifully, move on from the tragedy surrounding Dan Wheldon and get back to racing, ironically, in St. Petersburg, Florida…the city Dan Wheldon called home while driving a car that Wheldon that contributed to so much.  Dan Wheldon’s legacy begins on the 1.8 Mile road course and its 14 turns as the new turbocharged, faster, and safer  generation IndyCar, named the DW12 in Wheldon’s honor, hits the track for the first time in competition.  The car incorporates new safety measures to prevent cars from locking wheels and becoming airborne at the speeds in which they run.  The car came in being overweight  producing greater aerodynamic drag than anticipated or expected especially on the high-speed ovals, and the weight bias is more toward the rear creating a difficult handling condition.  All that being said, the car is anticipated to be at least one second faster than the 2011 model on the track with new aerodynamic components on the way to assist the car’s handling on ovals.  No big deal because the first oval on the schedule is the Indianapolis 500 which doesn’t come until May so there is time to sort this car’s deficiencies out.  Most importantly, the car is new for everybody which puts everybody on relatively equal footing as the individual teams will be charged with discovering and unlocking the cars speed and potential.

The car is not the only thing that is new for 2012 in terms of the equipment teams will be competing with.  March 25, 2012 will mark the return of engine manufacturer competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2005 when Honda, Toyota, and Chevrolet were competing for the prestigious manufacturer’s championship.  Honda remains an engine supplier for 2012, but IndyCar welcomes the return of Chevrolet and the debut of Lotus to attempt taking the Honda brand down as top power plant in the series.  All three engine manufacturers have heavy hitters that all can produce wins in 2012 and the competition should be as fierce as ever.

Manufacturer competition and a new car are only part of the plot that will make the 2012 IndyCar Season the most competitive and dramatic to date.  The depth of the driver talent in this year’s field is incredible.  Composed of drivers with multiple Indianapolis 500 rings, championships, race wins, and former Formula 1 and Champ Car veterans, this field is DEEP!  The breakdown, with team and engine alliances, is below and is the expected entry list for St. Petersburg later this month with additional entries from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, MSR INDY, and Conquest Racing expected to be on the grid by the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

# 2 Ryan Briscoe IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet

# 3 Helio Castroneves Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet

# 4 J.R. Hildebrand National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet

# 5 E.J. Viso CITGO / PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 6 Katherine Legge TrueCar Dragon Racing Lotus

# 7 Sebastien Bourdais Lotus Cars Dragon Racing Lotus

# 8 Rubens Barrichello BMC / Hyundai KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 9 Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 10 Dario Franchitti Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 11 Tony Kanaan GEICO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 12 Will Power Verizon Wireless Team Penske Chevrolet

# 14 Mike Conway ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda

# 15 Takuma Sato Interush / Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda

# 18 James Jakes ACORN Stairlifts Dale Coyne Racing Honda

# 19 Justin Wilson Sonny’s Bar-B-Que Dale Coyne Racing Honda

# 20 Ed Carpenter Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

# 22 Oriol Servia Lotus Cars Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus

# 26 Marco Andretti RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 27 James Hinchcliffe GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay DHL / SunDrop Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 38 Graham Rahal NTB / Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 67 Josef Newgarden TBA Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda

# 77 Simon Pagenaud Bowers & Wilkins Sam Schmidt Honda

# 78 Simona de Silvestro Entergy HVM Racing Lotus

# 83 Charlie Kimball Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 98 Alex Tagliani Barracuda Networks Bryan Herta Autosport Lotus

This makes up a healthy 26 car field for St. Petersburg and, more importantly, everyone can WIN in this field.  So pull the belts tight and fire the engines because this season is going to be epic!