I’m proud to announce a new feature to Racing Mania. The feature will be called IndyCar All-Access. I have six writers/fans join me to recap the main stories throughout the race weekend and then preview the next race.
Here are the races we’ll be covering:
St. Petersburg-March 25
Long Beach-April 15
Sao Paulo-April 29
Belle Isle-June 3
Mid-Ohio August 5
Here are the seven people: John Oreovicz from ESPN, Matt Hickey from IndyCar Minnesota, Jerry Cruz from IndyCar Puerto Rico, Matt Bauer, John Hetrick, Tony Tellez and myself. We’ll occasionally have some other guests also.
- John Oreovicz (JO)
- Matt Hickey (MH)
- Matt Bauer (MB)
- Jerry Cruz (JC)
- John Hetrick (JH)
- Tony Tellez (TT)
- Kent Mueller (KM)
Here are the questions:
What are your first impressions of the new car? Explain the goods and bads.
JO: I didn’t like the car at all at first, mainly because of the looks. I still find it hard to believe that Dallara got it so wrong when they had nine years to come up with something better. That said, my opinion of the car improved when I saw it in action at Sebring. It sounds good on track. It’s not a bad car in road course trim, but they’ve had to resort to some pretty extreme measures (like 26 pounds of lead in the nose) to get it anywhere close to balanced on a high speed oval. The best news for the fans is that the turbo engines are about 20-30 percent quieter so you can actually have a conversation when cars are on the track. I think these cars will road race just fine and I’m optimistic that the 2013 body kits will make the basic car look better.
MH: I like the new car and how it looks whilst moving. Also love new clutch paddles that will make standing starts better. Plus the most important feature is the safety features. Let’s just hope the oval aero package comes along nicely.
MB: The Dallara concept was at best my third favorite of all the candidates & the actual car didn’t do anything to improve my opinion. I liked the road course concept better than the oval but it’s not horrible. If it improves safety & performance that’s all that really matters.
JC: I was kind of disappointed when Swift Engineering was not chosen as the Chassis Manufacturer. I thought they had the better-looking, more aesthetically-sound, cool-looking chassis especially the #70 design. Yet, I can understand why INDYCAR chose Dallara Automobili…they just build safe cars. The chassis has been getting better looking as the team colors have been applied. I will wait until Indianapolis and review this one again.
JH: I am a big fan of the car. The drivers seem to think it has come along way since they began testing it in November. I am excited to see it in action at St Pete.
TT: “Even if you stumble, you’re still moving forward.” This is one of those great quotes where no one really knows who said it. Well, I can assure you, they were an IZOD IINDYCAR Series fan. The old Dallara chassis were past their prime, and it was time for a change. They were heavy, bulky, and drove like a boat on road courses. So Dallara provided us with a new way to go. When it was revealed, I loved it. I never had those feelings of “betrayal” like some of the purists. It looked good. A bit long, and in oval trim, a bit longer, but overall, I was into it. Now, seeing all the liveries (save Simona’s) I think we have a winner. I can’t identify the goods or the bad per se, because I never drove either chassis. From a fan’s standpoint, I am just excited to see 26-28 of them on the grid come March 25th in St Pete. I will say this, those of you who complain about the lack of speed on ovals will barely notice an 8 MPH difference at Indy. 218 MPH is STILL 218 MPH. Stop hating, support the series.
KM: The things I like about the DW12 are reducing the pedals from 3 to 2. How it looks. And thats about it.
Who has the best 2012 livery (so far)?
JO: I don’t have an opinion here.
MH: Graham Rahal
MB: My favorite liveries so far have been sentimental choices the black & gold Lotus is beautiful & reminds me of Senna’s old F1 car. I’ve been rooting for the red & white Target cars & their drivers for so long I’ve become become attached to the scheme. The early 90′s livery is in part of why I became a Ganassi fan.
JC: Well, I got to tell you that Lotus has put some impressive livery. I like the Black and Gold scheme. As a Helio Castroneves fan, I certainly like the Shell Ultra livery.
JH: I love Ed Carpenters Fuzzy’s car. Although Foyt’s ABC supply is pretty sharp.
TT: I don’t often choose favorites, and while we haven’t seen ALL the liveries, I can tell you that without a doubt Graham Rahal’s Service Central Racing entry is the best looking car on the pre-season grid. The BOLD red and blue, used in large amounts, with small subtle details looks really sharp at speed as well as standing still.
KM: Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal in a tie. I do like Andretti Autosport’s test car livery, very cool.
What are your thoughts on the Heat races in Iowa and the newly announced race control?
JO: Heat races: I’m glad to see them do something to inject some excitement into the pre-race build-up for an oval event. When record speeds aren’t involved, single car qualifying is boring. As for the new Race Control, I think you will find Beaux Barfield and his crew are not as trigger happy as the old regime and that there will be greater consistency than we’ve been used to from IndyCar.
MH: Well I should be at the heat races so I am excited. And I like where Mr Barfield is taking the series from the stewards side of things.
MB: I like the idea of the heat races at Iowa, quals can be pretty boring so hopefully it will be exciting & a fair representation of speed. I’m very high on the new race control we need some consistency & transparency. Beau Barfield did a great job with ALMS & I think he will be great for the series.
JC: I’m for whatever INDYCAR thinks is best for the show. This is another thing to spice up competition and bring the casual fan to the sport. Downside, it will not be used in ALL ovals (except Indy, of course).
JH:I love the idea of heat races. Whatever Indycar can do a little different to generate interest is a good thing. Also it’s just another piece to help get the dirt track fans back.
TT: I’ve never really been a fan of any type of racing that included “heat” style racing. I never really took the time to understand it either, to be honest, so I can’t fairly comment on that. I will however say that Beaux Barfield has come into an unforgiving position, and created an almost forgivable environment. HIs choices as stewards are unshakeable, and garner respect within the series, and the changes he has openly discussed are leaps and bounds above what was in place prior to his arrival. I do have one complaint. Why a single year contract? If there is anything that says, “I don’t have complete faith in you yet” it’s a one year contract. Sign him to a multi year deal with incentives for him to stay here in Indy. Not only is he a charismatic character, and an all around nice guy, but he has excellent ideas for where the series should go.
KM: I like the fact that Beaux Barfield and Randy Bernard came up with the heat race idea. It draws more for the fan and that’s a good thing because the oval promotion needs to improve. I like the direction that Barfield is taking IndyCar in at least he didn’t use the word discretion 87 times in the rulebook! That has to be a great thing. Hopefully the penalty box rule will be added for the road and street circuits.
Your thoughts on standing starts in IndyCar?
JO: I can take them or leave them. It’s not a big deal to me like it is for some of my colleagues.
MH: Let’s do it! No one wants to see two rows of two going into the first turn like we see at Long Beach, standing starts would be a thrill!
MB: I really like standing starts they provide more excitement & are another test of driver skill.
JC: Again, I’m all for better competition and the show for the fan. Standing starts bring the drivers’ skills to the front and makes everyone vulnerable if you don’t do it right. Bring it!
JH: I do not know very much about standing starts but it seems like the drivers want them. If they can bring excitement to the sport than I am all for it.
TT: On most street courses, I believe they SHOULD exist. While there are some road courses where they may not work properly, I think it creates an exciting atmosphere. Most of our drivers in the IICS grew up in karting, and this is where their roots lie. So they all should be able to safely participate in this. Good Move Beaux.
KM: I like the idea a lot because the rolling starts in IndyCar are terrible. They need to do a three wide standing start at Indy.
Will the sixth race on ABC help or hurt IndyCar?
JO: It should help because theoretically there will be 3-4 times as many people watching. Plus free-to-air network races are much more attractive to potential sponsors. I’d like to see both networks shake up the announcer lineup.
MH: Don’t see why it would hurt them, more exposure!
MB: The switching back between networks causes some concern because it’s tougher for some viewers to find & because networks aren’t going to hype a race on another channel. It will be easier for fans or potential fans to stumble upon a race on network TV which is good.
JC: I’m not an ESPN on ABC fan since it is clear IndyCar is not important for them. Now, Network television bring more eyeballs as this moment until NBC Sports Networks grows. It should help, at least this year. It would be better if Streaming was available when ABC has the races. The fans could enjoy the Quals, some practice time before the race.
JH: ABC has more eyeballs than NBC sports right now. More eyeballs is never a bad thing even if the coverage is poor.
TT: Mid Ohio has been one of my favorite atmospheres and tracks since I first went to that race. The accessibility of the drivers and teams to the fans is exceptional in this place, and the environment is always electric. My one complaint has been never seeing the rest of the track as I have only seen the first 6 turns, and the last two from my vantage point at the facility. Now, we will be able to see it all. It’s a beautiful location, and a great facility run by a great group of people, and I am proud of them for getting their time to shine. I say this is a win win for both the series and ABC.
KM: If it helps the ratings I’m all for it. If not, NBC Sports Network should get back the Mid-Ohio race, they only lost it because of the 2012 Olympics.
What are your thoughts on NBC Sports Network and there new show IndyCar 36?
JO: Could be good if it’s done right. The reality show that focused on Paul Tracy and Forsythe Racing a few years ago was surprisingly good.
MH: Love the new things being added! I love how all of the FIL races will be shown
MB: The IndyCar 36 show was the most exciting thing to come out of the state of IndyCar presentation. It’s more enjoyable & easier to root for & against a driver or team that you’ve gotten to know.
JC: I think is about time there is some programming to grow the sport. You cannot rely only on the races. You need to promote the series in other ways. Look how the NFL, NBA, NHL and NASCAR have gone to other programming properties to grow their sports. It is all about making it more attractive for casual fans to follow.
JH: I love the new network and hope it will continue to grow. They do a great job promoting the sport of Indycar. Tony George looks pretty smart now choosing to go with the long term contract on VERSUS doesn’t he?
TT: While I would have liked to see some more cross promotion during the Super Bowl, I am ultimately looking forward to what the NBC Sports Network brings to the table. While some of their choices in talent may be lacking (we will all miss Lindy Thackston) I believe their desire for direction with the series is driven for success. Every single FIL race will be aired live on NBCSN, and this is a great opportunity for the FIL guys to shop for bigger sponsorships, and with bigger dollars, come a bigger field. That’s a good thing in Indy Lights. I would like to see a series developed to piggyback with the INDYCAR 36 which highlights the FIL series and shows the growth in the ladder series, as well movement within the development series’.
KM: I like the direction that NBC SN is taking IndyCar in, the show only adds more attention. Great bang for the buck.
Who will be the surprising driver of this year and which driver that has been a contender will falter?
JO: I think James Hinchcliffe could be the biggest surprise. He was very impressive as a rookie and I think he will help bring back the camaraderie that was once a part of the Andretti team. That will only benefit Marco Andretti. It would be very good for the series if Marco and Graham Rahal started winning races on a regular basis. Justin Wilson could spring a surprise for Coyne. Who will falter? Franchitti and Power certainly seemed to be the best with the old car. How will they adapt to the new one?
MH: Graham Rahal will do great and I can see Ryan Briscoe struggling this season to stay in the top 5.
MB: I think James Jakes will surprise & Helio will falter.
JC: My surprise driver this year would be Graham Rahal. I think he will be poised to have a great season after the learning curve he had with his new team last season. All the wrong things happened last year so he should have a breakthrough and replace Scott Dixon who will have a down year and be out of the Top 5.
JH: I don’t know that I would say the surprising driver of this year but I expect Rahal and Marco to have big seasons. They are very talented guys who should start winning races consistently.
TT: It is my belief that we will see Graham Rahal have a breakout year in 2012. Not only is he with a strong team in Chip Ganassi Service Central Racing, but he also has the proper mindset, and is ready to win. The maturity in this 23 year old man has come to the surface after the loss of Dan Wheldon, and his work with not only the DW Memorial Fund, but also his own foundation deserve respect and admiration. I see Graham winning three races this season and finishing in the top 4 for points
KM: My surprise driver is Graham Rahal, that guy has a ton of talent. If it wasn’t for his terrible luck last year he would of challenged Dario and Will for the title, no doubt. I’d say Dario. The Honda engine is fairly slow in testing and Dario is getting old. That is a combination for disaster.
Do any rookies win?
JO: No. Rubens Barrichello could, but Simon Pagenaud is the only other one with a shot.
MH: No, but Newgarden and Barrichello will put on a show!
MB: I don’t see a rookie winning this year, the field is just to competitive.
JC: Well, Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing have the potential to win at Texas and probably at Milwaukee. Rubens Barichello could win at Barber or Toronto. I think these two can win 1 race each.
JH: I don’t expect any of the rookies to win but Josef Newgarden should be strong on the ovals. Unless Barrichello is full time then it would not surprise me one bit to see that guy in victory lane later in the season.
TT: If Rubens Barrichello sets foot in a DW12 this season, we will see a rookie win. I would say Qingdao would be the most likely place for this to happen. So, yes. A rookie will win.
KM: Yes if Rubens comes if not maybe Newgarden at a place like Milwaukee or Iowa. Highly doubt it though.
Rookie of the year?
JO: Probably Barrichello, even if he doesn’t run Texas and Milwaukee.
MH: Newgarden assuming they get the engine thing figured out.
MB:If Josef Newgarden can get an engine & be on the grid for the entire season he’s the ROY.
JC: Even with Rubens Barichello on board. I’m going with Josef Newgarden. He has demonstrated he can win at any venue and with a “leveled” playing field this should be a good year for him (he needs an engine, PLEASE!!!)
JH: Once again Newgarden unless Barrichello is full time.
TT: If Josef Newgarden can get an engine deal nailed down, and get some seat time, I see him as a top ten contender. This kid has talent in every fiber of his being, and he wants to race, BADLY. However, (again) if Rubens is driving all but two races, no way does he not contend, and win the ROY title running away.
KM: Newgarden if Barrichello doesn’t come if not… then Rubens.
What engine manufacture will win the most races?
JO: Chevrolet. I think they have a slightly stronger team lineup.
MH: Chevrolet, they have the best drivers lineup in my opinion.
MB: I think Ganassi (Honda) will win the most races but Chevy has the combo of Penske & Andretti so I think they will win.
JC: Chevy should win double the time as Honda does. We have seen that Honda has been challenged by some “issues” during pre-season and they may be rusty from “manufacturers competition”. Honda may have gotten accustomed on keeping detuned engines.
JH: Anybody’s guess is as good as mine. I guess I say Chevy because I expect Will Power to win 5 or 6 of the races on road and street courses. I think that guy could win Indycar races in a go-kart.
TT: While Honda has been the ONLY engine of choice for what seems like forever, I have to say I believe Chevrolet has the most drive to succeed. With Barrichello and Kanaan teamed up, we will see KV Racing climb to new levels of superiority on road courses, putting Will Power’s dominance into the realm of afterthought. However, I still see Honda as the manufacturer to beat, with everyone else behind the eight ball. It will be an exciting season, for sure.
KM: Chevy because they have the most talented line-up out there. No doubt, I mean you got a three time Indy 500 winner, Marco Andretti, Will Power, Hinch do I need to say Tony Kanaan. Those five drivers right there have as much talent as anybody in racing.
Who wins the Indy 500? Out of the top drivers who misses it?
JO: I think it’s way too early to predict this, but I’ll go with Scott Dixon as the winner.
MH: Marco Andretti will win, and I don’t think Paul Tracy will make it.
MB: I think Dixon will win the 500, he was a few ounces of fuel away from getting the pole & the win last year.
JC: My pick is Helio Castroneves as he reaches his time with “Immortality” as the 2011 Indy 500 intro explains. By the way, that intro last year is the BEST I have seen…even better than the Delta Force ones from Paul Page. My gut feeling tells me that Mike Conway will again have his bad moment at Indy.
JH: I’m going to go with Marco Andretti. I just feel like that guy knows his way around the speedway and the Andretti team has been fast at Indy the past few years. If they get qualifying figured out I can’t imagine him not being a contender. Although how great would it be to see Hinch in the GoDaddy car in victory lane at Indy? Hope they have somebody take a picture of Danica’s reaction!
TT: This year, I see Scott Dixon winning the Indianapolis 500. Nearing the end of a contract, this is like an NBA free agent playing in a contract year. I don’t think his job is anywhere near on the line, but one thing about this driver is his desire and drive to win. I’ve seen his climb out of his car upset with a podium finish because he knows who and what mistakes were made to not put him atop that podium. If Tomas Scheckter can get in a car for the 500 he will be driven to succeed. In the offseason, I would say he was one of the drivers most excited about the possibility of getting a ride, and if he does get one, he is one to watch out for. You can also look for JR HIldebrand to put up a major fight and possibly spoil Scott’s day in the sun, but I still see the #9 winning, running away.
KM: Marco Andretti. The guy has great runs this year is his year. The person that misses is Katherine Legge because of the lack of experience on big ovals and she doesn’t have that great of an ovalista of a teammate (Bourdais).
Will there be a Oriol Servia type of moment this year? Please state the driver that you think will have that type of moment.
JO: Probably Justin Wilson. Or maybe Servia himself.
MH: Simona de Silvestro, I could see her winning at a race like Sao Paulo.
MB: I think Hinchcliffe will have a Servia type moment, he’s got a year of experience & a good team behind him.
JC: Read my pick at #7 for this one.
JH: I could see Ed Carpenter sitting on the front row at Indy and challenging for the win. Can you imagine seeing Ed passing a bottle of Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka to Tony George in victory lane!
TT: I think we see the opposite of this moment. I truly believe that we will see a single driver become the backmarker. This will be a driver who has a big team backing him, and a ton of money, but that is all. I won’t mention names, but I believe this guys talent has hit it’s limit.
KM: I’d say Sebastien Bourdais. He’ll pop a ton of eyebrows at the twisties. He and Rubens (if he comes) could be the only two drivers to challenge Mr. Power.
Thoughts on Rubens Barrichello coming to IndyCar?
JO: Good guy, good driver, but they’re kidding themselves if they think he will have the kind of impact Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell did both on and off the track. If the seventh best F1 driver of the last 10-15 years comes in and suddenly beats up of the likes of Franchitti and Power etc., it makes Indy car racing look bad.
MH: Not official yet, but it would increase the strength of the field and he would bring a lot of positive attention to Indycar.
MB: Rubens has a lot of talent & could compete on road & street courses. I would rather see a young driver come in & develop instead of someone who is at the end of their career & has to settle for IndyCar.
JC: It would be nothing but positive. It would bring more fans to our sport as well as keep rising the level of competition. Two thumbs up!
JH: Brings legitimacy to the sport. Shows that Indycar racing is a credible series. 5 years ago there is no way an accomplished driver like Barrichello even considers coming to Indycar. We have come along way.
TT: From a marketing and PR standpoint, this would be HUGE. Where I see the biggest compliment to the series though, will be in the competition levels. This man has driven, and succeeded, at what many consider the top level of open wheel racing, and he will be a dominant force on the roads and street courses in 2012. However, I think he will surprise many with his oval ability at Indianapolis. Remember, he has won there before.
KM: I think its great because he brings a ton of attraction. Plus he’s a heck of a racer.
Thoughts on Danica leaving IndyCar?
JO: I wish her the best in the next phase of her career but I’m glad I won’t have to write about her as much anymore. Wake me up when the performance matches the hype.
MH: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, she’s their problem now.
MB: Danica leaving won’t hurt much or at all, she got the majority of the attention at the expense of more talented drivers. I think it will be a great chance to expose fans to other talented & interesting people
JC: Being honest, I could not care less having her leaving IndyCar. I think she went for the money and forgot what her dreams were. I was a fan before (I have a big poster of her in 2005 IndyCar ROY RLR colors) but I could not be more disappointed how she dissed IndyCar. She just let money keep her from IndyCar immortality. I only wish Simona, Pippa, or Katherine win 2 races and Danica will be an afterthought.
JH: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! But seriously it will be a great thing because we still have GoDaddy and they seem willing to promote Hinch. More attention on other drivers. I think Graham, Marco, and Hinch are going to be big stars in a few years. The good thing about those guys is that they seem to want to stay in Indycar and help the series grow. Although Marco has made no secret that he’d like a shot at F1.
TT:Who? Next Question.
KM: I don’t really care anymore because she really started to under achieve when she signed on in 2010 for NASCAR. Her average finishes went down a lot, it didn’t seem like she cared much. I’ll admit it I was a Danica fan in her rookie season. I was seven at the time but when Marco Andretti came on in 2006, I thought this could be the battle of the ages but it didn’t turn out that way.
Final car count (you can break down team by team if you so wish)?
JO: There will be 27 at St. Pete. It will be interesting to see how many Indy 500 entries materialize and how many of them actually get engines.
MH: 25-26, although I’d like to see it capped at 20 to make qualifying more intense (excluding Indy).
MB: I’m not sure about the car count but I think about 26 will make the grid
JC: I would say that at St. Pete we should have 27 cars. The series should average 25 cars for the season.
JH: 26-28 cars at each race. 36 or 37 cars at Indy.
TT: I think we see Ganassi with 4, RLL with 2, Conquest with 1 (part time), DRR with 1(2 at Indy), SSM with 2 (wait for it), SFHR with 1, ECR with 1, Foyt 1, Dragon 2, Penske 3, Shank with 1(part time), NH will run Indy Only (Scheckter?), KV 3, (4th part time), Andretti 3 FT, 1PT, Panther 1(2 at Indy with Buddy Rice and part time after), Coyne 2, BHA 1, and one more team out of nowhere for a part time with 1 driver. Total= 28 FT 3 PT with other one offs.
Your top 3 in points at the end of the season are?
JO: 1. Dixon 2. Power 3. Franchitti
MH: Power, Franchitti, Rahal in that order.
MB: I think if luck doesn’t play a big factor it will be Power, Dixon & Dario but I’m really hoping Dixon takes his third championship.
JC: #3 Helio Castroneves, #2 Ryan Hunter-Reay, #1 Will Power – All Chevy powerplants drivers…Honda will struggle to keep up. Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal would be the best of the Honda class; Oriol Servia will be for Lotus Group.
JH: Will Power (just too good on road courses) Dario Franchitti (the guy doesn’t seem to know what bad luck is) Graham Rahal (the guy doesn’t seem to know what good luck is…that will change this year)
TT: I think this is the year that Will Power falls off the pedestal. I see a top 3 of Dixon, Rahal, and Kanaan.
KM: Power, Barrichello (if he comes if not) Rahal then finally Andretti.