The 2013 IZOD IndyCar season begins next weekend, when the teams head down south to the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Last year provided plenty of excitement and emotion as Helio Castroneves won the race, then made his way over to climb the fence on Dan Wheldon Way. This year’s race should be just as exciting, but there is so much more to look forward to throughout the course of the 2013 season.
At the beginning of a new season, we always have new driver/team combinations, and this year is no exception. Graham Rahal has joined his father’s team, where they will field a two-car operation with James Jakes. Simona de Silvestro leaves a dreadful 2012 season with Lotus behind her as she teams up with Tony Kanaan at KV Racing. Sam Schmidt’s team has paired rookie Tristan Vautier with Simon Pagenaud to give them a fierce 1-2 punch. Takuma Sato has moved over to pilot the 14 car for AJ Foyt, and EJ Viso has joined Andretti Autosport to form a four-car team. Jay Penske’s Dragon team now features Sebastian Saavedra alongside veteran Sebastien Bourdais.
The schedule looks much different this year, and is headlined by the return to Pocono. The Tricky Triangle, paired with Indy and Fontana, will bring back the IndyCar Triple Crown for the first time since 1989. Another notable stop is late in the season when the series returns to Houston. The layout for this street race will be different from what the Champ Car series used. Another exciting part of the schedule is the double-header races at Detroit, Toronto, and Houston. The first race will be run on Saturday, and the second on Sunday. The event in Toronto will also likely use standing starts. In an effort to eliminate fuel mileage racing, IndyCar altered the lengths of the races at St. Pete, Long Beach, Milwaukee, and Mid-Ohio.
Another interesting story line to keep an eye on this year is Team Penske and AJ Allmendinger. This year he will make his Indy 500 debut in the number 2 Penske car, sponsored by IZOD. He will also run in the April 7 race at Barber, and possibly more if funding becomes available. Tim Cindric said they would like to have him at Long Beach, but it depends on what his schedule looks like. Though he’s never raced in the Indy 500, he has competed in the Brickyard 400 four times.
There are several teams and drivers that need to rebound from a tough 2012 season. Marco Andretti is one of the first names that comes to mind. The KV Racing team is also looking to start fresh after a disappoint year. Though most teams would take it, Chip Ganassi’s team failed to live up to their high standards last season, despite winning the Indy 500. Scott Dixon fell out of the Championship hunt late in the season, and four-time series Champion Dario Franchitti was never even in the discussion.
The 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 26, with Pole Day coming on May 18. This year’s “Rookies” at Indy include AJ Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier, and Carlos Munoz.
There are a lot of things to look forward to. We could see first time winners with Pagenaud, Hinchcliffe, and Hildebrand. We could finally see Rahal and Andretti return to victory lane as well. We get to see Helio and Dario battle for their fourth win at Indianapolis. There will surely be another great battle for the championship down the final race between Hunter-Reay, Power, Dixon, and Franchitti. There may even be a surprise or two along the way.
One thing is certain, we’re going to see some incredible racing.