IndyCar 2013 season preview: Power’s year at last?

IndyCar

Will Power, Chevrolet, Penske, 2013With two races to go in last year’s IndyCar championship it looked like Will Power was finally going to lift the crown after two consecutive near-misses.

But when rival Ryan Hunter-Reay won a topsy-turvy race in Baltimore, Power’s victory chances suddenly looked more vulnerable.

IndyCar demands versatility from its drivers – the ability to compete on narrow street courses, undulating road tracks and ovals that run the gamut from tight bullrings to howling fast superspeedways.

It was on the latter that Power came unstuck, and not for the first time.

He spun into the barrier while passing Hunter-Reay – if the Penske had collected his rival Power would have been champion – and not even the sterling work of his crew to get him back onto the circuit could prevent the title slipping from him for a third year.

Drivers and teams

It would be wrong wrong to portray last year simply as a championship Power lost. Hunter-Reay put himself on course for the crown with a mid-season hat-trick of victories.

The defending champion will sport the number one on his car for the first time since his boss Michael Andretti used it in 2006.

As well as stiff opposition from fellow Chevrolet user Power, Hunter-Reay can expect competition from Honda-powered Ganassi duo Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, who have six titles between them.

Power’s championship hopes will be bolstered by the slimming down of the Penske operation to just two cars following the off-season ejection of Ryan Briscoe. But Power and Helio Castroneves will be joined at Barber and Indianapolis by AJ Allmendinger.

Allmendinger is returning to open-wheel racing following a spell in NASCAR. He joined Penske’s team last year but was suspended for failing a drugs test, then returned to racing in the category in October.

James Hinchcliffe, Andretti, IndyCar, Barber Motorsports Park, testing, 2013James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand are among the emerging talents who showed promise last year and are looking for their maiden victories.

Despite ending his first season of IndyCar racing with two top-five finishes in the last three races, Rubens Barrichello has not remained in the series for a second season.

That removes a point of interest for crossover F1 fans though there is still Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson to cheer on.

Series veterans Tony Kannan, Oriol Servia and Alex Tagliani all remain while just one new driver enters the fold: Tristan Vautier, the French driver who won the Indy Lights series last year.

On the engines front, Lotus withdrew from IndyCar during the off-season despite having four years of their five year contract left to run. Their 2012 campaign was a disaster, the highlight being the races where the cars they ‘powered’ weren’t black-flagged for being too slow.

Number Team Driver Engine
1 Andretti Ryan Hunter-Reay Chevrolet
25 Andretti Marco Andretti Chevrolet
27 Andretti James Hinchcliffe Chevrolet
3 Penske Helio Castroneves Chevrolet
12 Penske Will Power Chevrolet
4 Panther JR Hildebrand Chevrolet
5 Venezuela/Andretti/HVM EJ Viso Chevrolet
6 Dragon Sebastian Saavedra Chevrolet
7 Dragon Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet
9 Ganassi Scott Dixon Honda
10 Ganassi Dario Franchitti Honda
11 KV Tony Kanaan Chevrolet
78 KV Simona de Silvestro Chevrolet
14 AJ Foyt Takuma Sato Honda
15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Graham Rahal Honda
16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan James Jakes Honda
18 Dale Coyne Ana Beatriz/Stefan Wilson* Honda
19 Dale Coyne Justin Wilson Honda
20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Chevrolet
22 Panther DRR Oriol Servia Chevrolet
55 Schmidt Hamilton Peterson Tristan Vaultier Honda
67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Josef Newgarden Honda
77 Schmidt Hamilton Peterson Simon Pagenaud Honda
83 Ganassi Charlie Kimball Honda
98 Bryan Herta Alex Tagliani Honda

Changes for 2013

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti, IndyCar, Barber Motorsports Park, testing, 2013Following a major overhaul of the technical rules last year, continuity is the name of the game this time around.

One of the biggest changes is a controversial plan to use standing starts for one of the races in each of the three double-headers – eschewing the rolling starts that are a traditional feature of IndyCar racing.

The push-to-pass system was the focus of some tweaking last year in an effort to make it harder for drivers to use it defensively.

This year instead of having a set amount of time they can use it for, drivers are limited to ten ‘pushes’ per race, the duration of which is either 15 or 20 seconds each depending on the track.

IndyCar will also use heats to set the grid for the Iowa race although the plan seems excessively complicated.

Calendar

The 19-round calendar certainly looks better on paper than last year’s 15-race schedule (following the cancellation of the Chinese round). However it has been expanded partly by the addition of three double-header races.

As these all take place on street courses they have the effect of tipping the balance of the championship towards these temporary venues. However the dwindling contingent of oval events has been bolstered by the addition of a race at Pocono.

2011 Indianapolis 500 startThe dauntingly fast tri-oval was last used by IndyCar (CART at the time) in 1989. It was deemed to unsafe for the cars after that but has been renovated and resurfaced since.

Together with the Indianapolis 500 and season finale at Fontana, it reinstates the Triple Crown of superspeedway events which featured in the series from 1971 to 1989. The championship organisers have put up a special $1 million prize for a driver who can win all three.

The other new addition to the calendar is the revival of the street race in Houston formerly on the Champ Car calendar. Together with the oval event IndyCar has three races in Texas but is not visiting the home of the United States Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas.

Finally, the loss of the Edmonton round means the Toronto double-header is the only venture north of the border to Canada.

The green flag will drop for the first time at the St Petersburg street circuit in Florida:

Round Date Venue Type Length (km)
1 24th March St Petersburg Street 2.89
2 7th April Barber Motorsports Park Road 3.83
3 21st April Long Beach Street 3.17
4 5th May Sao Paulo Street 4.08
5 26th May Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval 4.02
6 1st June (Saturday) Belle Isle Park Raceway, Detroit Street 3.78
7 2nd June Belle Isle Park Raceway, Detroit Street 3.78
8 8th June Texas Motor Speedway Oval 2.41
9 15th June Milwaukee Mile Oval 1.61
10 23rd June Iowa Speedway Oval 1.41
11 7th July Pocono Raceway Oval 4.00
12 13th July (Saturday) Toronto Street 2.82
13 14th July Toronto Street 2.82
14 4th August Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Road 3.86
15 25th August Sonoma Road 4.05
16 1st September Baltimore Street 3.28
17 5th October (Saturday) Reliant Park, Houston Street 2.46
18 6th October Reliant Park, Houston Street 2.46
19 19th October Auto Club Speedway, Fontana Oval 3.22

Television coverage

Marco Andretti, Andretti, IndyCar, Barber Motorsports Park, testing, 2013The broadcasting rights for IndyCar in the UK have changed hands with ESPN taking over from Sky.

ESPN have not confirmed whether they will continue to broadcast every race live as Sky did. “ESPN in the UK and Ireland will bring fans live televised coverage of the season-opening race in St Petersburg this weekend as well as live or as-live coverage of each IndyCar race through July, including the Indianapolis 500,” a spokesperson told F1 Fanatic.

And they are making no assurances about what will be broadcast in the second half of the year: “Details of race coverage from August will be confirmed at a later date,” they added.

Details on how to add ESPN to your television package can be found here.

In America IndyCar is broadcast on NBC Sports Network and ESPN. See the IndyCar website for details.

IndyCar on F1 Fanatic Live

As last year we’ll be following every IndyCar race on F1 Fanatic Live. Look out for the links on the home page during each race weekend.

Over to you

Will you be following IndyCar this year? Who’s your tip for the title?

Have your say in the comments.

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16 comments on IndyCar 2013 season preview: Power’s year at last?

  1. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:25

    Thanks, Keith. Great preview. Really looking forward to more racing!

  2. Cryptowillem (@cryptowillem) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:29

    Thanks, Keith!

    You know, I started watching IndyCar just last year, despite being in North America, because of Rubens Barrichello. But I found so much to root for, and I’m really excited for this season!

  3. Mikemat5150 (@mikemat5150) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:31

    The race is in St. Petersburg not Miami.

  4. Tom (@newdecade) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:35

    I can’t help but feel Powers success is tied to Webber’s starts.

  5. Traverse (@) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:35

    If Will Power has the willpower to win, he will win. But if Will isn’t filled with the will to win, there will be no willpower to help Will Power win.

  6. synapseza (@synapseza) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:51

    2012 was the first time I followed IndyCar (having been introduced to it by F1F). I really enjoyed the close racing and the fact that the focus was not on technological development amongst teams, but rather driver skill and car setup. (Note that I do NOT want this to happen to F1!) I enjoyed the fact that it tests drivers on conventional circuits, street circuits and ovals since you then get the feeling that the person that wins the championship is a true all rounder. I supported Power (since he is the closest to a local driver for me :P) and he was mighty at the start of the season, but his best oval finish was 8th at Texas. Ryan Hunter Ray on the other hand was steady at the start of the season (couple of podiums) and got the hat-trick of wins in Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto which coincided with Power’s slump. But he ended the season with 4 wins: 2 on ovals and 2 on street circuits. Versus Will’s 3 street circuit/roadcourse victories. Judging by his previous seasons (which I did not follow), it does seem to be the pattern. So unless Will can perform better on the Ovals, I think he might struggle again this year.

  7. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 22nd March 2013, 19:59

    I’m interested to know how De Silvestra will fare alongside Tony Kanaan. Last year Kanaan did not have a consistently great season, but he did impress me with some great stints on occasion.

    The calendar is a little disappointing. Street courses are fun, but I would like to see the Indy Cars take to some more dedicated venues, like CotA for instance (is there still some kind of agreement between Bernie and whoever is running Indy Car that they don’t run on the same circuits?).

    • schooner (@schooner) said on 23rd March 2013, 0:12

      @adrianmorse Very cool that De Silvestro appears to have a decent ride, which I think she deserves, and I’m hoping she has a good year. It would be great to have a female driver garner some attention based on good results as opposed to just being a media darling.

  8. JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 22nd March 2013, 21:08

    I certainly hope it is Power’s year. He’s a much more likeable guy than Franchitti and Hunter-Reay.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Castroneves win either. He’s been a front-runner for over a decade, it’s hard to believe he’s still not a champion.

  9. juergen (@juergen) said on 22nd March 2013, 22:50

    Thank you for posting this article. I might go to the Long beach street circuit. I just started watching since last year

  10. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 22nd March 2013, 23:05

    Can’t wait for the Indy Car this season, I’ll be so gutted if Power manages to lose it again.

    As for the ESPN deal I’m a little worried with it going to BT that they’ll just buy all the football and not bother with any motor racing.

  11. MatK77 (@bluestar77) said on 22nd March 2013, 23:42

    KV looking strong in practice, both Kanaan & de Silvestro mixing it with the big teams. Sato & new man Vautier also consistently quick. St. Pete’s a tough course to pass on, but if they keep it clean through the first lap I think the result might be a complete toss-up.

    *grin*

  12. R.J. O'Connell (@rjoconnell) said on 23rd March 2013, 0:31

    I’m still iffy on whether or not I want to get back into it. There’s still a lot of the same petty politicking – as bad as any you’d see in F1 – that soured me on American open-wheel racing in the past, I still feel that the wrong series won out in unification – but at least the league has come to its senses by not staging needlessly dangerous superspeedway races and cutting down on serious driver injuries.

    I am at least interested to see how AJA does in his open-wheel return. He was my favorite back in Champ Car.

  13. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 23rd March 2013, 5:26

    I’ve been watching indycar since 2007 when i went to a friends birthday night out as i knew the nightclub would have the championship decider, where apparently a Scotsman could win. With no volume i had my eye on the race but not full attention and remember noticing the championship was Dixons with 2 laps to go so was ready to turn away from the tv when suddenly Dario Francitti was celebrating. Eh what! Scott Dixon had ran out of fuel on the last lap of the championship. After this i was hooked. Got sky sports and never missed a race. Even the Brazilian race that wasn’t available on Sky i followed the lap chart on Indycars web site. Sadly that is as close as i’ll get to the 2013 season as there move to ESPN is a move beyond what i can afford. The Huge bill for sky is enough without a extra £10 for ESPN so sadly like Rally and Italian football i predict my support of the sport will slowly fade as i see less of a motorsport i love available on TV.

    Anyway onto this season I’ve never liked Power, As a Dario fan you can understand. I Hope Honda get there act together and give Ganassi a better engine so he can regain the Championship. Dont think Hunter-Rey is on the level of Dario or Will Power but did so well to take the title last season. Another season like last year and i’ll be convinced on him,

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