Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview Part V

Testing is over and we have arrived at the fifth and final part of Team-By-Team previews for the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series season.

Arguably the top two teams from 2012 will be featured today: Penske and the defending champions Andretti Autosport.

Previous Parts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Penske Racing
2012 Review
Drivers- Will Power (2nd in points, three wins), Hélio Castroneves (4th, two wins), Ryan Briscoe (6th, one win).
2013 Drivers- Power, Castroneves, AJ Allmendinger (Barber, Indianapolis, more may be announced).

What else can be said about Penske Racing? The team's two full-time drivers can win any race and either can win the championship. Will Power has been the bridesmaid the last three seasons as he looks to break through and get that elusive title. Meanwhile, Castroneves is also looking for his first championship but he has a shot to become the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s. The team has plenty to race for in 2013.

The third car will be taking on a new role. Gone is Ryan Briscoe after a 2012 season that would have been satisfying at the 12 other teams. Results were not the only reason Briscoe lost his full-time seat, money was a factor. AJ Allmendinger, however, will be making his IndyCar comeback at Barber Motorsoprts Park, thanks to sponsorship from Izod. At the test his best time of the two days was a 1:08.1666, faster than Viso, Newgarden, Hildebrand, Andretti, Bourdais and Rahal. Yes, it was only a test and teams are not going 100%, but it is a positive to take as Allmendinger gets ready for his return.

You can almost pencil in both Power and Castroneves for a victory. Both are championship contenders but can they become champions? Penske has not won a title since Hornish in 2006. Every year it seems as all Power has to do is avoid one mistake. As an outsider, that one mistake seems as a heavy burden to have on one's mind. He has the speed to get the job done and the time is now.

Andretti Autosport
2012 Review
Drivers- Ryan Hunter-Reay (Champion, four wins), James Hinchcliffe (8th, two podiums), Marco Andretti (16th, best finish 2nd at Iowa).
2013 Drivers- Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Andretti, EJ Viso, Carlos Muñoz (Indianapolis).

Ryan Hunter-Reay had a great comeback in 2012. When all seemed lost after Sonoma, he won Baltimore and got the top five he needed at Fontana, with some misfortune for Power. Three straight wins at Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto helped get the championship run going in 2012 and Hunter-Reay looks to become the first American to go back-to-back since Sam Hornish in 2001-02 and first to do it in a unified series since Bobby Rahal in 1986--87.

Hinchcliffe looked like a definite win after the first five races in 2012, where his worse finish was 6th. However, once he hit the asphalt at Belle Isle, his season was never the same. Marco Andretti had a season to forget as well. Indianapolis was going well until a bad pit stop left him running in the back and he got caught in an accident trying to make up ground. He managed a second at Iowa and results a got better as the season went on, ending with a pole and 8th place finish at Fontana.

The team brings in EJ Viso, who finished 20th in points in 2012 with one top five and four top tens. Carlos Muñoz finished fifth in Indy Lights in 2012 with two wins, as he is scheduled to make his debut at Indianapolis.

Hunter-Reay is a championship contender, no question about that. Hinchcliffe can break through and get a victory in 2013. Andretti Autosport has been a stalwart on short tracks winning four of the last five race on tracks a mile and a half and shorter. Marco's best shot will be on an oval and the goal for Viso is to bring the car home in one piece.

After doing this five part preview a three things came to mind:

1. The IndyCar field is as deep as it gets.
2. Easily 14 driver could win a race in 2013 and no one would be surprised if they won.
3. There are 7 drivers that could win the championship and no one would be surprised if they won.

IndyCar does not lack talent, the cars were faster at the Barber test than they were in 2012, which could a great sign for the rest of the 2013 season and the fan base is ready for race one. 10 days to the green flag, only 10 more days.