Tuesday, October 29, 2013

IndyCar Offseason Questions

It's been ten days since the 2013 season ended at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and there really hasn't been much news when it comes to teams, drivers, manufactures and other on-track entities. And there probably won't be. Maybe a driver signs here and there but for the most part, you won't hear much during November and you might hear more news in December but until the calendar turns the newswire will be mostly inactive.

Let's cover what we know: Andretti Autosport and Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing will be Honda teams with most of their drivers returning. Carlos Muñoz is likely to join Andretti Autosport with the future of EJ Viso hanging in the balance. No one is 100% sure on what Tristan Vautier will do but all signs point to him staying.

Penske and Ganassi will both be Chevrolet teams and both are making additions with Juan Pablo Montoya to Penske and Tony Kanaan to Ganassi.

After that, we don't the manufactures for anyone else but we know Sébastien Bourdais is heading to KVSH, Graham Rahal is returning to RLLR, Josef Newgarden is returning to SFHR and, in the surprise of the offseason, Ed Carpenter Racing is bringing back driver Ed Carpenter for a third consecutive season.

After that, we don't know much. RLLR may be getting National Guard sponsorship from Panther Racing. Where does that leave those teams? Will RLLR stay at two cars or maybe expand to three? If they do lose the sponsorship, can Panther find funding to remain on the grid?

What about Dragon Racing? Jay Penske is expanding his operation to run Formula E beginning in September 2014. Will his two cars remain on the grid full-time?

Where does Simona de Silvestro go?

It would seem the competent thing for Dale Coyne Racing to do would to bring back Justin Wilson and fill that second car with a driver capable of keeping up with Wilson on all tracks.

Who is Bryan Herta going to hire, Luca Filippi or JR Hildebrand? Or could it be someone else?

Is AJ Foyt going to keep the accident-prone Takuma Sato?

Who remains in IndyCar? Alex Tagliani? Oriol Servià? Sebastián Saavedra?

Which teams expand to field multiple cars in 2014? Which teams contracts to a car? Who enters the series? Does anyone else besides Muñoz move up from Indy Lights? What about drivers completely outside of the Road to Indy ladder system? Is Sam Bird really serious about IndyCar and is there anyone in IndyCar really serious about him? What about Narain Karthikeyan? Karun Chandhok? Are there any other drivers currently in Formula Renault 3.5, GP2 or GP3 who could land in IndyCar in 2014?

Plenty of questions and plenty of time for the answers to reveal themselves.

IndyCar Needs A Voice... or Two
In case you missed it, Mike King resigned from IMS Radio Network yesterday after 18 years. King was lead commentator of IndyCar since the first season of the IRL in 1996 and lead commentator of the Indianapolis 500 since 1999.

If history repeats itself, it would not be crazy to predict King ends up as lead commentator for ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500, replacing Marty Reid who was fired by ABC/ESPN last month. Both Paul Page and Bob Jenkins started as lead commentator for the Indianapolis 500 on radio before making the move to television lead commentator.

I'll be honest, whoever is ABC's new commentator for IndyCar in 2014, it will either be an in-house hire or someone at a cheap price because ABC/ESPN aren't going to be spending much on someone just to cover six IndyCar races. It wouldn't surprise me if ABC/ESPN gave King an offer he couldn't refuse but was still much lower than what they were paying Reid.

I'll be honest once more in saying there are much better options to be the voice of IndyCar on television and the radio. I don't know Mike King but after listening to him for most of my life it is clear he has a love for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 but his knowledge and perception of IndyCar have been drastically altered by the CART-IRL split. From listening he knows a lot about what happened in the IRL during the split and the Indianapolis 500 as a whole but does not know much of American open-wheel racing's history outside of that. During broadcasts he would still make references to strictly-IRL statistics, which for a series that has been reunited since 2008 and has a long history beyond 1996, should not be dissociated. The history of IndyCar should be viewed as a collection of everything from AAA to USAC to CART to IRL and anything and everything in-between.

I'm not sure who will become the lead commentators at ABC/ESPN and IMS Radio Network. I'd like to see ABC/ESPN put their best motorsports commentator on the job: Allen Bestwick. Vince Welch could do it but I'd like to get him a handful of races under his belt as lead commentator before having him do the Indianapolis 500. Could Bob Jenkins be persuaded into returning by either ABC/ESPN or IMS Radio Network? Is there someone else out there with no previous role in IndyCar who could be options for ABC/ESPN and IndyCar?

Once again more questions and plenty of time for them to be answered. I guess that is the IndyCar offseason in a nutshell.