Friday, March 21, 2014

2014 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview: One-Offs

This was suppose to be Panther Racing's preview but since it appears they will not make the full-time call and may be reduce to an Indianapolis 500 one-off, I thought we'd look at other possible Indianapolis one-offs. Note this post does not include one-offs for full-time teams. If you would like to read about Jacques Villeneuve, Martin Plowman, JR Hildebrand or Kurt Busch, you can go to their respective team's preview (I realize the Andretti Autosport preview is not available yet. Be patient. It will be posted next week).

2013 Panther Racing Review
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 5th (Long Beach).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 7th (Iowa).
Final Championship Positions: 22nd (Oriol Servià), 26th (Ryan Briscoe), 35th (Townsend Bell).

2014 Drivers:

No one has a clue. Panther Racing's offseason has been one of disappointment from two stand points. One, it's disappointing the team appears unable to compete a full-season and IndyCar loses another full-time entry and a team that has been around for around fifteen years. Two, it's disappointing John Barnes is suing everyone and their uncle over National Guard leaving Panther for Rahal Letterman Lanigan instead of trying to bust his back to find funding and keep his team afloat.

It appears Indianapolis will be the only race for Panther in 2014. They tested Colombian Carlos Huertas a few times this offseason. Huertas won a very wet Formula Renault 3.5 race at Aragón but finish in the points only two more times in the final thirteen races and finished sixteenth in the championship. I can't imagine Panther throwing a rookie who has never raced the DW12 and never been on an oval in the car for Indianapolis but of course if the paycheck is large enough, chalk him up as the fourth Colombian.

I wish this was a seat a James Jakes (more on him in a bit) or E.J. Viso could have saved.

What other veteran drivers are out there? Robby Gordon and Paul Tracy are rumored to be exploring rides for Indianapolis but could they possibly be considering Panther? At this point, who knows who Panther is talking to, if they are talking to anybody. With all these drivers returning for Indianapolis, I wouldn't rule out Billy Boat at this point.

Number to Remember: 8. Amount of Indianapolis 500 top ten finishes for Panther Racing with five different drivers (Scott Goodyear, Buddy Lazier, Vitor Meira, Dan Wheldon and JR Hildebrand).

Predication/Goals: We will see the #4 attempt to make the Indianapolis 500 but a goal for me is to see that team bought by someone else, turning that ship around and getting the team back on the grid full-time in 2015. John Menard, Gerry Forsythe, Keith Wiggins, hell Paul Stoddart, please buy Panther. Adrián Fernández, we would love to see you return as car owner (maybe even get behind the wheel at Indianapolis but we understand if you decline).

2013 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Review
Wins: 0.
Best Finish: 4th (São Paulo).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 13th (São Paulo and Indianapolis)

2014 Drivers:

No news yet as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing tries to return to IndyCar after having 2013 cut to only five races. Paul Tracy has reportedly been talking to D&R about returning for Indianapolis and is on a short list of possible drivers. Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin tweeted James Jakes is a possibility. Dreyer & Reinbold did field a rallycross car for Scott Speed at the X Games in 2013.

Other possible drivers with past ties to Dreyer & Reinbold who could get behind the wheel are Buddy Rice, Ana Beatriz (note: Beatriz has a ride in Stock Car Brasil for 2014 and a Chevrolet none-the-less. Stock Car Brasil does not have a race in the month of May, opening the door for a possible return) and at this point you couldn't rule Tomas Scheckter out of making a come back.

Number to Remember: 4. Amount of Indianapolis top ten finishes for Dreyer & Reinbold with four different drivers (Buddy Rice, Townsend Bell, Justin Wilson and Oriol Servià) all coming after reunification in 2008.

Prediction/Goals: Paul Tracy is behind the wheel for D&R at Indianapolis. The goal of course is to convince whatever sponsors they have for Indianapolis to fund a full-time entry and a great finish at Indianapolis may do that. Tracy has yet to get behind the wheel of the DW12 chassis and last time he was at Indianapolis in 2011 he started twenty-fourth and finished twenty-fifth driving for D&R.

2013 Lazier Parnters Racing Review
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 31st (Indianapolis).
Poles: 0.
Best Start: 32nd (Indianapolis).
Final Championship Position: 38th (Buddy Lazier).

2014 Drivers:

Buddy Lazier
The Lazier name returned to Indianapolis for the first time since 2008 last year with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier driving a family owned car. Lazier was never a threat and completed only 44 laps before retiring due to a mechanical failure. Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin reported the team is "an absolute yes" to return and maybe even with a car for Jaques Lazier.

Number to Remember: 44.5. Average age of Buddy and Jaques Lazier.

Prediction/Goals: We will see Buddy but not Jaques. He will be at the last row party and a finish inside the top thirty would be a victory. If Buddy, Jaques and their father Bob want this team to become a full-time IndyCar team, they are going to need to invest in a younger driver and maybe form a partnership with a current team (i.e. Ed Carpenter Racing or KV). Until they do that, it will be Indianapolis 500 one-offs for this team and they will continue to get a spot in the race until IndyCar does something to increase car count and bring back bumping to the Indianapolis 500.

Remember, the first round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season is the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and can be seen live March 30th at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.