Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Team-By-Team Preview: Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports

The team-by-team preview continues with the top returning Honda team for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season and that would be Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports (remember Ganassi Racing is switching to Chevrolet).

2013 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Review:
Wins: 2 (Belle Isle 2, Baltimore).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 3rd (Barber, Baltimore).
Final Championship Position: 3rd (Simon Pagenaud), 20th (Tristan Vautier), 37th (Katherine Legge).

2014 Drivers:

Simon Pagenaud
The Frenchman broke through for two victories in 2013 and finished third in the championship, an improvement of two positions from 2012. After mechanical failures ended his season opener early in twenty-fourth position, Pagenaud's worst finish for the remainder of 2013 was thirteenth and ended up with thirteen top ten finishes, tied for third most in 2013 with Justin Wilson and behind only Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti who had sixteen and fifteen respectively. He was also the second best finishing Honda in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. He finished eighth while Wilson was the top Honda in fifth.

Numbers to Remember: 1. Amount of finishes outside the top twenty in his IndyCar career and that lone finish being the 2013 season opener at St. Petersburg.

Prediction/Goals: Simon Pagenaud will be a championship contender entering the season finale. Two or three wins are highly likely and it would not be surprising if he picked up his first career oval victory in 2014. If there is one thing for Pagenaud to work on it's top five finishes. While he had thirteen top tens in 2013, he had only five top fives. Another goal for Pagenuad is to score his first career pole position.

Mikhail Aleshin
Aleshin becomes the first Russian driver in IndyCar since Baron de Rachewsky made one start at Atlantic City in 1926. The 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion beat current Red Bull Racing Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo by two points for the title but in the three season since winning the championship, Aleshin has only one podium finish in FR3.5, a second in the 2012 season finale and finished twelfth in the championship in 2013.

Number to Remember: 1. Amount of other previous Formula Renault 3.5 champions to run a majority of an IndyCar season. That was Bertrand Baguette in 2011, a year after taking the FR3.5 title.

Prediction/Goals: Aleshin will pick up two or three top tens, which may be enough to crack the top twenty. He will struggle on ovals but he won't lack speed with the help from his teammate Pagenaud. He won't be at the front often but won't be languishing at the bottom of the time sheet after every session either. His goal should be to stay out of harms way and bring the car home with all four wheel intact at the end of each race.

Jacques Villeneuve
The 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and CART champion will return to the Indianapolis 500. The Canadian will set the record for longest gap between starts should he qualify for the race. In the 19 years since his IndyCar success, Villeneuve added the 1997 World Drivers' Championship, an overall 2nd place finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, four NASCAR Cup Series starts, 10 top tens in the Nationwide Series and a ride in the World Rallycross Championship.

Number to Remember: 6487 and 6804. The current IndyCar record for longest gap in-between starts in days. Marion Trexler went 17 years, 9 months and 5 days between starts from Columbus on August 25, 1912 to May 30, 1930 and the 18th Indianapolis 500. Those were the only two starts of Trexler's career. Villeneuve will break the record by 317 days should he qualify and start this year's Indianapolis 500 (18 years, 7 months and 17 days).

Prediciton/Goals: The goal should be to qualify if there are more than thirty-three cars entered. If he does make the race, the goal then becomes complete all the laps. If he does that, a top fifteen is likely. However, Villeneuve will be challenged all month and finish outside the top twenty.

The fourth team preview will come Monday. 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.