Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview Part III

Testing has finally arrived. The IndyCar teams are scheduled to hit the track today and tomorrow from Barber Motorsports Park as the 2013 preseason is underway.

Today, in part three of five, we take a look at Ed Carpenter Racing, Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Ganassi Racing.

Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.

Ed Carpenter Racing
2012 Review
Driver- Ed Carpenter (18th in points, 1 win)
2013 Driver- Carpenter

Owner-drivers are rare in all forms of major motorsports. Ed Carpenter took the bull by the horns in 2012 and was able to win the season finale on a late pass on Dario Franchitti. While Carpenter did win another oval race, he still has to improve on road and street courses. His paces is much better than a few years ago and he did sneak into the Fast 12 in qualifying at Baltimore but his finishing positions have to improve even more.

Although, Carpenter is viewed as an oval driver, he has never scored a top five on a track under a mile and a half in length. Speaking of top fives, Carpenter has only had multiple top fives in one season of his decade long career and that was in 2008.

With all that said, this team has an extra bit of confidence in their step. They can compete with anybody on ovals and they know they can win. Realistically, this team should be looking for top tens at all ovals in 2013. Road courses should be about finding a little more speed each time out and bringing the car home in one piece. Do not rule out Carpenter for another victory in 2013.

Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
2012 Review
Drivers- JR Hildebrand (11th, 2 top fives), Oriol Serviá (13th, 4 top fives)
2013 Drivers- Hildebrand and Servia

Let's start with Dreyer & Reinbold. Stuck in the black hole that was Lotus, Serviá and D&R got a Chevrolet engine for Indianapolis, started 27th and finished 4th. From that point on, his season did a 180 and the strategic alliance between Panther and Dreyer & Reinbold carries into 2013.

Hildebrand's sophomore season was anything but a slump. Two top fives, six top tens and had a great race going in the season finale, leading 56 laps before falling down to 11th.

The pairing of Serviá and Hildebrand is not a high profile one-two like Dixon-Franchitti or Power-Castroneves, but it is a fine driver line-up. Serviá has been in position to get a win the last two seasons and Hildebrand would like to become the first Indy Lights champion to win a race at the top level since Scott Dixon.

With the depth of the IndyCar field, a win for Panther/D&R would be an upset. Both drivers should be frequently fighting for top tens and have shots for top fives at a few events.

Ganassi Racing
2012 Review
Drivers- Scott Dixon (3rd, 2 wins), Dario Franchitti (7th, 1 win), Graham Rahal (10th, best finish 2nd at Texas), Charlie Kimball (19th, best finish 2nd at Toronto).
2013 Drivers- Dixon, Franchitti and Kimball.

This team is going to win races, there is no question about that. How many is another story. Who would have thought three wins, including Indianapolis would be a down year for Ganassi. Franchitti won three consecutive poles and his best finish in those three races was 17th. He did salvage a third and a second at Sonoma and Fontana respectively but after winning four championships in four consecutive years of competing in IndyCar, anything else seems like a let down.

Dixon was strong but his Honda engines let him down at times in 2012. He was on his sixth engine before any other Honda and that was with five races to go. He was dominating Texas and had led 133 laps before he lost the car in turn four. He was wrongly called for a jumped restart at Milwaukee, ending his chance for a win there. Two wins, six podiums, four times leading the most laps and a pole. Not bad but not enough for the championship.

Kimball had a surprise podium at Toronto but four of his six top tens in 2012 were 8th place finishes and he had a 10th at Fontana. With Kimball moving from fourth to third on the Ganassi depth chart, he should be in position for better results.

For 2013, Dixon and Franchitti are championship contenders. They both should be able to win multiple races but they could be limited if Honda can not keep up with Chevrolet on road and street courses. Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio have both been in Ganassi's wheel house for a while now. The only question is can they break through and take away more wins from the Chevrolets. As for Kimball, he has to get respectable results compared to his teammates. He needs to be more of a feature in the top ten and, while unlikely, he maybe be able to do what Rahal was not able to do at Ganassi and that is win.