By Ken de la Bastide
The long-awaited start of the Izod IndyCar Series season kicks off this weekend on the street course at St. Petersburg with 25 cars entered for the event.
Last year Helio Castroneves opened the season with a win in Florida, but the real question going into the season is whether Will Power can secure that first IndyCar title.
Power, who is teammates with Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe on Team Penske, has been the runner-up for the championship the past three years. What has always been the Achilles’ heel for Power is oval tracks, which makes it crucial for him to start the season strong on the street course at St. Petersburg. Last year, he started from the pole.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving for Andretti Autosport, is the defending serioes champion, having beat Power by three points in 2012.
Another question entering the season: Will J.R. Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball or Simona de Silverstro record that break-through win?
De Silvestro, after enduring a terrible 2012 season in a Lotus-powered car, has landed a ride with KV Racing Technology. It will be interesting to see if she can become more competitive now that she has landed a ride with a top team.
Can the American drivers, Graham Rahal, Kimball, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden, bring renewed interest in the open-wheel series after climbing up through the ranks of open-wheel racing in this country?
Nothing would be more welcomed by series officials than another American emerging as a contender in 2013, joining Hunter-Reay.
Rahal is driving for his father, Bobby, as part of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing lineup with James Jakes as a teammate.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon will be looking for a third championship. He won titles in 2003 and 2008 so that five-year cycle is this year. His teammate Dario Franchitti, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner, will be looking for a fifth championship.
IndyCar has provided some of the best racing in the country over the past few years and it should continue in 2013. My only wish is that it would open the season on a true road course instead of a temporary street circuit.
St. Petersburg does provide good racing on the 1.8-mile course, but as with all street circuits, passing proves to be difficult.
The NBC Sports Network will carry the action this weekend, with the main race at noon Sunday preceded by the Firestone Indy Lights race at 11 a.m.
In other racing news
The end of May may seem like a long way off, but entries for the annual Pay Less Little 500 sprint car classic at Anderson Speedway are starting to be received.
Already entered are Tony Elliott, Shane Hollingsworth, Tony Hunt, Jerry Coons Jr. and Ryan Litt. Dave Darland, a four-time USAC champion, is entered to make his second Little 500 start and first since 1998.
Many of these same drivers are expected to compete in the Glen Nielbel Classic on April 14, a 100-lap event sanctioned by the United States Speed Association.
Ken de la Bastide may be reached at email@example.com or 765-454-8580.
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