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What’s Next: 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

In What’s Next, I’ll take a look at some of the storylines heading into the next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

New Name, Same Great Racing

I fully expect the quality of racing to continue right where the series left off in 2013. What continues to need work is awareness of the sport. The new title sponsor helps, of course, and linking the IndyCar brand with Verizon’s is both a savvy business decision and a public relations win. I may be imagining things, but it already seems as if the social media is fired up more than I’ve really noticed in the past. Twitter is awash with posts about the season opener. It’s probably just because of the people I’m following now but it sure seems that way.

Chip Ganassi Racing

As an unapologetic Tony Kanaan fan, I’m intensely interested in how quickly Ganassi will come out of the gate after their dismal start to the season in 2013. I just re-watched St. Pete from last year and one of the big stories early in the race was Dario Franchitti’s retirement on Lap 19 after hitting the wall on cold tires. Ganassi’s pace was a question mark at St. Pete and throughout the first half of the season. Whether it was due to Honda’s lack of power, a misguided damper setup, or something else entirely, the 2013 season didn’t start well. Considering the high note the team ended the year on, I’m expecting the positive momentum to continue. And, let’s not forget the switch to Chevrolet for 2014. Both Kanaan and Briscoe have experience with the twin-turbo Chevy (Kanaan with KV, Briscoe with Panther) which should help the team adapt quicker than they would have otherwise.

The Return of JPM

Since I’m a newer fan of IndyCar, I wasn’t watching when Montoya won his Indy 500 or championship. I know his record of success, both in and out of IndyCar, so I’m expecting him to be up to speed quickly and contending for wins straight away. Being with Team Penske shouldn’t hurt, either.

More Than One Rookie

Tristan Vautier’s lock on being Rookie of the Year in 2013 wasn’t enough to guarantee his return. The 2014 season will at least bring some competition to the rookie ranks with Carlos Munoz, Jack Hawksworth, and Mikhail Aleshin vying for the honor.

Twin Turbos for All

The series requirement of a twin turbo for all engine manufacturers in 2014 suggests one of two general possibilities: an evening out of performance characteristics leading to closer competition at all tracks (as opposed to Chevy leading at most and Honda at others) or Honda still playing catchup at the beginning of the season due to their inexperience with a twin turbo versus their Chevy counterparts. If pre-season testing during Spring Training at Barber is any indication, the engines seem fairly evenly matched. Still, race conditions are vastly different to a test and we may yet see one manuafacturer dominate the opening rounds while the other fine tunes their package.

Change in the ABC Booth

Beyond Marty Reid being gone, I don’t have any insights or opinions about new lead announcer Allen Bestwick. I’ll reserve judgement until after I’ve heard him call an IndyCar race. Look for some reactions (if warranted) in my recap.

Round 1 Details

No need to reinvent the wheel here: More Front Wing already posts a superb Event Summary before each race. Go there, get the information, and be thankful they put the time and energy into being a great resource for all of us.
 

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