After what seems like an eternity, the IZOD IndyCar Series finally takes the green flag this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
As is the case every year when the Series kicks off, story lines will be abundant and trying to keep up with all of them will likely prove impossible. Here, though, are just a few of the things we will be looking to keep on top of throughout the weekend.
- Will Team Penske get off to another fast start in 2013? Last year, the Team Penske drivers swept the first four events of the year with Will Power taking three in a row after Helio Castroneves won this event. Another fast start by Penske would once again put the field behind the eight-ball later in the year.
- How will Target Chip Ganassi Racing get out of the box this season? Last year, TCGR — and really all Honda teams, for that matter — stumbled out of the gate and were bogged down by poor engine performance in the championship’s early rounds. Honda made great strides last season and will look to come out with guns blazing this time around.
- Will Andretti Autosport be able to maintain the magic from 2012? Ryan Hunter-Reay’s magical season will be difficult to repeat, and Marco Andretti will desperately seek to put a difficult year behind him. James Hinchcliffe started strong in 2012 but faded through the second half of the year. All three will be looking to start strong in St. Pete. And how will the addition of EJ Viso affect the chemistry of the returning trio?
- Can Simona de Silvestro make the best of her new Chevrolet engine and live up to the potential that she has shown over the past three seasons? She ran very well at St. Pete in 2011, but a season with the Lotus program really hurt her last year. She’s with a new team and has a new, top-notch teammate in Tony Kanaan. Both could really help develop her as a driver.
- Will the adjusted distance keep the race exciting right to the end? The new race length adds 15 laps to the total distance and should help eliminate the tendency of this event to become a fuel-mileage affair. That said, no race can truly ever be safeguarded from fuel strategy as a timely yellow when the final pit window opens could throw a monkey wrench in the whole plan.
- How will the new fuel rules allowing teams to start the race with less than a full fuel load affect race strategy? Speaking of fuel, teams will now have to manage red vs. black vs. sticker vs. scuffed tires and full vs. partial fuel loads. We could see a lot of movement throughout the field if drivers starting further back begin the race on light fuel loads and fresh alternate tires.
- How even will the playing field be now that all teams have had a year to develop and adapt to the new cars? New chassis and engine programs are great at shuffling the deck for a year or so, but the cream will inevitably rise to the top. With the lack of off-season testing, some of the big teams’ advantages could be thwarted and the smaller teams like Dale Coyne and AJ Foyt may still be able to punch above their weight class.
We will be focusing on these stories and many more throughout the event. Be sure to join us on More Front Wing all weekend long, starting with coverage when I hit the ground on Thursday. Follow along on Twitter (@Fieldof33) and on our Facebook site (http://facebook.com/MoreFrontWing) to keep updated on all the latest news and happenings at the track. For questions or comments during the race weekend, please send me a message on Twitter or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!