2009 IndyCar Series Preview

After a Tough Offseason, The IndyCar Series Starts Up Again

4/3/09 in IndyCar   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Going into the 2008 season, IndyCar fans were full of optimism following the  u nification of the sport after a 13 year feud. Car count was up, sponsors were (slowly) increasing, interest was increasing (again, slowly). For the first time in a while, things were looking up.

Then came a massive economic crisis.

Thus, going into the 2009 season, IndyCar fans are again filled with apprehension. The offseason was dominated by two events. The first was Helio Castroneves’ indictment and subsequent trial for tax evasion.  Said trial is going on right now, meaning Helio will definitely miss this weekend’s opening race. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.

The second was the endless game of “Will that team and/or driver get enough sponsorship money to run this year?” Deals were being made this very week, just days before the season starts. The specter of money inhabits just about every driver switch this season, and the end result appears to be 22 cars starting at St. Pete. Given the economic realities, this feels almost like a victory. Still, Rahal/Letterman will be on the sidelines this year, and the following quality drivers still do not have rides: Paul Tracy, Buddy Rice, Oriol Servia, Bruno Junqueira, AJ Foyt IV. Ouch.

For now though, it’s finally time to look ahead to the stories of the 2009 IndyCar Series.

Ganassi Dynasty, Part Two?: Quiet as always, Scott Dixon won the Indy 500 and series championship last year. Still just 27, Dixon is just entering his prime of his career, and with Helio’s issues, is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champion. Joining Dixon this year is Dario Franchitti, back from a stint in NASCAR everyone would just as soon forget. There doesn’t seem to be any rust from Dario though if preseason testing showed anything. This pairing gives Ganassi both the last two Indy 500 winners and last two series champions. Ganassi looks almost as dominant as they were in CART in the late 90s, when they won four straight championships. The pieces certainly are there.

Penske Instability
: Helio’s tax issues have put a dent in the normally well-oiled Penske machine. The team has signed Will Power as a substitute driver, and at this point he’s confirmed for the opener. After that depends on how the trial is ultimately resolved. Either way, the missed race or races for Helio, or Power’s lack of experience on ovals should keep the #3 car out of title contention. Thus, Penske turns to Ryan Briscoe. Known more for being the Guy Who Took Danica Out of last year’s 500, Briscoe came on strong after that, and many are picking him as the guy with the best shot to pass Dixon.

IndyCar’s New Home
: While ABC will still broadcast the Indy 500 and four other races, the remaining 12 events will be broadcast on Versus. Taking things deeper than the usual snickering that occurs when Versus is mentioned, the network has promoted the series in the last two months more than ESPN has in a long time. It’s nice seeing things like promos, qualifying shows, and other related programming. As the season goes, we’ll truly see if it’s better to be a big dog on a small network, or a redheaded stepchild on the giant network.

The Only Two Drivers You Actually Care About: Here’s what you need to know about Danica this year: her contract is up at the end of the season, and she signed with IMG. In other words, welcome to the feeding frenzy. The IMG deal prompted SPEED’s Robin Miller to predict already that Danica is headed to NASCAR in 2010. This story could dominate the post-Indy season, in addition to whatever antics she gets into this year. Will she win a race? Maybe, but it sure doesn’t feel she’s working towards improvement. That said, I’ll be doing the Resigning Dance, as I know how critical she is to the series.
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4/9/09   |   indrani605

Raider_Dave wrote:
That's disappointing...to say the least.

hai frd............

4/3/09   |   Raider_Dave   |   47 respect

Eric_ wrote:
I might have spoke too soon with the Versus praise: http://www.sportsrubbish.com/2009/04/03/auto-racing/indycar/is-versus-trying-to-trick-people-into-watching-indycar-by-calling-it-formula-one/

That's disappointing...to say the least.

4/3/09   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

I might have spoke too soon with the Versus praise: http://www.sportsrubbish.com/2009/04/03/auto-racing/indycar/is-versus-trying-to-trick-people-into-watching-indycar-by-calling-it-formula-one/

4/3/09   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Raider_Dave wrote:
Well done Eric.  Hopefully no one else jumps over to NASCAR, like my past fave Sam Hornish Jr, but Marco Andretti bring some excitement to the table and seems to be continuing the family legacy with a very promising start.  Over/Under on first Danica incident?  Probably safe to say within 6 weeks...

Under, easily.

4/3/09   |   gobigblue1960   |   4802 respect

I grew up watching the Indianapoils 500 in Kalamazoo, MI., home then of Gilmore Racing, with A.J. Foyt, and my aunt is related to Gordan Johncock. Now it's Memorial Day weekend for the 500, and Danica Patrick.

4/3/09   |   BearcatFan   |   6 respect

kantwistaye wrote:
I'll keep opinions out and just point out the obvious - $$$.  The American people have decided that NASCAR is what matters and the media follows through.

Oh, no doubt it's all about money.  That's why drivers in (former) CART,  Indy, Sprints, etc flock to NASCAR even though they will readily admit that it's a much less satisfying type of racing for the drivers.  But just keep in mind if people didn't demand to watch it over other types of racing, there would not be such huge sponsorship of NASCAR.  Yes, TV will air whichever program will make the most money, but sponsors wouldn't fork over the dough if people wouldn't watch.

4/3/09   |   Raven73   |   103 respect

Great write up Eric. You just had to throw the NASCAR wrench in there, didn't you? I think there is still quite a divide between the Indy/F1/NASCAR worlds. Personally, if it's an auto and it races, I'm there. I agree that Open Wheel racing is not covered on mainstream American TV. However, the fans flock to races overseas. They know where to find their passion. In my opinion, what it really comes down to is the personal preference of culture.

I took time out of my day after attending the open practices at Ford Field in Detroit to comment here. On to the games tomorrow! GO STATE!!!

4/3/09   |   100%InjuryRate   |   1283 respect

kantwistaye wrote:
I'll keep opinions out and just point out the obvious - $$$.  The American people have decided that NASCAR is what matters and the media follows through.

What is this NASCAR you speak of?

4/3/09   |   Raider_Dave   |   47 respect

BearcatFan wrote:
Will someone please explain to me what is so awesome about NASCAR that network televisions stations refuse to air any other type of racing besides NASCAR?  NASCAR has completely taken over SpeetTV as well, my last haven for watching exciting forms of racing.

Unfortunately, kantwistaye (nothing negative to Mike meant) is exactly correct and Indycar is now on the dreaded VERSUS network.  Money talks, so NASCAR prevails on the airwaves.  Here is a recent newspaper excerpt regarding their '09 TV scheduling:

Beginning in the 2009 season, Versus will begin televising the races for the next 10 years, televising at least 13 races per season. ABC will continue to broadcast the Indianapolis 500 until 2012, as well as four additional races. Versus will also begin airing one hour pre-race shows the day before the race.

4/3/09   |   kantwistaye   |   4201 respect

BearcatFan wrote:
Will someone please explain to me what is so awesome about NASCAR that network televisions stations refuse to air any other type of racing besides NASCAR?  NASCAR has completely taken over SpeetTV as well, my last haven for watching exciting forms of racing.

I'll keep opinions out and just point out the obvious - $$$.  The American people have decided that NASCAR is what matters and the media follows through.

4/3/09   |   BearcatFan   |   6 respect

Will someone please explain to me what is so awesome about NASCAR that network televisions stations refuse to air any other type of racing besides NASCAR?  NASCAR has completely taken over SpeetTV as well, my last haven for watching exciting forms of racing.

4/3/09   |   Raider_Dave   |   47 respect

Well done Eric.  Hopefully no one else jumps over to NASCAR, like my past fave Sam Hornish Jr, but Marco Andretti bring some excitement to the table and seems to be continuing the family legacy with a very promising start.  Over/Under on first Danica incident?  Probably safe to say within 6 weeks...

4/3/09   |   seal_warrior1   |   2229 respect

WOW is that a lot of info for this beginner to absorb.  I'll have to make notes on all those names!  :)  Nice job Eric getting all that info OUT!