IndyCar Season Opener runs this weekend, without two of their biggest names
The IndyCar series starts their season at St. Petersburg on Sunday and it will no doubt be an emotional day. In the series' last race of the season at Las Vegas, one of the most recognizable names in IndyCar, Dan Wheldon, lost his life. The video has been played over and over and I will NOT post it here. We remember Dan for his smile, his laugh and his victories, one of which came here in 2005. His sister, Holly Wheldon, will wave the green flag on Sunday, after a moment of silent which is to be included among other open ceremonies.
This year, IndyCar will use the newest car, developed over the the past year or so, which has been named in Dan's honor. The DW12 was built by Dallara and Dan had an opportunity to test drive the new car last year. Would the safer car have saved his life? Not likely, but the with the safer car, the accident may not have played out the way it did.
Good news for IZOD shows a full 26 drivers will compete this year. This will be minus Danica Patrick, of course, who has made the jump to NASCAR full time, but adding Rubens Barrichello from Formula One. All eyes will be on Rubens as he makes his first start in the series. The same favorites will also return, including Dario Franchitti, four time champion of the series. Marco Andretti, who was supposed to appear on Celebrity Apprentice will also return. Taping for the show was set to start a mere hours after the Season Finale at Las Vegars, in October. With the death of Dan Wheldon, his father, Michael Andretti, stepped in to take Marco's place, but his appearance was short lived and his "firing" seemed almost rehearsed.
Engines will be provided by Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus, but the initial thoughts are that Lotus may be the one to lag behind, at least at this point, prior to the season opener. Testing has gone on all winter, with the new chassis and the engines, gauging how it will all fit together in race conditions. Given that it has been such an expensive off-season for the teams, the fact that there will be a full roster of cars on the track is a huge boost to the sport. IndyCar seems to be back on the rise.
Debate has continued regarding the series racing at the high bank oval tracks, given the way the cars react on these tracks. Road courses seem for fitting for the cars, but the oval track racing seems to be a fan favorite. We all like to see exciting racing, but at what cost? I, for one, enjoy the road courses for IndyCar far more than the oval tracks. NASCAR racing on the ovals is more exciting for me, as the cars can touch, smack the wall, beat and bang against each other, yet still continue racing, once repairs are completed. The IndyCars do not fare as well on the ovals. On the road courses, the damage to an IndyCar seems to be to the nose or tail of the car, allowing for repairs and more racing. In my opinion, the ovals should be left to the stock cars.
Who are the favorites for the season opener? Well, by many accounts, newcomer, Rubens Barrichello could be an early favorite. He comes into IndyCar fresh from Formula One. He hasn't been in the "old" IndyCar, so will only have to adapt to the new car. The rest of the drivers are still adapting to the DW12, including left foot braking. Series favorite, Dario Franchitti, has had a kit installed to his car to allow him to continue right foot braking, but from most accounts, the other drivers seem to be adapting just fine.
To close this preview, I want to remind people that the racing itself is a way to honor Dan Wheldon and to find some closure. He loved racing. He died doing exactly what he enjoyed most. Yes, his loss is an incredible one, but as a NASCAR fan, I can recall many, many drivers saying that just getting back in the car, and getting down to business as usual helped them with the loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001. I'm sure this race will go a long way to helping IndyCar drivers do the same.
God speed, Dan. I know you will be watching over the drivers, and waving the green flag right along with Holly.