The team transporters have arrived and unloaded in St. Petersburg, FL to kick off the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series season. It won’t be long before we hear the screams of the engines reverberating through this beautiful community located on the Gulf Coast.
This will be the ninth year that the speed limits will be removed and the downtown streets transformed into a 1.8 mile 14 turn racing circuit.
A new season brings high hopes for many. Ryan Hunter-Reay will take to the track in his familiar yellow DHL/Sundrop/Circle K ride with a new addition to the livery. A giant number ONE will be featured where that 26 used to be, signifying his status as the defending champion.
The open tests at Barber Motorsports Park were dominated by Will Power, and Hunter-Reay openly admits that they need to close the gap to the Penske cars. However, he doesn’t let this dampen his enthusiasm as he enters the season as the man to beat.
Helio Castroneves will be all smiles as he returns to a track where he was won three times, including an emotional win last season that he dedicated to his friend, and St. Petersburg resident, the late Dan Wheldon. His teammate, Will Power, has been runner-up in the championship three times running now. Will 2013 be the year that he finally closes the deal and gets Roger Penske another Championship?
Will we see those Ganassi boys return to top form in 2013? You can’t call 2012 a complete disaster for the team, with an Indy 500 win for Franchitti and third in points for Dixon, but these guys are used to domination. Pre-season testing seems to indicate that the Chevrolet still holds an advantage over the Honda engine, so the early part of the season may still hold disappointment for the team. Cagey pit strategy will certainly come into play if they cannot gain track position with sheer horsepower.
KV Racing Technology has a lot to look forward to as well. Both their drivers, Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro ran in the top five during testing and are eager to hit the track. Other teams looking to break the stranglehold of the big three include Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports with Simon Pagenaud and Barracuda Racing with Alex Tagliani.
Looking through the field, there are several others that could surprise us with a win on Sunday. Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal and Sebastian Bourdais all know their way around a road course and can be considered a threat.
Indeed, every man and woman entered in this race starts with a clean slate, zero points. This weekend we will see who comes out of the box strong and puts the early stamp on the 2013 season.
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network live beginning at noon on Sunday March 24. Live timing and scoring will be available throughout the weekend at www.indycar.com. You can also catch the race broadcast on Sirius XM Radio channel 211.