(In his first of what we hope will be many articles, our resident IndyCar aficionado Matt Lennon offers his exclusive season preview for the upcoming 2010 IndyCar season. We hope you like it!)
In early October last year, IRL fans were left wanting more from what was one of the most nail-biting seasons in IndyCar history. The wait is almost over!
One of the most highly anticipated seasons in American open-wheel racing history begins this Sunday, outside the continental USA, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Three street circuits and one permanent road course will host the opening four events before the series reaches its first oval event at Kansas on May 1, leading up to the 94th Indianapolis 500 on May 30.
With only a few days until laps are turned in anger for the first time in 2010, one would be forgiven for thinking all seats on the grid were filled. Wrong. At the time of print, notable names from 2009 such as Ed Carpenter, Tomas Scheckter, Robert Doonbos and Graham Rahal are all currently absent from the 2010 grid, awaiting sponsorship efforts to bear fruit. Hopefully we see these masters of their craft sooner rather than later.
Those who have secured sponsorship, in a lot of cases, now front brand new teams set to take part in the IndyCar Series for the first time in 2010. Two-time CART series champion and former 500 winner Gil De Ferran has merged with Luczo Dragon Racing and will provide a full time seat for Rafa Matos and a car for Davey Hamilton in the Indy 500. TV star Jason Priestly is one of three owners of the new FAZZT Race Team with Alex Tagliani at the wheel. Former IndyCar stars Robby Gordon and Bryan Herta will each field cars most likely only in the Indy 500 at this stage.
In other movements, Kim Green has moved into the race promotion side of his business and Michael Andretti has taken sole ownership of the race team, turning team AGR into Andretti Autosports. Returning to the series after his 2009 campaign was ended in a horror smash at Indy, Vitor Meira hopes to breakthrough for his first victory in 2010 driving again for AJ Foyt Enterprises.
Although not present for the whole season, 2010 will showcase more female drivers than ever before. Currently five ladies will participate at various stages of the year – Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Ana Beatriz, Simona De Silvestro and Sarah Fisher – with Danica considered a serious threat for the championship if she can consistently fight at the front.
The Indianapolis 500 is the highlight of the IndyCar season
Two new circuits make an appearance in the 2010 calendar. As mentioned earlier, the opening event in Sao Paulo will be a highly lucrative venture into the unknown for the IndyCar Teams, while long-time test venue Barber Motorsports Park has been promoted to event host, debuting on April 11. On the flip side, neither Milwaukee nor Richmond will return in 2010, both citing lack of funding as their reasons.
It is a high likelihood that if you are reading this article, you are a Formula One fan. Joining former Minardi and Jaguar pilot Justin Wilson in the IRL in 2010 is former Jordan and BAR personality Takuma Sato, driving for KV Racing. Rumours also are prevalent that Scuderia Toro Rosso’s former charge Sebastian Bourdais will return to his old team in Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, as he has made no secret of the fact he still keeps in touch with his old team. With NHL only with one confirmed car for 2010, it will come as no surprise if Bourdais makes a return to the team with whom he won four consecutive Champ Car titles.
All eyes though will remain at the front on the Big Two – Penske and Chip Ganassi. Australasia is well represented here. The Captain has been impressed with Australia’s home grown talent, so much so that he has added a third car full time to his operation, with Brisbane’s Will Power joining Sydney’s Ryan Briscoe and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to lead Penske’s charge for their 12th American open- wheel championship and 16th trip to Indy 500 victory lane. For Target Chip Ganassi, Dario Franchitti and Brisbane’s ex-pat kiwi Scott Dixon will take the fight to Penske, with the latter no doubt wanting to take the championship title away from his illustrious teammate.
From now until the curtain falls in Homestead on October 2, your year of three- wide, wheel-to-wheel IndyCar racing will not fail to live up to its expectations. The green flag is about to fall!