IndyCar Finally Gets Back On Track
You can tell that we’re all starting to get a little antsy. Everyone is starting to get just a little anxious about certain things not going as hoped as we approach the start of the IZOD IndyCar Series season opener, just four weeks away in St. Petersburg. We’ve all been complaining that the new board is not doing enough, that Randy Bernard’s plans are all changing, aero-kits continue to elude us, and the wrong people seem to be getting rides as their favorite sits unemployed with few seats left. The offseason is starting to wear on us fans.
What better way to fix that than to get cars on track? That’s exactly what happened this week at Sebring as many cars hit the old airfield in Florida for the first test session of 2013. It doesn’t pay to get real excited or too concerned over lap times in tests like these. Takuma Sato set fastest time on Tuesday in AJ Foyt’s ABC Supply car. Rookie Tristan Vautier set the unofficial fast time on Wednesday. Does that mean that either of these drivers should be clearing a place on their mantle for the Astor-Challenge Cup? No, but bragging rights are never a bad thing. Conversely, the fact that the Penske, Ganassi or Andretti cars weren’t at the top does not indicate that they are done for the season. Chances are, they had absolutely no interest in getting fast time in the first test of the season. They all know what they need to work on to prepare for the season.
Still, it was probably just as therapeutic for fans hundreds of miles away (like me), as it was for the drivers and teams that made the trip to Sebring this week – to know that cars were running for a couple of days. I know I enjoyed getting little nuggets of information via twitter throughout Tuesday. It was also good to catch just a glimpse of any possible new liveries we may be seeing this season. The Foyt car looked as good as it ran as it was in full livery – but nothing was noticeably different.
James Hinchcliffe’s GoDaddy car was mostly black but a few bits of day-glo green were showing. He promised us that a new scheme would be on the car by the opener. I noticed Tony Kanaan had a different paint scheme with blank white sidepods. I’m not quite sure where his GEICO sponsorship stands, but I was a little surprised to see his car lacking decals. Graham Rahal’s new black and gold livery really stood out. Early returns show that his car may be the best looking new scheme in the paddock.
The car that turned the most heads at Sebring didn’t look all that different, except for the fact the car simply said Team Penske on the sidepods. AJ Allmendinger was driving the No.2 car that Ryan Briscoe drove last season. He did well considering he had not driven an open-wheel car since 2006. His presence was apparently the buzz of Sebring. The series could certainly stand to have another talented American in the series, although if he actually races for team Penske this season, it will probably be for only a handful of races – but one of them figures to be the Indianapolis 500. Stay tuned on that one.
I’ve seen no video from Sebring. I did not hear the sound of any engine or any tires screeching. Nor did I get a whiff of the intoxicating smell of ethanol. But it was exciting nonetheless to know that IndyCars were racing this week, even if it amounted to little more than shaking some cars down.
To me, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. There is another test scheduled next week for Sonoma and an open test at Barber on March 12-13. Although it’s in the middle of the week, I’m tempted to try and take a day off to go down there and watch it – just to get my racing fix in.
This is why we are fans. Occasionally, it’s fun to bicker about what the series is or is not doing, but sometimes it can really get old. Watching cars on track never gets old. Whether it is full-blown race competition or teams trying to get a handle on a setup – hearing those engines at full song is what gets our blood pumping. It makes all the gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing seem worth it.
Personally, I’m glad we have some on-track activity to discuss rather than all of the hypotheticals we throw out there during the offseason. We don’t follow this sport for the offseason drama. We follow it to see who is going to be the fastest this season. That makes it all worthwhile.