Welcome To The Month Of March
When most sports fans think of March, their minds immediately go to March Madness – the NCAA Basketball tournament. I enjoy the tournament as well, but my Tennessee Vols haven’t made it in a couple of years and they seemed determined to underachieve their way out of it again this season – although they did put a thrashing on Vanderbilt on Saturday, so all is not lost. Nevertheless, my excitement over March Madness has waned recently. Baseball fans view March as a time for optimism. When their teams come close to winning the Cactus or Grapefruit Leagues, they convince themselves that they are looking at a pennant run in the fall.
For IndyCar fans, March means something else. It is when teams take the wraps off of their new liveries and finally go racing. Although we still have almost a month to go, we can now say there will be an IndyCar race this month. We haven’t said that since October. It doesn’t quite have the same ring as the Month of May, but it is a welcomed sight just the same.
It’s been a long and cold offseason. IMS is still encased in snow, but it won’t be long until it thaws out. It’s a good thing too, because there is still work to be done on the infield road course in order to have it ready for the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Official practice for that race will begin in just a little more than two months from now on Thursday May 8.
But there is business to be settled before then – some on-track business and some off-the-track. On the track, there are still some seats to be filled. Probably the most attractive seat left is the second seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan. To hear Graham Rahal talk, it’s not a given that they will run a second car. I think Graham Rahal has always preferred to go it alone without a teammate, for whatever reason. I’m hoping the wisdom of his father will prevail. The input and additional feedback a teammate provides is essential in today’s IndyCar world. Assuming adequate funding is found, I would think that they should pursue a second car.
Dale Coyne also has a vacant seat at his team. The conventional thinking is that James Jakes will take his family’s Alcorn funding with him back to Coyne after a year at Rahal. But Coyne always has a way of going against conventional thinking.
Bryan Herta Autosport has some new sponsors. They are expected to sign Luca Filippi, but Jack Hawksworth is still in the mix. Something should come from their camp sooner than later. It is believed that Dreyer & Reinbold is focusing on an Indy-only program at this time, so they are not expected to answer the bell at St. Petersburg. With so many questions surrounding Panther Racing, I think it is highly unlikely they will turn a wheel this season – but you never know.
Off the track, we continue to hear that there will be an announcement regarding a title sponsor for 2014 before the season-opener at St. Petersburg. Speculation continues to center on Verizon. I had heard way back in September that they had been approached and had subsequently turned down the opportunity. If they are indeed named the series sponsor, I’m wondering what changed. Regardless of who it is, if there is one – I’m wondering why it is taking so long. Remember that Mark Miles teased us in early November that we may have an early Christmas present announced. Maybe he meant Easter.
For many of us, it’s hard to fathom that there will be an IndyCar race to watch in less than four weeks. Nashville has endured one of the coldest winters in decades. We have escaped the bulk of the snow that hit our neighbors to the north and south; but we are under another winter storm watch for today. I feel guilty complaining about any wintry weather compared to what the city of Indianapolis has had to deal with. I believe I saw somewhere that they have had more snow this winter than any winter in the city’s history. That’s saying something since they are a city that usually gets a lot of snow anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how the long Midwest winter has affected the track surface at IMS.
So for many of us, the sound of Paul Page describing that first practice on Friday Mar 28 is going to be music to our ears. It will be the official end of a long offseason, which will be considerably longer next year. So the beginning of March is a signal to all IndyCar fans that the testing is almost over and they will be racing for real very soon. And when the green flag falls at St. Petersburg, we can take heart that the green flag for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be only eight weeks away. Is it May yet?