On the heels of a season filled with great racing, new cars/engines and a new champion, the 2013 IZOD Indycar Series season gets underway in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 24. Despite Randy Bernard's departure, marketing firms and management shakeups; when you come down to it, the racing is what is the center of it all. When the green flag drops, the talking stops.
This season marks the return of Indycar to Pocono after a 24 year absence. Pocono has a long standing history with Indycar racing, as well as being part of the Triple Crown, which is also returning this year. Any driver that wins the Indianapolis 500, the Pocono 400 and the MavTV 500 will take home a $1 million dollar bonus.
Doubleheaders will also be new this year at Detroit, Toronto and Houston. The second race will feature standing starts, which has not been utilized since Champ Car did it in 2007. Not something that Indycar should do every weekend, but still worth trying.
The big three of Andretti, Ganassi and Penske will be front runners as always. Andretti, however, has lost a few key engineers in Tino Belli with James Hinchcliffe and Allen McDonald with Marco Andretti, but Hinchcliffe gained Craig Hampson, who was his engineer at Newman Hass in 2011 as well as Sebastian Bourdais' engineer for his 4 straight Champ Car titles from 2004-2007.
Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same engineer with Ray Gosselin as he did last season. Those two got the best out of their package last season and will be competitive again.
Hinchcliffe himself is one to watch. He not only is a great ambassador for the sport, but he puts his money where his mouth is behind the wheel.
Tristan Vautier will chase the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. This young Frenchman earned his ride after winning the Indy Lights Championship last season in his only try and has posted some impressive laps during preseason testing.
Alex Tagliani is also going to be a big blip on the radar. After making the switch to Honda at the Indianapolis 500, Bryan Herta Autosport and Tag became competitive and had several good runs throughout the season and darn near won Edmonton and Fontana. His chemistry with his chief engineer Todd Malloy is at a premium and Tag and that makes all the difference in the world come race day.
After spending three seasons with HVM Racing, Simona de Silvestro moves on to KV Racing. De Silvestro has been a fighter since joining the IZOD Indycar Series, and now she has a more competitive team at her disposal and has a valuable teammate in Tony Kannan. Kannan has always been great at mentoring teammates so he can bring out the best in her.
Simon Pagenaud is also due for a win. In his second full time open wheel season, Pagenaud was competitive on the road and street courses, including a jump from seventh to the lead on a late restart at Baltimore. His oval results aren't too bad either, so keep your eyes out for him this season.
Takuma Sato and AJ Foyt? An odd pair, but Sato had a highlight season in 2012 and darn near won Indy. Can Sato bring Super Tex's team back to winning form?