Full preview of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season: Along with new title sponsor, this year functions several substantial alterations

Along with new title sponsor, this yr functions many significant modifications

By: Curt Cavin on March 27, 2014

Tony Kanaan will be competing for Chip Ganassi Racing this season.

LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC – The Verizon IndyCar Series is getting prepared for its 2014 season.

Surely, there have been crazier IndyCar Series offseasons, but this 1 ranks right up there.

4-time series champion and 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti retired after the Houston street-circuit crash that left him with fractures and one more of several concussions all through his job, and that designed an opening at Target Chip Ganassi Racing that reigning 500 champion Tony Kanaan filled. Staff owner Chip Ganassi also expanded his group back to 4 cars, such as one particular for Ryan Briscoe, the driver he let go right after a disastrous 2005 season.

Team Penske expanded, also, hiring a driver Ganassi chose not to re-signal to his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series outfit. You may well have heard of Juan Pablo Montoya. In a red Ganassi automobile, he won CART’;s 1999 title and the Indy 500 in 2000, not to mention 6 races in Formula One particular such as the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sébastien Bourdais and Sebastián Saavedra still continue to be teammates, but they are no longer at Dragon Racing it is unclear how much of the team exists, but Dragon is a co-entrant on Montoya’;s Group Penske auto. (Roger Penske’;s son, Jay, owns Dragon Racing.) This year, the 2 drivers call Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser, KV Racing Technology’;s co-owners, boss.

Andretti Autosport shuffled a lot more than a few items, too. Very first, it took the Honda vacancy triggered by Ganassi’;s

move to Chevrolet and then employed Carlos Muñoz to drive the car E.J. Viso piloted last 12 months. And for enjoyable, Michael Andretti signed 1-time NASCAR champion Kurt Busch for this year’;s Indy 500 as Busch attempts to race Indy and NASCAR’;s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway the identical day.

Sam Schmidt didn’;t sit even now, either. He parted techniques with Tristan Vautier only to sign another newcomer, Mikhail Aleshin, who turns into the series’; first Russian driver. Matching Andretti’;s entertaining, Schmidt signed ex-CART and Indy champ Jacques Villeneuve for the 500.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing may have the biggest alter of all despite maintaining Graham Rahal in the No. 15 automobile. Team proprietor Bobby Rahal was capable to overhaul his engineering staff due to the fact he secured the coveted Nationwide Guard sponsorship Panther Racing had held because 2008. Rahal utilized part of that funding to indicator talented engineers Bill Pappas and John Dick away from Dale Coyne Racing. Panther, a 2-time series

champion with Sam Hornish Jr., has not announced a program for 2014.

Bryan Herta Autosport was in driver audition mode final year soon after it split from Alex Tagliani, but rookie Jack Hawksworth is the surprising decision to drive

the No. 98 automobile he won 3 Indy Lights races final 12 months and had a record-setting Star Mazda season in 2012. Most expected Italian driver Luca Filippi to get the trip.

Crew owner/driver Ed Carpenter made the choice to share his No. twenty automobile with road-racing ace Mike Conway, the dominating driver of Detroit’;s doubleheader final yr. Conway, who no longer races on ovals, will drive the street and street races, Carpenter the ovals. Collectively, they hope to contend for the teams’; championship.

IndyCar’;s schedule is distinct, too, adding the series’; inaugural street race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 8. Official 500 practice commences the next day, with a new qualifying format in spot and the pole made a decision Sunday, Could 18, a day later on than normal.

In the biggest modify of all, IndyCar condensed its calendar to 5 months, with the finale scheduled for Aug. 30 at Automobile Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. It really is a good deal to digest as the season starts March 30 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Indy 500: Paul Tracy, Exactly where Are You?

Of course you could argue that May’;s Indianapolis 500 has enough potential “villains” now that Jacques Villeneuve and Kurt Busch have signed up.

As if Juan Pablo Montoya joining the series complete time with Crew Penske (and not Ganassi Racing) was not adequate, the racing gods have delivered 2 additional storylines.

Villeneuve won the 1995 Indy 500 Busch is NASCAR’;s 2004 champion. The former invested a decade criticizing the Indy Racing League the latter has a history of verbally abusing competitors, the media, even his own staff.

The controversial Busch has talked about striving

the 500 (along with NASCAR’;s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day) considering that passing IndyCar’;s rookie test at IMS final yr. Andretti Autosport confirmed his contract on March 4, producing him a teammate to complete-time drivers Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz. Busch is in a Honda-powered No. 26 vehicle the sponsor has not been announced.

“I have so many [stock-car] negative habits I’;m bringing into this,” Busch stated with a laugh. “I have to respect this Indy auto.”

Busch, 35, is striving to turn into the 4th driver

to do the double, following John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon. Stewart is the only a single to have finished all 1,100 race miles the identical day. Busch is the only one particular getting into the 500 with no IndyCar racing encounter.

Assuming Villeneuve takes the green flag Could 25, he will set Indy’;s record for many years among starts (19). Even though Villeneuve has run Formula One particular and NASCAR races at the Brickyard, his last 500 was the one he won in 1995. He completed second there as a rookie in ’;94.

Villeneuve is set to drive Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’; No. 5 Honda alongside Simon Pagenaud and rookie Mikhail Aleshin. The French-Canadian is 42 many years old and believes he is prepared for this challenge.

“I’;ve been watching the races given that last yr, and there was a big portion of me that was wishing I was there,” Villeneuve stated. “It looked fascinating. The crop of drivers was receiving greater, as nicely.”

If only 2003 Champ Vehicle title-winner Paul Tracy had been portion of it, as well. The 45-12 months-old retired Canadian veteran is one more fire-beginning driver with a long history of making controversy and speaking his thoughts, to say the least — and he by no means did win the 500.

Curt Cavin is an Indianapolis Star employees writer.

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