Mar 15, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT
The beginning of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season is a week away and, to some extent, the season opened this week with the only official preseason test at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. This year’s test has a little more significance than last year at Sebring because not only will they race at Barber, but they’ll be back in just a few weeks in race number two. The purpose was to not only run through the preseason checklist and try out the engineers’ offseason ideas, but also specifically prepare for the race at Barber.
The drivers also needed to continue to work off the rust. Though many had some testing at other tracks since January (Sebring and Sonoma), last year’s debut of a new car and engine package necessitated far more testing. At Monday’s media session, most drivers mentioned their disappointment in the lack of testing this year and a couple even said there may be more on-track incidents early in the season because of the inactivity.
Monday was media day and a parade of about 25 drivers through the media center. The great thing about a new season in any sport is the optimism. Everyone is still undefeated (or in motorsports, tied atop the championship standings) and there is hope for significant improvement over the prior season or that a move to a new team will be the answer. We think we have an idea how things will play out, but there are many variables and uncertainties. This time last year, how many would have picked Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the title?
What did we learn on track Tuesday and Wednesday? Well, we already knew Will Power was fast and he reconfirmed that – leading both days of testing. We also learned the engineers, crews and engine manufacturers found some speed this winter. Power was more than three seconds quicker than last year’s pole speed without using the softer and quicker optional red side-wall tires (worth about half a second) and all 28 drivers (in 26 different cars) were quicker than last year’s top qualifying speed. Cool conditions (temperatures in the 50s and low 60s), a recent track grinding to improve grip, and a different Firestone tire compound also contributed to the quicker speeds.
We also learned the competition is going to again be tight. The field was separated by 2.8 seconds (1:07.1 was the best time) and the top 16 were within a second. Among those that likely came away pleased were James Hinchcliffe (2nd quick), Justin Wilson (3rd), Tony Kanaan (4th), Takamu Sato (7th in his new ride with Foyt), Charlie Kimball (8th), James Jakes (11th in only 1 day with his new team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan) and Simona de Silvestro (12th with KV Racing) who said she was shocked when she first felt the Chevy power after suffering with the underpowered Lotus program last year. Graham Rahal (fuel supply issue), Marco Andretti and Sebastian Bourdais were in the group that didn’t get as much done and/or find the speed they were seeking. AJ Allmendinger ended up 18th quick as he tries to readjust to IndyCars while continuing his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. After talking with him, he seems most concerned with having the patience needed to get reacclimated. He understands the stiff level of competition and that he can’t just walk back in and pick up where he was when he won 5 ChampCar races in 2006. But, he’s used to running up front in these cars and has a high standard for himself. He also confirmed if Roger Penske is willing to offer a full-time program, he’s willing (and happy) to commit to IndyCar as his first priority.
The NBC Sports Network crew was also on hand at Barber this week to gear up for the season. The production team gathered many of the elements that you’ll see throughout the season while the announcers and producers reviewed some tape (from our broadcasts and examples from other shows) and got caught up with drivers and team personnel. Like the drivers and teams, we all wish the offseason was shorter as well. But, it’s almost here! We’re excited that we get to bring you the opener this year and I hope you can join us next weekend from St. Pete.
Kevin Lee is an IndyCar pit reporter for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KevinLee23
May 25, 2013, 9:28 PM EDT
It looks like Kasey Kahne won’t give up his Coca-Cola 600 title without a fight. The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who will start sixth tomorrow night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, continued to show why he’ll be a contender in NASCAR’s longest race by leading “Happy Hour” final practice with a lap of 188.594 miles per hour.…
May 25, 2013, 7:38 PM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT
They’re the two drivers who battled down to the wire for last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship. One’s come out firing to start 2013, and the other has been struck by bad luck in three of four races. Yet going into tomorrow’s 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power (pictured) are…
May 25, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Qualifying 15th may not usually be a reason to celebrate, but Giedo van der Garde is delighted to be starting so highly for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix after a fine performance in today’s session. van der Garde has struggled to make much of an impact on the sport during his first five races, but the…
May 25, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT
Fernando Alonso has written off his chances of winning the Monaco Grand Prix after qualifying 6th for the race tomorrow, struggling to match the pace of pole-sitter Nico Rosberg. “The chances of a win? Of course in Formula 1 nothing is impossible, but it’s very unlikely I think that we fight for the victory starting…
May 25, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
When it comes to their thoughts on becoming a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves (pictured, right) and Dario Franchitti (pictured, left) couldn’t be more different. Castroneves, the gregarious Brazilian that has become famous at Indy for his joyous fence-climbing victory celebrations, is clearly humbled by his accomplishments at the Brickyard. That said,…
May 25, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT
Two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner Mark Webber is pleased to have qualified 4th for tomorrow’s race, putting himself in a position to complete his hat-trick of victories in the principality. “Yeah I’m pretty happy with that,” the Australian driver said in a team statement. “It’s very easy to be towards the back when you have…
May 25, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT
Lewis Hamilton is delighted to have qualified on the front row for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix after a difficult start to the race weekend. The British driver had felt uncomfortable with the car before qualifying, but he overcame these difficulties to finish P2 just behind teammate Nico Rosberg. “Congratulations to Nico and the team today,…
May 25, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
Felipe Massa has revealed that Ferrari tried everything they could in order to repair his car for qualifying, but he is not looking forward to starting last on the grid for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. Massa suffered a huge crash in final practice on Saturday morning, causing a great deal of damage to his Ferrari…
May 25, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
Nico Rosberg may have stormed to pole position in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix but he is not expecting an easy race tomorrow. The German driver has started on pole for the last two races, yet he has failed to finish any higher than P6 on Sunday. Therefore, he is not confident that this…
May 25, 2013, 10:20 AM EDT
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has accepted full responsibility for failing to qualify on pole position for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix, having made a small error in Q3 which meant that he could not challenge Nico Rosberg at the front. The Red Bull driver finished 3rd in the final session behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but he…
May 25, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
At most Indianapolis 500s, there are distinctive tiers for the field of 33. Usually there are three or four headliners, five to seven “contenders but not favorites,” a dozen or so “they could be there if not for one thing or another,” and the rest who are there to make up the numbers. In 2013,…
May 25, 2013, 7:21 AM EDT
There’s no rest for the wicked in Formula One, but Ferrari are facing a particularly busy lunchtime in Monaco after Felipe Massa suffered a big crash during final practice ahead of qualifying today. The Brazilian driver crossed the start-finish line with DRS open to start a flying lap, and he appeared to lock up under…
May 25, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT
Formula One has been on a crusade to reduce costs for the past few seasons following the withdrawal of BMW, Toyota and Honda in 2008 and 2009, but McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that the sport is currently facing a crisis. “Formula One works best in a crisis but it is a shame that…
May 25, 2013, 6:19 AM EDT
Nico Rosberg has continued his clean-sweep of the sessions in Monaco by finishing quickest in final practice on Saturday. The German driver’s good form from Thursday was evident once again, putting in a quickest time of 1:14.378 to edge out Romain Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel at the top of the time sheets. The session was…
May 24, 2013, 11:07 PM EDT
Denny Hamlin is no different than any other racer when he mentions how painful it was for somebody else to drive his car. After injuring his back in March during a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin had to endure that very situation and watch both Mark Martin and Brian Vickers race his No.…
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