The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Auto Racing

March 19, 2013

Ken de la Bastide: IndyCar kicks off season in Florida

The long-awaited start of the IZOD IndyCar Series season kicks off this weekend on the street course at St. Petersburg with 25 cars entered for the event.

Last year Helio Castroneves opened the season with a win in Florida, but the real question going into the season is can Will Power secure that first IndyCar title?

Power, a teammate of Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe on Team Penske, has been the runner-up for the championship the past three years. What has always been the Achilles heel for Power is the oval tracks the series runs on.

Last year he started from the pole at St. Petersburg so it will be crucial for him to start the season strong on the street course.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving for Andretti Autosport, is the defending series champion — having beat Power by three points in 2012.

There are many questions entering the season. Will JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball or Simona de Silverstro record that breakthrough win?

de Silvestro, after enduring a terrible 2012 season in a Lotus-powered car, has landed a ride with KV Racing Technology. It will be interesting to see if she can become more competitive now that she has landed a ride with a top team.

Can the American drivers — Graham Rahal, Kimball, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden — bring renewed interest in the open-wheel series after climbing up through the ranks of open-wheel racing in this country?

Nothing would be more welcome by series officials than for another American to emerge as a contender in 2013, joining Hunter-Reay.

Rahal is driving for his father, Bobby, as part of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing lineup with James Jakes as a teammate.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon will be looking for a third championship. He won the title in 2003 and 2008 so that five-year cycle is this year. His teammate, Dario Franchitti, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner, will be looking for a fifth championship.

IndyCar has provided some of the best racing in the country over the past few years, and it should continue in 2013. My only wish is that it would open the season on a true road course instead of a temporary street circuit.

St. Petersburg does provide good racing on the 1.8-mile course but, as with all street circuits, passing proves to be difficult.

The NBC Sports Network will show the race Sunday at noon, with the Firestone Indy Lights race preceding it at 11 a.m.

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