Photo: John Hendrick
The first race of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar season will run this Sunday at 3 pm (ET) on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla. Cars and drivers tested most recently at Barber Motorsports Park, with the Top 16 of the 23 participants separated by less than 1 sec.
Last year’s champion Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet) enters the season as IndyCar’s most winning active driver with 33 victories, standing behind only A.J. Foyt, Andretti (Mario and Michael) and Unser (Al, Bobby, and Al Jr.) on the all-time list. If he successfully defends his title he will join Foyt, Mario, Sebastian Bourdais, and teammate Dario Franchitti as the series’ only four-time champions.
Franchitti has retired following a hard late-season crash in Houston last year, but Ganassi did well with the replacement, landing 2013 Indy 500 winner and 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan. Ryan Briscoe is returning to Ganassi this year, driving the NTT Data-sponsored car. Team Penske (Chevy), knowing an arms race when it sees one, also added to its ranks. Juan Pablo Montoya joined the team, returning to IndyCar alongside Will Power and Helio Castroneves after 12 years in first Formula 1 and then NASCAR. Montoya drove for Ganassi both in NASCAR and as 1999 CART series champion.
Castroneves led the 2013 season with three races to go before Dixon surged to take the championship, and is eager to return to the top in 2014. Penske and Ganassi will be running the same power plants as each other this year, following the latter’s off-season switch from Honda to Chevy. Andretti Autosport made the opposite move and will be running the twin turbocharged 2.2-l V6 Honda.
Bourdais (KVSH Racing, Chevy) has already been to victory lane in 2014, co-driving the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to overall victory at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Burt Frisselle. This is Bourdais’ first year with KVSH and he’s joined by his teammate last year at Dragon Racing, Sebastian Saavedra. Bourdais’ next victory will move him into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time wins list, breaking his current tie with Franchitti and Paul Tracy at 31.
Those looking for a long-shot victor should turn their attention toward rookie Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Autosport, Honda). Though it’s his first IndyCar race, he’s won each of the past two years in St. Petersburg; in his Indy Lights debut last year and in the Pro Mazda race in 2012.