- Dan Layton
Hello again, and welcome to the start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season with this weekend’s Sao Paulo Indy 300. A total of 24 drivers and teams are making the trek south to Brazil’s largest city, a slight bump from the 22 that started last year, and that’s a very encouraging sign in light of the economy we’ve dealt with over the last couple of years.
The only pre-season Open Test took place two weeks ago at the gorgeous Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and, for the most part, it was a case of “the usual suspects” at the front of the field. The Penske trio of Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were at the top, followed by Dixon for Ganassi.
But after that came the surprises: Justin Wilson leading a vastly improved Dreyer & Reinbold team in fifth, with DRR returnee Mike Conway in seventh. And between the two was F-1 refugee Takuma Sato in sixth, in his public debut with KV Racing.
Andretti (with Marco), Newman Haas Lanigan (now featuring Hideki Mutoh) and even Conquest (!) with Indy Lights grad Mario Romancini all posted top-10 speeds at Barber, so there are plenty of candidates for a surprise win … or two … or three, this year, if either of the “Big Dog” teams – Penske & Ganassi – stumble on any given race weekend.
The Versus guys will be back, broadcasting the majority of the races this season. Hopefully, the Comcast/DirecTV dispute will be settled shortly, and we see a bump up in the ratings this year. The Versus broadcast quality has been excellent and the team obviously cares hugely about IndyCar, so one of my biggest wishes going into this season is for them to start receiving some reward for their efforts.
What to Watch for in Brazil
1, The Boys from Brazil – There are no fewer than six Brazilians in the Sao Paulo field, including two making their IndyCar debuts: Romancini for Conquest and Bia Figueiredo making a one-off start with Dreyer & Reinbold. Some of you may know her better as “Ana Beatriz”, the “Americanized” name she used in Indy Lights in 2008-09, but she’s gone back to her legal name for her home race (Note: Late Thursday came the addition of a seventh Brazilian driver, Mario Moraes, who will return to KV Racing).
2. The Circuit – In the online simulations, it looks to be challenging, a bit unforgiving, and very quick. Given the short construction schedule, I expect work there to be ongoing right up to the green flag …
3. The Weather – Right now, rain is a definite possibility for Sunday. It shouldn’t be too hot, forecast highs are in the mid-80s. But a sudden shower on a new circuit could completely upset the formbook and make things … interesting.
4. IZOD’s Presence – The new series sponsors are promising to promote, promote, promote, and so far they are living up to their word. I’ve seen ads during the NFL playoffs, on non-sports channels such as “E” and FOX. They’re making plans to take a huge “product display” on the road in major retail markets. And there’ll be more interesting things coming down the line. So far, so good.
So enjoy the weekend, and we’ll touch base again before Round 2, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
2010 IZOD IndyCar Series Brazil Entry List:
No Driver (Nationality) Team Notes
2 Raphael Matos [BRA] Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Top ’09 rookie returns, Gil de Ferran joins
3 Helio Castroneves [BRA] Team Penske Defending Indy 500 champion
4 Dan Wheldon [GBR] Panther Racing ’05 champ back for a 2nd year with Panther
5 Takuma Sato-R [JPN] KV Racing Technology Rookie was very impressive in testing
6 Ryan Briscoe [AUS] Team Penske Pre-season title favorite
7 Danica Patrick [USA] Andretti Autosport No more NASCAR until mid-summer
8 E.J. Viso [VEN] KV Racing Technology Wants to improve on disappointing ‘09
9 Scott Dixon [NZL] Target Chip Ganassi Rcg Two-time series champion, ’03 & ‘08
10 Dario Franchitti [GBR] Target Chip Ganassi Rcg Another two time – and defending -- champ
11 Tony Kanaan [BRA] Andretti Autosport ’04 champ back for his 8th season
12 Will Power [AUS] Penske Racing Much expected in first full year with Penske
14 Vitor Meira [BRA] A.J. Foyt Racing Returning from back injury sustained at Indy
18 Milka Duno [VEN] Dale Coyne Racing Her first full year, but not much expected
19 Alex Lloyd [GBR] Dale Coyne Racing Not yet confirmed, would be first full year
22 Justin Wilson [GBR] Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Only non-Penske/Ganassi driver to win in ‘09
23 Bia Figueiredo-R [BRA] Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Raced as “Ana Beatriz” in Indy Lights
24 Mike Conway [GBR] Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Fast but inconsistent in ‘09
26 Marco Andretti [USA] Andretti Autosport Looking to rebound after two poor seasons
32 Mario Moraes [BRA] KV Racing Returns for another campaign
34 Mario Romancini-R [BRA] Conquest Racing Indy Lights graduate has been quick so far
37 Ryan Hunter-Reay [USA] Andretti Autosport Comes to Andretti from A.J. Foyt Racing
77 Alex Tagliani [CDN] Fazzt Racing Veteran driver with new Canadian team
78 Simona DeSilvestro-R[SWS] HVM Racing Another fast rookie, this one from Atlantics
06 Hideki Mutoh [JPN] Newmn Haas Lanigan Team down to one car, but quick in testing