We're a bit less than two months away from the season opener, and I thought it would be a good idea to revisit that checklist to where IndyCar is at in regards to it all. And yes, I understand IndyCar doesn't have control over all of these things; some will or won't happen independent of anything the series does. Most items are still a work in progress, so these grades could change dramatically between now and the Streets of St. Petersburg.
1) Secure the future of promising young talent like Graham Rahal and Simona de Silvestro.
We'll start with the home run. Graham and Simona were two young drivers I definitely wanted to see confirmed full-time early on, and both have found solid sponsorships that should keep them active in the series.
2) Resolve the cloudy future of at-risk vets such as Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon.
Both Kanaan and Wheldon faced grim scenarios at the end of last season, and for a while it wasn't a sure thing we'd see either one regularly in 2011. Fortunately, Tony Kanaan found a place with De Ferran Dragon Racing. Wheldon, however, is still up in the air, but seems to think he's got something going for this year. I hope he's right.
|HIRE THIS MAN AND HIS|
Tracy and Servia are at least in talks for full-time seats at Conquest and Newman/Haas, respectively, and that's more than I would have expected last fall. Scheckter, as always, is an enigma wrapped inside a riddle bottled inside a bottle of Laverstoke Ale. Perhaps there aren't enough seats for every veteran out there, especially when you get me started on my big driver wish list, but if we could get 3 out of 3 or even 2.5 out of 3 on this one, I'd be pretty happy. The possibility of Bourdais driving with Dale Coyne Racing adds a new element to this one.
4) Have the 2011 schedule tied up and clearly set.
I'd really, really like to check this one off, but I can't, not yet. Edmonton's been resolved, but the season finale at Las Vegas is still not officially on the schedule. The series knows it's happening. We know it's happening. Randy Bernard knows it's happening. But it still isn't on there.
5) Hear lots of good news about special events for the Centennial Indianapolis 500.
Between the website to vote on the 33 best Indy drivers, the special promotion with Hot Wheels, the promise of an amazing flyover, the display of 70+ Indy 500-winning vehicles at the IMS Museum this May, the world's biggest autograph session and plenty of other extras, I'm pretty happy with this one.
6) See Milka Duno elsewhere for 2011.
By all accounts, she won't be back. She's an incredibly sweet person, and I feel bad even having put this on my list. But it needed to be done. Best of luck to her in ARCA. Moving on.
7) See the question marks at Andretti Autosport cleared up.
I won't lie, until this past Tuesday this was at best a D. There were some missing sponsors, the question over who would end up in the 4th seat, and a general sense of uncertainty about this team. We're still waiting on the sponsor info for the 4th car, but the signing of Mike Conway was a solid move that very people saw coming. Now I'm interested to see who's on those sidepods--I'll feel better when we see that.
8) Have an increased, quality car count in the field for 2011.
I hoped for 26 or 27, and I think we'll get them, with solid talent across the field. We're waiting on word at Newman/Haas, the Conquest seats, Dale Coyne, the 2nd seat at Dreyer & Reinbold, and that final lineup at KV. Even with that all up in the air, this is looking to be a very good field. Give me a revitalized, strong Newman/Haas team, and I'll be happy as a clam.
9) See clear progression from Indy Lights to IndyCar for deserving talent.
I obviously am a fan of the Indy Lights scholarship as part of the Mazda Road To Indy, and it seems like plenty of 2010 Lights drivers are at least in talks to appear in the big cars for 2011. Charlie Kimball's confirmed. Martin Plowman and James Hinchcliffe are strong possibilities. I think we'll see Pippa Mann at some point. Dan Clarke has an outside chance. Champion and scholarship J.K. Vernay will likely be at least part-time, but his situation is still a little more uncertain than I'd like for a Lights champ.
10) See Belgium's Favorite Son, Bertrand Baguette, return on 2011.
Grade: Woefully Incomplete
As the president, founder, and general secretary of the Bertrand Baguette Fan Club, America Chapter, Indiana Branch (BBFCACIB), I demand that someone hire the Belgian ace. He beat Schumacher! What more do you people want?!
Baguette's still a possibility at a couple of teams, but even while I'm waiting on that, I have to admit the IndyCar offseason is headed in the right direction. Is there work still to be done? Always, but let's keep the good news coming!
Image courtesy of IndyCar Media