Friday, August 30, 2013

Storylines: Grand Prix of Baltimore

With summer quickly fading (except in Indiana, apparently, where it’s felt like a sauna most of the week), IndyCar moves on to Maryland for the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT. This race has become one of my favorite street circuits on the schedule. Last year’s race featured a great restart (too great, argued Ryan Briscoe) by Ryan Hunter-Reay, and I think we’re in for another great race weekend. Here are some storylines as IndyCar’s Labor Day weekend arrives:

-IndyCar’s Iron Man! Congratulations to Tony Kanaan, who, when he starts this weekend’s race, will surpass KV Racing owner and former driver Jimmy Vasser for most consecutive IndyCar starts. 212 races is not a mark to sneeze at; it represents good times and bad, and at least a couple of injuries nasty injuries TK powered through. I hope Kanaan gets every chance in the next few years to pad his record.

-Dos Wilsons: Justin Wilson we be teammates with his brother Stefan Wilson, as Stef makes his long-awaited IndyCar debut. The Indy Lights winner looked to be in the car earlier in the year, but as they say, better late than never. Both of the Wilson boys are good guys, and both brothers finishing in the Top 10 would make a few weekends, I’m betting.

-Fallout: Baltimore is already getting a reputation as one of the most contentious and dynamic street circuits on the IndyCar schedule, and after the drama of Scott Dixon’s penalty last weekend, frayed tempers might not take much to go off. If there’s so much as a stop-and-go penalty, I fully expect Twitter to consume itself. How will Ganassi Racing respond this weekend? My first thought is “by kicking the crap out of everyone on track”, but we’ll see.

-Livery Watch: Dario Franchitti (who is contracturally obligated to never run the same livery twice in a row during a season) is sporting a snazzy black Cessna design on the #10 this weekend. Helio Castroneves will sport the white, blue, and black of the PPG livery, while Stefan Wilson will be rocking an extremely noticeable the Nirvana Tea livery (with Trader Joe’s also featured). We get to see the Dr. Pepper colors again for Marco Andretti’s #25 car (LOVE it), while it’s back to the orange for Tristan Vautier with Environmental Rail solutions. All in all, one of the better-looking weekends, I think!

-Mazda Road to Indy Update: OK, seriously—you need to check out the Firestone Indy Lights title battle, because at least one of these guys will be coming soon to an IndyCar near you. And the battle is seriously close. Points leader Carlos Munoz is only 15 up on Gaby Chaves, and only 16 up on Sage Karam. There are three races left, and you had better believe whoever comes out of this scrum to win the scholarship to IndyCar is going to have to earn it. There’s no room for the “rookie mistake”, and that, coupled with potential spoilers like Jack Hawksworth and Peter Dempsey, makes every lap and restart an absolute nail-biter.

To add to this, longtime MRTI participant Pabst Racing will be making their Lights debut with ladder driver Dalton Kellet. Owner/driver Matthew Di Leo returns for another weekend. Good things are heading for Firestone Indy Lights for 2014, and it’s already started.

-Pole Prediction: I think Will Power got the nudge he needed last week (no pun intended), and he’ll be in line for a good weekend.

-Winner Prediction: Hunter-Reay knows what to do when the chips are down. For the last time this year (I think), I’m picking RHR.

-Dark Horse: Oriol Servia. Folks might not expect overly much from Panther Racing this weekend, but Servia has finished P2 and P7 in the first two years at Baltimore. I like him to finish strong yet again.

Don’t forget those fantasy racing picks! It’s neck-and-neck at the top! As always, have a great weekend, and enjoy some great IndyCar racing. We’ll meet back here after the weekend to break it all down.

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