A few notes on a disappointing once-again-chilly Indianapolis-area morning:
-What a start to 2014 for the Mazda Road to Indy! The Cooper Tires Winterfest saw three different winners in USF2000 over the weekend. Huge congratulations to RC Enerson, Clark Toppe, and Victor Franzoni on starting the year off right. Not to be show up, Spencer Pigot and Garett Grist grabbed a win apiece in the first two races of the Pro Mazda portion of Winterfest. I can't wait to see how Pro Mazda Races #3 and #4 turn out Tuesday and Wednesday.
-I didn't get a chance last week to really comment on Martin Plowman's entry into the Foyt #41 car for Indianapolis. The bottom line? I'm delighted he's getting his chance in the biggest race in American open wheel. He has run in Lights, he's had some part-time opportunities in IndyCar, and he's even worked as a spotter during May. Finally, he's going to get his big crack at it, along with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
I saw a lot of folks ask if this was a step up from Conor Daly, a drop, or about the same. I like Conor a lot, and think he ever ends up in a regular, stable IndyCar ride, it will be good for the series. At the same time, I don't see Plowey as a step down. He's a well-regarded driver, a Le Mans winner in the LMP2 category, and one of the absolute nicest drivers I've met. Perhaps nice doesn't win races, but I think he's done more than enough to be a welcome addition to this year's field. I'm especially excited to see how he does at the start of May in the Grand Prix--that could very well be his kind of race, when you look at where he's had success. Go get 'em.
-While we're at it, can I just make it clear I am part of the "Someone Run Peter Dempsey In The 500 Foundation"? I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but while we're talking about drivers getting their chance, I can't see many other much more deserving than this guy. Peter, if I end up with a spare $500k before May, I'll give you a call.
-It might not have garnered a lot of notice, but Juan Pablo Garcia took a step up in Indy Lights this year by joining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. We've seen Garcia off and on in Lights since 2009, and to this point, he's always been one of the also-rans. At the same time, in 2013, I thought he showed a bit more on track (in an admittedly small field), and I think he'll be solid, if unspectacular. That's ok--not every racer is going to be a world-beater. Having entrants that can help pad the difference if a front-runner drops out early is important for Lights. With the field looking to be a bit healthier this year (fingers crossed!), hopefully this differentiation between first and last will be far more pronounced than last season, and mistakes much harder to recover from. As for JPG, if he was ever going to take the next step, it goes without saying this would be the year.
-Finally, I know we'll cover this a bit more as it draws closer, but Amy (Open Wheel Mom) Woedl and Pippa Mann are organizing the Indy Fans Tweet Up on Sunday, March 16. This is a brand new event for IndyCar fans to get together and socialize before the season starts. I absolutely love seeing events like this, that really help draw the IndyCar community together. It sounds like a really cool day of karting at the always-awesome Fastimes Indoor Karting here in Indy, with some special guests and games to boot! If you haven't secured your spot, do so while there's still space available, and make sure to give them a follow on Twitter. Thanks to you ladies for organizing, too--sounds like a great time!