Oh my goodness, so much to discuss going into this weekend:
-I absolutely love the moves Ed Carpenter and his team have made this offseason. Although he worked hard at improving his craft on the road/street courses, he knew Mike Conway would be an upgrade, and pulled the trigger on that deal. Now, for the Indy 500, an event Ed has every possibility of winning one of these days, he’s chosen a teammate in J.R. Hildebrand that should have no problems matching and adding to the team’s success overall.
One comment I saw online discounted Hildebrand’s chances due to his P33 finish at Indy last year. Yeah it wasn’t pretty. But honestly, the entire situation with Hildebrand and Panther Racing deserves a do-over. We know he can the big speedways, including Indy: one poor results shouldn’t nullify that. Plus if any driver has motivation to do well this May, between 2011, last year’s brutal race, and what transpired with Panther, it is JR Hildebrand. I really like the move, and think the #21 is going to be fun to watch come May.
-So where does that leave us on Indy 500 car count? That gets us to 27 confirmed car-and-driver combos. For a math whiz like me, that comes to…let’s see….6 more entries for 33 cars, and 7 for 34. Right now the split is 12 Chevy and 15 Honda. You’re still looking at a Panther entry (Chevy), Dreyer & Reinbold’s one-off (Chevy), Ganassi’s fifth (Chevy), KV’s third (Chevy). Assuming all those come through, that’s 31 (16 Chevy/15 Honda). If Dale Coyne runs two more cars like he did last year, that gets the field to 33, with a 16 Chevy/17 Honda split. Is there another Chevy out there somewhere?
-There's also the big news on point changes for 500-mile races. With the points doubled for 500-milers, that seems like really good news for Ed Carpenter Racing, who should see their entrant points bump nicely between Ed’s oval prowess and Mike Conway on the twisties. Carpenter scored 333 points while finishing in P16 in the final standings last year; he could conceivably get close to a third of that in a single weekend at Indy, Pocono, or Fontana.
Additionally, we’ll see a much larger swing possible in the season finale. If Simon Pagenaud trails Scott Dixon by 70 points going into Fontana, that’s no longer out of reach. Basically, if a championship contender walls it and finishes P25 (let’s assume the field will be a bit larger for the finale), there could be a 90-point swing for the race alone. That’s going to be huge, and might mean a couple additional drivers in the title hunt come the finale.
-If you missed yesterday’s interview with Martin Plowman, why not take a minute and give it a read? Plowey is one of the truly nice guys in the paddock, and I hope he drives the wheels off that #41 at Indy.
-Finally, I wanted to give another plug for the site The IndyCar Blogs. It’s a nice gathering of all the IndyCar blogs out there, and I’ve picked up a few stories and sites I might now have otherwise seen. They’re also doing some nice work on Twitter, if you’re so inclined to follow them there.
Have a great weekend, and we’ll continue to gear up for the season next week!