Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kansas Road Runner Turbo 300 Preview

The IZOD IndyCar series returns to action this weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas race will be the first oval of the 2010 season and begins a stretch of four consecutive ovals the series will run, highlighted by the 94th Indianapolis 500. Several storylines have developed since we last saw the IZOD IndyCar Series in Long Beach where Ryan Hunter-Reay took him his first win of the season, and his first with his new team, Andretti Autosport. IndyCar Garage gives you storylines to watch going into Saturday’s race.

TV Coverage -
Saturday - ABC Prerace coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. EST
Note: ABC Coverage ususally only does about 15 minutes of prerace before they drop the green

(Will Danica Patrick improve on the ovals?)

1. The first stretch of Oval’s begins

Kansas begins a stretch of ovals for the IZOD IndyCar Series, and for many fans this begins what they consider the real season starting. If you’re an early IRL fan, then ovals are all you know, but if you’re a die-hard IndyCar fan, then this is just a different aspect of the series. Kansas should be provide great side by side racing and hopefully a close finish. Kansas is a 1.5 oval similar to that of Chicago, and the racing and finishes at Chicago have been outstanding. The aero package from last year was not in place at Kansas last year, so it should be interesting and fun to see how it impacts the racing.

2. Highest Car Count of the season

27 cars will take the green flag on Saturday, and that will represent the highest car count since the merger in 2008, excluding the Indy 500. 27 is just a number, but it represents a change in the tune toward IndyCar. In In comparison the Milwaukee race last year, had just 20 cars and that was just a week after the Indy 500. John Andretti will join on as a tune up for the Indy 500 and represent Andretti Autosport’s fifth car. Sarah Fisher will become a two car team with Jay Howard and Sarah herself making their 2010 d├ębuts. Graham Rahal ran three races for SFR earlier in the season, but will not be in a ride for Kansas.

3. News around the IndyCar Series, heating up!

Several newsworthy items have hit the IZOD IndyCar Series over the last two weeks and many of them appear to be positive. Randy Bernard just announced that their will be an oval champion (8 races) and road/street course (9 races) champion crowned at Sonoma (last road course)and Motegi (second to last oval), and the fans will have a say in naming the trophies that represent those two trophies(Foyt and Andretti seem logical choices). In other news, Daytona International Speedway track president was quoted in the paper recently as saying he would listen to a call from the IRL if they were interested in a race, since the track will be repaved this summer. If any racing at Daytona takes place with the IRL involved, look for 2012, at the earliest possible. The entry list for the 2010 Indy 500 was announced and 40 driver/car combinations are listed, look for exciting action on Pole Day and Bump Day. All in all, the series is experiencing POSITIVE NEWS that can only get better!

4. Can Danica get back in her grove?

Danica Patrick has one top ten finish this season and it was mainly due in part to pit strategy. Danica has struggled mightily on the road/street courses, largely in part due to poor qualifying efforts. Danica’s game seems to be on the ovals, and Kansas is her first chance to prove she is worthy of her good ride with Andretti Autosport. Danica mania has faded fast within the IndyCar circles and if she can’t regain her savvy that allowed her to finish fifth in points last year, then look for her to possibly give NASCAR more of a look, but then again, she didn’t blow anybody out of the water in her Nationwide experiment.

5. Penske / Ganassi oval domination?

Penske and Ganassi dominated every oval race of the season last year , highlighted by Helio Castroneves dominance at Indy. Penske and Ganassi domination on the ovals usually comes in two words: More Resources. Penske and Ganassi are the two heavyweights in the IZOD IndyCar Series and that allows them to have every technical advantage out there. Any driver outside of the Penske/Ganassi stable that wins at Kansas this weekend, will be given major props for upsetting the two heavily funded teams.

6. Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal will miss his second race of 2010, and not because of injury. Most know of Rahal’s sponsorship situation from earlier in the year and that was somewhat fixed when Sarah Fisher Racing signed him to fill in for her during the road/street course portion of the schedule. Sarah is back in her seat for the ovals and Graham is now rideless again. We all know Graham is the future of the series and wants to stay in open wheel, but sitting on the sidelines during an ABC race, just hurts. What could be a major blow is Graham sitting out the Indy 500 next month. Graham’s name has come up with his dad’s team, Rahal-Letterman, but nothing appears firm at this point. Hopefully Graham finds a ride and we can avoid the bright young 21 year star sitting on the sidelines.

7. The undercard race on Saturday

Unfortunately and almost intentionally the IZOD IndyCar Series will be looked at this weekend as an undercard race for this week’s action at Kansas Speedway. The NASCAR Truck Series is also racing at Kansas and will be the main race on Sunday afternoon. NASCAR did this for two reasons, first they can because they own the track through International Speedway Corporation, and two they don’t want both of their series running on the same day, the Sprint Cup runs Richmond Saturday night. Randy Bernard hasn’t had to deal with ISC yet, but he is going to meet them head on this weekend when they run at Kansas. Bernard has stated publicly that he knows the France family from his PBR days and that the IZOD IndyCar Series will need to be involved on ISC tracks in the future. Kansas represents a huge test for the way Bernard plans to handle ISC and the lack of promotion behind the event. No matter how you look at it, the IZOD IndyCar Series is running their race on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 EST, not the ideal time for a race and probably not going to attract the best ratings. The IndyCar / ISC situation is only going to intensify as we get deeper into the season.