Considering I didn’t start this blog until after the racing season started, I never really got a chance to do an article like this, so I’d try my hand at it now.
The 2017 season certainly has the potential to be one heck of a season, as proved by Sebastian Bourdais winning in St. Pete. I’ve already shared a few of my thoughts about the potential Honda/Chevy battle as the season goes along, but what else can we expect? What headlines can we expect to see over the course of 2017.
- The Curse is Broken – Admit it. You were all pulling for Marco to win last year’s 500. I mean how poetic would it have been if an Andretti broke the curse on the most important running of the race? But instead, we got an almost better story in the form of Alexander Rossi’s low fuel run. But this is a new year. Yes, Marco had a horrible season last year, but if St. Pete is any indication, he may be back in good form. He and his new crew chief, Bryan Herta (the same Bryan Herta that called Rossi’s 500 victory last year) seem to be gelling well. Herta is a genius at the 500, successfully coaching underdogs Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi to victory in 2011 and 2016 respectively. Marco too has always been fantastic as Indy. No matter how bad of a year he may be having, Marco will always show up for the 500. So is this the year? I think just maybe.
- More of the ‘Minnow’ Teams Win – Seeing Sebastian Bourdais fly to victory in St. Petersburg was fantastic for so many reason. But one of the best was seeing one of the smallest teams in IndCary get a win. Everybody cheers for the underdogs. Everybody wants them to do well, right? With any luck, we may see a few more of the so called ‘Minnows’ take to the top step of the podium. AJ Foyt Racing’s recent shift to Chevy should give it strength as the season goes along. They also boast one of the better young lineups in the series with Conor Daly lining up alongside Carlos Munoz. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is back with the same lineup as they did last year. While while the verdict may still be out of Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe is a tried and true race winner who showed us at Texas last year that he still knows how to do it. He definitely stands a good chance of winning a race or two and what could be better than, thanks to Dancing with the Stars, one of the most well recognized faces in the series winning races.
- The Rise of a New Star – Josef Newgarden was unquestinably the star of the offseason rumor mill as he made the jump from Ed Carpenter Racing to the giant of Penske. It really is only a matter of time until seeing him on the top step of the podium is a common occurance. But who will rise up behind him? One of the great things about IndyCar is the near constant rise of new, promising young talent, champing at the bit. The most obvious example of a star in the making in Conor Daly. He’s now with Foyt, and through the last two seasons has shone extreme skill. Do not be surprised in any way shape or form if this is the year he’s able to break his winless streak and break out into stardom.
- Ganassi vs Penske (and Andretti?) – While Chip Ganassi’s switch from Chevy to Honda engines for the 2017 season may have been strategically based or based on the fact Ganassi wanted to have a separate package than their chief rivals. But from a fan perspective, it will be nothing short of amazing to see the two powerhouse teams of the sport go head to head with different packages on board each car. Throw into that mix the Honda mainstay of Andretti Autosport and we have a fascinating duel between the three top teams of the series
- More Races Announced for 2018 – And here’s where we get into the pipe dream section of the article. While the series had done a great job of bringing back some of the more historic races in recent years like Pocono, Gateway, and Mid-Ohio, but there are still old tracks out there that are begging to hear the scream of IndyCars on them once more. Fontana has been absent from the schedule for two years now and despite the pack racing element that existed last time they visited, it would be great to see the series return there. The Milwaukee Mile, a mainstay on the IndyCar circuit since the days of Jim Clark and a track that has existed just about as long as Indianapolis, is absent and it hurt to not see the series there. Also, and I’m sure I’m not the first one to say this, but a return to Laguna Seca would be nothing short of spectacular.
- A 3rd Engine Supplier – Yet another pipe dream, yes. But the thought of adding one more supplier into the mix changes things up and makes the series so much more exciting. Ford would be a welcome addition, yes. But so would Toyota or Mazda or even even Mercedes.