Indycar Season Preview, Part II: Teams That Should Improve

Here are four teams I think should show improvement over their 2019 performance. They are presented in no particular order.

Meyer Shank Racing

Michael Shank has finally reached his dream of a full time entry in the NTT Indycar Series.  Jack Harvey did well early in 2019 when the team ran virtually every race, culminating in a podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. When the team had a gap before their next race, their performance dropped off. The consistency of a full season will help the team do well in 2020.

Not hurting their chances is the technical alliance with Andretti Autosport. Colton Herta had this same arrangement last year, and he did all right.  Harvey had three top 10s in his first six races. He was 13th in points after the Indianapolis 500. I think he may have moved up a spot or two had he run every race in 2019.

Arrow McLaren SP

On the surface, it appears this team is doing everything the wrong way. They signed a rookie driver and one with eight races of experience. In the process, they fired their most veteran driver. They are bringing in a new engineering staff. Even the ownership has seen a shakeup. In the team’s favor is that all of the new pieces have a lot of talent.

Rookie Oliver Askew is a steady driver. The 2019 Indy Lights champion is  focused and analytical behind the wheel. Pato O’Ward had a roller coaster season bouncing from series to series. I think he will show his appreciation for having a full time ride. Both drivers were in the top 10 at Spring Training.

The third element that will help AMSP is engineer Craig Hampson, who joined the team after working with Sebastien Bourdais. Hampson and Bourdais won several championships together, and the pair gave the Dale Coyne team some relevance. The team may need a race or two to get their footing, but I think they will have enough good results to call their season successful.

From Yesterday- https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/02/27/indycar-season-preview-part-i-coyne-foyt-carlin-look-to-improve/

Rahalk Letterman Lanigan

This group seems to always be looking for consistency. Graham Rahal said on Content Day, “When we were strong at a track, both of ttling battling tus were strong. When we struggled at a track, both of us struggled.”

Takuma Sato was ninth in the final standings and Rahal finished tenth. They are not that far off from moving up in the top 10. Sato won twice and earned two poles. Rahal started on the front row at Barber but was sidelined by mechanical problems. It was a steady season for two drivers who still weren’t satisfied.

RLL should have a few better race results, but moving up in the final standings may be difficult battling the three teams that make up half the grid. Both drivers can win a race and I could see that happening in 2020.

Ed Carpenter Racing

The oval program is solid, especially at Indianapolis. Two spots on the front row last year and three poles in the 500 are a great qualifying record. The team is still looking to improve their road and street course performance. I think they are on their way to doing just that.

The road/street team of Conor Daly and rookie Rinus VeeKay are capable of turning the  team’s fortunes around. Daly seems to make any car he drives better. With a full season at the same team ECR should improve as the year goes on. VeeKay, the Indy Lights runner-up needs to focus his energy and adapt quickly to the nuances of Indycar. He is a talented, consistent driver.

How many more seasons will Ed Carpenter drive the oval races? Only Ed knows that answer. His runner-up finish at Gateway last August shows he isn’t ready to step out of the car yet. I think in a couple of years he will cut back to Indy only, but for now there isn’t any good reason to stop.

A good season for this team on the road courses would be some second round qualifying results and a few top ten race finishes. The talent is there. I can see this team putting it together, especially after Indianapolis.

 

Monday I’ll preview the Big Three. Tomorrow- a summary of all the great news that happened this week in Indycar.

Hinchcliffe Joins NBC Broadcast Team

James Hinchcliffe will be part of the NBC motorsports broadcast team this year, beginning with the NTT Indycar Series season opener in St. Pete. Hinchcliffe has what is now a three race deal with Andretti Autosport todrive in the GMR Grand Prix, the 104th Indianapolis 500, and the Genesys 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

He will serve as a driver analyst on pit road at St. Pete, Long Beach, Toronto, and Laguna Seca in addition to working as a part of NBC’s coverage in the week prior to the Indianapolis 500. Hinchclffe will also be part of the team covering select IMSA races beginning with the Sebring 12 hour March 20-21.

From Earlier: Season Preview Part I

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2604485664

Hinchcliffe will also work on the broadcast of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4th weekend. Additional duties include Indy Lights commentary on NBC Gold.

I think this can only enhance NBC’s coverage. Hinchcliffe was in the booth in 2015 while recovering from injuries in a practice accident at Indianapolis. He was a huge hit with the fans. He also had a few great experiences on Wind Tunnel.

Indycar Season Preview, Part I: Coyne, Foyt, Carlin Look to Improve

Photo by Kyle McInnes

It’s time for my annual projection of how I think each team will perform in the NTT Indycar Series in 2020. This is the first of three parts on a team by team breakdown.

Carlin

Driver stability looks to be an issue once again for this team. Carlin placed only one car in the Indianapolis 500. Max Chilton chose to not run ovals. Charlie Kimball ran just seven races.  Conor Daly did a decent job running the ovals, but he is no longer available.

With Chilton returning for the road courses in car 59. the team still has to find a driver for the ovals for that car and a full time driver for the 31. While it looks as if Felipe Nasr may drive most of the races in the second car, nothing is confirmed. Nasr would be a great addition to an already talented grid. He was quick at the COTA test.

Carlin will struggle, especially the first half of the year. If they can get affirm driver lineup before St. Pete, we could see some progress after the Indianapolis 500.

Foyt

Optimism abounds at A. J. Foyt Racing. A new driver lineup, which I think is a bit of improvement, makes the outlook brighter. Charlie Kimball has the full time ride in car 4. His engineering background should help the team improve. Three drivers will share car 14. I think the first driver in it holds the key to their season.

Sebastien Bourdais will be in the 14 for the first three races of 2020. I believe that is how long Foyt has to get everything in place for the rest of the year. Between Kimball’s engineering and Bourdais’s experience, the team has a great opportunity to set up for a successful season. The unknown factor is how rookie Dalton Kellett does in his eight road/street events.

Tony Kanaan will drive the 14 in the oval races as he phases out his career as a regular in the series. Ovals have been the strong suit for Foyt. Kanaan has qualified well at Indianapolis and finished third at Gateway last season.

I think the team will be better than last year. I can see a couple more top tens and possibly a few second round entries in road and street course qualifying.

Coyne

2019 wasn’t a terrible season for cars under the Coyne umbrella, but they were expecting a bit more. I think one car will improve while the second car may surprise some people but have a few hiccups along the way. Santino Ferrucci moves to the 18 car for his second Indycar season. Rookie Alex Palou, who looked decent at Spring Training, is in the 19.

The team lost engineer Craig Hampson, who went to Arrow McLaren SP, and had some other personnel changes as well. This may change the dynamic a bit at Coyne, but they are such a close knit group that the effects should be minimal.

Ferrucci had many flashes of brilliance last year and ended third in the Rookie of the Year standings. He was Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis. Ferrucci seems to have a natural knack for ovals. He was in contention for the win at Gateway. He is my dark horse candidate for a season top 10 finish.

Alex Palou could surprise some people. He won’t have Ferrucci’s  2019 advantage of an experienced teammate, but he is quick. How long it takes to channel that quickness to the nuances of an Indycar weekend will determine how his year goes. He joins a very talented rookie class, which I’ll discuss next week. The Indycar youth movement continues.

Coyne should have some slightly better results this season, especially from Ferrucci.

Tomorrow- Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and Arrow McLaren SP.

 

Genesys Assumes Sponsorship at Texas

It makes sense now. I wondered why one of James Hinchcliffe’s three races with Andretti Autosport was Texas instead of Toronto. His sponsor is the new title sponsor of the June 8 NTTINDYCARSERIES race, now known as the Genesys 600. The company replaces DXC Technologies in the title role.

It’s nice to see a new sponsor jumping in with both feet like this. I would have been happy with their three race sponsorship for Hinchcliffe. That would be a nice beginning for a new Indycar partner. I hope their involvement leads to a full time of half year sponsorship for Hinchcliffe and Andretti.

Earlier today, the Firestone Grand of St. Petersburg announced Frontier as the official television and internet provider of the season opening race. I posted the announcement here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2603641037

I love days like this when there are several announcements, especially when they concern more companies getting involved with the series.

My season preview will start tomorrow. It will be a three part series where I assess each team’s outlook for the 2020 season.