The Story Thus Far
The First Oval
This weekends race at the Kansas Speedway will be the first oval event of the season, and will serve as the lead-in event to the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at the end of May. Not only is this the first oval race of the this season, its also the first oval race for a number of rookie drivers to the series. [aside: it seems very strange to call Takuma Sato a “rookie”.] Takuma Sato, Simona De Silvestro, and Bertrand Baguette will compete for the first time on an oval. Talk about jumping in with both feet! Kansas is a very fast 1.5-mile tri-oval where the winds can often be gusty and very tricky. All three of these drivers come to the series with some serious credentials behind them, so there should be no doubt about their compentance as drivers, but even seasoned road racers can find ovals a bit tricky at first. Will Power can certainly attest to that as he was the first driver to taste the wall in his first race here at Kansas. Friday practice and qualifying should be an interesting time for these three drivers. Provided the rain holds off.
This weekend, we may finally see the end of the domination by Will Power. In the twisty tracks so far, Power has been a dominant force. His oval prowess, especially here at Kansas, is a bit lacking, though. I expect we will see a couple of other drivers come to the fore, most notably Scott Dixon. Dixon has been nigh on unstoppable on the ovals both in 2008 and in 2009. He’s languished during the early races this season, but don’t ever count Dixon out on an oval track, especially a 1.5-mile oval to which he seems especially well suited. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dario Franchitti is also no slouch on the ovals, but I don’t expect him to be as strong as the other two Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.
no images were foundAs much focus as we place on the Big Two, Ganassi and Penske, lets not forget about some of the other drivers who have shown they have serious oval talent. Tony Kanaan has to be on the short list of favorites for a podium finish this Saturday. Andretti Autosport suffered greatly when Dario Franchitti left the team to join Ganassi’s organization, but it seems that they have their stride once again. Marco and Tony are serious threats this weekend, and in fact, I would rate them higher than I would any other driver with the exceptions of Dixon and Castroneves. KV Racing Technologies teammates E.J. Viso and Mario Moraes showed significant improvement and pace on the ovals last season, and with KVRT already having shown strongly in a couple of events this year, we could easily see either or both right up front.
Revised Aero Regulations
It must be said that the 2009 race at the Kansas Speedway was a real snoozer. At first, many were quick to point out that the weather conditions last year, what with tornados touching down just a few miles from the track and all, were less than ideal.
no images were foundIn truth, the strong, gusty winds did not help matters and they really took their toll on the Firestone Indy Lights drivers that year as mass carnage was seen over and over again in Turn 4. The IZOD IndyCar Series race was far less accident filled as the Firestone Indy Lights race was, but it was also completely devoid of any interesting racing action as well. As it turns out, the weather at Kansas wasn’t completely to blame. The subsequent oval races at Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Texas, Iowa, and Richmond were all very lack-luster prompting Ed Carpenter and Dario Franchitti to directly apologize to the gathered fans after the races for the lack of excitement.
Right before the Kentucky race, the league made some significant rules changes allowing teams to utilize aero tools that they’d been able to use before, but had been restricted from using in recent seasons. They also removed a number of drag-inducing wickers from the rear wing. The result was a Kentucky race that was outstandingly exciting and producing a photo finish between Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter. Wheel-to-wheel racing was back! Subsequent oval races also proved to be very competitive and exciting, giving us hope that we’ll see a race this year reminicent of the summer races at the Kansas Speedway where the fans never sat back down for the last 20 laps because of the great racing action. Everything is in place for this year to be a great race.
The Entry List
The grid at Kansas this weekend will be the largest yet this year, 27 cars! A couple of the more notable additions to the grid are Jay Howard for Sarah Fisher Racing, and John Andretti in a joint effort between Richard “The King” Petty and Andretti Autosport. Jay Howard is back on track after being unceremoniously sidelined by Roth Racing in 2008 and he brings a new sponsor, Service Central, to the Sarah Fisher Racing team. As we have very often said here at Openpaddock, this is yet another sign of Sarah doing things right and demonstrating some seriously good business talent. This will be John Andretti’s first drive in an IZOD IndyCar outside of Indianapolis since. …well… what? early 90s? Its been a long while! That doesn’t mean that he’ll be rusty, by any stretch. We expect him to run strong this weekend, especially given that he’ll be in Andretti Autosport equipment. One notable driver absent from the entry list is Graham Rahal. He was able to secure a few rides with Sarah Fisher Racing on the road and street circuits earlier this season, and it was anticipated that beginning with Kansas, he would be with Newman-Haas Racing in the #02 car. Well, that has failed to materialize, and the 2010 outlook for Graham is beginning to look a little bleak!
- 2 Raphael Matos – Luczo Dragon Racing / de Ferran Motorsports
- 3 Helio Castroneves – Team Penske
- 4 Dan Wheldon – Panther Racing
- 5 Takuma Sato (R) – KV Racing Technology
- 6 Ryan Briscoe – Team Penske
- 7 Danica Patrick – Andretti Autosport
- 8 E.J. Viso – KV Racing Technology
- 9 Scott Dixon – Target Chip Ganassi Racing
- 10 Dario Franchitti – Target Chip Ganassi Racing
- 11 Tony Kanaan – Andretti Autosport
- 12 Will Power – Verizon Team Penske
- 14 Vitor Meira – A.J. Foyt Enterprises
- 18 Milka Duno – Dale Coyne Racing
- 19 Alex Lloyd (R) – Dale Coyne Racing
- 22 Justin Wilson – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
- 24 Mike Conway – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
- 26 Marco Andretti – Andretti Autosport
- 32 Mario Moraes – KV Racing Technology
- 34 Mario Romancini (R) – Conquest Racing
- 36 Bertrand Baguette (R) – Conquest Racing
- 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport
- 43 John Andretti – Richard Petty/Andretti Autosport
- 66 Jay Howard (R) – Sarah Fisher Racing
- 67 Sarah Fisher – Sarah Fisher Racing
- 77 Alex Tagliani – FAZZT Race Team
- 78 Simona De Silvestro (R) – HVM Racing
- 06 Hideki Mutoh – Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
You can follow all of the practice and qualifying action live on IndyCar.com’s RaceControl through either live streaming video, or simple timing and scoring. The first practice session is at 10:00am with a second session at 1:00pm. Qualifying begins at 4:30pm. All times are local, Central Daylight Time.