The IndyCar series makes it’s first visit to an oval this weekend on the hectic return trip from Long Beach. Kansas City is one of the five 1.5 mile ovals on the circuit this year, including Texas, Homestead, Chicago and Kentucky. And while the usual suspects (Ganassi, Penske & Andretti Green) are expected to continue their total domination of the ovals, there might be more hope for the other teams this year.
An excellent article was posted today on IndyCar.com describing how the IndyCar series has fixed the wheelbase of the cars to 122″. In past years the teams were allowed to run between 118″ and 122″ on the ovals, which required different suspension parts, aero parts and aero development as well as time on shaker rigs and additional testing. And while the different wheelbases definitely provided a competitive advantage to the sharp end of the grid, the smaller teams could not afford to buy and develop all the part necessary to have different configurations. This was done as a cost saving step, but also will help narrow the gap between the haves and the have nots.
This is similar to the road/street course package, which drastically limits what the teams can develop. And while only the first two of seven road/street course events have been ran, we have seen some pretty amazing parity again this year between the big 3 teams and the rest of the field.
As for the entry list for Kansas, a few changes have been made from the first couple of races.
Sarah Fisher will be competing in her own Dollar General sponsored car this weekend. She will also be running Indy and the other four 1.5 mile tracks since she has been very competitive on those in the past.
Conquest has elected not to run a car this weekend, instead electing to return to Indy and get an early jump on their preparation for Indy. Noticeably though, Alex has been sponsored during the first two races by the event promoter for the Edmonton race. This withdrawal probably has more to do with the fact that they are still working on a full sponsorship package than Indy preparation.
Currently the second Dryer and Reinbold car is listed as TBA. Darren Manning has provided shoe services for the opening of the season, but it is well known that he did not bring any cash with him. Milka Duno is rumored to be splitting the seat with Darren this season, but many claims have been made about her cash situation that have proven to be untrue. This will have to be a wait and see.
Lastly, the Helio Castroneves situation came to a head at Long Beach allowing the effervescent Brazilian to roam free once more. So Helio is back in the #3 and Will Power is out of a seat this week, unless Roger does some sort of last minute deal to keep him in a car. That doesn’t seem like such a bad idea since Will is currently second in the points standings, but maybe Penske rightfully infers that Will is still not an oval warrior, thereby discounting his staying power in the standings.
After a long offseason, it will be good to lay eyes and ears on the field in person as the Open Paddock staff will be in attendance. Of special interest to me is the sound from the new muffler and the hopeful tightening of the field from the mandated wheel base. Maybe we will be able to post some pics with Gene Simmons.