WE INDYCAR NOW!
WE MONTOYA AGAIN!
Put away your flasks and your crack pipes ladies and gentleman: the only racing series on the planet routinely captivating to a sober mind has returned, this time with 40% more Columbian and 80% more chance of fiery mayhem.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
28-30 March 2014
Coverage begins 3:00pm EST on ABC/a computer
Green flag 3:20pm EST on 30 March 2014
All the Important Shit!
(links will be updated as they become available)
And so it begins.
A lap of the track:
Last year's race:
"Now wait just a cotton pickin' minute here! VERIZON IndyCar series!?"
Yeah, I thought Verizon was a Bruce Springsteen song too. Turns out they're some kind of cell phone company, which I guess is better than Izod, who were just some kind of company.
"IndyCar sucks! They aren't as fast as F1! Why should I watch?"
With the new season looming on the horizon, inching ever-closer like the dawning realization of our own insignificance, let's get this complaint out the way in pre-season testing. I've been searching all off-season for ketamine, and also for the perfect description of IndyCar to someone approaching the series from the narcissism and snobbery of European racing, and I think I have it. The answer.
IndyCar is what Formula 1 fans think Formula 1 used to be. It's not representative of any single era in Formula 1, but rather every rose-tinted hallucination of what an F1 fan thinks his sport was like in the mysterious long-gone Golden Years rolled up into one. IndyCar is full of colorful personalities who require nothing from you the fan other than to bury any questions of "Why the hell would you dedicate your life to this series?" in order to enjoy the spectacle. It's the blank in every fevered cry of "THAT'S NOT REAL RACING, REAL RACING IS _________!". All the fights for the lead, close championship battles, little teams fighting the big teams and occasionally winning, female drivers actually doing respectable things and not just good-for-a-girl patronizing bullshit, on tracks yet to be butchered to unrecognizability by chicanes and tarmac runoffs... everything F1 thinks it used to be is what IndyCar is now. Breathtaking, hilarious, mesmerizing, ridiculous, saddening, embarrassing, joyful and captivating: this is what IndyCar is. The series routinely paints a picture with every emotional color on the pallet. It's everything fans say they want in a racing series but sadly quite a lot of what they don't want too. IndyCar is a pizza with everything on it. It touches you in places a drunken uncle with 9 rolls of duck tape and a two-week camping trip couldn't find. It's invigorating to experience an IndyCar race and each event follows the number one rule of attraction to a tee: it always leaves you wanting more.
The only problem is it goes on to break rules 2-986, which is just MAKE SURE EVERYONE WHO MIGHT LOVE YOUR SERIES ACTUALLY KNOWS IT EXISTS, ASSHOLE! over and over and over again.
But it's getting better. Slowly.
"Why would you make the thread 2 weeks before the race!? Now I'm just gonna notice the wait even more!"
This is true, but if my motto wasn't "Never stick your penis anywhere you wouldn't stick your finger" it would be "Always be prepared". Yeah, the race isn't for 12 more days, but Christmas isn't for 9 more months, and only one of those things requires you to cut down a tree and fake enthusiasm. Preparation is very important: you can now give any and all social acquaintances fair warning that if they try and take you out to bowling alley on the last weekend of March they are surrendering their right to live into April. Those of us on shoestring budgets will be able to save some pocket money for race snacks and licquor, and those of us "I guess I don't really need BOTH my kidneys" budgets have time to find a dark alley, a steak knife, and a man born in the former Yugoslavia. You wouldn't get mad if a girl told you on the 18th she was going to give you a handy on the 30th: you'd say "Thank's m'am!" and use that time to prepare for the show.
And sweet zombie Jesus, have we got a show in IndyCar this year.
"Well fine, but I've actually got a bank account and bought my whiskey and Cheetohs a month in advance. What do I do to pass the time?"
You may have noticed that there are no great racing sims out there right now, and even the good ones kinda suck. In this respect racing simulators may actually be a feminist conspiracy to remind us basement dwellers that you can lock your bedroom door all you want, but everything you do is going to be kinda like girls. Even the good ones are still kinda shitty. But never fear: your old pal Andrew has got you covered, with the 2014 IndyCar Simulator. You don't even need to drop half as much as a used car costs on two parts from a fake car to race! Take that, Logitech!
You too can play the 2014 IndyCar Simulator to kill the time before St. Pete, just by following these easy steps: fill up your bathtub with the hottest water an angry faucet can create. I mean water so hot you could serve your rubber ducky with a side of mashed potatoes. You then enter your bathtub by a cannon ball of such fearsome power Lotus couldn't make an engine that exploded that forcefully if you gave them a thousand years to do it. As you sit there in the tub, observing how your entire body seems to be melting, turn to face your shampoo and conditioner and wave in acknowledgement of the fans. The discomfort of sitting inside an active volcano is a beautiful recreation of the emotional distress and intense discomfort felt by IndyCar drivers who have achieved their life's dream of becoming legitimate racing drivers in America's premier open-wheel series, and yet still being less well-known to the general public than Gary Brolsma, the internet's first real superstar.
Now the fun really begins. Take a deep breath and make your race car sound. Don't bullshit me, we've all got one. You didn't waste all that time playing with Hot Wheels to forgot how to make an engine noise. Growl and spit in imitation of an IndyCar engine like your life depended on it. Down into 1st, hard left! Up into high 3rd/low 4th for the Carousel, depending on the gear ratio! To fifth! To sixth! Fast approaching the Kink! Don't lift, pussy! 180! 190! 195! Brrrrrrrrmmmmmm! Canada Corner coming up now, don't brake too...late. Nice job idiot, you're in the gravel trap. Now God damn Dixon will win.
At this point, the IndyCar Simulator really kicks into high gear. Turn around 180 degrees to face the wrong way and pour a bag of kitty litter into the bathtub to better simulate your predicament, all the while twirling your finger in the air in kingly beckoning, in the hopes some fat men in orange suits will burst through the door and get you restarted again. I could swear I was really an IndyCar driver!
Once your lips start to hurt from the engine sounds or the water gets cold, crouch on your tippy toes and then dive out of the tub, colliding headfirst with your bathroom wall in a sickening crunch, as your neck vertebra are introduced to your teeth. This is what it's like to restart next to Will Power.
Anyone can be an IndyCar driver. All you need is a little imagination and an out-of-focus cat.
The off-season is cripplingly tough on us all. The racing fan has to develop unique strategies to pass the lonely winter months until the flowers start blooming brightly enough you may actually notice them being obliterated by shiny new Firestones when someone overcooks it in pre-season testing. There are no bad ways to pass the time. I for one focused my winter months on self-improvement via kettlebell excercises, in the amusingly misguided belief I wouldn't be tired most of the time if I was sore all of the time. Some of you may have chosen an opposite path, finally realizing your dream in these brutal off-season months by attempting to become the world's fattest racing fan. Maybe you decided your calling in life was to get blackout drunk while listening sentimentally to sad songs from the 1980s, so drunk you've become nostalgic for a time you weren't even alive to know. That might be the definition of a race fan right there. Dad never had time for you, the ship sank with all hands on deck, you need somebody to love, noodly instrumentals presumably about a girl named Jessica, homeless people get into street circuits for free, Cecilia is breaking your heart, and on and on it goes. Maybe you wrote IndyCar fanfiction to pass the time, and your first novel regarding Will Power and Scott Dixon's strange compulsion to join their cars in fibreglass matrimony is due out in May.
Whatever the hell you did, it was the right thing to do, because as an IndyCar fan there's no wrong way to pass the time. To be a racing fan at all in this day and age is a tremendous test of one's patience, and a sense of humor is key to provide a healthy buffer zone between your world and whatever the hell planet IndyCar is living on. Racing fans must be on constant alert, always preparing to smear and libel any drivers, team members or bigwigs in head offices they don't care for while simultaneously defending the objects of their own fandom from mudslinging launched by other fans. In this respect, racing threads on discussion forums are little more than practice for the real world outside our windows. Haven't you read The 48 Laws of Power? Reputation is everything. Sometimes you feel that you may get better conversation if you just talked to some worms in the ground, which is handy since if you in 2014 even have any shred of capability to love American car racing left in your body you will be spending a lot more time with your head buried in the dirt than you want to admit. The irony is not lost on any of us that while car racing may cease to exist entirely 50 years from now and all we will have left to us is our memories of the sport, the same sport seems determined not to provide us with anything worth remembering anymore.
IndyCar has been on the upswing in the two years and change since that sad day in Las Vegas. Only about six people on the planet have noticed, but improvement is improvement nevertheless. Anyone who has ever tried to lift weights knows that. But in order to truly appreciate where you are, you need to understand where you came from, and IndyCar is riding elegantly off an excellent season with all of the inspiring highs and terrible lows we've come to expect from it.
So, what the hell happened last
week month year?
You remember! First wins all around. James Hinchcliffe won the season opener in St. Petersburg and took two more wins at Sao Paulo and Iowa. Takuma Sato won in Long Beach, Simon Pagenaud the second Detroit race and the return to Baltimore, and Charlie Kimball tasted unsweetened victory at Mid Ohio.
For a time it seemed Takuma Sato would mount a real shot at the title, but by the time the summer came the big dogs had woken up. AJ Allmendinger took his chance to return to a paid drive in IndyCar and used it to throw his Penske into the wall on lap 1 of both races in Detroit. Tony Kanaan won the big race in May ahead of an incredible second place for Carlos Munoz. Mike Conway, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe won the next five races until Scott Dixon ruined everything for everyone by dominating Pocono and Toronto in such a way that cracked-out mayors and douchebag ski people could only stand in awe. Will Power took the final two races of the year including popping his Fontana cherry, but Dixie (as people who are perhaps a little too secure in their sexuality call him) had done enough to leapfrog Castroneves to raise the Izod IndyCar Trophy or whatever it's called above his head. The title fight was not overshadowed but it was certainly lessened by the unfortunate accident in Houston that ended the career of Dario Franchitti, the DW12 holding up well to the severity of the crash but sadly not well enough. Franchitti's impressive career came to an abrupt end, but fortunately he is alive and well today. We've had to say tougher goodbyes.
In brighter colors, Will Power took great care to murder Scott Dixon at every opportunity during the 2013 season, and Dixon reciprocated by taking out Power's pit crew at Sonoma. If either driver hadn't been a giant bitch, fisticuffs may have been seen, but then again ifs don't mean anything. If a Honda won the title it would've been a Chevrolet. One can only hope the brutal on-track aggression and sickening off-track civility swaps around this season.
2013 saw an encouraging number of one-off drives serving to distract us all from the discouraging lack of full-time drivers. Sports car legend Lucas Luhr drove a second car for Sarah Fisher Hartman at Sonoma, while Katherine Legge drove a third car for Schmidt at the 500, her 26th-place finish not nearly as impressive as exhibiting remarkable self-control not to spin Sebastian Saavedra when she had the opportunity. Michel Jourdain and Buddy Lazier returned to Indianapolis and Pippa Mann ran a few races for Dale Coyne. There was even a surprise appearance from Justin Wilson's brother. Let us hope this fine tradition of finishing your IndyCar audition in the mid-20s continues.
Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay are expected their first child any day now.
The final standings saw Dixon take the title on 577pts. 2nd Castroneves (-27), 3rd Pagenaud (-69), 4th Power (-79), 5th Andretti (-93).
Before welcoming new drivers to the series for 2014, we must say goodbye to many of our old friends. Some of our favorite one-offs will surely show up sooner or later, and with full-time and part-time rides appearing and disappearing like some sort of fancy science particle, it's impossible to be completely accurate when saying hello, goodbye, welcome back or good riddance. But if I know anything, it's how to be shockingly innacurate.
Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra move from Dragon Racing to KV for 2014, taking the seats of Simona de Silvestro (who had an offer she couldn't refuse) and Tony Kanaan (who wants to spend time around Chip Ganassi for some reason).
A sad sayonara to...
- ...Dario Franchitti (injury/retirement)
- ...Simona de Silvestro (PR stunt/Switzerland)
- ...E.J. Viso (government corruption)
- ...Tristan Vautier (abundance of accent/lack of speed)
- ...J.R. Hildebrand (loss of sponsorship/loss of potential)
- ...Luca Filippi (no funding/sideburns too obscene for cable TV)
- ...James Jakes (Acorn Stairlifted right of a drive)
But an enthusiastic aloha or welcome back in Hawaiian to..
- ...Juan Pablo Montoya! (returning for the full season to Penske from NASCAR)
- ...Mikhail Aleshin! (joining for the full season Schmidt Peterson Hamilton from Formula Renault 3.5)
- ...Ryan Briscoe! (returning for the full season to Chip Ganassi Racing!)
- ...Jack Hawksworth! (joining Bryan Herta Autosport from Indy Lights)
- ...Alex Tagliani! (Indy 500 only with Sarah Fisher Hartman)
- ...Kurt Busch! (Indy 500 only with Andretti Autosport)
- ...Jacques Villeneuve! (Indy 500 only with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton)
- ...Mike Conway! (splitting road courses and ovals with Ed Carpenter Racing)
- ...Martin Plowman (rounds 4-5 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises)
- ...Oriol Servia (rounds 2-5 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan)
With the new season of course comes calendar changes. Texas, Iowa and Pocono see their races lengthened to 600km, 300 laps and 500 miles respectively. We are also saying "Get lost!" to Sao Paulo and Baltimore, "Hello!" to the Indianapolis road course, and "Yeah, that's right, stay the hell away!" to Road America.
2014 will be a good year for IndyCar: it can't not be. Short of someone hitting it out of the park and landing a car in the stands at Indy we're set for a compelling season. Self-described outlaws, weirdo Canadians, jet dryer-slaying Columbians and a thousand other lunatics will take to the track this year and will hopefully continue the trend of recent years. All the big teams are stacked to the God damn teeth, but Justin Wilson was 2nd-fastest for Dale Coyne in pre-season testing.
Do you remember what IndyCar feels like?
The feeling is back.
As is customary, IndyCar gives us all seven months to forget it exists and then tries to do an entire calendar in two weeks. The season opens on March 30th, with two races in April, three in May, four in June, four in July, and four in August, then leaving us seven more months to play in our bathtubs until 2015 rolls around. But it's worth the wait: I painted mine blue.
Edited by Andrew Hope, 27 March 2014 - 02:44.