2018 is over. Good-bye. Hello 2019. The racing season is approaching. By the end of this month, I’ll be at a racetrack in Florida watching cars for twenty-four straight hours. I’m ready for this season to start; there are so many things to get excited about.
We are going to have an amazing group of rookies this year. There’s the all-rookie team of Patricio O’Ward and Colton Hera for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, not to mention the new team of Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Felix Rosenqvist steps into the car on the same team with Scott Dixon. Rosenqvist has a great racing resume and according to the Wikipedia is a “street circuit expert” which bodes well since the schedule is road course heavy (as discussed back when the schedule was released here). Not only rookie drivers but another rookie team for this season. DragonSpeed Racing is making the step into INDYCAR by taking on five races with driver Ben Hanley. Hanley has primarily sports car experience, but some open wheel in his background. Another driver with a varied background, I do enjoy watching how they adapt to INDYCAR.
It’s not just new teams this year; two new tracks are on the schedule so another round of “how successful will they be”. Circuit of the Americas, the current Formula 1 track, will host the teams in mid-March. Austin is a unique city, and it remains to see how they do with an INDYCAR race. F1 does well, but that includes a large flock of people who fly to the US specifically for that race. INDYCAR doesn’t have that sort of pull – yet. The second track or I suppose the returning track, is Laguna Seca in California replacing Sonoma as the season finally, and moving to later in September. Did the series replace one boring California race with another? It remains to be seen. There will be a good showing the first year, with the excitement of a new track. The second year will be the key year for both of these tracks.
As we, and nearly everyone has discussed, safety is going to be a hot topic this season. The ongoing windscreen development will move into more testing. We’ve seen the screen at ovals; I don’t believe we’ve seen it yet on road courses. From what I recall the screen was going to have impact testing first, and then get a drive on a road course. The second piece of safety will be the catch fence will get an upgrade, or at least the plans to upgrade the catch fence will be prioritized. As discussed shortly after Pocono (you can read that article here) the catch fence’s main job is to stop things from flying into seated spectators. An added bonus is that the fence disperses energy from a crash if a driver happens to get into the fence. The next evolution of the catch fence will involve (a) strengthening the material and (b) increasing its ability to absorb and disperse that energy.
Also, everyone needs to get emotionally ready for bumping again this year at the Indy 500. It’s looking more and more like it won’t be one or two drivers bumped, but upwards of five drivers bumped. Insane! The drama is going to be intense again. The whole race already has storylines attached to it. Is Helio Castroneves going to clinch the elusive 4th win? Will Fernando Alonso capture the Triple Crown with McLaren’s return to INDYCAR as a solo team? And if he does what will that mean for McLaren and how they approach the 2020 INDYCAR season?
Who am I watching this season? Zach Veach, because I really enjoy watching his advancement as a driver. You can see from how he started 2018 to how he finished 2018, 2019 is only going to include more growth. I hope he gets at least a pole if not a podium! Of course, Rossi tasted blood last year after getting so close to the Championship. I would not be surprised if he’s not again one of the last contenders for the Cup. I also think that James Hinchcliffe is going to step up this coming season. I have no real reason why except for a Midwestern gut feeling. 2018 was a season of highs and lows for him, and I think he’s going to refocus and really kick ass. The rookie I’m watching is Patricio O’Ward because the kid has got something.
There are two unanswered questions as I write this:
1) Who will be our title sponsor?
2) Are we going to Australia in 2020?
We recently decided which races we’re attending – you can find those races here. Let me know in the comments, or by joining the conversation on our Facebook group, what you are looking forward to in 2019.
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