Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Coloring Up For The Start of IndyCar Racing in 2009

For those not so familiar with the term, in the great game of tournament poker; players are always amassing great amounts of chips as other get eliminated. But as the tournament goes on the chip stacks get very big and start to get cluttered and disorganized as players want to bet $10,000, but are tired of needing to use 100 of their $100 chips. So tournament officials will stop the tournament for a 'color up' break & organize everyone's chip stacks and get rid of 100 of those $100 chips and in place give the player a new $10,000 chip. With IndyCar news being amassed with all the constant news and reports from twitter, messageboards and the like; we could use a little coloring up of our own as team trailers start to arrive in St. Petersburg for the opening weekend.

--So first things first: We've learned via Brant James at the St. Petersburg Times that Milka Duno may likely be done in IndyCar for all intents and purposes as it looks as though Citgo has told her no mas. Now of course Milka may find new sponsorship elsewhere and be able to go shopping with that, but until that happens its extremely doubtful any team would want to hire a 37 year old driver who still needs quite a bit of development without a big check coming in to the team.

--From that same report we can also learn that it looks like Rahal-Letterman Racing may not even be at the Indy 500 due to lack of sponsorship. Some might be shocked, but honestly, with most of RLR's previous history of sponsors coming via their drivers, and the many bridges that seem to be burned when drivers come out of RLR, maybe it shouldn't be too shocking?

--Via way of Conquest Racing's official team Twitter, we've learned that Alex Tagliani will be the pilot of their car in St. Petersburg. Does it mean he's got the full season? Is Northlands going to be a sponsor for the whole season? Not sure really as the release only says for St. Pete. I have a feeling that Conquest 2009 may look a lot like Panther Racing circa 2006; not only with rotating sponsors & a great veteran driver... but orange car to boot!

Considering Panther took down seven Top 5s and three 6th places that year; and also transformed the team into what it is now with full sponsorship in ICS and Indy Lights, I don't think Conquest would mind mimicking Panther's 2006.

--Adding another car to the ICS field at St. Petersburg will be Dreyer & Rienbold Racing with vetern driver Darren Manning. So far this is for one race, but no matter the circumstance its great to see Darren Manning in the field after he proved he's still got some chops at this years Rolex 24 of Daytona. Its also interesting to see Panther and D&R going to all British line-ups.

--We also learn from Curt Cavin's report that while Tomas Scheckter will not be making it to St. Pete, he will be making the rest of the season, starting with Long Beach, with Team 3G alongside new rookie teammate Stanton Barrett; which will ikely give Stanton a much needed teammate to bounce questions off of and help speed up his learning process.

--The one (and maybe only) unfortunate news to not come through in time for the season is the lack of Rubicon Race team with driver Buddy Rice, who they were looking to run for a full season this year after merging their operation with Pacific Coast Motorsports.

--The most notable things about St. Petersburg's opening weekend? The Indy Racing League is bringing 50 cars with its 2 series this weekend! If anyone is disappointed in that kind of showing, they are crazy. In the Indy Lights we are getting -28 Cars/drivers! -18 rookies -25 different hometown cities represented -13 nations & 6 U.S.A. states represented. And with a gigantic smorgasbord of sponsors including Le bleu, National Guard, Lucas Oil, Healthy Choice, Shell & Celebfilms, we are sure to get a great variation in paint schemes on the cars.

The IndyCar Series is looking at one of its strongest ever fields in depth of talent. From top to bottom, I would not be at all surprised with any driver in the field pulling off a win this year, with the exception of maybe Stanton Barrett. 15 of last years Top 18 in points are returning (with 2 likely returning later in Helio and Rice) and 3 in the rookie class are winners in multiple of their former series.

And for the people who might be quick to associate Stanton Barrett as a Roth/Duno type; I'd quickly point to how well he did at his Homestead testing & stock car experience... and if you check out his great blog at Interush Racing you can see he is not only eccentric, but a quick study and very enthusiastic about the opportunity. Give that team Tomas Scheckter to help with car setups and pointers for Stanton, and he should be off the bottom of the stack occasionally sooner than later.

--And speaking of social networking; it is great to see so many teams, drivers, tracks and more embracing twitter. We get to learn neat things from what Vision & HVM Racing were working on during testing, to what guys are doing on their days off; from Mario Moraes taking in some tennis at the Sony Erikson Open to Bryan Herta's profound "So far, BH 2, fish 0".

If you are interested in following any of these guys; just head on over to the Furious Wedge twitter page and check out who we are following and add us & them.

--And speaking of the depth of talent of the IRL, it looks as it may continue to go up. We've recently reported on Gil De Ferran admitting he is likely to go IndyCar racing in the near future; and we can now add Adrian Fernandez Racing to that list (along with Patron/Scott Sharp). Adrian Fernandez is an incredibly nice guy and a great driver.. and past winner. On top of all that though, I'd really look forward to any car he brings back into the series and we all know he has always sported some of the best looking cars in any series.

Update: I'm not sure what happened to the first link about AFR; it looks like that site is down, but I've updated the above to include just the one working link also covering the story. Unfortunately that article is considerably shorter and lacking as many details and quotes but still something.

And speaking of paint schemes on cars; lets get into the pun part of our headline; and do our annual Furious Wedge traditional season preview of the most important things... what exactly you are going to see: the cars and their paint jobs.

Ryan Briscoe & Will Power Penske Racing's #3 & 6: Few would argue against the similarities between Penske Racing and the New York Yankees. They are both quite consistently winners and contenders, and both are heavaily steeped in traditions. When you play for the Yankees, you lose all your facial hair and don the pinstripes; when you race for Penske you loose those crazy color schemes on your helmet for the Red and White. Some may call it boring that you do not see variations in the paint schemes, but you will always know which cars are the Penskes, and which team is the Yankees.

Scott Dixon & Dario Franchitti: Ganassi's #9 & 10: Red & White AND Green and White!? If Penske Racing is the Yankees, surely Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the Red Sox. A team with much history, but never afraid to throw in special days, like the green Red Sox uniforms or TCGR's Energizer/Polaroid paint jobs.

While we commend TCGR for giving one car white endplates and the other red normally, they could always use something, and we're doing absolute flips over the newly announced Green and White AirWick paint job that Dario will be sporting this weekend! We look forward to that and hopefully many more race specific paint from Polaroid, Energizer and more to get us a fresh look from the constant red and white.

ARG's Tony Kanaan #11, Hideki Mutoh #27, Danica Patrick #7 & Marco Andretti #26: While 3/4 of the AGR lineup is holding to a similar if not exact scheme from 2008, we do still expect some variations from the #11 just as we got last year with the fun blue and yellow liveries. Danica's paint job is still one of the most distinct in the field and looks good, while Mutoh's is a bit on the bland, blah red/white/blue; its not terrible; but luckily for him some of the past r/w/b cars seem to be changing up a little.

Marco Andretti however is going to be sporting a whole new look... which was quite common for him as he went through maybe 7-8 different looks in 2008. We're not sure if they were inspired by the A1GP Team USA car but unfortunately in our eyes, the car has succumbed to the spell of Red/White/Blue; and we've yet to really see it on the track when they get blurry, but at least standing still you can tell a difference; for now not quite a thumbs up, but more positive than negative.

Dan Wheldon #4 - Panther Racing: I'm already struggling to remember that Dan is in the #4 this year and Vitor is not, but one thing is for sure. Of all Red/White/Blue paint jobs, this one is clearly the best one ever done. Firstly they've gone for the navy and crimson sharper colors than the bland and basic blue and red, secondly they evenly apply all 3 colors. My favorite part about the new 2009 look is the return of the actual panther to the engine cowling. Maybe it's a sign of this team's return to championship contention.

Graham Rahal #02 & Robert Doornbos #06 - Newman Haas Lanigan: Graham Rahal has simply moved to the 02 car with the McDonalds livery. It looks good, unfortunately is covered in red, but at least its accented with yellow and quite a distinguishable logo. Robert Doornbos on the other hand is really a question mark. We're not really sure what is going to be on the car. It had "Bobby D" and a basic color for the Homestead test, but we'll wait until we see a car in St. Pete to add him in.

Ed Carpenter #20 & Ryan Hunter-Reay #21 - Vision Racing: Some may think of the #20 as ugly and blinding, but here at FW we LOVE it; it has the 2 most important things we look for: it is a unique idea, and it is definitely distinct from the competition! One thing is certain.. no one will EVER mistake Ed Carpenter's car for another in the field. Menards sponsored cars have always had their share of the day-glo yellow; but never has one been so covered in it. However for 2009, with the loss of DirecTV and the addition of Eli-Lilly & SONAX to the car the car's blue accents have become red.

I liked the blue a little better but it is nothing too drastic; and does it really matter anyway? Will anyone will even be able to see the red in motion while scrambling for their sunglasses to not be blinded by the eclipse? RHR's car is honestly a mystery as they are said to announce sponsorship after St. Pete, so it looks like St. Pete will simply see Vision's former #2 Gray and Red with the vision logo; its clearly boring, but here's to hoping that once the new sponsors are announced the car gets lively.

Mario Moraes #5 - KV Racing: Moraes moves into the #5 this season and not much has changed with the car itself except for the addition of Vorantim as a sponsor on the engine cowling and wings. I still like this paint job, as it is both unique and distinct.

#13 E.J. Viso - HVM Racing: The car will look roughly the same as it did in 2008, which is great, its clearly stands out from the rest; but with one great change, no more #33, instead now #13. Viso wanted the #, because he doesn't consider it bad luck, and we love nothing more than when people go against the #13 superstition. From the conflicts over last year the #13 is almost perfectly appropriate that E.J. likes it yet all his competitors want to avoid the #13; now they get another reason to avoid the #13.

#2 Raphael Matos - Luczo Dragon Racing: We're not entirely sure if this will be the same car is was in 2008 with the great yellow and black look with Symantec sponsorship. If it is we will continue our approval; but with the car going all black and then red in testing, we're not really sure what to expect; but are really... really hoping it does not go the way of red.

#14 Vitor Meira - A.J. Foyt Racing: One thing is for sure when it comes to the #14. It's boring, its plain and hasn't changed in quite a while. I miss the days of the Foyt White/Red/Orangish cars. Its not that the paint job is entirely boring on its own, its just that there is nothing really distinct about it except the logo on the side pod. I guess you could at least attribute the sameness in a category with Penske and Target & most AGR's in that we definitely know which car is the Foyt each year. I'm mostly worried about this car and Marco's new livery together ont he track.

#19 Justin Wilson - Dale Coyne Racing: I know what you are thinking "ugh another red and white" yes true, but let me tell you why I like this car. It is covered in white with red accents, and I have never mistaken this car for another in the field. So while I forgive them for giving in to the susceptible red and white, I will always take the Sonny's Bar-B-Q white and red with much more ease than say adding another car to the field covered in red, lets just hope they don't get the idea to add a splash of blue.

#34 Alex Tagliani - Conquest Racing: Like some others, we're not entirely sure what this car will look like, but if it resembles what they had in testing (see top of article), we'll take it ok. The orange look certainly worked for Panther as noted above; and it would be easy to tell the car from others, but lets hope with their sponsors it might bring in some styling/stripes etc.

#24 Mike Conway - Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: D&R for many years as fallen victim to the horrible red/white/blue monstor of non-defined cars. Year in and year out I had no idea how to know the difference in all the r/w/b cars and D&Rs. D&R not only broke the spell cast on them of bland, blah cars, they told r/w/b to shove it with this awesome new bright blue covered and yellow Dad's Root Beer logo. I love me some root beer, as it is, but if Dad's is responsible for breaking the r/w/b spell at D&R they deserve congratulations even much more! We can only hope the 2nd D&R entry for Darren Manning loosk half as good.

#98 Stanton Barrett - Team 3G: Greg Beck is no stranger to racing, and certainly no stranger to giving us pretty distinct looks, so when coming back to IndyCar full time, why would it be any different now? As far as being distinct and unique, this bright & clear livery is almost the class of the field. We got a preview of this look last Motegi, and with some slight changes, and much better use of the Interush logo, you will surely know this car on the grid. We'll even give them bonus points for the red tip either signifying the need for red or maybe even symbolism of the blood of the red cars on their nose.

We are ready to crown the #98 Interush Racing - Team 3G entry as the class of the field for now (subject to further change as we go through) for now let us open up the 2009 IndyCar Season... finally!

Pictures by & Speed Realm Photography

1 comment:

The SpeedGeek said...

Great rundown of news and paint jobs. Two comments from me:

1) I'm with you on Stanton. He's not a Marty/Milka no-hoper/never-were, he's a racer who's never had any kind of even borderline-decent equipment. Not that that'll really change this year, but he's not quite the type who'll get lapped on lap 4 on the ovals or be 5+ seconds per lap off the pace on road courses. He'll still be last-ish every week, but he's good enough to stay out of the way, and maybe improve in the second half of the year.

2) Milka will be back in GrandAm. If she can scare up $1-2 million, that's clearly not enough to cover a half-season worth of IRL crash damage, but it's more than enough to prop up half to 3/4ths of a GrandAm team's budget. With fields hurting as badly as they are over there (19 cars at Daytona, less for the rest of the season), she's a freaking lock to be some broke team's #2 driver.