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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Will 2017 Indy 500 Mimic Last Year’s?

Four races into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, the focus shifts to two big events this month – the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, followed by the Indianapolis 500 two weeks later.

With the Diamond Desert West Valley Grand Prix of Phoenix now complete, questions have arisen, including this will scenarios influencing last year reveal themselves in 2017?

As was evidenced last year, Chevrolet prevailed at Phoenix and Honda struggled to keep up. However, when the teams made their way to Indy, the tide changed. Honda won the pole position with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe and fellow manufacturer affiliate Andretti Autosport led a majority of the laps on race day, with Alexander Rossi taking the trophy. Let’s look at what could allow for a similar story.

Andretti Autosport has strength in numbers with six cars in their stable. One of them is driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who until suffering a pit road collision seemed primed to win the 1ooth Indianapolis 500. The team however, does have some hurdles to jump. They enter May just removed from frustrating results at Phoenix by all four full-time pilots. Also they are without Carlos Munoz, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing during silly season. Finally, there is the presence of current Formula One driver Fernando Alonso that could present a roadblock to their goal of victory. The Spaniard garners attention, but will his inclusion take away from the effectiveness of its regulars?

There are also questions raised from some of the other Honda teams. Chip Ganassi Racing returns to HPD’s camp for the first time since the 2013 Indy 500. CGR’s pairing with the engine option since IndyCar began using the Dallara DW12 chassis a year previous has been hot and cold. In 2012, CGR surged from mid-pack to grab a one-tw0 sweep for Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. The following year, Ganassi could not replicate the result as they fared no better than 14th.

Unknowns also surface around 2016 pole winners Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who enter this May at a slight disadvantage. After being held out of a portion of the IndyCar oval test last month at Texas Motor Speedway due to an engine rule violation, SPM has less experience with the new aero package as opposed to some others who will be in Gasoline Alley.

Now things are not all rosy for the Chevrolet party either. Team Penske has momentum following back-to-back IndyCar wins, but early season triumphs were not backed up last year. The Captain’s quartet failed to make an impact on race day as contact and misfortune pushed them out of contention. Without GM’s top dog, Honda took center stage.

The question is who will step up to uphold the Bow Tie’s legacy if Penske cannot?  Although four Chevy runners placed in the first ten in 2016, two of those squads are absent this year. As mentioned, Ganassi Racing has crossed over to rival territory, and KV Racing ceased operations. The missing in action reports, leave Ed Carpenter Racing as GM’s second in command. While J.R. Hildebrand enters this month off an excellent effort at Phoenix, team boss Carpenter was stuck among the back markers all weekend.

So in summary, Embury’s Outlook sees how an Indianapolis 500 close to a year ago could occur. However, five major threats from Chevrolet will keep the big three sharks from HPD honest from day one of practice.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

FRANCHITTI: “I Don’t Miss Driving IndyCars at Indianapolis”

Three years ago, four-time IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti was forced to hang up the helmet as a result of a concussion sustained in a crash at the Grand Prix of Houston.

Speaking on the Autosport stage at the Autosport International event in Birmingham, England, Franchitti admits he doesn’t miss competing at the Indianapolis. 

“I miss driving; I don’t miss driving IndyCars at Indianapolis to be quite honest because it’s too bloody scary, and my mind is in a different place now and I look at it and just think ‘mad’,” Franchitti said. “You just want more, it’s more, more, faster, more, you’re so focused just on the thing, it doesn’t matter. You go into Turn 1 at Indianapolis, I know you’re approaching there at 240-something miles an hour and the thing steps out and you’re like, ‘okay’.”

He mastered the track three times to taste the milk in 2007, ‘10 and ‘12. But now, though, he’s focused on his role as an adviser with Chip Ganassi Racing, a position he has held since 2014.

The 43-year-old spoke of his admiration for the team and is delighted he has an excuse to keep attending races despite being outside of the cockpit.

“Well, I’m an adviser to the team. I’m not going to tell you the exact words Chip Ganassi used when somebody called me a ‘driver adviser’, a ‘driver coach’, he said, ‘I pay you too much (pauses for effect) money to just to be a driver adviser,'” Franchitti said. “I look over all facets of the team from a driver’s point of view and I see the weaknesses and try to bolster and help whether its the drivers, the engineers, the interaction between the two, the technical direction the team is taking, all that stuff and just using all that experience that really has no other use apart from with racing teams. And I love it, I get to go to the races with a group of people that I really, really like and I get to continue working in racing.”

The Scot also revealed the retirement forced him to be unable to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as he had arranged a deal for the 2015 staging of the event, but that he still felt lucky to have his career despite having to stop early.

“I missed getting the chance to race some old stuff, I missed getting the chance to go to Le Mans – I had a corking deal lined up for what would have been the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans that I wasn’t able to do.

“Then again I had a great time. I got to live my dream, I got to drive some wonderful cars, win a load of races, and have a great life to this point, so this is definitely chapter two.”

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.