IndyCar 2015: Burning Questions

Just over two weeks remain before the start of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Between now and the opener in St. Petersburg the IndyCar teams will be busy testing the new Chevrolet and Honda aero kits. For today, AR1 reporter Lucille Dust and columnist Brian Carroccio will get you ready for the season by tackling a series of "Burning Questions". What team/driver changes will have the biggest impact? Who has the best looking aero kit? What drivers might surprise? Lucille are but a few of the questions Lucille and Brian will answer. Enjoy!

Question

Brian Carroccio

Lucille Dust

Team that had the best offseason:

With the signing of Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske would seem an obvious answer. But Penske was going to be good with or without Pagenaud. A.J. Foyt Racing convinced their sponsor to fully fund a 2nd And no team took a bigger step forward than Foyt.

Team Penske adding Pagenaud gives them the best driver-lineup. Throw in a new aero-kit and the extensive testing Team Penske will do before the 2015 season with four data references, and this is easily the team to beat.

Team that had the worst offseason:

Granted, you never know how things will shake out until the last-minute at Dale Coyne Racing. But if DCR goes to St. Pete without a legitimate lead driver that would constitute a disappointing offseason for the Plainfield boys.

Andretti Autosport. First, lots of staff changes over the winter. And the team hasn’t replaced James Hinchcliffe on a full-time basis two weeks before St. Pete? I think people underestimate the relaxed environment he helped create.

Bigger loss for a team: Simon Pagenaud leaving SPM or the man who replaced him, James Hinchcliffe leaving Andretti?

I could easily argue Pagenaud, but I’m going to say Hinch leaving Andretti. As you noted that was a bit of a dysfunctional outfit when The Mayor arrived in 2012. And many cited Hinch as key to the turnaround we saw at Andretti Autosport. While he didn’t have a great 2014, I think his loss is bigger than people think.

I love Hinch, but the answer is Pagenaud. Hinch is a loss for Andretti but SPM was built around Pagenaud. And with the aero-kits, replacing Simon’s feedback will be tough.

Biggest story of the offseason:

Oddly, the story of this offseason was the offseason. In particular, how unbelievably and unnecessarily long, it was.th & Georgetown realizes this.

The long offseason was disappointing, but I’ll say the cancellation of Brazil, particularly the surprise timing. It’s too bad for the Brazilian IndyCar fans.

Driver most likely to capture first victory:

Although I’m tempted to say Luca Filippi, the answer is Josef Newgarden. He’ll have quality teammates for both ovals and road courses and a Chevy engine. Newgarden may win by Long Beach.

I agree. Newgarden is overdue for that first win. With the new combined CFH team, he will surely get the job done this season.

Will all the peace and harmony we saw from Team Penske at Media Day deteriorate as the season goes along?

Not publicly because The Captain won’t allow it. But depending on who emerges as the top-dog, I can see things getting a little testy internally. For example, if Pagenaud really takes the fight to Power, that could become a little less-than-cordial. Also, with Montoya now in his second year back in IndyCar, I can see him reasserting himself more.

No chance. These are 4 professional drivers and they will get along. There might be a weekend that they will be a bit angry at a teammate, but the anger won’t last long. They realize that the Championship is more important than settling the score with a teammate.

Chevrolet won 11 of the 17 races in 2014. Having not yet seen how the aero-kits perform for Honda and Chevrolet, do you expect the Bowtie Brigade to continue t have the upper-hand?

Let’s see, they had Penske and Ganassi to begin with, added Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi, and possibly Sage Karam to the stable. Throw in the fact that Chevy has been the biggest advocates of the aero-kits all along, and yes, I anticipate they will have the edge.

After viewing the Honda aero-kit, I think Chevrolet will have the advantage this season. They’ve been very serious about winning since returning in 2012, and the research they put into the aero-kits is impressive.

Best looking aero-kit:

Both kits are an improvement for the simple reason someone designed them to win a race rather than supply a field. Aesthetically, I’m probably in the minority, but I prefer the Chevy kit.

I prefer the sleek look of the Honda kit over what looks to be a bunch of random pieces placed here and there on the Chevy.

Which driver needs a good season more: Graham Rahal or Marco Andretti?

Wow. They both need to take a step forward, but if I have to choose I’ll say Rahal. Fair or unfair, public opinion has really turned on young Rahal, and it seems to have gotten to him. Some good results would be the best way to quiet the doubters.

I agree the answer is Rahal. But I also think the offseason changes at RLL have been good. I get the feeling they will also show up in the results.

A potential dark horse?

Carlos Munoz is the odd case of a young driver who I think could be more aggressive. Keep in mind, he finished 8th Look for Munoz to be more assertive in 2015.

Gabby Chaves earned 11 podiums in 14 Indy Lights races. After the success that team had with Jack Hawksworth last year, I think we may see something similar from Chaves.

How soon until the s*** hits the fan with Brian Barnhart in charge of Race Control.

I think everyone probably behaves through Indy, unless there’s something egregious. But the doubleheader in Detroit after a long month in Indy, tends to be something of a rough weekend. If things spiral out of control in Motown, I think we might see the pitchforks.

Hard to say exactly when. But it will happen, likely at one of the road/street courses.

Despite the fact we probably won’t know about the impact of the speedway aero kits for two months, we’re still going to ask for your Indy 500 predictions.

Montoya. He was the best driver in the three 500-milers last year. Also, without a win in six years, The Captain is by his incredible standards due for a win at the Brickyard.

I would like to see the aero-kit results before putting my money on the 500. After nearly winning last year, I think Castroneves gets win #4 in 2015.

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