Overheard at St. Petersburg – Friday

A new IndyCar season is upon us and it was good to see old friends after a long cold and snowy winter in the frozen tundra of NJ.

Had a chance to talk briefly to Dale Coyne's rookie driver, Carlos Huertas from Colombia. In what is becoming a tradition, Coyne confirmed Huertas the day before the season began, which mean the rookie had no testing time and the team and driver had no time to gel. The fact he finished last in both sessions comes as no surprise, therefore. Huertas is one of four Colombians in the field this year, the other three being Montoya, Saavedra and Munoz. Huertas said all the IndyCar races are broadcast live in Colombia and it's very popular……..Speaking of international TV coverage, In addition to television in the United States on ABC, ESPN also distributes Verizon IndyCar Series race telecasts through a combination of ESPN networks and syndication to more than 197 countries and 96 million homes. In addition, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world can watch live via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.

Did you know that Terry Linger does the production for all IndyCar races for ABC and NBC Sports network. So when you hear the production is better on one than the other, don't believe it.

We were joking with Dale Coyne about the horrible sound of F1 cars now that they switched to a muted turbocharged V6. They will experience the same downturn in attendance and TV ratings that IndyCar saw when they switched to the uninspiring turbo V6. Fans come to races to be wowed, not put to sleep. Now is the time for IndyCar to get their screaming engines back to take advantage of F1's coming plummet. Coyne is still looking to lineup a driver for the oval races.

Speaking of engines, everyone is wondering where HPD's Roger Griffiths is going. Speculation is that he may be going to Cosworth, who is known to be actively looking at getting back into IndyCar. Griffiths is a great engineer who led the redesign the this year's Honda IndyCar engine from a single turbo to a double turbo. So far both practice sessions here in St. Petersburg and Honda cars were on top. The fact he lives in California and Cosworth is in Torrance, CA and looking to expand their facility makes them a perfect fit.

The timing of his departure from HPD could not have better as both the new IndyCar engine and IMSA engine were homologated before his departure. So whoever takes his place can focus on the 2015 program.

Ran into Conor Daly who said he has no money and nothing lined up right now, but said "we are trying hard and I'll be here eventually." He also said he would be in the paddock a lot in case a team needs a driver to fill-in last minute.

It was good to see and hear Paul Page on the IndyCar radio again. A true professional who is doing a solid job despite being away from IndyCar for over 10 years.

As expected, Juan Montoya was lagging behind his Penske teammates in the Friday session, ending up the barriers in the 2nd session and only 18th out of 22 drivers on the speed charts. He's trying hard but his reflexes have been dulled from years of NASCAR taxicab driving, something Niki Lauda coined 'lazy racing.' Montoya wasn't the only driver to lose control, Josef Newgarden broke too late for Turn 2 in the 2nd session and went down the escape road. He sat out the rest of the session.

According to Bobby Rahal, it looks doubtful that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal will swap National Guard rides, though it made a good story for a day or two.

The races that will have standing starts this year are:

  1. Long Beach
  2. GP of Indianapolis
  3. Houston
  4. Toronto

We wrote earlier this week that the races that would use double file restarts would be reduced significantly this year. Double-file restarts have been eliminated for the Verizon IndyCar Series season that begins this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The reason: Too much of a waste, a senior official said Friday.

"We shuttered to hope that we didn't have a blocked corner," said Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president of competition, of last year's congested restarts. "We don't want to be wasting 20 minutes of good TV time cleaning up a corner that really wasn't built to have that many cars."

Double-file starts will still be held, he said, with three-wide starts at the 500-mile events at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana, Calif..

"I think it looks kind of spectacular as it came up to the start, but then what then happened was if you got a run on somebody, the track was blocked anyway," he said. "If you start single file, you have a chance of making a pass.

"I just don't think (double-file restarts) suited IndyCar racing, open-wheel racing, when cars are bouncing off each other so much."

We also believe the pits will not be open during caution flags until everyone is lined up behind the pace car. IndyCar is also going to try and have less full course cautions and more local cautions, but drivers speeding through local caution zones will be hammered hard by officials.

Rumors of Paul Tracy racing in IndyCar this year continue to make the rounds, and we hear the Indy 500 is his best chance.

Did you know that Robbie Buhl is no longer a co-owner of the Dreyer and Reinbold IndyCar team, but he is still working to help them find sponsorship. Mark Cipolloni reporting from St. Petersburg, Florida

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