At season kickoff, IndyCar drivers express optimism for the future

Standing in the freezing drizzle just hours before it turned to snow, James Hinchcliffe engaged in a conversation with two die hard fans of the Izod IndyCar Series.

“It’s great to see the support," said the Andretti Autosport driver of those who came out despite the frigid conditions to the Pan Am Plaza for the series’ kickoff festival. “IndyCar has some of the best and most loyal fans especially here in town.

“So to have a day like this-a bit cold, a bit wet-and still have people come out, it shows we’ve got the support there we like."

A number of the fans were outside in the conditions checking out two display cars under tents on Georgia Street while greeting drivers like Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter along with owner Sarah Fisher. They rotated from outside to inside, where each driver participated in an autograph session during the two-hour event.

“It’s been a great turnout," said Newgarden of the kickoff event. “We’re all excited for the season and the month of May and there is going to be a lot of exciting things this year."

Many fans and drivers are hoping for the same after a 2012 season that featured some of the best on track racing in series history. A number of races including the Indianapolis 500 came down to the final lap and the race for the championship wasn’t decided till the last race, when Ryan Hunter-Reay passed Will Power to come home with the crown.

Its a reason why many of the drivers look optimistically towards the start of the season March 24th at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“With the introduction of the new car last year and the racing we saw, it was a big boost for the series," said Hinchcliffe. “Word got out about that and hopefully this year we see that in attendances and in TV figures. But I think the series is doing a very good job and, like you said, the on track action is incredible and I think if you can make a good product then eventually people will start tuning into watch.

“Hopefully we can just keep that up."

The next six months will tell that story but driver/owner Ed Carpenter was encouraged by a few fans who made the long trip in bad weather to salute the drivers before the beginning of the 2013 season.

“We talked to people who came up from Cincinnati, one lady flew in from Massachusetts just for this so that always nice to see," said Carpenter. Fox 59 News

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