The Frontstretch: INDYCAR In-Depth: Baltimore Grand Prix by Matt Stallknecht -- Saturday August 31, 2013

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INDYCAR In-Depth: Baltimore Grand Prix

Matt Stallknecht · Saturday August 31, 2013

 

What’s News

The IZOD IndyCar Series is back in action once again this weekend for the Baltimore Grand Prix, and as the series edges closer to the season finale, the storylines get juicier as well. In the wake of Will Power’s victory in Sonoma last week, a few interesting news items surfaced in the days that followed that have heavy bearing on the 2014 season.

The biggest news item of the week was the revelation that INDYCAR would be hosting a feasibility test with driver Graham Rahal on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, presumably with an eye for a 2014 early-May race date. All told, you can pretty well expect to see a race on the IMS Road Course next year.

Can Will Power resurrect a lost season and make it two in a row for the win total in Baltimore?

Another big news item came from the Panther Racing camp. A little-reported story came out early this week which stated that Dallara and INDYCAR officials were “tempting” ex-F1 driver Jaime Alguersauri to join the IndyCar ranks. Should Alguersuari decide to take up the offer, he would supposedly be given a ride with Panther Racing. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on as silly season heats up.

About the Track

The Streets of Baltimore are the sight of this weekend’s round of IndyCar action. Laid out over 2.04 miles in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor region, the 12-turn track saw its first race in 2011, an event won by Will Power. The track is mercilessly technical, and features a number of hair-raising 90 degree turns as well as dangerous hairpins. The driver who can both stay out of trouble and keep their car on the razor’s edge of control will be the one who sees Victory Lane on Sunday.

What’s the Points? – Drivers

Helio Castroneves still sits at the top of the series standings, and enters the weekend with a 39 point advantage over 2nd place Scott Dixon. Sitting 23 points behind Dixon is Ryan Hunter-Reay, who at this point is probably the only driver besides Dixon who can realistically still win this championship. Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud round out the top 5 in the series standings, and while both are still mathematically in the hunt for the title, they are likely too far back to really be able to make the championship a four-way race.

What’s the Points? – Manufacturers

The battle for the manufacturer’s title is starting to heat up. After briefly being tied with Honda for the points lead, Chevrolet edged ahead by 3 points last week after Will Power delivered a win for the Bowtie Brigade. Look for this battle to go down to the wire in this final stretch of the season.

Driver to Watch

Will Power’s 2013 season has been puzzling, to say the least. Just one year ago at this time, Power was in the midst of a title fight for the ages, and it appeared that he could very well go on and win his maiden IndyCar crown. But, after a heartbreak in last year’s season finale, it’s been a downhill slide, that is, until last week. Power finally returned to form in Sonoma, notching a much-needed victory and showing everyone that he still has what it takes to run up front. Considering his sterling history at this week’s track in Baltimore, I would say he is once again a man worth watching this weekend.

Who Ya Got?

My colleagues Toni Montgomery and Huston Ladner have both boarded the Ganassi bandwagon, and each has picked a Ganassi driver to win this weekend. Toni believes Dario Franchitti will snap his winless streak and find Victory Lane for the first time since last season, and Huston believes it will be Scott Dixon who will take home the checkers and bite into Helio Castroneves’ points lead. I think they are both wrong. I am taking Will Power to go back-to-back and win once again in Baltimore.

Other News?

In other driver news, Oriol Servia will rejoin Panther Racing for both this weekend and the remaining three races after it. Servia has been out of a ride since Mid-Ohio, and as always, it will be nice to see him back on the series circuit once more.
Also, in another bit of happy news, INDYCAR and NBC Sports Network reported this week that last weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma was the highest-rated INDYCAR race on the channel thus far in 2013, posting a 27% increase in viewership over last year’s running of the event. Perhaps a bit of controversy drove up the ratings a bit?

What’s Next?

The IZOD IndyCar Series will unfortunately be taking another month-long break after this weekend’s event. The next race weekend on the schedule will be a doubleheader, as the series heads to Houston for the inaugural Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Weekend. The first race will be Saturday October 5th at 3 pm EST, while the second race will be on Sunday October 6th at 1 pm EST. Both races will be carried live by both the NBC Sports Network and Sirius/XM Channel 211.

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