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HINCHCLIFFE WINS HIS FIRST AS THE 2013 INDY CAR SEASON OPENS
March 24th 2013 - By: Mark W. Theisen.  WEST BEND, WISCONSIN  - The 2013 IZOD Indy Car season got underway this afternoon in St. Petersburg, Florida with Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe sprinting away on a late race caution and restart to record his first ever series victory in the car that was vacated by Danica Patrick when she moved on to NASCAR.

Hinchcliffe is one of a quartet of Andretti drivers for 2013 and has had extra pressure placed on him during the off season after a so-so 2012 season that was initially filled with promise but ended with one of his teammates, Ryan Hunter-Reay, taking the title over Will Power.

Hinchcliffe was determined to ease his critics early in the season and he did so this afternoon when a quick pit stop placed him at the head of the grid on the lap 85 restart and he used that position to sprint to the win followed by last years race winner, Helio Castroneves, who had lead the race twice for 42 laps, the most by a driver in the event today.

It was a good day all around for Andretti Autosports, with Marco Andretti, son of team owner Michael, taking third and E.J. Viso, new to the Andretti team this year finishing 7th..  The only negative for the team was that the defending series champion, Hunter-Reay, completed only 79 laps retiring with mechanical issues after qualifying 8th.

The race had five different lead changes among four drivers with pole sitter Power leading the first 26 laps before his Penske Racing stable mate, Castroneves, took the lead.  Oriol Servia put the Panther Racing Chevrolet in the lead on lap 46 before giving way to Castroneves on lap 62 and it looked as though Castroneves was on his way to his second straight St. Pete win but the exceptional pit work on the part of the Hinchcliffe team gave their driver the track position and he finished the final 26 laps ahead of Castroneves for the milestone win.

25 cars registered for the season opener giving hope for a strong car count for the Indianapolis 500 in May with Power capturing the pole position for the race just as he had done last year with Takuma Sato Sato, who will be remembered for his bold bid for the win on the final lap in last years Indy 500, impressed Foyt in the off-season that led to his signing with the legendary owner and with the qualification effort, the best in years for the Foyt group, and an eighth place finish today Sato had the gruff Texan all smiles and hoping for a total resurrection of his team to the status that it once enjoyed.

2013 will see just two engine manufacturers in the series, Chevrolet and Honda.  Lotus Engineering, who struggled through 2012, bowed out at the end of last year leaving the other two companies to pick up the slack and both came through.

Todayís race was dominated by Chevrolet with the manufacturerís car leading all 110 laps, sweeping the podium and placing  6 cars in the top 10 finishing spots in the race.

Scott Dixon was the highest finishing Honda with a fifth place finish.  Simona de Silvestro, who struggled with Lotus power last year, showed brightly in her first outing today in the Chevrolets of KVRT qualifying third and finishing sixth.

13 Chevrolets started the race versus 12 Hondas with Chevrolet getting the quick jump on defending its manufacturerís title from last year.

The race was slowed 29 laps by four cautions, the only downside to an otherwise impressive season opener for the beleaguered series.  It still takes too long to clear up the debris on a road or street course after an incident, thus depriving the fans and television viewers of watching an entire event, yet it wasnít long ago that it looked as though the series would only muster twenty-two cars for the season start so everyone is optimistic as the series heads to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama for itís next event..

INDIANAPOLIS 500 NOTES:

After reading various press releases from the Indy Car series teams I have come up with the following as a tentative entry list for the 500:

Andretti Autosport:  Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Viso the teamís regular season long drivers.  Team owner Michael Andretti has said he would have a fifth car at Indianapolis for Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz and perhaps the other two races that will encompass the Triple Crown events in 2013.  Running total:  5

Team Penske:  Power and Castroneves, the teamís season long drivers plus the addition of A.J.Allmendinger for the 500.  Running total:  8

Ganassi Racing:  Dixon, defending 500 champion Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball, the teamís regular drivers.  Ganassi has run four teams in the past and I look forward to a fourth car at Indy, although unannounced at this time:  Running total:  12

KV Racing Technologies:  Tony Kanaan and de Silvestro, the teamís standard-bearers for the season.  This team has run as many as four cars but will stick with jus the two with no extras for the 500.  Running total:  14

Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports:  Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier for the season and Townsend Bell for the 500.  Running total:  17

Dale Coyne Racing:  Ana Beatriz will do the road and street courses while Stefan Wilson will do the ovals alongside his brother Justin who will do the entire season.  Look for three cars at Indy.  Running total:  20

Panther Racing:  Teams regulars JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia for the year with no extra 500 entries.  Running total: 22

Rahal, Letterman, Lannigan Racing:  Graham Rahal and James Jakes for the year with a third car at Indy with as yet, an unnamed driver.  Running total:  25

A.J. Foyt Racing:  Takuma Sato is the teams only season long driver but Foyt is high on rookie Chase Austin and even higher on the 500.  He will have a second car to insure that a full of 33 takes the green flag for the 500.  Running total:  28

Dragon Racing:  Sebastian Saavedra and Sebastien Bourdais form a formidable team owned by Roger Penskeís son Jay doing the full season.  No extra cars for the 500.  Running total:  30

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing:  Josef  Newgarden is the teamís lone driver for the season but I feel the team is very capable of fielding a second car for the 500.  Running total:  32

Ed Carpenter Racing:  Ed Carpenter is the teams lone driver the season but has the equipment and the capacity to run a second car at Indy.  Running total:  34

Barracuda Racing:  Alex Tagliani is the teamís only driver with no 500 extras being planned.
Running total:  35

HVM Racing:  No 2013 full time team but would like to run the 500.

Michael Shank Racing:  Although absent last year there are enough engines and chassis available for this group to compete at Indy if sponsorship is found.

That is a possible 37.  I feel 33 will be a lock given that Dallara has enough chassis on hand and engines are available from both manufacturesí.

Drivers not in the fold:  Buddy Rice, Michel Jourdain Jr, Ryan Briscoe, Katherine Legge, Pippa Mann,  and Tomas Scheckter all with Indianapolis 500 experience and all capable of doing a yeomanís job for a car owner.

In January only 20 cars loomed for the full-time Izod Indy Car series and 25 showed at St. Pete.  With all of the above I strongly feel as though we will not only have 33 cars but wills see bumping on the final day of qualifications for this yearís 500!!!

SERIES NOTES:

Indy Car has changed the distances of four of this seasonís races in an effort to discourage fuel-mileage racing and one of the changes affects the Milwaukee Indy Fest in June.  The Milwaukee Race will see 25 laps or miles added to the previous 225 to go to 250 miles.  Indy Car wants their fans to see as much racing as possible and not turn in to which team or driver can get the most fuel-mileage during the event.  Todayís race in St. Pete increased 10 laps and with the final 26 going all green it was an experiment that went right in the first outing.  Long Beach is decreasing by 5 laps and Mid-Ohio is increasing by 5 after analysis of what transpired in past races.  Hopefully all will turn out as good as todayís race.

Scott Dixon, Indy Car champion in 2003 and 2008 and Indianapolis 500 champion in 2008 signed a three year extension with Chip Ganassi racing earlier this month to insure that the popular driver remains with the team for the foreseeable future.

Look for further updates and driver announcements for the 500 in the weeks to come right here at Broncoís Pit Stop.