Saturday, March 13, 2010

Teams on the Rise

Well, we're here!  As I write this, IndyCar qualifying in Sao Paulo starts in about 90 minutes.  The TSO crew on the ground down there is reporting that cars are all over the damn place as the try to put power down through the Sambadrome section.  The back straight is roughly 347 miles long, and ends in a hairpin.  Basically, this could be a really run and really expensive street race - and a really lucrative one for Dallara.  I admit, I can't wait!

Before we go green on the season, I wanted to just give a tip of the hat to a few teams that appear to be on the rise heading into 2010.  With Ganassi and Penske likely to dominate again, especially on the ovals, it's worth noting that a few teams have made real strides, and the road courses this year could be wide-open affairs.  So here are four teams that I think deserve some recognition, in no particular order.

de Ferran Luczo Dragon Racing: Can we please come up with a shortened version other than dFLDR?  How about Dragon?  Dragons are cool.  Yeah, I'm going with Dragon.  Adding Gil de Ferran to the ownership and management, bringing in Davey Hamilton as a second driver for select races, and signing HP as their primary sponsor are all great signs.  Matos has won at every level, and Davey is quick on ovals.  With HP came a couple of solid associate sponsors (Bell Micro is a big HP vendor).  I wouldn't be at all surprised if they run two cars full-time next year, with Davey in a third car at Indy.

Sarah Fisher Racing: Sarah just continues to build her effort in a solid conservative way.  Stepping out of the car for St. Pete and Barber in favor of Graham Rahal not only was a boon for the series; it showed that Sarah is looking long-term, trying to build a successful team rather than just a vehicle (no pun intended) for her driving career.  I think we may all look back in five years and realize we were watching the next Ganassi-style operation being built, and not in the least bit kidding.  Yeah, they won't be super-quick this season, but I think Rahal's time in the car will go a long way toward showing how far the team has come.  Maybe they aren't quite on par with the other three teams here, but given where they started, what they've done is nothing short of an American small business success story.

KV Racing Technology: In a few months, this team has gone from two cars, to one car, to maybe one car, to two cars, to three cars, to maybe four cars.  Yikes!  Heck, they may run five at Indy with Sato, Viso, Moraes, Tracy, and Rossiter!  Not a bad resurrection on the fly for a team that was in real trouble this off-season.  The only caveat is that of the teams on this list, this is the one I would be least surprised to see right back in a state of flux going into 2011.  I can't pin down why, other than a sense that when so many balls all land together at the last moment, things are never as stable as they look.  But, if they win a couple of races, who knows?  Winning makes everybody happy!

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Over the last few years, this team has patched together two cars from a collection of six or seven drivers.  No stability, no consistency, no real plan, and no results.  Now they have two full-time drivers (one a race winner, the other returning for a second year), two primary sponsors (both coming back for a second season in IndyCar), and a real chance for results.  And let's be honest, we're all rooting for a win here not just because Justin Wilson is a hell of a nice guy, or because Conway had such terrible luck last year.  It's because we all want to hear Robbie Buhl have a "private moment" on the air.  In fact, if D&R wins one of the ABC races, I'll feel monumentally cheated.

There you go.  I know, none of these teams will be title contenders in 2010.  Probably not in 2011 either.  But I think they all have a chance for a surprising result this season, and I think three of them could win a race, given the right circumstances.  If Andretti Autosport wants to reassert itself as one of the Big 3, they'll need to deal with these teams, particularly KV and D&R.

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