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IndyCar Field Firms Up For First Race This Weekend



Ryan Hunter-Reay's new colors - shown here in testing at Barber Motorsports Park
Photo courtesy INDYCAR

The field for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg is heating up with some additions over the past week and into this week leading up to the IZOD IndyCar Series' first race of the year.

While the off-season was way too long and marked by change across the board in the team and driver lineup, the cast of characters is finally becoming clear - even though Dale Coyne Racing and Newman/Haas Racing still haven't formally announced their lineups.

Because interaction between drivers and engineers is the best way to gather information, it's not a surprise that two- and three-car (and even four-car) teams are becoming the norm.  For that reason, you'll see Team Penske with three cars for Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.  Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns with multiple championship-winning drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.  Ganassi also has his satellite team for Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball, which can be construed as a two-plus-two team.

It's a foursome for Andretti Autosport, with Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay and team newcomer Mike Conway in their garage area.  Dreyer & Reinbold Racing already announced Justin Wilson and Ana Beatriz, while KV Racing Technology-Lotus named EJ Viso and Takuma Sato, adding (as expected) Tony Kanaan to the mix with GEICO Insurance backing this week.

There are still a few single car teams for the full IndyCar Series season: AJ Foyt Racing has Vitor Meira back for the year; Panther Racing is running rookie JR Hildebrand; HVM Racing begins a second year with standout Simona de Silvestro and AFS Racing confirmed Raphael Matos last week.  The latter team is working from the workshops of Forsythe Racing, who were always a threat in Champ Car.

Sebastian Saavedra was named to one of two Conquest Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone entries a week ago and that leaves Coyne Racing, who are expected to have Sebastien Bourdais on hand for the road courses and Briton James Jakes in the second car for the season.  There is the possibility for Pippa Mann to take over 4-time Champ Car titleholder Bourdais' seat for the ovals, for Coyne is notorious for not naming his drivers until the last possible moment.  

While at Sebring for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, Oriol Servia said he'd be driving one of Newman/Haas' cars while rookie James Hinchcliffe, who has been extremely quick in pre-season testing, has not yet received his seat confirmation at NHR.

Paul Tracy, who had been campaigning for the KVRT seat that just went to Kanaan, will be driving in the 100th Indianapolis 500 this year with WIX Filters backing and Dreyer & Reinbold engineering.  The Canadian ace is working hard to secure entry for further races, particularly in his home contest of Toronto and at Edmonton.

Although always subject to change on the west coast of Florida, the weather looks to be clear and mostly sunny through the coming weekend with temps in the low to mid-80s, perfect for racing.  Of course it wouldn't be St Pete without a shower or two to stir things up.

© 2011 Anne Proffit
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