For the 2014 IndyCar season, there are many different story lines that have played out and still have yet to be played out before the opening race in St. Petersburg. Many drivers have switched teams, a decorated champion has retired and two prominent teams switched engine manufacturers, all while some seats in the paddock are still not finalized.
In all the chaos, five drivers will have everything to play for as the 2014 season gets underway.
5. Ryan Briscoe
Ryan Briscoe, Panther Racing Chevrolet
Why Briscoe: Coming off of an interesting 2013 where he drove in the ALMS, the V8 Supercar Series endurance races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and various IndyCar races as well, the former Penske pilot will be driving for Roger’s biggest rival in Chip Ganassi. It will be interesting to see how Briscoe does returning to the team he drove for back in 2005.
Can he give Chip vindication for giving Briscoe a second shot with his team?
4. Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing Chevrolet
Why Bourdais: Jay Penske’s operation wasn’t a 100 percent ideal fit for Seabass, but at KVSH Racing he’ll have a more competitive team around him.
He had flashes of brilliance at Toronto, Baltimore and Fontana after a lackluster first half of 2013. If the cards stack up right, could be a serious threat for victory.
He co-drove the winning car at the Rolex 24 this year, but can Seabass back up that win with victory at St. Petersburg?
3. Carlos Munoz
Carlos Munoz, Panther Racing Chevrolet
Why Munoz: He finished 2nd in his first ever IndyCar start, which was only the biggest race of the year and only two days after finishing fourth in what could be considered the best racing finish of 2013. He was running well at Fontana before crashing and could be a definite x-factor when the first race goes green.
He’s only 22 years old, won five poles and four races in Indy Lights last year, so can he make his 2013 form continue in 2014?
2. Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Why Montoya: He hasn’t been in an open-wheeled formula car race since the 2006 United States Grand Prix. It will be interesting to see how his tenure in NASCAR will either help or hinder his performance on track.
He’s rejoining the series with one of the best teams in North American racing, so expectations are high. But the question is, can he deliver?
1. Will Power
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Why Power: He won in three of the last four race weekends in 2013, all on different disciplines and the oval was a 500 mile race. Power has to show that he’s shaken off the oval gremlins that have plagued him for his three near-championship runs in 2010, 2011 and 2012. 2013 was an off season by Power’s standards, so getting back into championship contention starting with a win at St. Petersburg will give him an immediate edge.
Can he continue the form he showed in the late part of last year?
We’ll find out the answer to all of these questions on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.