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1. Pags to Penske: The hottest free agent available this off season signed with the often froggy and widely reviled Team Penske. This is easily the biggest story of the year as well as the most unsettling for other teams. Plus there’s the fact that Pags is a likeable Frog, or was until turning coats to the dark side. IndyCar needs more villains, so the Frenchman’s foreign legion service for the Captain will be entertaining to watch.
Photo from indystar.com
2. An American Actually Wins America’s Biggest Race: Fan favorite Floridian Ryan Hunter-Reay made history in May winning the Indianapolis 500. It was the first 500 victory by an American since Sam Hornish, Jr. won it in 2006 and led to some darling pictures of RHR with his family in victory lane.
Photo from heavy.com
3. NASCAR Drivers Strike and Kill Civilians: It’s sad that among the year’s biggest stories are former and one-off IndyCar drivers and current NASCAR drivers’ negligent and violent behavior. Stewart’s actions at a minor league race in New York in part resulted in the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr. and Busch’s outburst yielded a bitter, ongoing domestic assault case. Undoubtedly these were tragic episodes and in normal times would represent a major blow to the reputation of a racing series. In ‘NASCAR: A Clockwork Orange Series‘ however, punching and pandemonium are considered highly profitable past times.
Photo from sports.yahoo.com
4. Aero Kits Arrive At Long Last: For the first time in nearly a decade, dissimilar looking IndyCars will race on track in anger against one another in March, 2015. The aero kits will then be featured at every subsequent race including Indianapolis, that is until they aren’t again. The appearance of new chassis pieces including different wings will be an interesting story to track all season perhaps adding another element to the already titillating competition as intended, perhaps not. As to how attractive to the eye those Chevy and Honda kits will appear in their debut at Barber, that’s another matter.
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5. Reverend Hinchcliffe Lands at Schmidt: In the second biggest free agent signing of the year, strange bird Hinch took Pags’s former seat at SPM. The ‘ha ha’ funny Canuck also became an ordained minister via the internet in what was his second major career move of the year. He celebrated his new leaf by marrying Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Kimball, which by the way is an incredibly mean thing to do to a friend. He has no team mate himself, as of yet.
Photo from foxsports.com.au
6. Rookie Stars Gone Dark: Colombian Carlos Huertas who actually won a race in his first season in IndyCar and ‘Mad Russian’ Mikhail Aleshin (no relation to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, as they share different last names) appear to be out of rides for next season. The reasons? Increasingly erratic ‘Dollar’ Dale Coyne in the first instance and economic sanctions placed on Putin’s expansionistic Russia in the second. It’s another reason to keep an eye on the wily KGB veteran and on IndyCar’s wackiest owner, particularly around those chair lifts.
Photos from autoracing1.com and dailymail.co.uk
7. Power Maintains Sanity, Prevails Over Team Mate: In the 500 mile Fontana finale Will Power won the championship for Team Penske over Helio in fine fashion. He didn’t melt down, go ballistic on tv and blow it in spectacular fashion as we predicted (and for which we later publicly apologized). Sadly, Fontana will no longer serve as the ultimate race of the season as unbelievably unpopular Sonoma was announced as its Cali replacement. Bleech.
Photos from dailytelegraph.com.au and indysportscrew.com
8. Moving Target: In possibly the worst news of the year and an omen of IndyCar Christmases future, Target announced they were “reallocating” funds away from the series and toward NASCAR. This means TK’s car will carry different sponsorship in 2015 and Target’s presence is shrinking. Perhaps tellingly, the unwelcome news came immediately after Target celebrated their twenty fifth anniversary in the series.
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9. Foyt Grows Even Bigger: AJ Foyt Racing’s long threatened expansion to a two car team was finally announced this summer shortly after they purchased a new shop in Speedway, IN. It’s good news for many, particularly British northerner Jack Hawksworth who joins Sato and gains his first ever team mate. He also gains an owner who yells with a distinctive southern drawl.
Photo from ajfoytracing.com
10. Ed & Sarah & Wink, All in Bed Together: Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing merged to become the new CFH Racing. This creates a new two car/three driver/three owner/one owner-driver team and one that will surely be a sum greater than its parts. This was another positive development in a year driven by little team news.
11. Zany New IndyCar Site – It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas: It’s been an exciting, rewarding and fun first six months since the launch of IndyRaceReviewer, with hundreds of posts and thousands of visitors and views, despite what the blog stats may inflatedly portray – don’t believe everything you read. We’re grateful to all our readers – most especially our regulars – and look forward to even greater heights of speed and zaniness to come.
12. Beaux’s Gone, Gone, Nothing’s Gonna Bring Him Back: “Beautiful” Beaux Barfield was unceremoniously fired as director of race control by the series shortly after the conclusion of the season. The highlight of Beaux’s two year stint in the big leagues – during which he never met a camera he didn’t like – was the introduction of the infamous chicane at the rarely entertaining and now defunct Baltimore circuit. With Beaux out, Jan Beekhuis is in and sane race calls and proper enforcement can once again be expected, as the adults have resumed control of race control.
Photo from indystar.com
13. A.J. Under The Knife: Racing legend and four time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt underwent bypass surgery in Houston in November. He encountered some complications and remained in the hospital longer than either he or the staff would have liked, but happily he’s now recovering at home. We certainly hope the near octogenarian’s raring and ready to go in time for the 2015 season.
14. Verizon Didn’t Dump The Series: Desiring to end the year with some good news, we champion the status quo. IndyCar has lost a long string of series sponsors – some worthwhile and some not – over the last couple decades but now finally has a solid and well known patron in Verizon. They’ll be back with the series for another year in 2015 (or at least if they are leaving it hasn’t been announced yet). It’s wonderful that NASCAR has title sponsor troubles instead of IndyCar for a change. Have a happy and safe New Year!