Around the Horn: Offseason '13

In a continuation of the series Mike Tressler and myself founded (mostly him), here is another installment of Around the Horn Indycar edition. This is based off of the ESPN show Around the Horn, which brings on a bunch of journalists who discuss issues in sports. We fill focus on all things Indycar. Make sure you tweet to the participants if you agree/disagree with them! Here is this months panel!

  • From, Ross "Old Man Ross" Fujibayashi (he is not old, its just a joke), twitter handle @fujis123, answers labeled as RF
  • The Gal who needs no intro, Gina Navarra, who runs her own site (check out her site here), twitter handle @OfficialGinaN, answers labeled as GN
  • From, David Bolton, twitter handle @davidindycar, answers labeled as DB
  • A kick ass individual in Emily Mugan, twitter handle @emrymalee, answers labeled as EM
  • The Swingmaster himself, James Alban, twitter handle @TheKing0fSwing, answers labeled as JA
  • Co-Founder of Around the Horn Michael Tressler, twitter handle @mtressler13, answers labeled as MT
  • The STIG. Nothing more, nothing less. Mathew Gruenholz, twitter handle @IndycarStig, answers labeled as STIG
  • And then there is me. @Indycar_MN is the game, Hickey is the name. Answers labeled as MH.

1) The First Word (The main topic of the offseason)

Jay Penske did not resign Katherine Legge and chose instead to replace her with Sebastian Saavedra. Jay and Dragon Racing have received a lot of flak for this move. Do you agree or disagree with the move?

Katherine Legge with Jay Penske at the 2012
Indianapolis 500 (Photo: LAT Photographic)

RF: To an outsider: Total dick move. To me: Business is business She isn't the first nor the last this happens too. When money's tight as it is now, we will see more and more of this

GN: I disagree with the move. Given all the changes that the team itself went through last season especially with the transition from Lotus to Chevrolet, keeping her with the team for at least another season would have allowed her to have a better chance for her to showcase her talent!

DB: I agree with this move. Katherine was unimpressive and would be way behind on road/street as she raced mostly on ovals. I think it could have been handled in a more professional matter but these things happen and if TrueCar was behind it, you have to do what the sponsor wants. TrueCar has put their money behind a young, talented driver and can expand their reach into the Hispanic market.

EM: I disagree with what happened, but my beef is mostly with TrueCar. Katherine (understandably) had a rough first year. She was certainly not "empowered" by the time-share situation and Lotus engine, so I feel like denying her an additional CONTRACTED season is pretty shady. It's impossible to know what forces and deals were really behind the move, maybe Dragon is more to blame, but it certainly won't help TrueCar. It's never a good sponsor model to alienate the fans you spent a season acquiring. I'm a long-time fan of Ashley Freiberg (whom it seems they are at least partially supporting this year) but you will never see me using their service.

JA: I would have to disagree with Dragon Racing on releasing Katherine Legge. She should have been given a chance to run full time this season, especially having Chevrolet onboard full time. Bad call Jay Penske, bad call...

MT: From a moral standpoint I disagree. from a business standpoint I understand the move. Saavedra brings in more money and more sponsors from Colombia. It makes sense. However TrueCar should not have been retained due to Legge putting effort into them during the off season.

STIG: I don't know the specifics of the contract, but from the surface it looks like Kat got hosed. Jay hasn't been known for his rational or intelligent decisions and with Legge's pretty impressive showing at the 2012 IndyCar finale in California, one would think "Hey, she's improving!" Her sponsor TrueCar bolting is very disappointing as well... I'm disagreeing with the decision.

MH: I completely agree with the move, but I do not agree with how the move was executed. Legge has not shown enough success in her seasons in Champ Car and Indycar that would warrant a full time deal. But violating a contract was a bit out of line by Jay Penske.

2) Buy or Sell (Buy = agree, sell = disagree)

Graham Rahal will be more successful racing for his dad than he did at Chip Ganassi Racing.

Graham (left) and Bobby (right) Rahal teammed up for the
2010 Indianapolis 500 (Photo: AP)

RF: Buy: At Ganassi, him and Kimball were in my opinion the junior varsity team at CGR. Now there will be focus on him and Jakes, keep in mind Sato showed a lot of speed in those RLL cars last season.

GN: Buy. He will have the opportunity to be the "face" of his new team, which was something that he wasn't able to be at Ganassi because of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti being the top two drivers there. Plus, with his dad as his boss, he will be more motivated to do well and get the results he wants.

DB: I'm buying this. Graham was a third wheel on Ganassi's team and now he will be the top dog at RLL. He will win at least 1 race this year and I expect him to be top 7 in points. I look for him to be the next big thing in IndyCar once Kanaan, Franchitti and Helio retire.

EM: I'll buy it. My impression is that they're a pretty tight-knit family and that could work to their advantage.

JA: Buy! Two Rahals on the same team, you can't go wrong! I would expect Graham to make some noise this season!

MT: Buy. I could compare it to Marco driving for his dad. Will the effort be there driving for his dad or will he sandbag it? Only time will tell, but I don't see Graham being one to sandbag. I hope this is a good move for him.

STIG: Buying! Seeing the success Sato had with the team in 2012, you know it's a good team. Now with Graham in the comfort of his father's team, I think some pressure is off and he can really concentrate on winning... and he will win in 2013.

MH: Buy. I expect Graham Rahal to win a couple races this season if luck decides to go his way.

3) Out of Bounds (discussing issues outside of Indycar that impacts Indycar)

The catch fence is back in the spotlight following the crash in the Nationwide race at Daytona. Does something need to be changed with the fencing?

Scary finish to the Drive 4 COPD 300 Nationwide race at Daytona
which saw Kyle Larson slam into the catch fence, injuring
19 spectators (Photo: David Graham / AP)

RF: I think it does. I explained to friend of mine on Facebook and at work, that this needs to be addressed, and it's something that has been questioned since Oct. 16, 2011. What do they do and where do they go from here is the big question.

GN: It's not the fencing that needs to be changed, and I wouldn't even say that the car itself needs to be changed either. Things like what happened last weekend are rare occurrences, and I'm still very confident that the DW12 chassis will continue to provide the safest racing experience possible this season.

DB: This all comes down to money and in the current economic crisis I don't see any changes. Who is going to pay for it? I look at this from an old-school perspective that fans and drivers face the possibility of death at every race they attend. As a person, every time I get in a automobile to drive down the street, I could die from an auto accident. We don't ask the car manufacturers to do everything to keep people from dying on the streets so why do it at the track? It costs way too much money and no one is footing that bill.

EM: I think we should always be improving safety for both fans and drivers. Unfortunately, big changes only seem to happen to when people die or tracks face huge liability issues. The technology is certainly there to improve catch-fencing, and from my understanding there is ongoing R&D, but I don't see tracks footing the bill to update it at this point.

JA: Yes....I think IMS and the University of Nebraska might be called upon to research and develop a new fence or reinforce the current catch fencing. Something needs to be done...

MT: This one is tough. You could build it higher, but how long before something flys higher over the fence. Build it stronger at the risk of the drivers getting their cars tore up worse and injuring them. A touchy subject that can only be tested one way unfortunately.

STIG: Catch Fence:The Never Ending Story part 4. (Watching a press conference on the fencing issue as I type) There are alternatives to the current catch fence, spending money to do something about it is what's keeping tracks/series from doing anything. I could show you sketches of ideas of alternative catch fencing all day, but who will actually implement or research anything. I've heard "We've had meetings on the fencing" "We're looking forward" "We're talking about it" but never hearing "WE'RE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT..." Wait for fans to die before anything is done. (sad but true)

MH: I think people need to rethink this whole plexi glass idea. All plexi glass do would cause a car to bounce off of it at a high rate of speed and it would deflect back into the racing line putting it in further danger. The fencing model needs to be rethinked, but extensive research needs to be done with the fence and the plexi glass idea before anything is implemented.

4) Showdown (concluding question)

Who wins the opening race at St. Petersburg?

Start of the 2012 Indycar Season (Photo: LAT Photographic)

RF: Scott Dixon.

GN: I have a feeling that Ryan Hunter-Reay will be the one to win the season opener!

DB: I'm going to be bold and pick Simon Pagenaud to win his first race in IndyCar and the first race of the season. He has a teammate now and with one year under his belt, watch out because he is going to be even faster this year.

EM: TK! Would love to see him start the season off strong after having so much bad luck last year.

JA: 2013 St. Pete winner shall be....Ryan Hunter-Reay...

MT: I think Will Power comes out of the gate swinging this year. After losing the championship 3 years in a row, I think he comes out and dominates this year.

STIG: Ryan Hunter-Reay will keep his momentum and take the race win, but look for the dark horse Bourdais to maybe prove me wrong. Overall, it's the start of the 2013 IndyCar season, so the FANS truly will win.

MH: I am going with either Simon Pagenaud or Graham Rahal.

Let us all know what you are thinking!