Around the Horn: April '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 (still not old, its just a joke), twitter handle @fujis123, answers labeled as RF.  
  • The boss girl herself, Gina Navarra, who runs her own site (check out her site here), twitter handle @OfficialGinaN, answers labeled as GN.  
  • From, David "D Sizzle" 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.  
  • Straight outta Iowa is my homey Kristi, twitter handle @IAIndyFan, answers labeled as KR
  • And then there is me, @Indycar_MN. Answers labeled as MH.  

1) The First Word 

James Hinchcliffe won the race, Power and Hildebrand had an awkward moment, Simona de Silvestro drove great, and so on... There were a lot of great moments from St. Petersburg that stood out. What stood out most to you?

Canada's Hinchcliffe drives to first victory with win in season opener
Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

RF: Simona's drive impressed me the most. Sucks she used up those tires near the end. But it showed once again when you give someone a chance they come through. Power did it. Hunter Reay and Hinchcliffe proved it. Simona has what it takes to join them.

GN:  Being in St. Pete the entire weekend, this was definitely one of the most unpredictable races I have ever witnessed. I had been in so much anticipation for Hinchcliffe to finally get his first win; he had such a strong car all weekend and his hard work definitely paid off. Plus, I couldn't help but think of his hero, Greg Moore after he won - I know Greg was smiling from up above last Sunday.

DB:  I think it was a tie for me between Simona and Marco.  I don't think anyone would have picked Marco to be on the podium and for Simona to be flirting with a podium.  If her tires did not let her down, she would have at least been 4th.  Nothing against Rubens, but Simona took the same car and put it in the top 5.  Marco's time in England in the off season  working with a driver coach showed that he is humble and hungry.  What a great first result for both drivers.

EM: As a long-time Simona fan, it was so satisfying to finally see her in competitive equipment!! Although she lost a few spots at the end it was really exciting to watch her hustle with shot tires.

JA: I would definitely have to say that the unveiling of the Dan Wheldon Memorial and Susie Wheldon waving the green flag on raceday!  Bravo to St. Petersburg and IndyCar for honoring a legend and his family!

MT: I think what stood out to me the most was the competitiveness of Marco Andretti. He really looked to be in top form. If he can drive like that all year, he could be a real threat.

STIG:  I'd be lying if I said Simona didn't stand out, but what else I saw was another Andretti Autosport driver (Hinchcliffe) pouncing on the Penske/Ganassi Juggernaut... now it looks like Andretti is the premier IndyCar team.

KR: The thing that stood out the most for me was all the surprises that happened over the course of the weekend. Instead of starting the season with what had been the Penske/Ganassi domination, we had a race that makes us anxious for a season where we will see lots of new faces on the podium.

MH: I just loved the action packed racing that we didn't get to see in 2012. Teams had the ability to do their homework in the offseason plus had all of last year to get in tuned with the car. This is a good sign for the 2013 season.

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

Honda will continue to struggle and will be second to Chevrolet for the remainder of the season.

Photo: LAT Photographic

RF: Sell: The crazy think with Honda is their sports car program is damn near bulletproof. The Muscle Milk Honda was just killing it at Sebring. I think Honda will step up when it counts very soon

GN: Buy. Chevy exceeded my expectations when they returned to IndyCar last season, and I am very confident that they will still have the upper edge over Honda this season. But realistically, it's still too early to tell how things will pan out for either manufacturer this season. I also do believe Honda is going to work even harder to show that they can be just as strong as Chevy.

DB: Buy.  This continues to surprise me as everything I have read says that Honda is upping their game.  Yet when qualifying and the race take place, Chevy dominates.  Chevy had 4 of the 6 in the Firestone Fast 6 and then they had 6 of the top 10 for the race.  The first 2 cars out with mechanical gremlins were Honda.  I'm not sure what is going on but they better get things figured out quickly or Chevy will wrap this up early again.

EM: Buy: I think the pressure on Honda is heavy enough that they'll figure things out in short order, but you never know. It's encouraging to see the competition with Chevy and it adds some much-needed drama!

JA: Buy, for now....But, Indianapolis is just around the corner, and the winning engine last year was a Honda...

MT: I'm buying this one. Chevy really seems to be on top of their game. I think Honda had too many years as the sole supplier that they fell a little behind.

STIG: SE;;. We've seen this before, Honda will take a look at its powerplants, take action and win races... no sweat.  Chip (Ganassi) will rejoice (as much as he's capable).

KR: Sell. Last year it seemed like Honda was behind at the beginning of the year, and then they ended up being able to battle with the Chevy engines. I think it will be the same this year. It looks like Chevy has the advantage now, but I'm sure Honda will catch up soon.

MH: Sell. Honda should not worry, they will be winning races. Yes they aren't on the same pace as Chevy right now but they will either get there or they'll win a race eventually. To early to tell which engine will be more reliable.

3) Out of Bounds (issue outside of Indycar that impacts it directly)

A Birmingham council denied funds nearing $300,000 per year for the Indycar race at Alabama. It is unknown what will happen in the future. Can Indycar afford to lose a race like Barber?

Photo: LAT Photographic

RF: Ohhhh man. Race asking a city for money in my opinion is fair. The reasoning from one of the councilmen pissed me smooth off. To pull the race card was totally unfair to the sport that has many nationalities running in it. The race makes the city of Birmingham a reported $80 million a yr. $300,000 up front for the race seems fair. If the race continues, and do plan to attend I will make sure to stay way outside of Birmingham.  

GN: IndyCar can't really afford to lose any more races, and Barber is no exception. I always enjoy IndyCar's events on  the true road courses (Barber, Sonoma, Mid-Ohio, etc.), so I would especially dislike to see a track like Barber be removed from the schedule.

DB:  I am okay with the council not spending tax payer dollars for Barber.  I am an elected town councilman for my town so I know the issues local governments are facing with continuous budget cuts from the state.  I have never been in favor of governments propping up sports businesses.  IndyCar needs to be run like a business and stand on it's own 2 feet and so does Barber.  If they need $300k then go out and find the sponsor in the Birmingham area.  Stop looking for a handout.  I think Birmingham is a good market for IndyCar to be in and I would hate to lose it but it doesn't make or break the series.  Hopefully IndyCar and Barber can work together to get the money they need.

EM: Losing the race at Barber would suck, and the most confusing part of it for me is why the council is hesitant to cough up the funds to help it happen. The area economy would get the money back twice-fold (at least) when you factor in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores etc, and they can depend on that influx of money every year if they make it tradition.

JA:  I really think losing Barber would not be good at all.  I thought the race year was great to watch, it was probably even better in person.  If Barber goes, IndyCar needs to have a similar track to fill that void...

MT:  IndyCar can't afford to ever lose a race. However, I do feel that there are plenty of great road courses out there if they could get the backing. But that is the hard part for this series. Let's just hope something can be resolved quickly.

STIG: No disrespect to Barber Motorsport Park, but yes IndyCar will be ok without it... I wouldn't like it and It wouldnt be good of course.  I think Barber will stay on the schedule anyway, they'll find more funding somewhere.

KR: Losing any race is a bad thing for Indycar right now. However, I think if we lost an oval race from the schedule it would be tougher on the series than losing a street/road course.

MH: It wouldn't be losing the race that would suck, as we could find another road course to race at. It is how we lost the race that would piss me off. Stupid council doesn't realize the benefits the race provides for the region. It is certainly more than $300K that they won't pay.

4) Final Word (conclusion)

Who do you expect to see up front at Barber including a darkhorse pick?

Photo: LAT Photographic 

RF: I expect Simona to be up front. As much, as I want to see Dinger do well I think he falls short. The darkhorse pick is going to be Vautier

GN: The obvious favorite to win at Barber is Will Power. I know he is going to bounce back after his incident at St. Pete and go for yet another win. For my darkhorse, I will have to go with Tony Kanaan. He is off to a great start this season and he is well overdue for a win!

DB:  Considering that only Helio and Will Power have won the race since they started racing there, I expect those two to be upfront.  Interesting that Dixon has finished second every year so you have to put him up there.  Other than those 3, it's wide open as to who could be up front.  My darkhorse picK: Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti

EM: I think Power will be strong at Barber again (no surprise there), and if RLL can get their sh*t together Rahal could pick up a podium.

JA: Will "I have the" Power should be near the front as expected...My dark horse pick is Simona de Silvestro.  Better team, better engine, and a great teammate in TK might be the key ingredients for a phenomenal season!

MT:  I think the front runners will be Simona, Marco, Helio, and Power. All could be strong contenders. My darkhorse is James Jakes or EJ Viso. I believe it's time for these two to shine and make people take notice.

STIG: Expect to see Will Power up front as well as Hinchcliffe, Darkhorses are Simona De Silvestro (who we might not call Darkhorse in the future) and Graham Rahal (who shows great promise at Barber).

KR: I'm going to pick the KV Racing duo of Simona and TK. At St Pete, Simona showed us that she had the talent we knew she had. The team also seems to have a better chemistry this year, and looks like they are in a better position to have several podiums and even wins this season.

MH: I'm going to be unoriginal and pick Will Power. Dark horses for the race include Vautier, Pagenaud, and Viso. I do not think we are allowed call Simona a dark horse anymore.

Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey