Around the Horn: March 2014

Around the Horn is back for another installment! Around the Horn is a show that airs on ESPN, where a panel of journalists discuss sports related issues. I have assembled a panel to discuss Indycar issues once a month. Your job as the reader is to share your opinions with anyone you agree/disagree with! Please make your voice heard! Here is this month's panel (make sure to give them all a follow on Twitter):
  • Tyler Duke, Twitter handle is @indycarpeggio, answers listed as TD
  • James Alban, Twitter handle is @TheKing0fSwing, answers listed as JA
  • Mathew Gruenholz, Twitter handle is @IndyCarSTIG, answers listed as STIG
  • Dyaln Tilbury, Twitter handle is @Dylan_TLR, answers listed as DT
  • Rick Snodie, Twitter handle is @rickfromwi, answers listed as RS
  • Michael Tressler, Twitter handle @mtressler13, answers listed as MT
  • James Sedlmayr, Twitter handle @DFD827, answers listed as JS
  • And then there's me, answers listed as MH

1) The First Word (opening topic)  

J R Hildebrand - Edmonton Indy - Day 2
Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America

If you remember last month, the first line of question one was 'The fued is over!' Well, guess what?! The feud back! What is your take on John Barnes suing Indycar and Bobby Rahal over the National Guard sponsorship?

TD: I have been reluctantly relinquishing my Panther fandom... They were my favorite team from the Pennzoil days, however it's hard to cheer for a team who keeps not only shooting themselves in the foot, but everyone around them. Of course there are always two sides to a story but in my opinion the recent lawsuit was the absolute wrong choice - If they had any chance of landing sponsors, that chance is likely gone now.

JA: I'll hit this topic with a #HOP or hold on player... The entire lawsuit seems laughable, and I think most judges would agree on that..Good luck with that Mr. Barnes... Case dismissed!

STIG: John Barnes had a good thing going, and another good thing, and another good thing and he doesn't seem to understand the value of those good things.  One might say he's millions of dollars off the value.  RLL presented a better opportunity and perks for the National Guard, Barnes got bettered and now he's throwing a childish, legal fit.  Rahal for the win.

DT: The lawsuit is not good for Indycar or RLL at all. It puts the entire National Guard sponsorship at risk and that is unacceptable. Indycar desperately needs National Guard so I really hope this suit goes away before any lasting harm is done.

RS: I do not know any details of Barnes lawsuit, but unless there was something underhanded going on it seems petty. We don't need it. A sponsor wants a return on their investment; Hopefully RLL can deliver.

MT: This is something I have tried to stay away from. I do believe it's unfortunate and not the kind of publicity IndyCar needs. I just hope it gets resolved in a civil manner.

JS: My first take on JB's lawsuit is not safe for all ages so I'll keep it to myself. The reality is that JB is ruining ANY interested future potential team sponsors from signing on the dotted line. JB, just take your issues, garbage, ignorance and go home, also, pay your employees on your way out of the door!!

MH: I think John Barnes is the biggest cock in the Indycar paddock besides Tony George. Those two should go out for coffee sometime. Nothing says 'MURICA like suing someone after you lose; It's a business tactic but it ultimately won't work and Panther will be off the grid.

2) Buy or sell (buy = agree with statement, sell = disagree)

Jacques Villeneuve - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - Day 1
He's back! (Photo: Tom Pennington / Getty Images North America)

Jacques Villeneuve is a legitimate contender to win the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

TD: Sell. Having seen his driving style lately, it will not translate well to the Indy 500 (see finish of Nationwide race at Circuit Giles Villenueve 2012 for an example). My prediction is a struggle to get up to speed, if there is bumping he may be in trouble.

JA: Sell... Perhaps a top ten finish if some decent luck runs his way.  There are too many other contenders out there to win Indianapolis....

STIG: SELL. He still has a ton of talent, but his arrogance has caused him to lose focus and races late in his racing career.  He is going in with a good team (Schmidt/Peterson), but he will have some of the best in present times to contend with.  He'll have a good showing, but fall short.

DT: Sell. I do not dislike Villeneuve as much as some, but I doubt he will be competitive. Although he is a former winner Villeneuve is more of a road course driver, and in recent years so has Sam Schmitt's team. I do not think they will be especially competitive during the 500, but there is a slight chance Villeneuve will surprise us.

RS: Sell. He has no experience in a DW12. If he was running on a road course I would say he has a chance after seeing him race a stock car around Road America, but the 500? Not sold.

MT: Sell. While he has been a strong racer in the past,  I feel he has been out of a car too long to be a legitimate contender.

JS: Buy, Jacques just isn't going to get into "any" car. He is going to get in a well built car, with a team who has had recent success at Indy and get A LOT of laps prior to the race. Plus he is doing this for his sons, so you know he will be laying it on the line.

MH: Buy. I just feel like Jacques is one of those guys who can we any car he jumps into. I am not worried about Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports bringing they're game; I am worried about Honda bringing their game. Given the right tools, Jacques is in fact a legitimate contender.

3) Out of Bounds (topic outside Indycar that has an impact on it)

The last time we had a third engine manufacturer, well... (Photo: Indycar Media)

News has come that says Cosworth is looking for a partner to start an Indycar program with. What is your reaction to this report?

TD: Due to Kevin Kalkhoven owning Cosworth, it will be interesting to likely see KV racing as the flagship team. As far as an OEM to allign with them, I'm going to predict Toyota. They are still involved with Indycar through their sponsorship of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and if they are able to get support from a competitive manufacturer, I think the time is right for them to come back.

JA: The chance of another power plant in the series is exciting to me!  I do wish Lotus would've been more successful during their brief tenure.  But I think if Cosworth gets onboard, things will get very interesting!

STIG: Cosworth back would be a great thing, that is if they actually intend on putting a full on effort into it (*cough* sLOwTUS).  This could bring back Ford or even dare I say Dodge/SRT possibly into the open wheel series.

DT: The best case scenario is Ford partnering with Cosworth. I know Ford denies it, but that does not mean necessarily mean much. My one concern is the lack of competitiveness out of recent Cosworth racing efforts. Can they build a competitive Indycar engine?

RS: I was excited to hear that news. I think another engine choice that is competitive would help the series. Last season was one of the best ever with all the first time winners and so many different winners. If aerokits become reality that can enhance the racing then another choice would be even better.

MT: I would love to see Cosworth in IndyCar. In my opinion another manufacturer would be great for the series. Let's just hope it's not a bust like Lotus.

JS: First reaction... Yippee Ki Yay Mother Trucker!! Not that I am a KK fan, its that I would love to see the blue oval of Ford back in the game. IndyCar needs three engine packages to being successful out of the Die Hard fans.

MH: It is absolutely vital for a third manufacturer to come to Indycar ASAP! I really don't mind who partners with Cosworth between the candidates (Toyota, Volkswagon, Audi, Mazda, and Ford), I just want another one to join Indycar!

4) Showdown (concluding topic)

Will Power of Australia drives the #12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet during practice for the IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 22, 2013 in St Petersburg, Florida.
Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America

The next ATH will be published after the first Indycar race at St. Petersburg. Who is your pick to win and who is your darkhorse pick?!

TD: Winner - Ryan Hunter-Reay. Andretti seems to have a bead on how to win at St. Pete. Darkhorse (is there such a thing with how competitive the series is??) - Josef Newgarden. St. Pete has been good to first-time winners, and I think Josef could be the one to pull it off.

JA: I'll go with the Iceman (Scott Dixon) who will cometh to victory lane!  The darkhorse of the event is Justin "time for racing" Wilson!

STIG: I'd have to say that Will Power will take the win in the season opener and I'll take Josef Newgarden's hair as the darkhorse.

DT: My pick is James Hinchcliffe. He won the race last year at St. Pete and is my pick for the championship, so long as Honda and Andretti are strong. A driver at Penske/Ganassi can never be a true darkhorse but since a lot of people seem to expect Montoya to struggle I will pick him.

RS: My pick to win is Will Power. I think after a somewhat disappointing year he will bounce back. A true dark horse would be an underdog, but I will take TK. He hasn't won there yet and with the new team he could.

MT: TK is my pick to win. I think he comes out of the gate swinging. Bourdais is my dark horse pick. I think this is the year we see him back on top of the podium.

JS: I'm really stoked for the start of this year's IndyCar season, mainly because I will be in St. Pete for the race and it will be my first ever non-oval race!! Race Winner: Helio makes up for last year's late re-start mistake and brings home the W!!  Dark horse: Sebastian Bourdias shows us the stuff not only he has, but KV Racing as well.

MH: My pick to win is Helio Castroneves. He has always been strong on the streets of St. Petersburg and was close to winning again last season. My darkhorse is Takuma Sato.

Share your thoughts with us! Thanks to the panel for taking the time to answer the questions.

-Matthew Hickey