Around the Horn: April 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):
  • Jason Farling, Twitter handle is @JasWendFar, answers listed as JF
  • DJ Jordan, Twitter handle is @djordan3223, answers listed as DJ
  • Mathew Gruenholz, Twitter handle is @IndyCarSTIG, answers listed as STIG
  • Mitch Robinson, Twitter handle is @mitchbr2, answers listed as MR
  • Justin Mann, Twitter handle is @mannbeast, answers listed as JM
  • Michael Tressler, Twitter handle @mtressler13, answers listed as MT
  • Mike Crawford, Twitter handle @7BigMike, answers listed as MC
  • Sam Klein, Twitter handle @sklein31, answers listed as SK

1) The First Word (opening topic)

The Indycar season is finally underway! What were your impressions from the first race at St. Petersburg?

A general view of cars entering the first turn of the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 30, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida
And they're off! (Photo: Rob Foldy / Getty Images North America)

JF: I can't say that I'm very excited after St. Pete.  The move Will Power pulled on the re-start was for the birds.  He managed to take out some good cars in the process.  He was clearly the class of the field though and deserved the win.

DJ: The race at St Pete was okay. Neither great nor boring. There is always a little bit more excitement for the first race of the season. Just your average street race.

STIG: The St Pete race was pretty good, there were some exciting moments and good racing, especially at the end.  There will be better races this season though.

MR: Deceivingly competitive. There was a fair amount of passing but not as much as we're used to with this era of IndyCar. Obviously the botched restart was an eyesore, and I don't understand why you would remove double file restarts, but it was an overall decent race.

JM: The addition of Allen Bestwick to the ABC TV crew has made a world of difference. I felt like the team of Bestwick, Cheever, & Goodyear worked well together and kept the race entertaining while Sato was stinking up the show. Plus the opening piece on AJ and Takuma was a nice addition.

MT: My biggest impression after the first race is that we should have a good rookie class. They seem strong and raced hard.

MC: The first race in St Pete was pretty damn good. Everyone expects a crash on the 1st lap going into turn 1 and it didnt happen this year, thankfully. A couple of yellows that took longer then they should of is the only thing that took away from the action.

SK: It wasn't the most exciting race. I've seen better and I've seen a lot worse. The race did feature though so interesting battles throughout the field even though there wasn't much in the way of overtaking. Powers pass on Sato was impressive and it was interesting to watch drivers manage their tires. St. Pete is usually a hit or miss on excitement.

2) Buy or Sell (Buy = Agree with statement, Sell = disagree with statement)

Will Power will be leading the Indycar Championship heading into the Indy Double.

Will Power - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Will Power off to a great start this season (Photo: Rob Foldy / Getty Images North America)

JF: Buy. Power will be leading the Championship coming to Indy barring any mechanical failure.  He is by far and away the best street course racer on the Indy Car circuit and it would be hard to pick anyone better on true road courses.  I look for Hunter-Reay to give him a run for his money though!

DJ: BUY! BUY! BUY! Not only do I see Power leading the points heading into Indy, I think he wins the next 2 races.

STIG: BUY.  I think Will Power can maintain a good first half of the season, there are tracks that he runs well at between now and then.  So unless he had pretty bad luck, he should be P1 by Indy.

MR: BUY. His momentum from the end of 2013 has continued into 2014, and he would not be denied victory in St. Pete. Considering the next two races are both races he's won, I fully expect at least one more podium for number 12 before we head to 16th & Georgetown.

JM: Buy - I would be willing to bet the farm on Willy P. leading the Championship heading in to May. He may not win at Long Beach but, at Barber he is a lock. You would be crazy to bet against him.

MT: Buy. Power was strong at St. Pete and looked good. Aside from that boneheaded move on the restart of course.

MC: Buy. Will Power WILL be leding the Championship going into Indy. With 4 road and street courses before Indy, which everyone knows he pretty much owns, its almost a sure bet on this one. I see him on top at the end of the season.

SK: Buy. Will has won twice at both Long Beach and Barber and he'll be tough to beat at both races. I'll be surprised if hes not in the points lead heading into the Month of May.

3) Out of Bounds (Something impacting Indycar that is off the track)

What do you make of the lack of TV Ratings for St. Petersburg?

Photo courtesy of Indycar Media

JF: Let's be honest!  It's the Stars and not the Cars.  If you pull an average race fan off the street and ask him/her to name 5 2014 IndyCar drivers, do you think they could do it?  In my opinion, that is still the problem at hand.  Not enough fans know even a few of the drivers.  Back in the day, everyone knew Foyt, Mears, Andretti, Unser, and more!

DJ: As it is said everywhere these days, it is what it is. There is nothing that I can do about the TV ratings, so I tend not to spend too much time worrying about it. That being said, there needs to be a marketing/promotional plan between the series, the TV networks & the sponsors.

STIG: The ratings weren't a surprise, the way the race was advertised (which wasn't too often) it's not shocking to see a 0.6 rating.  I'm not saying we're DOOOOMED or not growing, growth takes time and there is a solid plan laid out for that growth. Chill out people.

MR: Not terribly surprised, really. You can reason that they went against NASCAR, March Madness, etc., but the fact is when other top racing series are nearly two months into their seasons by now, people can forget you exist. This is why IndyCar needs to move the season start forward, in my opinion.

JM: Toothless hillbillies not knowing the difference between real racing (IndyCar) and the crap the have been brainwashed in to believing is racing (NASCAR). Actually this ratings deal has me scratching my head, there is no easy fix and I am glad it's not up to me to figure out. I know this much IndyCar is crazy to try to compete against college basketball and NASCAR at the same time as was the case with St. Pete.

MT: I think it comes down to not enough promotion of the races. If you're not a fan you dont even know when the races are on.

MC: If, with Verizen jumping onboard, with their pull, can help get the word out there, it would grow.I did not see one bit of advertising anywhere on TV for the St Pete race and none so far for Long Beach. I hope someone will step up and ADVERTISE.

SK: It didn't help with NASCAR and the NCAA Tournament being on the other network channels. I don't try to lose sleep over ratings. I honestly don't think the Nielson ratings are accurate sometimes honestly. If they can include Tweets, I think the number can be upped a bit. Nevertheless, IndyCar needs to find a way to improve the ratings and the Verizon signing will help.

4) Showdown (Concluding topic)

Who do you have winning in the April races at Long Beach and Barber as well as darkhorses to watch?

Will Power - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Watch out for the usual suspects (Power, Dixon), but also keep an
eye on Munoz (Photo: Rob Foldy / Getty Images North America)

JF: I have Ryan Hunter Reay winning Long Beach and Will Power winning at Barber.  RHR has a special place inside for Long Beach and he was strong at St Pete.  As far as dark horses, I look for the Rookie, Jack Hawksworth to challenge and Mike Conway to bounce back from a disappointing race at St. Pete.  Cheers!

DJ: As I said before, Will Power will win both Long Beach & Barber. He looked extremely focused & untouchable at St. Pete. My darkhorses for Long Beach are Jack Hawksworth & Charlie Kimball (if you consider CK a darkhorse). For Barber I really look for Bourdais to run well there with a podium finish. I also think Carlos Munoz will have a top five finish at Barber.

STIG: Long Beach will see Power have a back to back victory, with Justin Wilson as the dark horse.  Barber we'll probably see Ryan Hunter Reay with the win and Pagenaud as the dark horse with a French accent.

MR: Power is so strong I don't see anyone touching him at Long Beach, and I think Scotty Dixon will finally break through at Barber and climb to the top step for the first time in Bama. TK will be strong, and I'd like to see Bourdais have better results, but a dark horse I'd look to is Jack Hawksworth. I don't think Hawk will contend for wins this early, but he's fast and Bryan Herta clearly believes in him.

JM: At Long Beach I have to go with RHR with my driver to watch being Mike Conway. At Barber, Will Power is my favorite with Charlie Kimball being my dark horse. I am also interested to see more from Mikhail Aleshin.

MT: Winners will be Power at LB and Barber. I think Rahal would be my dark horse at LB and Bourdais at Barber.

MC: For Long Beach and Barber, its hard to predict who will win, with the field being deep.  Ones to watch for, Newgarden and Munoz. Two of the young guns that are hungry and could suprise you.

SK: I think Power wins at Long Beach and Dixon ends his bridesmaid status at Barber (second in every race run there) and wins the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Mike Conway and Josef Newgarden will be my darkhorse picks.