Around the Horn: May 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):

  • Mike Knapp, Twitter handle is @15daysinmay, answers listed as MK
  • Ryan Loecker, Twitter handle is @bohicawarriors, answers listed as RL
  • Kent Mueller, Twitter handle is @kentopenwheels, answers listed as KM
  • James Alban, Twitter handle is @TheKing0fSwing, answers listed as JA
  • Dylan Tilbury, Twitter handle is @Dylan_TLR, answers listed as DT
  • Parker Hall, Twitter handle is @parkerhall88, answers listed as PH
  • Mathew Gruenholz, Twitter handle is @IndyCarSTIG, answers listed as STIG
  • Me, Twitter handle is @Indycar_MN, answers listed as MH

1) The First Word (opening topic)

The Month of May is here! There's a lot of things to look forward to! What is the one thing that you're most looking forward to?

Indianapolis, May, Kurt Busch, and lots of racing. What's not to love?! (Photo: Chris Owens / Indycar Media)

MK: Outside of the race (of course) I'm looking forward to the new qualifying rules. While I loved the "old" way of doing things, I'm looking forward to seeing the strategy part of it, and also will be interested in seeing how the extra level of pressure will affect the drivers.

RL: Memorial Day weekend is always a highlight for me as a race fan. Grand Prix of Monaco in F1, Coca Cola 600 in NASCAR and the running of the Indianapolis 500 of course. What makes it even better this year is that my Dad is flying in from Phoenix to spend the weekend!

KM: I'd have to say for starters, the Grand Prix. Secondly, Kurt Busch making his debut, I think he will be a flying rocket come Memorial Day Weekend.

JA: Seeing familiar faces and meeting new IndyCar friends! There are a lot of quality people in the IndyCar family, I hope to have a chance to talk with a lot of them!
DT: There is a lot to look forward to this Month. Kurt Busch, Sage Karam, the Indy GP and the Indy 500. Until the new car the 500 had been pretty dull from 2007-2010 but Wheldon's win in 11 and the more exciting races of the last two seasons have me pretty excited for this race. Indy GP is interesting because it's the first time we'll see the new Indycar race on a larger road course.

PH: I am most excited for the GP of Indy. I hope that this race will become a new tradition for the month of May. Much like the Par 3 Challenge at the Masters it will never be as prestigious, but still has the potential to be special and provide entertainment to the fans.

STIG: Seeing all of my fellow race fan friends and mingling with the drivers. The month of May is about the Indy 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the fan interaction is what keeps it thriving.

MH: I cannot wait for a month of great racing. Adding the Grand Prix of Indy can only help. I love chilling in the afternoon watching Indy 500 practice online, leading up to qualifying weekend! The races should be fantastic.

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

Tony Kanaan will repeat at the Indianapolis 500, winning for a second straight season.

Tony Kanaan - Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
TK in red in May. Good combo? We'll see (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

MK: Sell. As much as I love TK, there's a reason only three guys (Bill Vukovich, Al Unser, Helio Castroneves) have gone back-to-back in the last 60-plus's damn hard. So many things have to go right, and if the race is like last year with lead changes and passing, lots of things have to fall your way in the last couple of laps. TK will be in that shootout but there are just too many variables to win, let alone do it two years in a row against such a competitive field.

RL: Sell: No real rhyme or reason but numbers don’t bode well for back to back wins. The last person to win back to back was Helio in 2001 and 2002 and the last person prior to that was Al Unser in 1970 and 1971.

KM: Sell, Tony hasn't really been up to speed with the Ganassi team, this showed at Barber in the previous race. He did sit down with his engineer though in between Long Beach and Barber. Hopefully we could see a repeat, I like him as a darkhorse but not a winner.

JA: Sell...Although I hate to say that. There are a lot of contenders in this field thus far. With so many talented drivers, its difficult to repeat now at Indianapolis.
DT: Sell- But this could go either way. I think/hope the 500 will be really competitive this year so it is hard to pick one true favorite. Kanaan should have a good chance as he'll have Ganassi equipment which has done very well at Indy.

PH: Sell, the competitiveness at the 500 is higher than ever… I think it will be tough for Kanaan to win two in a row with so many other talented drivers out there. I would not be surprised if we see a first-time 500 winner.

STIG: Sell. It's difficult to win just one, but back to back? He'll have 32 other drivers vying for P1, it's possible that he can do it , but massively difficult.

MH: Buy. Fact 1) Tony Kanaan is in a powerful Ganassi car this year, Fact 2) Ganassi now uses Chevrolet engines, which seems to be ahead of Hondas on ovals, and Fact 3) Tony Kanaan is Tony Kanaan, meaning he will likely run up front regardless of how good his car is. I see him repeating for sure.

3) Out of Bounds (something outside of Indycar impacting it)

Dollar General, former sponsors of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, is now sponsoring Jacques Villeneuve. Do you think critics of them jumping ship have a fair argument, or do you not see this as a big issue?

Dollar General switches from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to Schmidt Peterson
Racing with Jacques Villeneuve (Photo: Chris Ownes / Indycar Media)

MK: As I've stated so many times before, I don't know much about the business side of the sport and frankly am not really interested in that. Sponsors move around all the time, so I don't see the outrage. What I do see is a business that is spending seven figures in Cup still finds the Indy 500 worth another big investment. This is the big leagues of racing, no one "deserves" a sponsor or "deserves" a ride, everyone goes out and gets what they can get. Is it fair? No, but business never is.

RL: Not a big issue. Dollar General is free to sponsor who they want. Jacques had driven with them as a sponsor before in the Brickyard 400 so relationship was already there. Not to mention, he won the Indy 500 in 1995.

KM: I don't really see this as an issue because whatever pays the bills pays them. It's a business decision and those can be hard sometimes.

JA: I would say its a fair argument. SFHR has come a long way over the past 2 seasons. I think DJ Newgy and co. are on the rise in this series, tough to do with a small team!
DT: I am fine with the criticism though I am personally not that upset about it. They're only doing one race rather than the full season. However it is odd; when I think Dollar General I do not think Jaques Villenuve. They did run with him in Nationwide however so that is probably where the relationship was born. Somehow.

PH: I don’t really see this as a big issue, motorsports sponsorship is all about cost-benefit, Dollar General probably believes that there will be more eyes (and stories) on Villeneuve during this race. We should be happy that Dollar General is still involved in the IndyCar Series and hope this will provide segue into a fulltime sponsorship again.

STIG: It's no use crying over spilled milk... (THAT VILLENEUVE HAS DRANK). He is a big name at Indy and Dollar General has a limited IndyCar budget, it's their decision and they chose Jacques. People can get over it.

MH: America is home of economic freedom. Businesses are welcome to do as they please. Anyone getting bent out of shape over one business taking their sponsorship dollars to another team really need to reevaluate themselves. We should be happy that Dollar General is back.

4) Showdown (conclusion)

Time for picks! Who do you have winning at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and winning the Indianapolis 500? Drivers to watch?

Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe - Texas Motor Speedway - Day 2
Three drivers to watch for sure are James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, pictured
together here in 2012 (Photo: Donald Miralle / Getty Images North America)

MK: I have to go with Will Power for the GP. Though he only has one win to show for it, he's been pretty dominant. Outside of WP, I would love to see Justin Wilson win. For some reason I just think it would fit. For the 500, I'm going with James Hinchcliffe. As I posted in my blog, just like TK he will be my yearly favorite until he wins.

RL: Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner- Scott Dixon (time for champ to flex his muscle) Indianapolis 500 winner- Juan Pablo Montoya (very strong there in NASCAR, won 500 in 2000) Drivers to Watch- Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato.

KM: Grand Prix winner I have Juan Pablo Montoya due to his former experiences on the Indy RC in Formula One. Darkhorse pick for the GP for me is Martin Plowman. Winning the 500, I have to go with the popular pick, Marco Andretti. This year is the year he finally breaks through and breaks the Andretti Family curse.

JA: I think for the #GPofIndy Will "I have the" Power gets it done. For the #Indy500 I'll go with Marco "Polo" Andretti. Keep an eye on Martin "Mr. Le Mans" Plowman and Kurt "The Outlaw" Busch, those two are great behind ANY wheel!
DT: Hinchcliffe won three times last year, so I'll take him for the GP. For the 500 I want Kurt Busch, so I'll pick him. In reality I think any of the AA drivers will have an excellent shot at winning both races.

PH: . I have a feeling this year will be dominated by Ganassi and Penske… So I’m going with some safe picks with Briscoe winning the GP of Indy and Will Power winning his first Indy 500 and Roger Penske’s 16th.

STIG: GP of Indy, I'll take Newgarden with his first win, Indy 500 I'll take James Hinchcliffe fulfilling his dream at Indy!

MH: For the Grand Prix of Indy, I have Ryan Briscoe winning, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal as drivers to waatch. Hawksworth would be my darkhorse. At Indy, I have Tony Kanaan winning, with Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Hunter-Reay as my drivers to watch. Darkhorses at Indy would be Sage Karam, Justin Wilson, and Townsend Bell.

Please let us know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey