Graham Rahal has the pace to take on his champion teammates at Ganassi, while Ryan Briscoe (BELOW) is expected to thoroughly repay Roger Penske’s continued faith in him.
and take what it gives him on an oval. More
importantly, Rahal excels at qualifying,
especially under the gun, and on a schedule
loaded with street and road courses that’s
invaluable. It’s a ticket to the front and
that’s where he’ll be this season.
before, applies it and supplies his team
with strong feedback. So being able to
observe close-at-hand Franchitti’s
successful title campaigns will prove
invaluable for Dixon. Don’t be surprised
to see the New Zealander take his third
ANGLES OF ATTACK
ROBIN MILLER’S PICKS
When he became the youngest winner in
Indy car history back in 2008 at the age of
19, Graham Rahal’s potential looked to be
o; the charts. He was quick, smart and way
more mature than any teenager had a
right to be. But by 2010 the economics of
the day had forced him to car hop with
five di;erent teams and he had to score
his own sponsor to land a deal with Chip
Ganassi’s second (“G2”) platoon in 2011.
It’s now been 74 races since Rahal last
visited IndyCar’s Victory Lane. He was
Finding an identity has almost been as
di;cult as securing a full-time ride for
RHR. After bouncing from team to team
for a few years between Champ Car and
the Indy Racing League, he’s finally
found a home at Andretti Autosport.
That’s why Rahal will be a championship contender in 2012.
He and engineer Martin Pare click and Rahal has been fast in
preseason testing. He’s also learned how to bring his car home
Since first getting the open-wheel
racing community’s attention in
Formula Atlantic, Ryan has always been
fast in an Indy car but, perhaps because
of the ever-changing landscape, lacked
consistency. He could be brilliant one
weekend and nowhere the next. Not any
more. He’s as fierce on an oval as he is on
a road or street circuit, he’s a darn good
qualifier and comfortable in what will be
an unprecedented third straight season
with the same team and engineer (Ryan
Gosselin), overseen by Allen McDonald.
Hunter-Reay was a little too aggressive
early on last year and had no shot at the
title but settled down and drove all the
way up to seventh in the standings. He’ll
move up this season. Way up.
ninth in last year’s point standings but that absolutely fails to
do justice to his performance. Bad strategy cost him at least one
win, maybe two and he was out-running the Target “G1” team
by season’s end.
At 31, Hunter-Reay is at the crossroads
of his career. He’ll either continue as a
good driver in a good team or become a
factor in deciding the championship
– and all signs point to the latter.
ANGLES OF ATTACK
JEFF OLSON’S PICKS
There’s a dexterity to Ryan Briscoe’s
work that lends itself to long-term
consistency, which is the first
DON’T BET AGAINST...
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO showing
her mettle and racking up several
top-five finishes. She hustles a car
like Dixon, brakes as late as
Andretti and has a resilience to ill
fortune that’s all her own. Maybe
she gets that latter quality from
HVM RACING team owner Keith
Wiggins, whose team could lead
the Lotus charge.
The Sao Paulo race being packed
to watch RUBENS BARRICHELLO
race an IndyCar for the first time
on home ground. Kanaan and
Castroneves are crazy-popular
heroes, but an ex-Formula 1 star
like Barrichello will take it to a
whole new level. Sure hope he’s
practiced his autograph.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN
when he feels he’s in the underdog
role, although we’re betting the
RACING team will shine on its
return to full-time Indy car racing.
The combination of last year’s
Indy 500 race-winning team,
BRYAN HERTA AUTOSPORT and
last year’s Indy 500 pole-winning
driver, ALEX TAGLIANI taking the
fight to the big teams at the
Brickyard and several other stops
on the IndyCar schedule.
MIKE CONWAY becoming A.J.
Foyt’s favorite Limey since Jimmy
Clark, by scoring the team’s first
win since Airton Dare’s at Kansas
in 2002. With 11 of the 16 rounds
being on road/street courses,
replacing oval specialist Vitor Meira
makes sense, and team manager
Larry Foyt has been very happy
with Conway’s pace in testing.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS showing
his class on ovals in the DRAGON
RACING team. It
may not be recent
experience, but in
starred in the Indy
500 and in ’06 he
won at the Milwaukee Mile.
SIMON PAGENAUD putting SAM
SCHMIDT RACING on the podium
in his – and the team’s – first full-time IndyCar campaign. Pagenaud
is a potentially great driver who
undeservedly fell through the
cracks when Champ Car and
IndyCar merged. His runs for
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing last year
proved he’d lost none of his pace.
Firestone Indy Lights champion
JOSEF NEWGARDEN adapting
Hinchcliffe-style to the demands of
IndyCar racing. SARAH FISHER
HARTMAN RACING had a very late
start but an 11th-hour deal with
Honda saved the day. With some
test miles under their belts, both
driver and team should be fine.