Does Ganassi, Penske or Andretti have IndyCar’s best lineup?

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Between Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport, the three pre-eminent IndyCar Series teams now have 11 of the 21 cars confirmed for the 2014 season.

The better question, now that each has its lineup confirmed, is whose is best?

A few things to consider for each:

CHIP GANASSI RACING

  • KNOWNS: Scott Dixon is widely considered the best all-around driver in the series, Tony Kanaan remains one of the best on ovals, Ryan Briscoe is technically savvy and makes few mistakes, and Charlie Kimball is an emerging star.
  • UNKNOWNS: TK’s road and street course qualifying has been off of late, and how he’ll work with Chris Simmons engineering remains to be seen. Briscoe, back in the Ganassi fold full-time for the first time since 2005, should be more consistent but needs to maximize the machinery at his disposal more regularly. Kimball’s qualifying needs to continue to improve, as it did in 2013. How will Dixon and Kimball adjust to the Chevrolet powerplant is another question.

TEAM PENSKE

  • KNOWNS: Will Power remains a beast on road and street courses, and has seriously upped his oval game. Helio Castroneves has calmed down since this new car was introduced and posted two great back-to-back seasons.
  • UNKNOWNS: Juan Pablo Montoya. Is he going to be great, average, adequate or underwhelming? Can Power win consistently on ovals? Can Castroneves ever take home the title?

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

  • KNOWNS: Ryan Hunter-Reay is a champion and should resume title contention with better luck. James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and rookie Carlos Munoz are three of the most exciting drivers to watch.
  • UNKNOWNS: Can the team shake off the lackluster second half of 2013 with improved reliability? Will Hinchcliffe mesh with his third different engineer in as many years? Will Andretti win races (plural)? Will Munoz pull a “Montoya ‘99” in starring in his first full year?

It’s mouth-watering to think of the battles between these three teams next year.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne