IndyCar 2014 Primer: The Drivers

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All drivers in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series have been written about in detail already this month. But if you need a one or two-sentence breakdown of each, we’ve got that too.

Here’s a quick look through the projected field of full-season drivers (Note: the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing has not been confirmed yet, and Oriol Servia in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda is only for Rounds 2-5).

My MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada hit the Chevrolet drivers, and I hit the Honda drivers in this piece.

CHEVROLET TEAMS

TEAM PENSKE 

#2 – Juan Pablo Montoya: It’s not a matter of if the former Indy 500/CART champ can find his open-wheel stride again after seven years in NASCAR, but a matter of when.

#3 – Helio Castroneves: Last year was his best chance yet to win a series title. But was it his last? The Brazilian will do all he can to earn another shot at the crown.

#12 – Will Power: Three wins in the last five races of 2013 have made him a chic pick to be the 2014 champ. We’re not going to change their minds about that: He’s a legit threat.

CHIP GANASSI RACING

#8 – Ryan Briscoe: Steady veteran should be good for at least one trip to Victory Lane this year, but you have to think that he wants so much more in his second go-round with Ganassi.

#9 – Scott Dixon: The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion has done almost everything in his career – except pull off a successful title defense. The third time could be the charm for him.

#10 – Tony Kanaan: After finally capturing the Indy 500, TK seeks to re-establish himself as a threat on road/street courses in the car that used to belong to friend Dario Franchitti.

#83 – Charlie Kimball: For three years, he’s flown under the radar and shown step-by-step improvement. Mid-Ohio last year was a breakthrough, but can he become a week-in, week-out presence among the leaders in Year 4?

KVSH RACING/ KV/AFS RACING

#11 – Sebastien Bourdais: The four-time Champ Car titleholder showed to be as tough as he’s ever been on street circuits last year. The KV camp, hoping to prove its mettle outside the ovals, surely hopes he’ll be the same in 2014.

#17 – Sebastian Saavedra: The Colombian driver should improve upon his body of work with decent equipment at his disposal. First priority: Start further up the grid (2013 average start: 17.7).

ED CARPENTER RACING

#20 – Mike Conway (road/street): One of the most potent road racing talents in the series, he can certainly put the No. 20 car toward the front on the twisty tracks.

#20 – Ed Carpenter (ovals): Falling back to the ovals for the greater good of his team, Carpenter should still contend for solid results in his speedway appearances as he normally does.

HONDA TEAMS

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

#25 – Marco Andretti – Good, not great 2013 will improve to a great 2014 with a win or two and an improved qualifying effort.

#27 – James Hinchcliffe – More changes with new engineer, sponsor and engine manufacturer, but he should handle it well.

#28 – Ryan Hunter-Reay – It feels like a comeback year for RHR after snakebit 2013.

#34 – Carlos Munoz – Early rookie-of-the-year pick looks to build on impressive 2013 cameos.

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

#15 – Graham Rahal – Ingredients there for his best season since 2009; like Marco Andretti, must qualify better because the racing chops are there.

#16 – Oriol Servia – A welcome addition for at least four races, and he’ll probably overachieve.

DALE COYNE RACING

#18 – Carlos Huertas – Limited testing plus the small resources of DCR’s second car equal a likely uphill struggle for the Colombian rookie, assuming he will be in this seat.

#19 – Justin Wilson – A likely race winner at some point assuming he overachieves at the same level he consistently has throughout his career.

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS

#7 – Mikhail Aleshin – Has surprise potential but may take a few races to gel with the series and team.

#77 – Simon Pagenaud – Undoubtedly the biggest threat to the established “power teams” after finishing third in 2013.

A.J. FOYT RACING

#14 – Takuma Sato – Good at times in 2013, and will be better with more race finishes.

SARAH FISHER HARTMAN RACING

#67 – Josef Newgarden – Year three could see the young American sink or swim depending on how well he adjusts to team changes.

BRYAN HERTA AUTOSPORT

#98 – Jack Hawksworth – Late add to the field, but the rookie could surprise on road and street courses. Needs more polish on ovals.

NHRA: Schumacher, C. Force, Kramer No. 1 qualifiers at Phoenix

NHRA
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NHRA press release

The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Saturday as Courtney Force set both ends of the Funny Car track record at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the second of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Force took over the top spot in the category with a record run of 3.826 seconds at 335.98 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro during her second pass of the day. After recording seven No. 1 qualifiers in 2017, she is aiming for her first event victory since Houston 2016.

“That last pass today was pretty incredible, we have run well here in the past and I’m excited to be back in that top spot,” Force said. “We are hoping to turn this consistency into a win, we just have to keep being consistent on race day.”

Force is set to face off against Del Worsham in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Ron Capps sits second after a 3.844 at 330.80 in his Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T during the final pass of qualifying on Saturday. The defending Funny Car champion Robert Hight qualified 11th after a 3.927 at 329.26.

Schumacher led the category with a run of 3.649 at 334.65 in his U.S. Army dragster posted during the first qualifying session on Friday. Schumacher also set the Top Fuel national speed record at 336.57 with a time of 3.667 seconds during his second pass on Friday. After securing four No. 1 qualifiers in the 2017 season, Schumacher locked in his first of the year in day two of qualifying.

“We earned our three points and kept the top spot so it’s been a great weekend for us so far,” Schumacher said. “The car continues to be great and [crew chief] Mike Neff is comfortable and knows what the car is doing, so I think tomorrow is going to be great day.”

He will go head-to-head against Greg Carrillo in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Steve Torrence qualified second after a 3.665 at 331.45 in his Capco Contractors dragster, while the defending world champion Brittany Force qualified in the 14th spot.

In Pro Stock, Kramer took over the top spot after driving to a 6.522 at 210.80 run in his American Ethanol Dodge Dart during the fourth qualifying session of the weekend. He secured the first No. 1 qualifying position of his career as Kramer also chases his first-ever victory in the class.

“It feels great to get that first No. 1 qualifier, and we had a great package put together this weekend and that was able to move us to the top,” Kramer said. “There were definitely some tuning adjustments from Pomona, but we went back to our old game plan with that KB power and it was a great combination.”

Kramer matches up against Alan Prusiensky in the first round of eliminations. Erica Enders is second in the qualifying order after a 6.527 at 209.98, while Alex Laughlin sits in the third spot.

Eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph vs. 16. Greg Carrillo, 4.227, 220.91; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85 vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.089, 281.30; 3. Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23 vs. 14. Brittany Force, 3.828, 253.52; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.679, 334.15 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.809, 318.77; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 6. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45  vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 328.78; 7. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 332.59 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 325.85; 8. Antron Brown, 3.712, 333.66 vs. 9. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Kebin Kinsley, 5.118, 136.79; 18. Terry Totten, 8.158, 69.73; 19. Terry Haddock, 10.095, 91.23.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.826, 335.98 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 5.089, 173.99; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.844, 330.80 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.845, 332.43 vs. 14. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.864, 332.51 vs. 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.120, 307.79; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.866, 317.27 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 329.91 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.927, 329.42; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.919, 324.20 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.00 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.663, 207.94; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.527, 209.98 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.529, 209.59 vs. 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 209.69; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.530, 211.66 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.82; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.531, 211.03 vs. 12. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 210.60 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.553, 210.14; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.534, 211.63 vs. 10. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.550, 210.41; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.542, 210.05 vs. 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.550, 211.39.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Joey Grose, 6.720, 206.64.