Adam on IndyCar: Back on track

Everyone will be chasing defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay when the new IndyCar season opens this Sunday in St. Pete's. (CP/Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

All sports fans hate layoffs. As we finish watching the Grey Cup or the Super Bowl, we’re already thinking about “next year” and whether our team will get those elusive lucky breaks to allow them to win the big prize.

We watch draft boards and rumours for even the smallest sliver of news about acquisitions that might help build team strength. Training camps and practices are scrutinized for anything — anything to reduce our anxiety and impatience for the start of the season.

For race fans, your IndyCar season is about to start.

Tune into the opening race of the 2013 IndyCar season, live from St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 24. Coverage begins on Sportsnet at 11:30 a.m. ET / 8:30 a.m. PT. | Full 2013 IndyCar schedule

In the six long months since the finale of the 2012 season, all of the teams have been as busy as those proverbial bees (or Canadian beavers). Teams that won last year know that they can’t rest on their laurels or else they’ll be looking at the podium, watching the teams that did get out to test and refine their cars.

Don’t forget that the current generation Indy car is still relatively new — both chassis and engine — and like everything else, can only get better with refinement. Do you think that Roger Penske gained his winning reputation by running an average team? Do you think that he raced his car just as it was delivered by the builder? You get my point.

Since Ryan Hunter-Reay stood on the podium to accept his championship trophy, all the teams, including his, have been out testing, endlessly searching for that new part or setup to allow them to go just a little faster than anyone else. One thing has become blatantly apparent — that as close and as competitive as last year was, this year should be even better! Times from the various tracks have been incredibly competitive and even faster than last year.

Despite winning the championship, Hunter-Reay immediately focused not on where they won, but where they lost. He looked back at the high-speed tracks, including the crown jewel Indy 500, mystified and frustrated by his lack of speed. Instead of bathing in the glow of victories like Toronto, he was already thinking of what the team had to do to get even better for this season — the mark of a champion!

Of course, every driver in the series wants to be crowned “Champion” — some with more realistic aspirations than others. For the 2013 season, Canadian fans will have at least two Canadians to cheer on: Alex Tagliani and James Hinchcliffe.

Tagliani brings a wealth of open-wheel experience along with his speed and might just be the hardest-working driver in the series. He’s open to suggestions and is ready to do anything that might benefit him or his team.

The younger Hinchcliffe may not have the years Tagliani has under his belt, but he makes up for it with the blazing speed of a natural driver. Fast but cautious and intelligent beyond his years, he also has the advantage of a teammate who is a champion. Both are drivers to watch!

Back in the mid-1990s when this series was called CART, it arguably might have been the best series in the world — not only by my standards, but by many in all forms of motorsports, including some in Formula 1. The combination of truly exceptional drivers like Zanardi, Mansell, Andretti and even Canada’s own Paul Tracy; multiple engine designs from Toyota, Honda, Mercedes Benz and Ford; different chassis designs from Lola and Reynard; along with the fact that the races were held on street courses, pure road courses, small ovals, super speedways and even airport circuits, brought amazing, breathtaking racing to us.

And guess what, fans? It’s coming back!

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