IndyCar must address key questions for 2015

Will Power finally got the monkey off his back, winning the 2014 IndyCar series championship. (Will Lester/AP)

Now that the 2014 IndyCar season has wrapped up, there are both reasons to celebrate and ask several questions. We praise Will Power for capturing his first series title, the fact that 11 different drivers won races this year and that the overall competition was exciting to watch. But there are also a lot of unanswered questions about the future of certain teams and the series itself. Here’s hoping the answers we want to hear arrive soon.

It was a tremendous job by Power to exorcise his demons and come through in the clutch to claim the title. It was also a strong year for the entire Penske organization, with their drivers finishing first, second and fourth overall in the standings. A very impressive team effort but you have to wonder how many times Helio Castroneves can finish second and still be so upbeat and positive. Will he ever win the championship?

Ed Carpenter brought in Mike Conway to race on road courses while he ran the ovals in their single car team and it worked beautifully. The combined effort gave the team three race victories. The team will merge with Sarah Fisher’s outfit with driver Josef Newgarden for next season, which should give all involved another boost.

This past season wasn’t as good for some others. It was a season of frustration for Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who seemed poised for a breakout year after three wins in 2013. Whether it was mechanical failure, being collected in an incident or even being taken out by a teammate, bad luck always seemed to find him.

Hinch’s Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay did have the high of winning the Indianapolis 500, however he went into an awful drought after that. He looked a challenger for the championship in the first part of the year, but fell to sixth overall in the end.

It’s no coincidence that the top four drivers in the championship all drove Chevrolets. Honda teams seemed a little behind as the year went on and they have some work to do this off-season.

Moving forward, there are a lot of questions that require answers for teams, drivers and even the series. When will we have a race schedule? How many races will there be? What will be the final decision on the Honda Indy Toronto? These are some of the most important concerns that require answers very soon.
I’ve been told the Toronto issue should be resolved within a few weeks at the most. If I were to make a prediction right now, I’d say the event leaves the CNE grounds and moves to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next summer.

While some events have been officially announced, there are still a number of others up in the air. St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Detroit, Texas and the month at Indianapolis are all set but the rest is still shifting in the sand. This is troubling to me because when I had a chance to talk with Roger Penske earlier this year, he said one of the most important things for the series going forward is race date equity (being consistent by holding the same events on the same weekends every year) and that seems to be happening for only a few events. The good news is there’s a new title sponsor arrangement for the series in Verizon, and hopefully more of these types of deals are coming.

On the track, Graham Rahal had an awful year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the team is losing its lucrative sponsorship deal. How will they survive moving forward?

Following some initial sniping about how series officials were going to rule on driving infractions, things seemed to settle down and we had hard-fought, close racing at many events. Let’s hope all the talk about the rules and enforcement being biased is now behind us.

New body aero kits are coming to the cars for next season, which will give teams more opportunities to look for improved performance. And let’s hope more new young stars like Sage Karam, Conor Daly and Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves (among others) get the call to move up to the IndyCar series. Hungry young drivers with the social media networks to engage new fans would be a nice boost for the series.

This year was supposed to be the start of a transition for IndyCar and there have been some positive signs. Getting the 2015 race schedule finalized and strong marketing and promotion initiatives implemented are the next vital steps.

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