The 2009 IndyCar series season is upon us with the opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida scheduled for April 5. Many questions remain to be answered about the upcoming season.
Will Helio Castroneves be able to put his legal troubles behind him and be able to steer his Team Penske car to victory? Will Scott Dixon make it three series championships for his career? Also, can the rest of the field close the gap between them and the likes of Penske and Ganassi?
One of the most pressing issues this season is not on track related. Two time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is currently standing trial on tax evasion charges.
With no conclusion in sight, Team Penske has provided themselves with a very capable replacement in Will Power.
It remains to be seen if Power is just warming Helio's seat until his legal issues are resolved, which at this point surely means it is for at least the season opener, or if or when Helio returns does Power get granted his release or stay on in a third car?
Team Penske has denied the possibility of running three cars, but it would be rather difficult to kick Power out of the seat if he has a good showing in his Penske debut.
Scott Dixon is cool as ice behind the wheel. In 2009, he will have an equally as cool customer as a teammate in 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti. This duo could be tough to beat, on paper that is. Their potential dominance could be reminiscent of Andretti-Green's in 2004.
The rest of the field has some major catching up to do. Team Penske is solid with the resurgent Ryan Briscoe, the dark horse Will Power, and possibly Castroneves. Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the automatic front-runner with reigning champion Scott Dixon piloting the No. 9 machine.
Andretti-Green racing is the closest competitor to stopping the red and white brigade of Penske and Ganassi. Tony Kanaan, a former series champion, would love to capture one more title before his career is through in a few years.
Marco Andretti, if he can avoid the stupid mistakes he has been prone to make in his young Indycar career, Andretti will most certainly be willing to live up to the lofty expectations that his last name generates.
Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick are not quite championship caliber drivers, but both could make some noise in 2009.
Dan Wheldon's move to a one car effort at Panther Racing is a bit puzzling. Wheldon is undoubtedly fast, but will not having a teammate to gauge set-ups hurt him in the long run. Look for Wheldon to be the lone gunman trying to hunt down the rest of the pack.
When it comes down to it, the balance of power in the Indycar series is a dead heat between Ganassi and Penske with Andretti-Green a sizable distance behind both teams.
In the end, it will between Briscoe and Dixon to decide the championship. Both drivers are well-balanced and have great equipment under them.