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Silly Season puzzle coming together

by
Chris Estrada
| Jan 31, 2013

As the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg gets closer, the starting grid for the 2013 campaign continues to take shape.

With this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the books (which will show that INDYCAR drivers hit all three spots on the prestigious podium), the North American racing season is now rolling along. Open-wheel fans still have some time to wait, however, before the IZOD IndyCar Series gets back to work in late March on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

That means we’ll have to be content with the ongoing ‘Silly Season,’ which has naturally continued on. A few big free agents are still looking for rides, but the roster for this year’s championship is starting to stabilize a bit as well. Let’s see what’s gone down since our first look at driver movement this offseason:

TRISTAN VAUTIER

Moving up to IZOD IndyCar Series with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

The 23-year-old’s staggering success along the Mazda Road to Indy has helped net him Sam Schmidt’s second ride in IndyCar . Pairing up with a born racer like Simon Pagenaud would be good enough for any rookie moving into the big leagues, but the fact that Vautier is joining a strong squad at SPM makes it an even better situation for him. The team’s single-car effort in 2012 was outstanding (fifth in points and a Rookie of the Year title for Pagenaud), and its decision to expand to a two-car program for 2013 signals their intent to fight the Andretti, Penske and Ganassi camps every step of the way.

Vautier will likely have his share of rookie issues, but he’ll have his chances to shine on the track as well. Let’s see how quickly he adapts.

TAKUMA SATO

Old Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan
New Team: A.J. Foyt Racing

If you saw our most recent “True/False” roundtable piece, you know my thoughts on this pairing. There’s certainly potential for Sato and Foyt to come away with a win in 2013; Sato has always been talented and his new team has solid engineering behind them. But the mistakes have to stop on the driver’s end. I’ll say this: If Sato does manage to break through and score a victory, it’ll likely be a popular one. His fearlessness has endeared him to a lot of fans.

ORIOL SERVIA

Staying at Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Once the Panther/DRR collaboration got their hands on a Chevy motor last season, they proved to be a formidable group with Servia at the controls. The Spaniard’s decision to stay with the team wasn’t much of a surprise, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to move forward. Keep an eye on their qualifying results this season, as Servia had to pass a record 107 cars in 2012. One assumes that starting toward the front of the grid more often will be a key priority for the No. 22 program.

ALEX TAGLIANI

Staying at Barracuda Racing

Another driver-team combo that benefited from the Lotus exodus of early 2012 was Alex Tagliani and Bryan Herta Autosport (now Barracuda Racing), which flipped to Honda power on the Quebec native’s No. 98 machine and saw their performance rise accordingly. Continuity is good to have on a growing team, and the Barracuda bunch knows it. Not only is Tag back as their driver in 2013, but the entire No. 98 crew from 2012 is returning as well.

WHO’S STILL OUT THERE?

With Rubens Barrichello deciding to go back home to Brazil and race stock cars, the top two names on this list are Justin Wilson and Ryan Briscoe. However, Wilson would appear to be certain to stay with Dale Coyne Racing, with whom he won last season at Texas Motor Speedway. Other notables still in play include James Jakes, Katherine Legge, and E.J. Viso.

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