Are you ready? Ready for American Open Wheel Racing's new era? This Friday will see the opening practice session for the 2012 Indycar season. When the first car takes to the streets of St. Petersburg, we will be seeing the biggest, boldest step forward for the series since 2008's merger. Not only will 2011 and its joys and heartaches be put behind us, the future of open-wheel will be laid out before us. One gets the impression that it's time for the series to step into its own. Gone is Danica Patrick's walking publicity machine. Gone is the visually and aurally offensive 2003 Dallara/V8 package. Gone is an officiating regime that angered, baffled, and robbed the series of badly-needed credibility.
Instead, our regular cast of characters are here to shine on their own considerable merits, joined by old friends and a popular and respected Formula 1 veteran. They'll be piloting all-new Dallara DW12 race cars boasting the latest advances in safety, performance, and styling; each one powered by an all-new turbocharged 2.2 liter engine built by one of a trio of invested manufacturers. The rule book is new and will be wielded by another respected veteran who promises a new and fresh approach to the officiating job.
There are a lot of questions that remain-how well will the DW12 race? How equal are the different manufacturer's engines? How durable are these new car/engine combinations? Will the drivers adapt successfully? Will Beaux Barfield live up to his expectations? These are interesting questions, and make for the most highly anticipated season opener since... well, I'm not sure. I'm looking forward to a great season and hope you are, too.