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Five Predictions for the Verizon IndyCar Series Season

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There is a lot of intrigue surrounding the Verizon IndyCar Series entering 2018. From a new aero kit to drivers in different places, and teams joining the grid, there’s a lot of change going on, surrounded by questions.

Despite everything, certain things are practically known based on what has been displayed in the past. As we look into our crystal ball for 2018, here are five predictions for the season.

Team Penske Will Win The Championship

For a third straight year, the Captain will get to celebrate at year end as one of his three drivers will win the championship.

Team Penske has enjoyed success with both Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden, and there haven’t been any signs of that stopping. No organization was able to come close to them this past year or match the speed shown each week – except maybe at Indianapolis. You also have to know slimming the herd from four cars to three will be a benefit, as now their personnel won’t be stretched as far out, with the best of the best onboard to make magic.

Now entering 2018, it’s a matter of which one will get to enjoy the spotlight this time.

Will Josef Newgarden go back-to-back after scoring four wins and nine podiums in his first hurrah with Roger Penske? Can Simon Pagenaud carry the momentum from winning the season finale at Sonoma Raceway into his second crown? Does Will Power regain his road course dominance and shake off the bad luck for a consistent year?

Carlin Racing Will Surprise

trevorAny team entering the Verizon IndyCar Series for their first season has yet to annoy a whole ton of success right away, due to the strength of competition. It may be rough for Carlin Racing at the beginning, but make no mistake – they will be successful.

They have built a winning reputation in every series they’ve taken part of, known for visiting victory lane in both Formula 4 and Indy Lights competition. If you remember, it didn’t take them long to have success in the lather, either.

They’ve also hired two stout drivers in Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton.

Kimball’s ability can certainly be questioned, simply based on only scoring one victory in 117 series starts. However, having seven years under his belt brings experience, giving Carlin the right leadership to get them headed in the right direction.

Then comes in Max Chilton. Entering his third year of IndyCar competition, he has proven that he belongs on the grid each week, scoring six top-10’s last year with Chip Ganassi Racing. Recall he also led 50 laps at the Indianapolis 500 in 2017. If you put a decent car underneath him, he will drive the wheels off and take it to the front.

A Rookie Will Score a Podium

Being able to have success in your first year of IndyCar competition is a stretch because you know you’re going against the best of the best. However, this year’s squad is full of talent and make no mistake – they’re going to impress you. In fact, one of them will probably score a podium at some point this year.

SHAWN GRITZMACHER | MAZDA ROAD TO INDY

SHAWN GRITZMACHER | MAZDA ROAD TO INDY

Kyle Kaiser comes to mind immediately, as he will enter the Verizon IndyCar Series after winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Championship last season. A focus solely on four race alone will allow him to build up his confidence while putting his strengths to good use.

Zach Veach is set for his first full campaign. A lot of people expected him to move up sooner than he has, but funding prevented that from happening until now with Andretti Autosport. He proved he could get the job done, contending for an Indy Lights title with three trips to victory lane that year.

2017 Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist will make the jump up to the Verizon IndyCar Series with A.J. Foyt Racing. He also proved his ability in Indy Lights, scoring three victories en route to placing fourth in the year-end standings.

Robert Wickens will join the Verizon IndyCar Series after success in both Formula 1 and sportscar competition. With Wickens, along with part-timers Jordan King and Rene Binder having previous experience on road courses, they could sneak in amongst the known regulars.

Competition Will Be Closer

CHRIS OWENS | INDYCAR

CHRIS OWENS | INDYCAR

The Verizon IndyCar Series is debuting a new aero kit with a better appearance but promised better competition. The series has an excellent reputation for doing well when debuting new equipment so expect this experiment to pay off.

Besides, it will eliminate the aero differences from Chevrolet to Honda, so no more complaining that the bow tie is stronger for that reason. Now both manufacturers will be on the same page, with horsepower being the deciding factor. It should be close, as resources have been put in by both sides.

Easily on paper, there will be closer side-by-side action in 2018 than we saw in 2017, and that my friends will be excellent for all involved.

A Tamed DanicaMania

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

Back when Danica Patrick was a big star in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the focus was huge with her name and body filling every headline imaginable. It was merely dubbed – DanicaMania. She took the craziness to NASCAR the past couple years but will be back this year as part of her final hurrah with running the Indianapolis 500.

Some people have worried that the hype will overshadow everything else, but make no mistake – that isn’t the case. Over the past couple of years, she has lost her fizzle in the marketing world. It was evident by Go Daddy dropping their sponsorship, and seen when it became a challenge to put together marketing for 2018 – ultimately leading to this decision.

There will be eyes on the Indianapolis 500 that may not have watched otherwise. There will be people wanting to say their goodbye and give her a hurrah for the career she put together, for better or worse. There will be people who will turn in for the hype, curious as to what goes on. But, it’s not going to be like other times, and it won’t certainly overshadow the action of the event or the race winner.

That said, she could quickly put together a solid run and the better she does, the more we could get closer to DanicaMania emerging once again. If she was to pull off a podium finish, tame might no longer be associated here. Although her statistics aren’t the strongest across the board, recall she has done well at Indianapolis before, placing outside of the top-10 once in seven races with a career-best third in 2009.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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