Today’s question: The holiday shopping season is almost over. If you could buy one gift for an NTT INDYCAR SERIES team owner or driver, what would it be?
Curt Cavin: I wish we could go back in time and give Panther Racing an Indianapolis 500 victory as the team finished second in four consecutive races (2008-2011) with three different drivers (Vitor Meira, Dan Wheldon twice and JR Hildebrand). Among the current crop of competitors, I’d like to be able to drop another “500” victory in Scott Dixon’s stocking. Sure, a driver must earn each place on the Borg-Warner Trophy and each race is 500 miles, but c’mon, Dixie certainly has done enough to win more than once. I only recently realized he has been on the pole four of the past eight years, including the past two, and he has finished second three times and third another, proof that he consistently has been in position late in the going. And, of course, he has led an event-record 665 laps in his career. Worthy? You bet. Finally, I’d like to see Ryan Hunter-Reay get another shot at Indy. Here's hoping the rumor of him joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan in its fourth seat in 2023 has legs.
Joey Barnes: If we were going back in time with it as Curt brought up, it would have to be the gift of a long overdue Andretti win at the Indianapolis 500, wouldn’t it? I mean, I’d go for rewriting history for one of Michael Andretti’s numerous close-but-no-cigar bouts or reversing son Marco’s 2006 runner-up when he was edged at the Yard of Bricks. For selfish reasons, it would have been something unique to see Marco pull it off in the 2019 edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” when he ran one of the most beautiful liveries in recent memory that honored the 50th anniversary his grandfather Mario’s 1969 win. Ultimately, it was a race to forget, but I still can’t get over how stunning the car looked, and it would have really “popped” in Victory Lane. It’s crazy to think that one of racing’s most legendary families has only victory in the “500.” Now, if we’re going present day with it, give me these four drivers – Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson – as part of the Field of 33 for the same edition of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. I want to see a clash of styles and bring together a blend of F1 vs NASCAR vs. INDYCAR. Also, here for the Iceman vs. Iceman debate with Raikkonen vs Scott Dixon. There has been the occasional star crossover in for the Month of May classic, so giving the gift with the most illustrious field in history would be something special. Pick that one out of your stockings, kids.
Paul Kelly: My gift is a strong 2023 season for Jack Harvey. The Brit is one of the most likeable guys in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, a real class act. But his move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2022 season didn’t click like he or the team expected, with his best finish of 10th coming at Nashville. Anyone who witnessed Harvey’s strong drive to third in tricky, mixed conditions at the 2019 GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course knows he is capable of challenging for the podium more often. But it just didn’t happen in the 2022 season, and Christian Lundgaard emerged as the rising star at RLL with the Rookie of the Year crown and seven top-10 finishes this season. It’s almost make or break in 2023 for Happy Jack, at least at RLL, and I hope he and the team can mesh and produce the kind of season of which I think they’re capable.