The Drive’s 2016 IndyCar Primer

The 2016 IndyCar campaign kicks off at St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 13. Here are the story lines to keep an eye on.

IndyCar 2016
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The 2016 IndyCar season kicks off on Sunday with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg starting at 12:30 p.m. EST on ABC. You should watch it. There'll be turbo hammering and street circuit mayhem, and story lines enough to carry a daytime soap—oh, so many storylines! Here are the five biggest ones we’ll be following at St. Pete’s and throughout the 2016 IndyCar season.

1. Aero Wars

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Aero, aero, aero. That’s what everyone’s talking about in the paddock, according to four-time and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Background: Chevrolet and Honda, the sport’s two powertrain manufacturers, both supply aerofoil along with their respective engines. Last year, Chevy’s spoiler package fared pretty well; Honda’s did not. Thanks to a controversial off-season rules change, the latter has been able to totally revise its setup. And, big surprise, it looks a lot like the Chevy setup. Will parity tighten the field? Or will the Honda cars end up sucking wind again?

2. Rossi’s Debut

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Maybe you’ve heard of this guy: twenty-four-years old, born in California, cut his teeth in European single-seaters, the only American with a Formula 1 license. Dude’s got raw talent for days, and he’ll make his IndyCar debut with Andretti-Herta Autosport this season. Rossi is only on a one-year contract and St. Pete’s will be his biggest test to date. Can he back up the hype?

3. Road America Grand Prix

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Road America is the nation’s best road course, 4 miles pretzeled into 14 turns, with the gnarliest front straightaway this side of Le Mans. And, for the first time in nearly a decade, Indy cars will be back running at Elkhart Lake this summer. Know this: Road America means drivers go big. Big passes, big crashes. It’s the perfect venue for IndyCar, so you can bet our calendars are marked for June 26.

4. Hinch’s Return

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It’s been ten months since James Hinchcliffe nearly died. Ten months of rehab, ten months of waiting. For the first time since his near-fatal shunt during practice for last year’s Indy 500, Hinchcliffe, the grid’s most affable (and arguably most talented) driver, will compete in a Grand Prix race. But a lot has changed in the last ten months. Hinch returns to a new title sponsor and, thanks to that Honda aero overhaul, what’s essentially a new car. Can he bounce back?

5. The Centennial

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Call it “Brickyard” or “IMS” or “Mecca.” No matter: Indianapolis Motor Speedway is where it all happens. Where A.J. Foyt made his name, where Bill Vukovich lost his life. This year marks the 100th running of the Indy 500, the greatest spectacle in racing. There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance and more than a few legends on hand to witness it all. But the drivers all know what’s at stake: Everyone remembers who won the first Indy 500, and nobody will forget who wins the 100th.