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For IndyCar's Year 5 in St. Petersburg, five lists of five

Five drivers to remember

1. Robert Doornbos: Talented, confident, witty; will irritate someone like he did Sebastien Bourdais in 2007.

2. E.J. Viso: Veteran of several circuits (but still just 24), he's a popular pick for a breakout year. And no mumps now!

3. Dario Franchitti: Oh, yeah, he's back. Chip Ganassi Racing returns the 2007 series champ back to IndyCar.

4. Marco Andretti: Made strides in 2008, running up front and qualifying well, but had several poor finishes, too.

5. Justin Wilson: A race winner with Newman/Haas/Lanigan last season, he's a talented road/street driver now with Dale Coyne.

Five sponsors that need to be in the IndyCar series

1. AIG: It would be the most hated car in the series, but perhaps it could recoup some public favor by having the team immediately share purse money with the crowd.

2. Ashley Madison: Because no NASCAR team would be brave enough to touch the online adulterer's dating service.

3. Google: Nothing like a 650-horsepower search engine.

4. Guinness Stout: Because the world needs more brown race cars.

5. ShamWow: The hawkster (Vince Shlomi) with the headset mike could single-toweledly make wet tracks a thing of the past.

Five drivers who need to be in the IndyCar series

1. Helio Castroneves

Still awaiting a verdict in his federal income tax evasion trial; he's the series' charismatic ambassador (and no one carries a canary Zoot Suit like him).

2. Will Power

A race winner last season, he's awaiting extradition from Castroneves' seat at Team Penske.

3. Tomas Scheckter

High highs and low lows ("Contact off Turn 4!") make him compelling.

4. Sebastien Bourdais

Won a record four straight Champ Car titles before migrating back to Europe for a Formula One career. He's needed more in the States.

5. Paul Tracy

His 31 open-wheel wins should earn him a ride even at age 40 if he wants it. His personality is greatly needed.

Five meaningless predictions

1. Scott Dixon will win the IndyCar championship for the second consecutive season.

2. Vitor Meira's first IndyCar win will come in the Indianapolis 500 for four-time race winner A.J. Foyt.

3. Dan Wheldon will earn Panther Racing's first win since 2005.

4. After finishing on the podium in his previous four races in the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, Tony Kanaan will win it.

5. Ryan Briscoe, right, will become a weekly threat to win races.

Five story lines that will frame the season

1. Can Scott Dixon maintain his hammerlock on the IndyCar series?

Six wins and a title last season; runnerup with four wins in 2007; on the podium 22 times in his last 34 points races.

2. Is Graham Rahal the next big thing?

At 20, he has the lineage, the talent and the desire to make open-wheel racing a mainstream taste.

3. AGR, hello?

The team dominated the series in the mid-naughts. But in 2008, for the second time in three years, four drivers combined for just two victories.

4. Now what, Danica?

AGR's Patrick won her first IndyCar race last season and, of course, has more to prove in a contract year before all the speculation begins about her future.

5. Wither Helio?

Not many good outcomes await someone on trial for federal income tax evasion. Castroneves will soon learn his career and life fate; even if he's exonerated, can he recoup his legacy?

For IndyCar's Year 5 in St. Petersburg, five lists of five 04/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 8:22pm]
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