Technology Improvements Coming To Race Control

1. Technology improvements coming to Race Control: Investments in technology will aid IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield and stewards during the diverse 18-race schedule this season.

Also, a mobile Race Control is likely to debut in 2015, according to INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker.

More cameras around race circuits, additional monitors, upgraded replay equipment and ability to review car data are among the additions.

"When I joined INDYCAR after the Indianapolis 500 last year, I had the pleasure of sitting in Race Control for pretty well all of the races thereafter to actually observe how it all happens, see dramas unfolding, how we tackle them," Walker said. "There were a couple of things that seemed pretty obvious. That was we couldn't always see what we needed to do for Race Control to be effective. It looked pretty obvious we needed to upgrade our equipment and needed to have more eyes on the job.

"So for this year we've invested a tremendous amount in equipment so we have a lot more views and better-quality views, better replay, trying to capture all the views that are possible. A lot of times Race Control, and I see it in other series, they make decisions based on a few views, but don't have them all. Sometimes the fan gets better views than we do in Race Control. The simple fact were the limitations on how many screens we've got, how many inputs we actually tap into."

A mobile unit to house the technology and personnel will travel to each North American event. Though Race Control is centrally located at each venue, there are logistical issues.

"We have a lot of equipment. We have to cart it upstairs, everywhere you go," Walker said. "The space you have isn't always enough. We're going to put it in a trailer, give it enough room and stability and have it at all of the races. That's a big undertaking and huge investment on the part of the INDYCAR.

"The Race Control upgrades we're dealing with now is just the beginning. There is a lot more to come."

2. Dixon rates 2013 series title as most enjoyable: Scott Dixon wasn't expecting to be in the championship hunt after finishing out of the top 10 in five of the 10 races to open the 2013 season. But a streak of three consecutive victories and a fourth of the season at Houston in October vaulted the New Zealander to his third title.

"I think the comeback for us as a team was huge," said Dixon, who has driven a Target Chip Ganassi Racing car since 2003. "The three in a row with Pocono and Toronto was the start of the swing. The strength that the team had throughout the remainder of the season, with the exception of some of the big ovals where we didn't have the speed. All the road and street courses, we were qualifying in the top three or four every race. For me, I think that was one of the biggest achievements was to keep strong.

"I think that's where this team is really good. When it's counted, they've pulled it out or been able to stay more consistent than some of the others. For me, each championship is so different because of the outside obstacles that you have. I think as sort of a pure enjoyment after the year, this one was probably my pick for the favorite."

Dixon is the active Indy car win leader with 33 (next up are Al Unser Jr.'s 34 and Bobby Unser's 35).

3. Rahal: National Guard sponsorship a game-changer: Graham Rahal views the National Guard sponsorship awarded to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2014 IndyCar Series season as a "game-changer" for the team on and off the racetrack.

Rahal, who enters his second season driving for the team co-owned by his father, was among the two dozen guests who spoke at INDYCAR Media Day at the Amway Center. The season kicks off March 30 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which Rahal won in 2008 and earned the pole position in '09.

"As a team, this elevates us to a whole new level us because it allows us to invest in the people, shock programs that we haven't had, that the Ganassis, Penskes, Andrettis of the world have," said Rahal, 25, who recorded a pair of top-five finishes in the Honda-powered No. 15 car in 2013. "I think it's going to help elevate us to a different level we haven't been in many years, probably since the team was a Ford factory team or funded by Miller or Shell in the old days. It kind of gets us back to that sort of level.

"Our engineering staff is completely new for this year across the board pretty much other than Eddie Jones has stayed on board. A lot of new faces. This is going to allow us to continue to invest in those sorts of people we need, the programs, that sort of thing. If you look at us last year, we never really did any development at all, never did any shock development. Coming from Ganassi, where I was trying four different pairs of shocks every single weekend, it was completely different to come to this team where we never had an option. We ran the same ones every single track, every single race. Takes quite an investment. I think we're going to be to that point now."

4. Bourdais ranks among the title contenders: Team Penske's Will Power, a three-time series championship runner-up, endorsed Sebastien Bourdais as a 2014 title contender. The four-time Champ Car champion won't dispute the forecast.

"I do feel like there is a lot of potential, unexplored potential," said Bourdais, who will drive the No. 11 KVSH Racing car. "Last year was an eye-opener when Tony (Kanaan) won the '500.' I think it's pretty much to the credit of KV. They worked very hard. They have a great group of guys who really love racing, which is not so easy to find. I could not put a strong enough point on saying that this group can win. 

"I don't know how long it's going to take before we do it, but only because competition is so difficult in IndyCar these days. You look at the number of cars you need to beat to just get there, it's really hard. But at the end of the day everybody has the same equipment pretty much. It's just a matter of how you use it, how much work you put into it to get it right."

Bourdais closed the 2013 strong in a Dragon Racing car (four top-10 finishes in the final five races), and he's looking forward to the prospects this season.

"When I left Newman Haas (Racing) to go after that dream of mine in F1, there was no guarantee if I ever tried to come back getting a top seat," he said. "I knew once I left, I had taken a one-way ticket. It's not that I couldn't buy a return, but nothing was guaranteed. For the longest time it just felt like it was not meant to be. Hopefully, I'm going to prove myself wrong."