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Five things to watch during 2013 IndyCar season

| Sunday, March 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

1. Will Power is man to beat — again

Power acknowledges it has been painful having the IndyCar championship slip away the past three years. He has a better-than-average shot at winning the title this year, and he should, considering Team Penske has the money and resources to allow him to run up front every race. He'll be pressured to exorcise the demons that have haunted him, mostly from teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. Power posted the quickest lap (123.33 mph) in his Chevrolet-powered car during testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. It could be a sign of things to come from a driver hungry to capture that elusive title.

2. Andretti Autosport a major open-wheel player

With Ryan Hunter-Reay winning last year's championship, Michael Andretti's team finally has escaped the shadows of Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. The loss of Danica Patrick to NASCAR only fueled this team's competitive fire. Still, there's uncertainty surrounding Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe.

3. No Patrick, no problem

If 2010 was the year of women at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this is the year for women to make some noise not just at the Brickyard. Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann and Ana Beatriz will be pressed to prove they can win on street courses and speedways. Beatriz won Indy Lights Series races in 2008 and '09 to earn a seat at the 2010 Indianapolis 500. She's been up and down, but she and de Silvestro will get far more attention this year because the expectations are higher.

4. Father and son reunion

At times, Graham Rahal had the look of a contender during his two-year stint with Chip Ganassi Racing. Now he's in a full-time ride funded by his father, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. While the Marco and Michael Andretti tandem has produced mixed results, the Rahals are confident they can contend for the driver's title. After all, Andretti Autosport does have the defending points champion in Hunter-Reay. The Rahals teamed up for a fifth-place finish at the Brickyard in 2010, but the expectations are higher this time around. The 24-year-old Graham Rahal has won two poles (St. Petersburg and Kansas), and he became the youngest winner in series history at 19 when he captured the checkered flag in St. Petersburg in his rookie season.

5. Doubleheheader weekend racing

The IndyCar Series sought to spice things up this year by adding doubleheader weekend races at three venues: Detroit, Toronto and Houston. There are obvious challenges for this out-of-the-box idea. Which race becomes the feature event? How many backup cars will each team need to survive two races? Clearly, the teams with the deepest pockets have a decisive advantage. Most teams will treat these weekends as if they were separate events, but cash-strapped teams might find this a different kind of challenge.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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