The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season gets underway in exactly three weeks time at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg and at Paddock Eye we thought the time was right to look at what can be expected in the opening races of the year.

The full-time drivers in the series were at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend for a pre-season test, with Josef Newgarden proving to be extremely quick in the No.2 Verizon Chevrolet.

First we had the news that Juan Pablo Montoya has been replaced at Team Penske by Josef Newgarden with Montoya driving a fifth Penske at the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28. Team Penske president, Tim Cindric has confirmed that the Indianapolis 500 will be one of a number of outings for the Colombian.

Newgarden has been replaced at Ed Carpenter Racing by JR Hildebrand who returns to the series in the No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

The second big change over the winter was Chip Ganassi Racing’s move from Chevrolet to Honda. The new partnership got off to a great start with Tony Kanaan delighted with the new unit having tested the Honda power unit shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 season.

We have also seen AJ Foyt Racing moving from Honda to Chevrolet ahead of the 2017 season.

Scott Dixon will have a new primary sponsor in 2017 following Target’s decision to pull out of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

We have seen changes at AJ Foyt Racing with Conor Daly joining the Texas based outfit from Dale Coyne Racing while Carlos Munoz joins the team from Andretti Autosport. Takuma Sato who was with AJ Foyt Racing has joined Ryan Hunter Reay, Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi at Andretti Autosport.

Sebastien Bourdais has joined rookie driver Ed Jones at Dale Coyne Racing while we have sadly seen the closure of KVSH Racing after the team failed in their bind to merge with Indy Lights team Carlin Motorsports.

The only teams who seen no changes in their line up’s for 2017 are Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who retain James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who have Graham Rahal and Chip Ganassi Racing who have Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton.

We have the return of the Gateway Motorsports Park. Simon Pagenaud will run with the No.1 on his Team Penske Chevrolet as the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion.

So, who is going to be the pace setter at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg? At this moment in time it would appear that Team Penske have picked up where they left off in 2016 with the team showing great pace during testing in Phoenix however the Honda powered teams have picked up the pace and closed the gap to Chevrolet.

Newgarden is certainly one to watch for the victory at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg which takes place from March 10-12. http://gpstpete.com/

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