Dario Franchitti sits on pit road prior to the IZOD IndyCar Series Honda… (Nick Laham / Getty Images )
A new race car being used in the IndyCar series this year means there's no clear-cut favorites for at least the next few races, including the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15, reigning champion Dario Franchitti said Tuesday.
"It blows it wide open for the teams, and that's a positive for the fans," Franchitti, who won the Long Beach street race in 2009, said in a telephone interview. "It's absolutely a whole new game."
After using the same car and engine for several years, the Izod IndyCar Series rolled out the new car this season and teams can now choose engines from three manufacturers: Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus.
Helio Castroneves of Penske Racing won the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday, while Franchitti -- a four-time IndyCar champion overall who drives for Target Chip Ganassi Racing -- struggled all day and finished 13th.
The new car "handles a lot differently" than the old one and "we've got work to do" figuring out how to make the car competitive, Franchitti said.
For the next race Sunday on a curvy road course in Birmingham, Ala., and then at Long Beach, Franchitti said everyone effectively "is going there for the first time. It's definitely shaken things up."
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IndyCar's Dario Franchitti says Long Beach race 'wide open'