Despite the lack of testing, defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and his team are ready to go racing as he chases one of the few feats not yet accomplished in his glistening career – winning back-to-back titles.
The Kiwi driver begins the new season in Alabama, with the opening race of the campaign on Monday morning, and the first practice session will be the first time everyone will be able to evaluate each other.
Lots of unknowns mixed with a lot of new faces should make for an interesting spectacle.
"It's cool finally to be at race week. It's been kind of weird because IndyCar has been lacklustre because of the limitations on testing," Dixon told the Herald.
"All of our team tests have been pretty much by ourselves and there were no open-road course tests. You see the times the others are doing, but you have no idea how you compare because the conditions are all different.
"It'll be interesting to see just how the other teams go this weekend, but it's the first race of the season and it doesn't make or break the championship."
Barber Motorsport Park has been a happy podium hunting ground for Dixon and it's a track he likes. He's been on the podium eight times since 2010 but has yet to finish on the top spot. While it's a bit irksome for the Kiwi, he's not dwelling on the point.
"We did two preseason tests at Barber that went pretty well. It's hard to know where the competition is going to be. The track has been resurfaced so you can get really aggressive with the car.
"I've had six seconds and two thirds here and we've only been here 10 times. That doesn't guarantee anything, but it would be nice to finally get that win. It's a place I really enjoy and a fantastic circuit."
With teams not knowing what each other has, it's hard to predict who is going to be Dixon's biggest challenger this year. In 2020 the Chip Ganassi Racing driver flew out of the championship starting gate getting three wins from his first three starts to set himself up to win his sixth IndyCar title, but he's expecting more challengers this year.
"We're heading into this season a little unaware of the competition. There's been no major upgrades to the cars during the off-season this year so everyone has just been doing in-house tweaks.
"Last year Josef [Newgarden] and myself kind of pulled out and separated from everyone else, but from third to about eighth it was really tight. Had something changed for some of those guys during the season there would have been a lot of people fighting for the championship.
"The Penske and McLaren guys are going to click really soon and so the fight for the championship is going to be really hard.
"For us we look at teams as a whole rather than individual drivers. Penske can easily be one, two, three or even four. Andretti is always good for a couple and McLaren look good with Pato [O'Ward] and Felix [Rosenqvist].
"Just with those [teams] you're looking at going pretty deep with championship contenders. On paper there's a lot of teams going for a championship."
For the first time in his IndyCar career Dixon will have a fellow Kiwi on the grid with him. Scott McLaughlin makes his much-vaunted debut as a full-time driver in the series with the powerhouse Penske outfit, and has showed some good form in testing.
"We talked lots when he was first thinking of coming over here and most people thought he would be going to Nascar," said Dixon.
"I tried to be as open and up front about what it would be like [IndyCar] and now here he is. He's with one of the best teams in the business and has great teammates around him. His learning curve is going to be steep but he has the best people to help him with that.
"From what I've seen he's really enjoying it and being in America. He seems really pumped which is cool. I've been waiting 20 years to have another Kiwi on the grid. It's really nice to finally see someone here and someone else to fly the flag. We know he's massively talented and I'm excited to race against him.
"He did really well at the Indy oval test and he's working with Rick Mears and has a lot of other good help there."
Some might think after hundreds of IndyCar and sportscar races, the adrenaline rush might just have lost its lustre a bit for Dixon, but the 40-year-old is as keen as he's ever been in his two-plus decades of hurling cars around race tracks.
"The competition is what drives you. I'm lucky enough to work with people who inspire me every day. We've got new teammates this year with Jimmy [Johnson] and TK [Tony Kannan] and [Alex] Palou who has been very quick.
"I think the thing with racing is it never stays still — it's forever evolving so it's hard to get bored because it is changing all the time. The car might be much the same as last year but the tyres, grip levels are different, the tracks are slightly different and the competition is different.
"There's a lot to keep you inspired, and for me I'll be chasing something I've never done and that's to win back-to-back championships."