Monday , 27 May 2024

IndyCar: What is all the Fuss About?

This year, the Verizon IndyCar Series will have no less than six champions in the field. The ever-increasing field of talented drivers produces fantastic racing year in, year out. With 16 races between March and August, the schedule is tight, the racing is even tighter, and the championship has gone down to the wire in every year since 2005, meaning that the championship is even tighter than that. Here is a bunch of reasons why IndyCar is definitely worth watching, and why a number of drivers from F1 and Europe are considering it as an option:

Names you may recognise…

A select few racing names from the Formula One scene have managed to break America. The most obvious of these is 2003 Formula One championship contender and 2000 Champ Car champion Juan Pablo Montoya. The Columbian races for Team Penske, one of the three super-teams in IndyCar. He won his first race since 2000 at Pocono last year.

Another name you may recognise is Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman failed to shine in Formula One but America is where he made his name, and continues to now. The 2004, 05, 06 and 07 Champ Car champion won last year at Toronto, and races for KV Racing Technology.

The next F1 star you may recognise is Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver is commonly known for dragging a Super Aguri past Fernando Alonso in F1, but in the IndyCar world he is known for nearly winning the Indy 500 in 2013, and for a victory at Long Beach in 2013. Sato races for A.J. Foyt Racing.

…and names you may not recognise

In addition to these known quantities, there are a number of names who you may not know from Formula One. Rubens Barrichello’s good friend Tony Kanaan is the 2004 IndyCar champion and the 2013 Indy 500 winner as well as the winner of the last race in 2014. The Brazilian is hugely popular in America and his 500 win was one that went down incredibly well with the crowd. Kanaan races for Chip Ganassi Racing, the second super-team mentioned.

Alongside Kanaan is the 2003, 2008 and 2013 champion Scott Dixon. The Kiwi has failed to finish outside of the top three in the championship since 2006, where he finished fourth. He took a truly epic win at Mid-Ohio last season, where he came from dead last on the grid to win. Dixon followed that up with a brilliant win at Sonoma. He is often regarded as the best driver when it comes to fuel and tyre conserving and is IndyCar’s very own ‘Iceman’.

The final super-team is Andretti Autosport. Formula e fans may recognise this team as the team that Jean-Eric Vergne, Charles Pic and Scott Speed has driven for. Andretti is arguably the biggest name in American motorsport, and is fronted by Michael Andretti. Michael’s son Marco races for the team, whilst Mario Andretti keeps a close eye on the team too. The team’s star driver is 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who took his first Indy 500 win in 2014, as well as two other wins.

The final series champion on the grid is the reigning champion, Will Power. The Australian finally took his maiden title last season, with three victories after finishing second three years in succession. Power’s other team mates are triple Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and highly-rated Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. Both of these drivers race for Penske.

Not a Tilkedrome in sight

One of the really dull things about modern Formula One is the fact that a lot of tracks are designed by Herman Tilke. Tilkedromes tend to be a hit and miss thing but in IndyCar, there isn’t a single one at all.

Oval racing

Lots and lots of fans refuse even give oval racing a try. Seriously, try one out. I cannot think of many things which are more exciting that watching an epic slipstreaming battle at 230mph plus. If you want a good example of this, just watch last year’s Indy 500.

Track variety

Formula One race on three types of circuit: street, race and Tilkedrome. IndyCar race on four: street, road, short oval and superspeedway. Mastering all types of circuit is vital to having a strong championship run in IndyCar. There are a few tracks you may recognise, including Long Beach, Indianapolis Road Course and for those of us who played Gran Turismo 4: Infineon/Sonoma.

The Indianapolis 500

Run on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix, the 500-mile race is IndyCar’s jewel in the crown event. To win this race is arguably more difficult than winning a championship and no driver has ever won the race more than four times. This year will see the 99th running of the famous race.

Rolling starts

I’ve always been a fan of rolling starts. It adds an extra little something to races. IndyCar used to run races with standing starts but they have been scrapped for 2015. Rolling starts come in three types: single file, double file and triple file. You can ruin a strong qualifying by being caught out by the flag dropping, and you may get caught up in a hefty accident.

Time zones

I’m not a fan of getting up incredibly early to watch a race. I am half asleep and I never understand what is going on properly. I am a fan of a race starting towards the evening or at night time when I am already wide awake. Thankfully, IndyCar races are always on at these sorts of times except for the night races. One issue with this is any race which is a night race usually results in waking up at 1am for it! However, this will occur only a few times in 2015.

Fan interaction

One thing which is properly naff about F1 is the lack of fan interaction (still!), but IndyCar is brilliant for fan interaction. With their YouTube channel providing highlights (and not taking full races off), a Twitter account not afraid to interact with fans and even setting up comedy sketches during the off-season, fans of IndyCar are not left disappointed when it comes to interaction. Teams and drivers even join in with the fun too from time to time. Just need a shop that will deliver to Europe now…

The first IndyCar race will be on the streets of St. Petersburg on the 29th of March. All of the races will be broadcast live on BT Sport, with practice and qualifying broadcast on the IndyCar YouTube channel.

About Craig Woollard

Motorsport historian and journalist Craig Woollard has had an unusual path to a career in motorsport. After graduating from the University of Essex with a degree in mathematics in 2013, he changed his career path immediately after discovering a talent for writing. After occasional freelance work in 2015 and 2016, he joined the Autosport Academy for 2017. In the same year, he became an archive digitiser at Motorsport Images - which is his full-time job to this date.

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