Why you should watch… IndyCar

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

St Petersburg is one of nine non-oval tracks in IndyCar this year
St Petersburg is one of nine non-oval tracks in IndyCar this year

In the first of a new series, readers are invited to put their case for another racing series F1 fans should watch. I’ll start the ball rolling by banging the drum for IndyCar.

Think ‘IndyCar’ and many European racing fans think ‘ovals’. But this year’s IndyCar championship features more road and street tracks than ovals as the series becomes ever closer in spirit to its CART heyday.

A case in point is the splendid new Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama where the third IndyCar round of 2010 takes place – which I will be watching closely this Sunday evening.

The split and the recovery

There’s no pretending IndyCar racing today is the force it was when I first started following sport in the early nineties.

Back then the American-based championship was so popular that Bernie Ecclestone tried to arrange a head-to-head race between the best drivers of both series, and began importing American racing ideas like refuelling and safety car periods.

But in the mid-nineties the championship split in two, and didn’t re-unify until 2008. In that period fans switched off in their millions and started watching NASCAR instead. Sponsors and, increasingly, drivers, did likewise.

A challenging calendar

Eventually it was the breakaway faction that prevailed and this series, which began in 1996, originally raced exclusively on ovals. It wasn’t until 2005 that road and street tracks were added and today the series enjoys a mix of all three disciplines: eight ovals, five road courses and four street circuits.

And there’s no sanitised Tilke-dromes here. The championship takes in fast, flowing, undulating road courses like Watkins Glen and Sears’ Point. It has classic street tracks such as Long Beach and Toronto.

And if you think all ovals are the same, compare the 2.5-mile, 225mph lap of Indianapolis with the 0.89-mile, traffic-heavy Iowa oval.

The diversity of courses means drivers’ performances tend to wax and wane – drivers like ex-Jaguar F1 driver Justin Wilson excel on road courses while others come to the fore on ovals.

An IndyCar champion has to perform across disciplines and that’s exactly what Dario Franchitti did last year with victories on all three types of circuit.

The 2010 season

Australian Will Power has won the first two races of this season and so far the series has upheld its reputation for exciting races. The first round at a new street course in Brazil, held a few hours after the torpid F1 season opener in Bahrain, concluded with Power edging Ryan Hunter-Reay in an exciting battle for the lead.

It may not have F1’s cutting-edge technology but IndyCar boasts several talented drivers and a challenging mix of tracks. It is also far more fan-friendly than F1 – just look how many IndyCar drivers are on our Twitter Directory.

British fans can watch the third round of the IndyCar championship from Barber Motorsport Park is on Sky Sports at 8.30pm on Sunday 11th April.

If you haven’t got Sky IndyCar broadcast their races live online for free via their Race Control service – another example of the excellent service they provide for fans.

Next month sees the blue-riband Indianapolis 500 on May 30th, a few hours after the Turkish Grand Prix. I’m considering running our first ever non-F1 live blog for the famous race so if you’re interested please let me know in the comments.

2010 IndyCar series

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

172 comments on “Why you should watch… IndyCar”

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  1. It may be an interesting series, but it feels like watching second-rated drivers. We still remember how Bourdais (who was a Schumacher in INDY) was trashed by all his team-mates in F1.. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t be good entertainment though, I wonder how Sato is doing over there :)

    1. Bourdais was in the Champ Car World Series, which I felt was weaker than the Indycar Series (with Wheldon, Franchitti, Castroneves, Hornish, Dixon etc) at the time.

      1. “Champ Car World Series, which I felt was weaker than the Indycar Series”

        SACRILEGE :P

        1. I don’t mean the great Champ Car of the 1990’s with Montoya, Zanardi, Vasser, etc, no! That really would be sacrilege! :P

          I meant the years afterwards where drivers like Franchitti and Dixon, plus teams like Penske, AGR and Ganassi moved across to Indycar, leaving Bourdais to win everything!

      2. Five Red Lights
        11th April 2010, 5:01

        Bourais head screwed his F1 career not his ability. He never showed it because of his attitude. As Martin Brundle once said of him…

        “he looks like he’s lost a hundred Francs and found one”

        1. It didn’t help that almost every single time we managed to hear his car to pit radio he was complaining about something…

      3. CART was at one point the place to race. But once they started having financial troubles drivers, teams and sponsors started leaving. For anyone that have not read my previous comments on this. Short story. Bourdais came in to one of the two most powerful teams with the best financial backing at the point where many other teams and drivers was going to IRL and Nascar (mostly the former). Not to downplay Bourdais skills BUT he really didn’t have much of “real” competition during the years he drove in CART has scored his championships. The last one he scored was the last year CART raced. Would be like F1 only having Ferrari and then teams like Torro Rosso, Force India, Williams, Lotus, HRT and Virgin.

        Some of the things that is really fun with IRL is free online video streaming of ALL seasons. They provide online access to 4 randomly picked drivers on each session and you can view 2 of these onboard cameras side by side. The onboard cameras have pan capabilities so during a overtake for example the onboard camera pans to follow the car that is being overtaken. Also they can either point it forward or backwards. If there is a car following close behind it will be moved to show behind you and they are good on panning to keep the other car in view in case he does a overtake move as well they pan the camera during pit stops as well.
        I wish this be something F1 would pick up on. Also when your onboard you hear the driver/pit communication for that driver.
        Last race I watched it on TV AND on my computer following onboard cameras on the computer and overall race event on TV (for some reasons streaming provided about 2-5 sec advance of TV I noticed so you could occasionally see same onboard shot on TV with a few sec time delay from the streaming video).

    2. Sato has been a disaster after two races. Caused a huge wreck on lap one in Brazil. Sending this from my iPhone at the Nascar race in Phoenix-camping-will be at Long Beach next weekend to watch Indycar.

      1. Good to know that even after all this time, Taku is capable of crashing in spectacular fashion… ;)

    3. Gustav,
      You could at least get the series right….

    4. He wrecked in the first race at the first corner. Are you surprised?

    5. what time does it starts?

    6. Sato is is doing about as well he did in F1. He is 20th out of 25 (well shared, 3 other drivers has as many points and there are only 2 drivers with less points). Bourdaie raced in Champ series which went belly up and got integrated into Indy. From 2000 on many of the top CART/Champ drivers moved to IRL. Bourdais competed in CART/Champ series from 03 to 07. In 04 some strong team left Champ car series (after CART bancruptcy at end of 03) but the two strongest teams Newman-Haas Racing and Dale Coyne Racing stayed in the newly created Champ car series out of the CART series assets. Several races in the 2007 season were canceled before they were held, Champ Car never had a season where they ran every scheduled race. In 08 Champ Car became part of IRL.
      Did I mention that Bourdais drove for Newman-Haas Racing. In it’s 14 years in CART/Champ Newman-Haas won 8 times. 4 of those the last 4 years of the series existance with Bourdais as racer.
      Newman-Haas single driver in 10 is currently on 19th position. In 09 they had 4 different drivers driving two or more races. They year end standing was 30, 21, 16 and 7 (with the 16 and 7 finisher driving every race during the year). 08 they finished 11th and 17th. So from being dominant the last 4 years in Champ series they became a midfield running team.

      So with this history it’s not hard to see that Bourdais wasn’t that “good”, his team was one of the best financed in a series that was struggling financially and ultimately collapsed and teams leaving to IRL from 02 and forward until the ultimate collapse. So the better competitors left for IRL.

      1. so if Bourdais was in Button’s Brawn in 09 would Bourdais be world champion instead of Button.I reckon we would all be hailing Bourdais F1 WDC.

      2. Sato was 20th because he had retired in first two races. He was 6th in qualifying in Barber.

    7. Badly, Very Badly

  2. Looking forward to this season :) First 2 races have been brilliant and the Indy 500 is always a highlight of the racing season for me.

    1. Agreed, it’s been a great season so far.

    2. I, too, have really enjoyed the first two races and am looking forward to the race at Barber later today. I am not, though, a big oval fan…except for the 500.

  3. Sorry, Bourdais drove CART.. But potato potato, right?

    1. Nope, quite different by the end. Champ Car excised all it’s ovals for 14 races around airports, car parks and a few leftover tracks from its heyday

  4. “Power leads the field in round two at Miami”
    Round 2 was at St. Petersburg, Florida, not Miami. Beautiful bayside circuit similar to Monaco. Lots of overtaking in IRL. Fan-friendly drivers. This week at Barber will be more processional due to narrow course but the 25 metre elevation change makes for great scenery.
    Watch for the f1fanatic.co.uk sign

  5. It’s great series. I think there should be a live blog for every race!

  6. theRoswellite
    10th April 2010, 14:56

    It will be interesting to see if this site(the readers) takes to Indycar racing. My immediate reaction is always…do those cars all look the same? But, obviously the racing can be excellent and the talent level is usually high.

    Bring on the coverage, you’ll have my support.

    Just a note to Gustav….don’t be too dismissive of the drivers in this series or NASCAR. I agree with you that F1 seems to attract the very top drivers and features them in the very best competition. But, many drivers in both these racing series are very skilled, and the skills they have are often shaped by the type of cars they drive and the tracks they compete on. Historically, many drivers have moved both ways across the Atlantic.

    1. The cars all look the same, because they are. Think horse racing: Indy equals standard-bred. F1 equals thoroughbred!

      As someone who drove on the Toronto track Thursday morning, on the way to work and has attended a few ChampCar/Cart/Indy races and worked some of these races, I still have zero interest in the series.

      Now, Formula Atlantic, on the other hand… :D

      1. Of course, Formula One championships are almost always won by the superior machine, not necessarily the best drivers. Not to knock Schumacher (at least not severely), but (genius or not) he won most of those championships in a car that was clearly superior that sported customized tires that were not available to any other team that could have competed on an equal footing. I don’t know why people interested in DRIVING SKILL always look down on any series that has more equally matched equipment. Where is Schumi running now with equipment that is just a bit slower than the fastest cars? Consistently behind a much less experienced (but excellent) driver named Rosberg, too.

        1. “customized tyres” that makes me laugh mclaren fan right everybody knows that bridgestone road or race tyres are really bad every team on f1 tried to switch for michelin because michelin were superior only the teams with less disposable income were still on bridgestone rubber stop with the jealucy

          1. MigueLP: Don’t be foolish and abusive. You belong at the PlanetF1 forum where everyone hates each other. Fact: Ferrari had a de facto exclusive contract with Bridgestone who designed tires expressly to match the Ferrari chassis. Doesn’t matter who your favorite team is. The facts are the facts. My loyalties tend to got to the drivers, not the machinery. The driver is the one with talent, cunning and bravery. The driver also demonstrates responsible driving, concern for the safety of other competitors and good sportsmanship. If a driver doesn’t have all of these qualities, he won’t have my respect. No machine ever won a race.

  7. I know what series you should all watch. Your local club racing series! Best racing action you’ll find anywhere, plus its normally cheap or even free to get in.

    1. Not a bad idea. Why don’t you put together an article for Keith on that kind of thing? I’d really be interested to learn more.

  8. Sounds excellent, but my Sky+ recorder is booked and my parents own the TV on Sunday nights. :'( WAH!!

    1. Aww, that’s a shame. Time to start begging! :D

      If it doesn’t work, then that also means you will never get to watch NASCAR for free on some channel called Open Access (number 190 I think).

    2. Just go to http://www.indycar.com to register and watch live for free.

  9. I had no idea they offered live feeds of the races! Thank you SO much for pointing that out. I’ve been pulling out my hair trying to find torrents of the races as I don’t have cable (and since St. Petersburg was delayed, wound up not being on regular TV anyway). This at least allows me to see races if they’re not on at the same time as F1.

    I’m probably a reverse of many here in that I grew up on CART and have only recently become an F1 convert. I can attest to what you say of it being only a shadow of it’s former greatness. I started watching Indy car racing around 91-92. I still remember watching when “Little Al” won the ’92 500 by (at that time) the closest margin ever. I can’t look at Scott Goodyear calling the race without thinking of how many times he came that close to winning it. And frankly, the 500 is pretty much the only oval race I’m interested in watching anymore. There’s something unique about it that never loses the charm.

    But Indy, even though it’s finally unified, just ain’t what it used to be. It can still be terrifically exciting, but it just doesn’t seem to have the stars it once did. I love Kanaan, Castro-Neves and the like, but some of the IRL imports are… well, still lacking to be honest. BUT, at least names like Rahal and Andretti are still involved. I’m eager to see how things go as they get a little older and more experienced. If only there was an Unser still in it…

    1. I had no idea they offered live feeds of the races! Thank you SO much for pointing that out.

      It’s not as good as a TV feed – sometimes the better part of the action is missed and there aren’t many replays. But the video stream is uninterrupted (there’s only ads on the audio) and it’s free. so you can’t really complain. F1 should definitely start offering something similar, at least in markets where not all the sessions are live.

      1. On a side note, MotoGP and IndyCar have decent official YouTube channels. It would be great if we had an official Formula 1 YouTube and not just the “race edits” on the official F1 site.

      2. Agree that F1 should offer something similar. Here in Canada, we’re normally lucky as we have the BBC feed on TSN and the same FOM images, different commentary, on Speed (with a bit of luck you can switch to avoid the advertizing.) But once in a while TSN goes to TSN2 (widely unavailable) and Speed goes to FoxSport (not available in Canada at all.) Then we’re relegated to Live Timing, which is a very poor second best.

    2. The great thing about Indy Car racing is they provide FREE online streaming of the race. Go to indycar.com and signup and watch it online if you can’t watch it on TV (broadcasted normally on Versus / Vs. in the US).
      One thing that is a bit confusing and irritating is that many teams have one, two or even as many as 4 drivers. But some drivers will only race a single race or two in the year. Lot of movement and changes.

  10. I know it has 2 wheels missing but MotoGP is where REAL racing is. Lots of action right from the beginning to the checkered flag!

    1. MotoGP is magic!

      I have come to the conclusion that most here are, like me, mad for all forms of motorsport (except NASCAR. I wouldn’t pollute my eyes with that drivel).

      My fave races to work (marshall) were bike races. Non-stop action and plenty of thrills, spills, and talent on display. Sadly, the Americans (AMA et al) have found a way to destroy even that! Maybe giving control of the racing series to the NASCAR hierarchy had something to do with that… :(

      1. Shoot! Forgot to ‘slip’ in a nautical reference ….

    2. Tiomkin – if you want to do a pro-MotoGP article give me a shout.

      1. I’ll give it serious thought Keith.

      2. Praveen Titus
        10th April 2010, 18:37

        This is a great article series! Great work, Keith!

        It’s great to know that F1 Fanatic likes IndyCar. I’m all for it and I believe motorsport fans should follow as many racing series as possible as each has something unique to offer – IndyCar is by far the best, though it should rather be called Formula Dallara-Honda!

        MotoGP is great, but one sport that’s never included in mainstream motorsport circles is Motocross. I watched the first round of the FIM Motocross World Championship held at Sevlievo, Bulgaria on TV, and liked it. Like Moto GP, they have an Italian champion as well, Antonio Cairoli.

        But what really amazed me, being an Indian, is watching the WMX action where the women really seem to ride the jumps like the guys! It’s probably the only form of motorsport where women have a separate platform to prove themselves.

        1. There’s also the Trials World Championship, although it’s not technically racing and is officially the slowest form of motorbike sport it is absolutely thrilling.

          I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’ve never watched trials riding before. The things those guys can do with a motorbike leaves me speechless every time.

          If anyone is in the UK there will be a round held at Fort William in the Scottish Highlands in June of this year and a three day family ticket is only £99.95.


          1. Praveen Titus
            12th April 2010, 18:47

            Trials is indeed massively exciting. The outdoor events are especially thrilling, and it’s a sport of technique and physical astuteness. It’s all about positioning the body and balancing it on the seat-less Montesa or Gas Gas machines.

            Speedway racing is great fun as well – another technical sport. But again, none of these seem to be recognized among mainline motorsports.

            Thanks for the ticket info – Beneboy. But I don’t think I can make it. But I just hope these ‘alternate’ motorsports gain more coverage and popularity, since from what we’ve experienced, they’re EXCITING and UNIQUE.

    3. Gavin Campbell
      10th April 2010, 18:50

      Have to say I live with a moto gp fan, and hes really turned me onto it (and i’ve got him back into F1). Im really looking forward to the race this weekend in quatar :)

      Was never much of a bike fan growing up (i used to live in northern ireland and the northwest 200 is there and i never went!!!) and was always into F1. But i do have to say my second favourite series is moto gp, but then it is the pinnacle of bike motorsport.

  11. I’m an American and I was raised on mid-1990s IndyCar racing. Back then I got much more enjoyment out of it than I do from Formula 1 nowadays. It was the ultimate multi-dimensional sport, with numerous chassis/engine/tire combinations, large grids, every kind of circuit you can imagine, and a great mix of young, experienced and legendary drivers. The race unfolded differently each weekend—it’s not like Formula 1 where the strategies are more or less standardized. And different cars are strong on different weekends. I really think IndyCar can get back to where it was, if only they could allow multiple constructors again. That would make it interesting enough for more reputable drivers to join, and if they hang onto the absolutely spectacular tracks such as Sears Point, Watkins Glen, and go back to Cleveland and Laguna Seca, you’ve got yourself a series that can rival F1.

    1. I agree whole-heartedly. That was part of why I didn’t like IRL when they split.

    2. they do allow multiple constructors, however the series got so bad that dallara/honda are the only ones bothering to make chassis/engine

      p.s. quals are on right now, watch race control!

    3. I loved Champar in its glory days, but rivaling F1 is what had got it canceled.
      Any series that tries to rival F1 will self destruct. The problem with trying to go heads on with F1 is that it has history, best marquees of auto moto, and a globally established audience.
      When champcar started to become expensive, Honda realized it will soon have a budget of building an F1 engine, and they pulled put.
      None of those series have pedigree of F1, they are entertaining, but lack the subtle knowledge of what customers want.
      Just having the track is not enough and Bernie knows that, that is why he keeps changing the venues, he knows people want variety, in track layouts, chassis development, known marquees and national variety of drivers.
      F1 is global while those series are mostly restricted to US, and think that people will buy that kind of restricted view on racing.
      That is why F1 succeeds and they fail.

      1. If history is important, why abandon all of the classic venues in Formula One history?

        1. Of course not all, F1 still has Monaco and Monza, but the thing is that F1 is foremost a business and the laurels of the past are not what brings the cash in!
          Sponsors are 99 percent of F1 and if a new country wants to market itself, they bring on a venue!
          Just look at Turkey, do you think that is a moto racing mecca?
          Of course not, most people there probably only herd of Michael, they build the track because of country recognition, not enthusiasts like you and me who quarrel over little tech novelties.
          Today the only thing that matters is can you bring sponsors to the track.

  12. The live feed is excellent!

    Obviously being an American series the commentary is constantly interrupted by numerous adverts which is horrible, but they never cut away from the racing so you can still watch (think radio advertisements). Alternatively, you can switch to an onboard camera which is actually operated by someone and the camera follows the action as it happens. In this mode there is no commentary or adverts, just the engine sounds and radio transmission for the driver your watching…

    At the last race I was watching on board from Patrick’s car, the camera was facing backwards. She had a long line of cars behind her as she struggled with her tyres. I watched the last 10 – 12 laps of the race from this angle, and could see Franchitti (I think it was) bullying his way through the line of cars and eventually past Patrick, and as he drove past, the camera followed the overtake in real time. This is definitely something F1 could do with, I really enjoyed it, and it made me feel more a part of the action!

    I suggest everyone give it a try, it’s free after all!

  13. Thanks to Keith’s tweet, i watched the St. Petersburg round on the onboard of Danica Patrick. some funny uncensored comments from both driver and pitwall!

    The Race Control live feed has really impressed me and I may just “attend” some more future races.

    Also, though it’s quite long away, but i’m also intrigued by their call for designs for the 2012 spec. Should be interesting how it’ll turn out (and compare to F1)

  14. I have long been a fan of F1. I went to the inaugural F1 event in Indy some years ago. It was fantastic to hear/see those cars around my home track. Likewise I’ve been to 22 Indy 500 races. While the thrill of F1 exists there is nothing quite like seeing 33 cars pile into turn one and come out alive. If you have the means I highly recommend it. As a series though F1 easily outpaces all aspect of indycar except for fan interaction/access. You may find the lack of ovetaking in F1 off putting but the reason is that you have the top of the top designing and driving the cars. The gap is so small as to prevent overtaking.

  15. I’ve only ever watch IndyCar when theres nothing else on.

    I last watched it back in August, when I think, they raced the Infineon Raceway. It looked quite boring to me. But was probably down the look of the track, it was such an eye sore.

    1. Infineon is very much like Hungaroring, twisty, dull scenery and just a dull race in any series.

  16. why is sato’s car in a Lotus livery??? does Fernandes own that team too?

      1. cheers!!! a bit odd tho. :)

    1. Sato’s #5 KV Racing Technology “Lotus-Cosworth” car is actually a Dallara chassis powered by a Honda engine (as are all Indycars) and, stranger still, Dallara made the HRT F1 car! :D

  17. I always try to get watch the indy, but the online stream on there website never works too well, it seems to show about 5 minutes of what is happening, then freeze, i had no idea why!!! :-(

    1. That’s odd, maybe it’s your connection? I have no trouble with it here in England on an ADSL connection, it seems to automatically adjust the bandwidth on the fly to suit what your connection can handle. Works very well for me.

      1. I dont have issues with any thing else, i can stream stuff on the BBC iplayer in HD fine, and the same with things like 4od. Ill see what happens in the next race.

    2. It may be that it’s the one race with the biggest pull on their server – sometimes it can interfere with their webcasts

  18. I definitely went off Indy when it all went Oval, although I have to thank you for bringing me up to date and pointing out the excellent online coverage. F1 should really take note of this. Decent live stream of the coverage, plus fairly decent live timing, all nicely cross browser, and free. I’m not interested in getting Sky, so having this online like this is a serious bonus.

    I’m just watching qualifying. Not great coverage, and not particularly exciting, but let’s see what the race is like tomorrow. Definitely an interesting circuit.

    I like the horse racing metaphor… especially when you see that the likes of Justin Wilson and Dario Franchitti are both basically in Indy because they’re too tall for F1.

  19. Great blog Keith, so true. As both a huge IndyCar and Formula 1 fan, and reader of your blog, I’m very glad you never showcase any arrogance many F1 fans do regarding IndyCars.

    Good to see you’ve join the fight to get IndyCar racing more out there brother.

  20. Now it’s reunited should definitely be worth watching. I remember the great Franchitti v Montoya season in 1999, and being stunned that Franchitti’s team didn’t move his team mate Paul Tracy over to allow Dario to take the championship in the last race. When they said no team orders they really meant it!
    (IIRC Tracy was 2 places ahead, so would have taken a bit of a fiddle, but can you imagine an F1 team not fixing that with a long pit-stop?)

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