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. Thank you Keith! I’ve been hooked on this series (CART & IRL) since the 1986 Indy 500, and will be going for the first time this May. I really appreciate your article, well done as always.

    1. Quite jealous! I’ve been watching Indy since the early 90’s and still haven’t been to the 500. And I’m only right down in Cincy, just 2 hours away. Someday, though…

  2. keith, why don’t you try do a live blog on indy race weekend…

    right now I’m trying to find any torrent on indyrace.. just wanna to see what the buzz is all about on this indyrace as in my country the cable TV only show live motoGP, F1 race and delay telecast on WRC

    the last time I saw indy racing car was on slyvester stalone’S movie called Driven :D

    1. No need for torrent…it’s a FREE live feed,plus six in car cams ,and a heli cam,2pit cams…to bad F1 doesn’t give you this for FREE

    2. Oh god, never speak of Driven again. That was an abomination worse than Days of Thunder. At least Days of Thunder was charmingly cheesy. Driven was the only movie I ever seriously considered walking out of.

      1. I rented it on my xbox on a lazy sunday for a laugh. The only good bit about the film was pointing out who the other cars were to my wife.

        It had the old racing-film foe-par that when a driver wants to over take, they knock the car down a gear (as if in a road car on a country lane)

        maybe this is what f1 needs to spice up the show.. hey boys.. all you need to do to overtake is knock it down a cog… thats it.. problem solved!!

    3. There is a road course race today, and a street course next week. Check then out.

  3. Since WRC is not televised live at least here in the US the other series I do follow with enthusiasm is MotoGP. it is not only the equivalent of F1 on two wheels. whether win or lose Rossi puts a great show, and if there is something he has showed us is that F1 must allow drivers to celebrate victories and play jokes on their rivals to engage more with fans. His donkey tactics, his several helmets, and celebrations have been great. It adds to the value of entertainment. F1 should allow play like that to add to the fire of competition amongst drivers.

    1. One other thing F1 could take from MotoGP, HDTV! Looks like they jumped on the bandwagon and will be providing HD content this season in the states.

      F1 is really missing out compared to most other series. With exorbitant fees you’d think they could offer just a little bit more to the fan.

      1. It’s not about the fans… it’s about Bernie’s pocketbook.

  4. Anyone who watched the final race of last season knows that those who say oval racing is boring and easy don’t know what they are talking about. Franchitti winning title after gambling on there not being a safety car period at the end of the race and timing his stops to perfection. The first ever time in the history of the series there was no full course caution for an entire race.

    I have been watching for a few years now and i must say there are many many times when i look forward to the race in the evening after an F1 precession during the afternoon.

    Real racing, real race tracks and as pointed out more non ovals than ovals for those of you who dont get oval racing.

    1. Each to their own – I thought that was a rather boring way to win a championship to be honest which is why I didn’t mention it!

      It’s such a shame they don’t race at superspeedways like Michigan any more. The 2000 race at Michigan is one of the great moments in racing I’ve ever seen. It’s up there with Dijon ’79, Silverstone ’87 and Suzuka ’05.

      Andretti and Montoya swapping positions over the final laps, each trying to find the way of being ahead at the finishing line. And just when it looks like Andretti’s got it, Montoya pulls off something really quite special:


  5. There’s an interesting parallel between Indy Car and F1. Even in Canada, which has a race, there is a bare minimum of advertising and coverage for F1, so I imagine it must be even worse in the USA. But back in the UK, Indy Car suffered from the same lack of exposure, relegated to the least-watched of the original 5 free-to-air channels, often delayed to the middle of the night, with no real pre-show or post-race analysis or any of the things that makes the BBC’s F1 coverage so much more than just the race.

    The criticisms also seem to be parallel. F1 fans deride Indy for being on ovals (which is unfair, seeing what a good balance now exists between different kinds of circuits). Similarly, I’ve heard Americans deride F1 for the fact that they don’t run on ovals and so don’t test that skill. Also, whilst F1 fans may decry some of Indy’s artificiality, there is more action, and F1 at the moment is hardly “pure” either, for much less rewards on the action front.

    Both F1 fans and Indy fans should watch each other’s sport and learn to appreciate what makes them different and what makes them good. The sports have a lot in common but also a good deal to learn from each other.

    1. I nominate this for Cotd.

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        10th April 2010, 20:57

        I’m glad that Keith opened the subject of Indy. I thought the last race at St Petes was excellent. Unfortunately I didn’t see Sao Paulo, but the last few races of last season were exceptional.
        What could F1 learn fron this series? Maybe spec cars aren’t such a bad thing, maybe refuelling is okay, maybe an oval/road track/street circuit mix is a good idea.
        On the subject of other races series I enjoy, I would have waxed lyrical about the DTM series, but I can’t find which UK TV station would actually be broadcasting it this season. There has to be one TV channel – after all there will be at least six Brit drivers involved this year.

      2. Me too, I wanted to say something similar, but Icthyes said it perfectly. I have always been into both, but F1 has always been more important (I’m American too!). It’s worth watching both series if you can…

  6. Well, it’s not only your mistake, many well prepared people like you do the same, but, anyway, I have to make this small correction…

    It’s not “Sao Paolo” (“Paolo” is rather an italian name than a portuguese one), but “São Paulo”, with “U” not “O” and with a “~”, that, in portuguese, we call “til”, and can be frequently found over the “N” in spanish words (like the country’s name itself, “ESPAÑA”), but I have no ideia how this symbol is called in english… Well, I just saw in Wikipedia it is called “tilde” in English…

    Apart from that, perfect article, as usual! Brazilian fans have never given up on CART/ChampCar/IRL/IndyCars even during the series’ worst moments, because we always have competititve drivers taking place, including many recent champions, like Gil de Ferran (CART), Cristiano da Matta (CART) and Tony Kanaan (IRL), plus three times Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves…

  7. Like a lot of people here, I really have no interest in the Oval tracks. Maybe I’ll watch them if I’m bored but not likely.
    Something to check out though is the new chassis designs being proposed for the coming years. Some are pretty bizarre but the Lola and Swift ones look fantastic imo.


  8. I watch indycar series and usualy gives good racing. They have there own kers and actualy it gave more oportunities to overtaking manouvers. May not have Vetels or Hamiltons, but but have Castro Neves, Justin Wilson, Danica Patrick and so one, and some of the races on the ovals were (last year) breath taking.

    1. The Push To Pass is not a KERS system with any sort of electrical assist. It’s just an engine management software command that give the engine more power. All the cars have the same engine and software, so no one has an unfair advantage.

  9. If you’re disappointed by the entertainment the IRL puts on, then there’s not many racing series that can please you. The speed is amazing, the drivers are (for the most part) talented, and there’s some great side by side racing. The schedule is diverse in courses and geography. For those of you who have no interest in ovals (considering half the people who say that have never watch an oval race) give it a chance. The finishes have a high chance of being amazingly close.

    Give the IRL a shot. It’s a great open wheel series.

    1. I was an oval scoffer for many years, then back in the late 90’s when euro sport used to show CART free on satellite I saw what all the fuss was about.

      I dropped sky sports (soon to be sky all together seems I am paying 25 quid to basically watch poor final seasons of lost and 24) and dont have the lifestyle to be able to watch live so I am just having to catch highlights this season which is a real shame.

      I am catching the NASCAR on openacess which I also like… but not to the same extent. while the racing is good (the road racing is brilliant… bring on more than 2 I say) but the oval races are too long. You just cant sit and watch 3 hours + of it.

  10. The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is always very competitive and fun to watch. Great international and American drivers. Great action. And guess who owns it?

  11. I’m not putting down IndyCar in general, but as to the argument of oval racing vs. road/street racing, ovals just don’t get me excited about racing. I realize they can produce just as competitive a race, and have close finishes. That’s not what racing’s all about for me. When I watch a race (especially when on-board cameras are shown), I like to imagine being in that drivers shoes, and steering around interesting curves is just more pleasure inducing than an oval. Left, left, left, left. Even when a Formula 1 race is processional, it still sends more tingles down my spine than watching drivers go in a big circle. I’m not writing from complete ignorance and lack of exposure either, as an American I’ve watched the Indy 500 many times over the years, and it’s never gotten me nearly as excited as watching even some of the more boring F1 races.

    That said I’ll definitely check out some of the road and street races this year, and probably even the Indy 500 simply ’cause it’s a tradition. I had no idea about the live feed (thanks Keith for the heads up on that), and don’t get Versus which shows most of the races here in the US.

  12. I’ll pass thanks. I can’t be bothered to follow yet another series. I have a hard time getting into new sports. I stopped following WTCC because its boring.

    I’ll stick to sports I know.

  13. I think Indycar is an interesting idea. I have been such a devoted F1 fan for the best part of the last 20 years that I never really thought of any other racing competition.
    There is a lot F1 can learn from Indy, in terms of delivering racing and entertainment to the fans. Broadcasting the race on their website is a great idea, not to mention they are shown in HD (for the life of me, I don’t know why F1 is not). I have a couple of questions, I am sure you informed guys you be able to shed a light on.
    So what do the teams do then, if the chassis, tyres and engine are spec. Are they allowed to develop it at all? What do they do? Bolt the tyres on, strap the driver in and watch?

    1. “So what do the teams do then, if the chassis, tyres and engine are spec. Are they allowed to develop it at all? What do they do? Bolt the tyres on, strap the driver in and watch?”

      Pretty much yeah – although there’s nothing in the rules stopping a multiple chassis, the economy simply does exist to provide that right now and Dallara provide their chassis “as is”.

      1. Its fair to say then that the main differential between teams is driver skill then? Interesting.

  14. Certainly worth watching the progress of Simona de Silversto of Switzerland. She’s been instantly quicker than Danica Patrick right from the first time she sat in the car and should only get better. She’s already cracked the top 12 qualifying once and just missed today by a tenth or so.

  15. Where can I watch?
    Is this only on Sky?

    1. It’s shown live on Sky Sports 3 – the race is on from 8.30pm (GMT) tonight

  16. I am a huge IndyCar fan and have been one for as long as I’ve been a fan of F1, which is almost 17 years now.
    I’ve got far more memories of spectacular IndyCar/ChampCar races than F1 races.

    Now tell me you don’t want to see these monsters do some real ballsy racing on this AMAZING race track:


  17. I think a Live blog for the Indy car race would be great.

  18. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    10th April 2010, 22:44

    TRAITOR >:(

    Although I guess it’s better to have an open mind ;)
    Thats the reason why F1 doesn’t sell in America and Indy car doesn’t sell here we are too narrow minded.

  19. I would if i could, but I can’t find torrents of the races anywhere, and I’m not paying for Sky.

    1. But it’s broadcast live on the indycar.com website for free.

      1. Having just read all of the article, and your reply, so it is! This is very good news :)

  20. Jose Arellano
    11th April 2010, 0:42

    if just the cars where not so ugly…

    1. Are you talking about IndyCar or F1 cars?

      Because those Dallara chassis are no lookers but at least they’ve not got F1’s ghastly, out-of-proportion wings.

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