Why you should watch… IndyCar

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

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172 comments on Why you should watch… IndyCar

  1. sato113 said on 10th April 2010, 16:31

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

  2. Untitled258 said on 10th April 2010, 16:37

    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!!! :-(

    • Invoke said on 10th April 2010, 17:04

      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.

      • Untitled258 said on 10th April 2010, 18:06

        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.

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

  3. mitchibob said on 10th April 2010, 16:45

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. Daffid said on 10th April 2010, 16:50

    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?)

  6. Steve L said on 10th April 2010, 16:55

    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.

    • Joey-Poey said on 10th April 2010, 17:02

      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…

  7. silencer said on 10th April 2010, 17:07

    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

    • 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

    • Joey-Poey said on 10th April 2010, 18:15

      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.

      • nick said on 10th April 2010, 19:21

        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!!

    • Adrian said on 11th April 2010, 9:23

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

  8. F1NATIC said on 10th April 2010, 17:15

    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.

    • Brakius said on 10th April 2010, 18:32

      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.

  9. Lee Sharp said on 10th April 2010, 17:44

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th April 2010, 11:01

      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:


  10. Icthyes said on 10th April 2010, 18:03

    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.

    • Joey-Poey said on 10th April 2010, 18:17

      I nominate this for Cotd.

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 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.

      • mfDB said on 11th April 2010, 1:05

        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…

  11. Daniel said on 10th April 2010, 18:12

    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…

  12. Mike said on 10th April 2010, 18:25

    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.


  13. xabregas said on 10th April 2010, 18:49

    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.

    • GWbridge said on 11th April 2010, 1:08

      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.

  14. YeaMon said on 10th April 2010, 19:12

    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.

    • nick said on 10th April 2010, 19:29

      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.

  15. GWbridge said on 10th April 2010, 19:22

    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?

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