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. US_Peter said on 10th April 2010, 19:29

    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.

  2. Cube said on 10th April 2010, 19:37

    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.

  3. Gilvan said on 10th April 2010, 20:39

    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?

    • “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”.

      • Gilvan said on 11th April 2010, 11:25

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

  4. Kris H said on 10th April 2010, 21:41

    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.

  5. manatcna said on 10th April 2010, 21:59

    Where can I watch?
    Is this only on Sky?

  6. Damon said on 10th April 2010, 22:05

    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:


  7. Aaren said on 10th April 2010, 22:41

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

  8. Mike "the bike" Schumacher said on 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.

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

  10. Jose Arellano said on 11th April 2010, 0:42

    if just the cars where not so ugly…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th April 2010, 11:04

      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.

  11. Adam Tate said on 11th April 2010, 1:48

    As an F1 fan from Texas, I’ve never been to a Formula one race, but I have been to several Indy races at Texas Motor Speedway and they are fantastic. Though I much prefer street and road corses, Indy always puts on a good show. After the last race I attended they opened up the garages to the fans, I got to touch one of the cars and meet Ryan Hunter-Reay. Go up and see the cars and the drivers right after a race. When was the last time you EVER heard of that happening in F1? Indycar is doing a lot of things right and will only get better when in 2012 they adopt a new formula and have multiple engine manufacturers and a new car. It has a lot to offer F1 fans, and although F1 is still my first love, it could learn a thing or two, or three from the IRL.

  12. the Sri Lankan said on 11th April 2010, 1:48

    hey guys, do you know where i can download full races to view for the IRL?

  13. wasiF1 said on 11th April 2010, 2:07

    Nice article but I can’t imagine myself watching any other form of motorsports other than F1.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th April 2010, 11:05

      You don’t know what you’re missing. There’s so much more to motorsport than F1. I urge you to give it a try.

      • wasiF1 said on 11th April 2010, 12:16

        Thanks for the tip, but Keith here in Asia we only get to see live F1, Moto GP, GP2, & V8 Australia & etc. & they do sometime feature other forms of racing highlights like WRC, Nascar, World super bike, & many more but as I am a student plus also have a job it’s impossible for me to watch other forms of racing but F1. & only Moto GP & F1 are popular in my country.

  14. Hatham Al-Shabibi said on 11th April 2010, 3:00

    Indycar is great, despite the perception of “B” drivers. I live in Tampa so I was able to get media credentials for the St. Pete race and the series is becoming very fan-friendly again. The drivers literally walk to the paddock next to fans. You have the Danica factor, of course, but drivers like Castroneves, Kanaan, Wheldon, Dixon, Power, etc. are really good at what they do. The St. Pete track is gorgeous!

  15. AlonsoWDC said on 11th April 2010, 3:12

    The state of open wheel racing in America (as in, the IndyCar Series) remains in its crumbling state since the split. The merger in 2008 was needed but the series has only gotten that much more irrelevant in a market where racing really isn’t that notable on the sports scene at-large. NASCAR is still more or less received as a niche hole in the sports media, and it is by and large the most relevant racing in the US.

    I’m American and I have watched AOW since the early-mid 1990s. But I have never been more disinterested in it than I am now. You may like the idea of a schedule (as lacking as it currently is aside) that has such a two-sided face, particularly considering the novelty of oval racing in Europe. And that’s fine. But don’t endorse the sport. It’s just awful and I fear it may be dying or at the least, entering another era of disarray. There was a race last summer (Edmonton, perhaps) where essentially 15% of the paltry ~200.000 estimated television audience came solely from the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

    No one could care.

    • J.Danzig said on 12th April 2010, 7:37

      F1 and IndyCar and in very similar states.Since 1995 u could probably chose any year u like-In F1 it has been held up by Ferrari,Mclaren,William’s and u could possibly throw Sauber in there,these are the only teams will play F1 – every one else just comes and goes.IndyCar racing Penske,Newman Hass,Chip Ganassi and Team Green now Andretti Autosport are the only teams that can play IndyCar Racing everyone else just comes and goes.

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