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. 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.

  2. the Sri Lankan
    11th April 2010, 1:48

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

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  4. Hatham Al-Shabibi
    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!

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. Jonesracing82
    11th April 2010, 3:14

    i would most certainly watch it, if it was shown here in oz, sadly it’s not! and the races are at about 3am on a sunday night and have work on mondays grrr, “V8 Supercars” is another great catagory

    1. I agree, I would love to watch it, but the coverage the Australian media gives to any motorsport series other then V8 Supercars, Formula1 and MotoGP is shameful. I dont think I’ve seen one mention of Will Power’s amazing success this season after breaking his back last year or of fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe almost winning the series last year. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia’s next F1 driver and hopefully champion hasn’t had any local coverage, either in his success in British F3 or the F1 young drivers test. I believe if Australian’s knew about these amazing talents, they would fully support them, but with not even a mention on Australian media, they are unknowns to anyone other then fanatics. thanks for the great website keith and don’t forget about V8Supercars ;)

  7. Guys, IndyCar is not the IndyCar that Jacques Villeneuve came through. Today they are spec cars with spec engines and ride buyers. It is a waste of a series and a waste of time. Take it from someone who grew up with the IndyCar World Series to Champ Car to IRL, what it is now is a far cry from racing, technology or intrigue.

    As much as I think F1 is headed down a wrong road, IndyCar has already been down that road and there is no coming back.

    It gets ratings far below infomercials and is less interesting than one as well.

    1. let me add that these terrible cars are also about 5 or more years old. there is so much to dislike it makes me think F1 in its current state is perfect. and that is saying something!!

    2. true, I did’nt realise there was no ride buyers in F1 or GP2.

  8. Both Series in their current state are pathetic in comparison to what they once were. Nevertheless, the first two Indycar rounds were entertaining to watch. However, I just have a huge problem with the interviews they do that consist in shamelessly plugging sponsors and asking personal family questions. It’s all so fake it sometimes puts me off the racing.

    1. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU THAT INDYCAR live coverage commentators are a joke….they spend too much time yapping about irrelevant matters …and waste time on trivialities instead of telling and cmmentating on the action on track…it a complete joke when you compare to the very proffessional and factual live on, right on time BBC commentary we get from FORMULA ONE.

  9. As long as we’re plugging other series we watch are there going to be articles on the Le mans series or maybe V8 supercars. Those are fantastic races.

  10. Indycar is technically inferior to f1 but it does provide exciting races…and f1 must adopt a system like push to pass button…moreover f1 should reduce its dependence on aerodynamics produced downforce

  11. I absolutely love the Indycar Series. Playing Indycar Series on PS2 is the best experience ever.

    I would love a “motorsport review” every week or fortnightly, which rounds up the races in Indycar Series and GP2.

    1. Brilliant idea. Even if it was brief it would be good. Could maybe include LMES and ALMS and possibly even WRC and DTM.

  12. If I’m going to watch a spec series I think I’d rather watch GP2 than IndyCar. I don’t see much IndyCar anymore, but the races I do see I see lots of “has beens” and those who will “never be” drive short sprints between safety car sessions.

    Indeed there is lots of action with crashes, cars spinning of and people tripping over each other in the pitlane and even overtaking, but it’s not really the action I’m looking for.

    With GP2 at least you have a sense that these drivers could go on to be F1 chapions one day. Somehow the kids in GP2 even seem more mature than the drivers in IndyCar. I’ve seen some stunning drives in GP2.

    I always liked DTM, but since they don’t show that on Dutch TV anymore, I don’t see much of that anymore either.

  13. In 20 years I have never as much as given a thought about any other form of motorsport. F1 has always been my one and first love. But I think I am being narrow minded, I will give Indycar a go, their first two races of the season are up on youtube on this channelhttp://www.youtube.com/user/sphaera666#p. I think MotoGP would also be interesting, you often hear about how good the racing is there. Thanks for the eye openning Keith!

  14. STRFerrari4Ever
    11th April 2010, 14:22

    I watch Indy Car quite regularly and I do enjoy it like last year the race at Mid Ohio Sports Course was action packed with crashes and daring passing moves. The only thing I dislike about Indy Car is the Honda engines they just get on my nerves for some reason, I can’t stand their sound.

  15. Talladega Knight
    11th April 2010, 14:52

    I have never watched IndyCar before, even though one of my fellow countrymen seems to excel in the sport; I am Scottish by the way. Watched NASCAR before, but didn’t like it, although there is a very good film starring Will Ferrell called ‘Taladega Nights,’ which is very funny, you should all see it. My second favourite motorsport is DTM where I support Paul di Resta, who is related to Dario Franchitti somehow? You should all watch DTM which is light years better than BTCC. Although I stil am a die-hard McLaren fan!

  16. Yes, please, to a live blog for Indy 500. I am really impressed that they use standard Flash for their Race Control *and* do not limit the broadcast to US viewers. Worth supporting, even if F1 has better drivers; the latter could use some reminders of what racing is all about.

    Coupled with an F1Fanatic live blog, I’d say their only worry would be that fans might start preferring it to watching live on track! I guess nothing beats the fumes and roar of the real deal, though.

  17. All the cars look and sound the same. It’s a one make series. Where’s the variety? Where’s the difference in car design, technology and aerodynamics?

    1. F1 is about cars and who has the $400 million to excel. Indy is about the drivers and who can drive better on similar cars.First race in Sao Paulo proved this point. It was a skill race more than a car race. It was refreshing to see the drivers competing.

  18. Here is an interesting look at the track. I looks really nice. Could this be a “thinking man” track? If F1 was not so elitist they could get a car in there and try it out. Instead we get Bahrain and Singapore.


  19. What about MotoGP? It has some good moments, even though it’s bikes.

  20. I think F1, Moto GP, WTCC, GP2, BTCC are more interesting. Indycar is made for USA not Europe

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