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

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