Why I'm Falling In Love With Indycar
(Image Credit: NTT Indycar Series)
America's premier open-wheel racing series has always been on my radar, but for several reasons, I've kept it at arm's length in the past. One reason for me not devoting my time in the past to this motorsport gem is the peculiar time difference between home (the UK) and the United States, another has been the fact that a lot of my time is devoted to following other motorsports such as F1, MotoGP or British Superbikes. My third and final reason and perhaps the most foolish, was a prior misconception that as Indycar isn't the pinnacle of open-wheel motorsports (a label F1 clings onto as it toes the line between entertainment and sporting spectacle) it wasn't worth me devoting my time to. This was the wrong mindset.
In light of the 2023 F1 season thus far lacking any real competition, a fact that sadly dawned upon me during the opening race in Bahrain - IndyCar has proved to be a wonderful tonic to cleanse my motorsport pallet. After an uneventful Bahrain GP, I turned to the Indycar season opener at St. Petersburg. I was immediately hooked. First of all, any street circuit that uses an airport runway as the start/finish straight is an automatic 10 out of 10 and my fascination blossomed thanks to the intense fight for the lead between 2019 Aussie Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin in his Team Penske machine versus F1 phoenix Romain Grosjean racing for Andretti. As the pair crashed out after an energetic round of pit-stops I found myself screaming at the television, leaping up off the sofa, not out of anger, but out of sheer exhilaration thanks to the racing spectacle unfolding before me.
With McLaughlin and Grosjean out of the race, it was then up to McLaren's Pato O'Ward and Chip Ganassi's Marcus Ericsson to fight for victory, with Ericsson taking top honours after a late, but brief power-unit malfunction relegated O'Ward to second place. Fast forward to round two of the Indycar season and it was time to switch from the streets of St. Pete to the oval of Texas Motor Speedway - 375 miles of 200-plus mph action and over 1000 overtakes. 1000! Josef Newgarden emerged from the madness victorious, maintaining a cool head that a two-time series champion must posses. Fast forward to round three and the setting was the historic and picturesque Long Beach street circuit and in a grid full of seasoned veterans, Kyle Kirkwood took a commanding maiden Indycar win, demonstrating the depth of talent in the championship. Round four at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama - a frenetic, technical and fast road circuit and the first permanent track of the year - saw the rematch of McLaughlin and Grosjean, with alternate strategies offering up a dramatic fight for the lead. McLaughlin won and made it four different winners in four races as Indycar enters its famed 'Month of May.'
The 'Month of May' kicks off with the May 13 GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis road course, then practice for the world-renowned Indianapolis 500 starts on May 16th ahead of the 107th running of the world's most-famous oval race on May 28. I can't wait.
The reasons I've become so infatuated with Indycar are embedded within the text above. The series runs a spec chassis, with the only differentiators being engine supplier (Honda or Chevrolet), the driver behind the wheel and the crew in the garage. Iconic American racing brands lead the way on the team front (Andretti, Penske, Chip Ganassi) and the field is stacked with incredible driving talent. Multiple drivers have won a title or are in contention to win this year and to prove how tough the competition is, reigning champion Will Power is yet to win a race this year. Nor has six-time series champion Scott Dixon or 2021 champion Alex Palou and just 15 points covers the top five of the championship. At least 10 drivers can win any given race, opening up the title odds all year long. The race venues are a mixture of street circuits, road courses and ovals and multiple pit-stop strategies come into play at all events. These are the ingredients for an amazing racing series and this is why I'm going to be consuming Indycar's 'Month of May' and the rest of the season thereafter with an eager fascination.