After a pandemic-affected 2020, the Indycar championship is enjoying a renaissance in 2021. The series is back on its regular calendar, and it is thrilling fans all over the world. After the IRL/CART civil war that destroyed open-wheel racing in America, it finally feels like the Indycar series is on stable footing. Under the management of the Penske Corporation, the premier class of single-seater racing in the Americas is returning to prominence.
Exciting action, close competition and unpredictability are fueling this upturn in popularity. The recent Indy 500 was the most-watched sports event that weekend; the race beat the NBA and Baseball in TV ratings. The series is in good health, and here are five reasons to watch the white-knuckle, wheel-to-wheel action that is Indycar.
The Fiercest Competition
Quite simply, Indycar is the most competitive series in racing. So far, in 2021, the series has crowned five different race winners in five races. With all teams using the same standard chassis, control electronics and tyres, the drivers and teams must make the difference. Indycar champions its drivers making the difference on a race weekend.
That is why a driver like Colton Herta can struggle in race one at Alabama and then pitch up a week later to dominate on the streets of Florida. At the start of every Indycar race, a genuine feeling of not knowing who the winner will be, exists. With only 16 races on the calendar, every race feels like a prizefight. However, the way Indycar regulates its technical regulations to keep the cars close allows the drivers to shine. That is why there is so much unpredictability as the grid boats an enormous amount of depth.
The Youth Movement
One of the biggest things driving Indycar’s popularity is the Indy youth movement. The quartet of Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Rinus Veekay and McLaren’s Pato O’Ward are all race-winners under 25. These four drivers bring their panache and style to the championship. Veekay’s fearlessness allied with his daredevil/entertainer character makes him a must-watch TV. Herta’s laid-back, fun-loving smooth racing style will see him get positioned as the American face of the championship. Finally, Ex-Super-Formula pedaller Alex Palou couples quiet confidence with a disregard for veteran drivers.
Lastly, former Red Bull young driver O’Ward is the most exciting driver on the grid. The Mexican with the Irish name possesses insane car control; the Indycar paddock has started calling him the Ninja. Watching O’Ward’s onboard camera is box-office. There is nothing better than watching young drivers come into a championship and shake everything up; these four drivers are here to turn the Indycar series upside down. This stable of youngsters can drive Indycar to more success with their fan-friendly attitude and insane talent.
Nowadays, most new race tracks are barren tarmac locales shorn of atmosphere. Luckily, the US race tracks still boast the old-school feel with plenty of atmospheres. After the roaring success of the ‘500, Indycar goes back to another banner event this weekend. The Dual in Detroit returns after missing out last year due to the pandemic. The bumpy, high-speed circuit lined with concrete walls tests drivers to the limit as they perform double-duty by racing on Saturday and Sunday. The Detroit streets will test the drivers’ skill, bravery and eye-balls as they trawl across the uneven roads in the Motor City.
After this weekend, the series will head north to tackle the stunning Road America racetrack at Elkhart Lake. The racetrack often gets labelled as the Spa-Francorchamps of North America, except that gravel and grass still line the outer edge of the track. Add a return to Laguna Seca, another oval race in St.Louis (where a certain Romain Grosjean makes his oval debut) and a season finale at the iconic Long Beach GP, the Indycar calendar will push the drivers. Yet, at the same time, it will serve up high-octane racing on unsanitised, old-school tracks. These circuits are great for wheel-to-wheel racing; plus, they could create some unexpected circumstances that will shape the championship.
The Championship Battle
After a disastrous Indy 500 reigning champion, Scott Dixon is no longer the championship leader. The six-time champion was making serene progress to a seventh title until the cruel mistress of Indianapolis scuppered his ambitions on race day. While Dixon tumbled, his teammate Alex Palou surged to the top of the standings with a second-place finish. Dixon’s troubles also allowed Pato O’Ward to haul himself into contention. As a result, the top three are now separated by 37 points, with 50 points on offer for a race win; the championship dynamics could dramatically shift as the season hits its busy period through the summer.
Watching how the two youngsters battle with a legend down the home straight for the championship will be fascinating to watch. But, finally, it would be foolish to rule out Simon Pagenaud, Rinus Veekay and two-time champion Josef Newgarden who currently sit fourth, fifth and sixth in the standings. The championship chase for the coveted Astor Cup could get wild in the white-heat of battle this summer.
The On-Track Action
The actual on-track action in Indycar is fantastic. The similarity across the cars and the constant push to improve overtaking has created an exciting formula in 2021. After two years of racing with the aeroscreen, Indycar has started to iron out its turbulent air problem. Now, the series is back to showcasing breathtaking racing. Rinus Veekay displayed his racing skills as he scythed past the traffic and Romain Grosjean to win the Indianapolis GP.
Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta waged a race-long war for the victory in Florida. At the same time, Pato O’Ward screamed past his opponents on the slippery, dusty tarmac at Texas Motor Speedway. Whether it is on an oval, racetrack or street circuit, Indycar offers stunning action as cars race side-by-side for two hours. It is a spectacle watching Alexander Rossi race around the outside of another driver or witness Scott Dixon dissect his way through traffic. So if you’re after tons of action, brave racing, and exciting overtaking, Indycar is the series to watch.