In an ideal IndyCar world:
– There will be as many oval tracks in the schedule as road and street courses, with a return to the Triple Crown of 500-mile races.
– Cars will look like something designed for the next decade, not the last, with 1,000 horsepower delivered by a mix of internal combustion, hybrid and electric engines from various manufacturers.
– The best drivers will be household names in American sports, with Andretti, Foyt, Unser, Rutherford and Mears having their glory years. And you don’t have to explain to the average dude that this isn’t NASCAR or Formula 1.
It’s the IndyCar Series and it’s really good in its current form, if not perfect. The evenness of the field has never been better and there are drivers with personality just waiting to be discovered by casual sports fans that IndyCar desperately needs to capture.
It’s IndyCar, where the sensory experience is second to none. If you haven’t personally seen a 230 mph blur on Indy’s main straightaway (the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway), you haven’t seen (or heard, or felt) anything like it. IndyCar is really a good thing.
But why are so many fans holding back on the series these days? The past few weeks haven’t been the best for IndyCar, and social media has been awash with rage (but then Santa Claus on his best day will face the wrath of human nature in the online forums).
* RACE FANS WERE FANS WHEN THE TICKET PRICE OF THE 2023 IOWA SPEEDWAY RACE/CONCERT INFLUENCED FROM THIS YEAR’S EVENT.
* Then there was a collective sense of air of a balloon two weeks ago when an IndyCar press release revealed that the 2.4-liter plug-in hybrid, planned for the 2024 season, was no longer off the table.
*Instead, the 700-hp 2.2-liter V6 introduced in 2012 will remain through 2023, with hybrid technology added to the 2.2-liter package starting in 2024. All we can say is “UGH!”
* Summon the online rage because IndyCar in 2023, with chassis and engine packages that are more than a decade old, could qualify as a vintage series (a really cool vintage series, I might add).
I was disappointed. Everyone was looking forward to a more powerful engine and the introduction of hybrid technology. But when you see the reasons behind the decision to launch this project, you realize that it was the right decision.
Without a third manufacturer joining the series as had been hoped, Chevy and Honda couldn’t guarantee enough new 2.4 engines to fill 25-27 cars as was common this year, and it would make getting 33 cars into the Indy 500 really difficult.
Not so many steps forward in the last decade IndyCar could not take that step back to produce the quality of racing that is arguably the best in any major auto racing series.
But let’s be realistic. IndyCar’s biggest challenge isn’t the number of horses pushing the sleek old Dallara, or even the need for more ovals on the schedule after the four they’ll race in 2023.
IndyCar needs more eyeballs in the series, especially youngsters’ eyeballs. A global IndyCar Fan Survey conducted in January 2022, by Motorsports Network showed that the average age of an IndyCar fan was just over 42 years old, and 47 percent of IndyCar fans were 45 years of age or older.
Here’s a “UGH!” Another: Only 12.2 percent of IndyCar fans are female.
What about wannabe fans? My sense is that there are a lot of people out there who are fascinated by motorsports and love IndyCar.
I spend a lot of time on the golf course – like almost every day – and my buddies often ask me about IndyCar. These are your core sports fans who are fascinated by the series even though they don’t understand it.
“So, it’s like NASCAR?”
Hello. Those are full-body race cars; This is a single seater open wheel.
“Oh, it’s like Formula One. I saw the ‘Drive to Survive’ series on Netflix. That’s amazing.”
not exactly. Yes, the cars look somewhat alike but they are completely different. Racing in IndyCar is more competitive. You will adore it.
One man in his early 30s attended his first NASCAR race, the championship race in November in Phoenix, and was amazed.
“I couldn’t believe how fast those cars were. Is this what IndyCars is like?”
My answer: “You should have seen the IndyCar on the same track when they ran there. The average speed is about 50 MPH faster. And at Indy, you’ll be blown away by the speed.”
How does IndyCar attract younger fans? This is a multi-million dollar marketing question.
The two-day entertainment/racing extravaganza in Iowa sounds like a nice move, though ticket prices are inflated for the 2023 weekend – mainly due to the big bucks the series will have to shell out for musical entertainment like Ed Sheeran (Editor’s note: Somehow we have to wonder if this Brit is more of an F1 fan than an IndyCar fan)And Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney and the Zac Brown Band – they turned away some of the people who were there last year. Whether they are turned away, we will find out.
The CW’s recently announced “100 Days to Indy” docuseries could generate some major interest if the production fully captures the characters, rivalries, intensity, joy, heartbreak and drama found in IndyCar.
A third engine supplier joining Chevy and Honda would provide a major boost, though that doesn’t seem imminent.
I’d like to see the series move beyond hybrid technology and introduce all-electric racing cars. (When I mentioned the hybrid thing to a veteran IndyCar participant a few months ago, his response was, “This is 2010.”)
Before you suggest I get in my Prius and drive away, know two things:
1. The only electric vehicle I own is a golf cart. I also own a couple of muscle cars, two family SUVs and a 1960s pickup that I’m restoring in a rat rod cruiser. I love the carburetor and the rumble.
2. I’d like to see all-electric IndyCars compete on the same grid with internal combustion-powered cars because the plot (aka Eyes on the Series) would be massive. Can you imagine the fan base being split into two camps? The T-shirts alone would be amusing – “Ice is for sweet tea” or “If you’re a gas fan, you’re an xss fan.”
Electrification in the automotive industry is gaining momentum, and like it or not, motorsports will follow.
Until then, IndyCar must be satisfied with the product it owns. It’s a good race and the biggest shame is that more people aren’t paying attention.
Hopefully, with effective marketing and products on and off track that appeal to a younger audience, that will start to change.