until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Five easy fixes that could instantly improve IndyCar

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The fact that IndyCar offers one of the best on-track products in elite motorsport often leaves its fans and insiders wondering how it can better translate that great racing product to a larger audience.

Given the size of the series it does well to have such a broad reach but there are some things IndyCar could change overnight that would make the championship more accessible to fans and the viewing experience instantly better.

There are a few suggestions below, and as this is a list of things to change, by definition it seems like a slant against the series. But it’s not intended that way.

No series is perfect and IndyCar does plenty very well in lots of areas. This is just a list of friendly suggestions based on one – admittedly sometimes flawed – person’s opinions.

It’s worth noting that things like racing internationally and adding more ovals aren’t necessarily short-term or simple suggestions, so they aren’t included.

We’ve highlighted our suggested changes below. Let us know in the comments what you would do and why.

Name tyres ‘hard’ and ‘soft’

Will Power And Josef Newgarden Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented By Lear By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M84338

The number of times I see Formula 1 fans asking what an ‘alternate’ and a ‘primary’ is in IndyCar, I’ve lost count. I’m also not sure that, personally, I would have a 10/10 hit rate for telling you which one is which! Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that, but it brings home the point.

Naming the tyres simply ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ would make it far easier for fans outside of IndyCar to understand what’s going on.

Almost any motorsport fan could tell you that a soft tyre would be fast but degrade quickly, and that a hard would last longer but be slower at least initially. But I doubt many could do the same with a primary and alternate.

Remind us of the special liveries

Series have generally moved away from what feels like a 1980s/90s trend of doing a run-down of the grid before a race with liveries, so you know what each driver’s car looks like.

Perhaps it’s a time factor. Some series come on air just before the green flag or use the build-up to tell other stories. But IndyCar does do a rundown of the grid before each race.

That’s great but given that some drivers have as many as four sponsors per season, it’s paramount to show the livery the driver is racing so that you can follow and identify that driver.

I also dislike the run down of the grid using ‘row 1, row 2’ because by row 9 I’ve forgotten what positions we’re up to. OK, that’s lazy and I should do some maths, but just put the number position the driver is starting next to them, it’s just easier. And if you’ve forgotten which side of the grid has preference, it’s also complicated.

Ban three cars being pink and a similar livery!

Kyle Kirkwood Indianapolis 500 Practice By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M80274

This is a very personal choice, but frankly trying to identify between Kyle Kirkwood, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves in IndyCar is very tough at speed from zoomed-out camera angles.

It’s petty, but the teams or IndyCar should work out a solution to that if you want people to know which is which.

Arrow McLaren managed a good solution in a field of black-based liveries at the Indianapolis 500, when it painted Pato O’Ward’s right mirror green. Something like that isn’t necessarily a solution in totality but it would also help people see which car is which. Especially now that you can’t see helmet designs properly because of the brilliant aeroscreen device.

I know this is micro-management on an extreme level and it’s a borderline laughable suggestion, but this is a series that entertains its fans and having a host of cars that look exactly the same detracts from that product.

Explain stewards’ decisions better

Alexander Rossi And Kyle Kirkwood Ppg 375 At Texas Motor Speedway By Joe Skibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M75801 2048x1366

There’s usually an instance once a year where people get the wrong end of the stick with a regulation when an incident happens on track.

This year we had it at Texas Motor Speedway where Kirkwood was initially blamed for a pitlane crash when in fact the rules dictated that Alexander Rossi was at fault.

In that particular incident, the regulations weren’t at fault. But whereas in F1, after a big incident, the stewards issue a document explaining their decision so everyone knows where they stand, I’m not aware of any such IndyCar equivalent.

The series is always happy to answer questions relating to its stewarding directly, but fans don’t have access to that.

The TV broadcasts usually do a good job of recapping these incidents at the next race. But that could be two weeks or more later for example.

Providing somewhere where fans can read stewards’ decision reasoning would certainly help clear up what seem like mysterious calls that often have simple explanations.

Leading on from that, a place where an up-to-date rules set is kept would also be great. Currently the rule book is shared online. But there can be addendums sent to teams which aren’t always seen by the public.

An introduction of a new diffuser strake which had the potential to be extremely impactful at the Indy 500, for example, was done after the rule book was released initially.

Just for the sake of clarity, publishing more of its decision-making process has to be a good thing for getting information out there. On the whole there appears to be fewer complaints about IndyCar’s stewarding than in some other series. Why not flaunt that and take a lead in how it’s communicated to boot?

Show off an overlooked IndyCar asset better

Josef Newgarden Sonsio Grand Prix At Road America By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M85421

One area IndyCar really can boast over most series is that it has no tyre warmers.

There are not many more beautiful things in motorsport than seeing a driver push to the absolute maximum on stone-cold tyres, especially on a street course when the walls are close and the risks are high.

The NBC TV crew often show in and out laps but rarely for more than one pit cycle. The data is there, it should be used for every stop!

It’s rare anyone makes up three or four seconds on just one lap against their rivals. It happens all the time in the pit sequences! It’s such a key battleground that explaining those elements of the pitstop sequence almost always gives you the answer as to why drivers have moved around not just because of what’s happened in the pits but on the way in and particularly out.

Combine that with more strategy insight from the TV crew and context like over and undercuts and you’re painting a much more vivid view of how the race is being won without getting into analytical depths that will alienate more casual viewers.

It would be great if that was available as a stat in the post-race results too. You have to work it out manually and that can be taxing for 27 cars!

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