Monday may be 2019 Media Day, but with preseason testing at COTA this week, the start of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season is nearing. We’re a month away from kicking off the campaign on the streets of St. Pete. The six month break is almost over.
Customary as the last few seasons, IndyCar heads into another new season with a wave of momentum. There are certainly a ton of storylines surrounding it.
Here are the top five heading into 2019.
2019 starts with a new TV package as well as a new entitlement sponsor for the series as a whole. That’s a huge storyline of where this series is heading.
Out is ABC and Verizon and in is NBC Sports and NTT Data.
Last month, NTT Data was announced as the new entitlement sponsorship of the IndyCar Series. It’s a multi year commitment from the Japanese business to help grow not only their exposure, but the series’ as well.
Late last year, NBC Sports was unveiled as the sole TV provider of the series too. Every single race will be on NBC or NBCSN, which is big. See, under the previous deal with ABC, no other race was allowed to run on network television. So, under the NBC Sports platform, IndyCar could only race on NBCSN or CNBC. NBC wasn’t even an option. NBC Sports had their hands tied on how much they could promote the series.
Now, they have free reigns and it’s already showing.
These new deals were huge for where this series is going.
This may be one of the strongest rookie classes in years. That comes after having a strong rookie class in 2018 too. This season, will see five drivers battling for Rookie of the Year Honors. All five are ironically part of the Honda camp too.
Marcus Ericsson brings tons of experience from Formula One to Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Last year, Robert Wickens won Rookie of the Year with this same team. Can Ericsson have similar success?
Chip Ganassi Racing brings Felix Rosenqvist. He was strong in his brief Indy Lights career, winning three times in select starts. Rosenqvist has Formula E experience and has had a highly accomplished career overseas. Now, he’s in a Ganassi car teaming with Scott Dixon.
Santino Ferrucci is with Dale Coyne Racing. He too comes from overseas as his F1 dreams have shifted to success back in America. In his three race weekends in the series with DCR last year, Ferrucci was very fast.
Finally, Harding Steinbrenner Racing will bring former Andretti Autosport Indy Lights teammates Colton Herta and Patricio O’Ward up. Last year, the duo dominated the Indy Lights season and now they’re teammates on the IndyCar side.
Both were strong in their IndyCar starts in the season finale at Sonoma last September.
As you can see, this is a strong class.
The series is rising again. New TV and series sponsor deals to go along with new sponsors coming on board for fuel (Speedway) as well as on teams too.
Arrow upped their involvement with SPM. Firestone signed an early extension themselves. Other sponsors either came on board as new deals or renewing existing ones.
Add that with new teams coming to the series or recently added teams adding more races and you get a ton of momentum.
Scuderia Corsa, McLaren, DragonSpeed and Steinbrenner are all new this season. Juncos and Carlin are back. Shank expanded his program to 10 races. That’s seven new teams in two years.
Also, we have COTA and Laguna Seca on the schedule replacing Phoenix and Sonoma.
This series is rapidly growing.
2nd Year With New Car
There’s no doubt about it, the racing last year was far better than what we’ve seen in years past. On track passes exceeded 2017. That’s all because of the new car that was debuted in St. Pete.
The new car served its purpose. The racing was much closer at most tracks and sparked intense racing throughout the season.
Now that the uncertainty of how this car was going to race is behind us, how will 2019 look with a second year with this car?
The start of last year was tough on teams because no one knew what to expect. The braking zones were vastly different which created drivers to alter their driving styles. With all that being adjusted to now, 2019 will be an all out war.
Can Dixon Repeat?
Dixon has accomplished a lot in his IndyCar career. One thing though that he hasn’t done is repeat as a champion. The year after his previous four championships, Dixon finished 10th, second, third and third respectively in the final standings.
Can he contend all year and go back-to-back?
That’s one of his main goals left he’d like to accomplish. Sure, he’d like to further inch closer to the top of all the major statistical categories, but he’d also like to stack championships too.
Will he do so in 2019?
He’s going to have a lot of contenders to knock him off his reign.
It will certainly be tough to repeat.