Spencer Pigot, Penske, IndyCar, 2018

Restyled IndyCar must do more than look good in 2018

2018 IndyCar season preview

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From the first glimpse of the revamped 2018 IndyCar aero kit the reaction from fans was positive. The stripped-back car, with more than a nod to classic IndyCar styling, certainly looks the part.

But the championship needs the restyled aero kit on top of the familiar DW12 chassis to do more than just look good.

Josef Newgarden, Penske, 2018
Newgarden is out to defend his title
It follows the decision to scrap the unloved, manufacturer-designed aero kits which were introduced three years ago and blamed for increasing costs and spoiling the racing. The new kit, which has been standardised across all the cars, is intended to be cheaper to run.

There are encouraging signs this has been achieved as the championship welcomes two new full-time teams plus a part-timer. Carlin, which impressed on its debut in Indy Lights three years ago, has a two-car team, while Harding has a single-car entry. Juncos has also confirmed it will run around half of the calendar.

It should also engineer better racing. The deletion of the heavy rear wheel pod assemblies has both lightened the cars and moved the centre of gravity forward, making them more responsive. Paring back the complex wings in favour of a larger diffuser means the car generates a greater proportion of its downforce from the underside of the car, which drivers expect will allow them to run more closely and encourage overtaking.

The opening race of the season may not prove the best showcase for this. The tight St Petersburg course tends to produce processional races, though Sebastien Bourdais did his best to disprove that by winning from last on the grid 12 months ago.

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Roberto Moreno, Christian Fittipaldi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Cristiano da Matta, CART IndyCar, Portland, 2000
Portland will host IndyCars again
The quality of oval racing on shorter courses such as Pheonix and Gateway should benefit considerably from the new aero kit. The only new addition to the calendar this year is the Portland circuit in Oregon, scene of the unforgettable 1997 race. Like the retro-inflected cars the return of another CART-era venue is a sign of how, 10 years on from reunification, IndyCar is beginning to resemble the series it once was in style if not substance.

New life has been breathed into the driver line-up, though the series missed out on a coup when Brendon Hartley, who Ganassi courting as a replacement for Tony Kanaan, was nabbed by Toro Rosso. In his place last year’s sole full-time rookie driver Ed Jones gets a prized opportunity to learn from Scott Dixon.

Another significant arrival is former Mercedes DTM driver Robert Wickens who joins fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt. Jones’s place at Coyne has been taken by a pair of newcomers: Zachary Claman Demelo and Pietro Fittipaldi (grandson of F1 and IndyCar champion and two-times Indy 500 winner Emerson).

2018 IndyCar full season entry list

Top teams Penske and Ganassi previously fielded four-car squads but have trimmed their full-time entries to three and two respectively. However this has been compensated for by the arrivals on one-car team Harding and Carlin, the latter having hired two of Ganassi’s 2017 drivers.

14FoytTony KanaanSeeking a new beginning after three win-less years led to Ganassi exit
4FoytMatheus Leist (R)At 20, the youngest full-time driver, paired with the most experienced
28AndrettiRyan Hunter-ReayHad a stronger second half of the season but has been win-less for two years
27AndrettiAlexander RossiEnded 2017 in great shape – can he now make the step to become a title contender?
26AndrettiZach Veach (R)Third in Indy Lights four years ago, the 22-year-old arrives in place of Indy 500 winner Sato
98AndrettiMarco AndrettiNever seemed to gel with the DW12 – perhaps the new aero kit will change that
59CarlinMax ChiltonHas a long history with Carlin and two years’ IndyCar experience with Ganassi should stand him in good stead
23CarlinCharlie KimballAfter seven years in IndyCar this will be his first not with Ganassi
9GanassiScott DixonThe biggest threat to the Penskes last year but huge Indy 500 crash cost him dear
10GanassiEd JonesSuffered from loss of Bourdais in first year at Coyne but has been handed a great chance at Ganassi
18CoyneSebastien BourdaisIndy 500 injury spoiled an encouraging start to life at Coyne – can he pick up where he left off?
19CoynePietro Fittipaldi (R) /
Zachary Claman Demelo (R)
Two newcomers will share the second Coyne including Formula V8 3.5 champion Fittipaldi
20CarpenterEd Carpenter /
Jordan King (R)
Carpenter will do the oval races as usual and share his car with F2 race winner King
21CarpenterSpencer PigotThe 2015 Indy Lights champion gets a full-time seat for the first time
88HardingGabby ChavesDid a full season with Herta in 2015, also in a one-car team, so he knows how tough this year will be
15RLLGraham RahalBlew the doors off everyone at Detroit last year, winning both races, and stayed in the title fight until the end
30RLLTakuma SatoLast year’s Indy 500 victor has relocated and RLL should be a stronger team for running two proven winners
5SchmidtJames HinchcliffeThe likeable driver picked up a win last year but probably should have been further ahead of Mikhail Aleshin
6SchmidtRobert Wickens (R)Has switched to IndyCar from Mercedes’ DTM squad
1PenskeJosef NewgardenThe new poster boy for the series after taking the title in his first year at Penske
22PenskeSimon PagenaudLost his crown to team mate Newgarden last year – Gateway sparked a tasty rivalry between the pair
12PenskeWill PowerCompletes Penske’s all-champion line-up but had too many troughs among his peaks last year

(R): Rookie

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Several part-time entries have already been announced. Another new team, Juncos, will run ex-Formula Two driver Rene Binder plus Kyle Kaiser at four races each. Schmidt Peterson will run a third car in co-operation with Michael Shank Racing for Jack Harvey at six races, including this weekend’s season-opener.

Some of the drivers who have lost their full-time seats since last year will return for the Indianapolis 500, including Helio Castroneves at Penske. Carlos Munoz, ousted from Foyt by Tony Kanaan, will return to Andretti for the race he finished second in as a rookie five years ago.

But with no Fernando Alonso at this year’s Indy 500 the most eye-catching addition to the entry list so far is a one-off return for Danica Patrick.

2018 IndyCar calendar

2018 IndyCar spotters’ guide

2018 IndyCar season on RaceFans

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Restyled IndyCar must do more than look good in 2018”

  1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    5th March 2018, 13:30

    More invested in this year’s Indy than usual, it should serve as a nice counterbalance to Formula Flip-Flop. Hoping they roll out the Windscreen Dixon tested before the end of the year, to pressure to adopt a better solution for next year.

  2. Sounds like the key phrase … Restyled IndyCar, pretty much says it all.
    The basic nature of a stylish “Spec Series” just doesn’t excite in the same way that a true development and racing series can.
    I get it that the cars are designed to look fast, to be safe (wheel covers and body parts to prevent wheel overlap) and to be affordable to small budget teams. But it is starting to look more like Nascar and what next …. success ballast.?
    OOooops … they already have that.
    Sad part is that F1 is headed down the same road, one rule and component at a time.
    At least we still have bicycle racing in its purest mano et mano form. What.?? not even that.??

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      5th March 2018, 19:28

      In my opinion, the only way to see real pure forms of sport is to watch amateurs. Once you get in to professional sport, your budget is often more important than your talent. Even in the Olympics which is supposed to be the most pure form of competitive sport, you have teams winning the cycling and bobsleigh because they can afford better equipment than the others.

      1. Totally agree!

    2. They’re not intended to be affordable just for the small teams, the sport was getting too expensive even for Ganassi and Penske because of the development war. Would you rather have a competitive spec series with 22-24 cars, or a less competitive series with development and 17 or even 16 cars? Unfortunately, we can’t have everything. IndyCar doesn’t have the audience, the budgets, nor the manufacturers to sustain a development war and I think they’ve made the right choice in developing a better-looking, better-racing car for 2018.

      And they don’t have success ballast in IndyCar either.

    3. It depends on what you see as exciting racing. Maybe you want a car development battle, but some would prefer to see closely matched cars fight it out where anyone could win. As much as I love F1, I have to admit it’s been more exciting for me than watching Mercedes dominate the last few years.

  3. Really looking forward to seeing these new cars in action. Call me fickle, but I’m more interested in IndyCar this season than I have been since the late 90s.

  4. @keithcollantine can we follow the season via youtube?

  5. I don’t know if it will be outside of Canada, but the Discovery Channel show Daily Planet will have a segment on Indy’s new windscreen. It airs at 7pm ET.

  6. Looking forward to the Indycar season much more than F1. Doesn’t bother me that it’s a ‘spec’ series. The quality and unpredictability of the racing more than makes up for the ‘excitement’ of aero development. ;p
    Anybody’s title. I don’t expect an exciting race at St Pete’s but can’t wait to hear them start those engines again and blow away the winter blues…

  7. i would be more exciting about the indycars this year if they had some variety in the look & development as has been the case in recent seasons with the manufacturer aero kits.

    having no real development and with all cars been/looking identical just takes away some interest for me. especially given how i remember how cool indycars used to be when they did have multiple chassis suppliers and more open developments. was far more interesting back then and the cars were a lot faster, thrilling & more exciting to watch as well.

    seeing 20+ identical cars in a category that used to be one of the top series in the world is just sad to me and takes away a lot of my interest and excitements. just a shame there isn’t much other than f1 for those like me anymore :( were all stuck with boring spec series that lack any excitement for those who actually like technical competition and development races. such a shame and the main reason i don’t watch as many of the categories other than f1 now, i used to watch just about everything.

    1. Nice preview Keith.

      Best looking, most exciting racing on the planet. Can’t wait to get things going! Too bad the Mexico race didn’t get finalized so they’re a gap in the schedule after St. Petersburg, but we’re just close to show time.

      If you like F1 & open wheel, it’s great have more racing to watch. For those unfamiliar, pretty sure they’ll find out quickly IndyCar is a lot more fun than F1.

  8. The Indycars do look pretty rad this year… Until you look at that photo from Portland 2000. @keithcollantine you are a cruel man!

    That Reynard is the most beautiful racing car I have ever seen. I love it. Loved it then, couldn’t get enough of it.

    Seeing that Pacwest Reynard gave me the same feeling as seeing a photo of an old flame. My heart is a flutter.

  9. The deletion of the heavy rear wheel pod assemblies has both lightened the cars and moved the centre of gravity forward…

    IIRC, the reduction in weight from the removal of the useless ‘Kardashians’ was offset by the addition of new reinforcement of the cockpit sides where the radiators were moved.

    I’m looking forward to the new season, though. I’m going to try to make it for the Texas race.

  10. I’m stunned and/or stupid. I was thinking about going to the Road America or the Portland race; There are no tickets available for either event!!!! Is this true, or am I just stupid and don’t know where to look?

    1. Never mind. Turns out the individual tracks are selling the tickets. Road America, here I come; a great track, just wish we had the CART cars there. Would love to see F1 around that place; so many opportunities to run flat out.

  11. These cars look much smaller than last years car. The new look is good and smart which should aid in sponsorship. Curious to see if they can scare the crap out of the drivers.

  12. The copper and black livery on Zach Veach’s car is superb! They all look fantastic.

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