An IndyCar season that seemed destined to be littered with shredded pieces and broken promises pulled itself out of the marbles just in time as the month of May looms.
Josef Newgarden’s thrilling victory at Barber – his first – gives the series a much-needed boost as it ramps up for its marquee event, the Indianapolis 500.
A few things about Newgarden and his win:
- He’s American, not German or Austrian as a casual observer might have guessed. Moreover, the fourth-year driver hails from NASCAR country, specifically Hendersonville, Tennessee. Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star ran a nice piece about how Newgarden and his dad logged thousands of miles driving to New Castle, Indiana, to the karting track of former Indy driver Mark Dismore to begin learning his craft.
- Newgarden may be the first driver from the Volunteer State to ever win an IndyCar race. I sent an email to the IndyCar Series asking if this were the case, but did not get a response. Certainly no driver with a birthplace in Tennessee – or Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia, for that matter – has won the Indianapolis 500.
- Given how many drivers with Indiana connections who gravitated to NASCAR because they weren’t interested in Indy cars (Ryan Newman, South Bend), didn’t get a chance (Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro after leaving California) or sought greener pastures (Tony Stewart, Columbus), it’s nice to see the tables turned a bit.
- Newgarden drives for the newly formed CFH Racing team, an easy-to-root-for outfit. The “C” is Ed Carpenter, and the “F” is Sarah Fisher. After a rough start, Carpenter, stepson of Tony George, is a solid competitor on ovals with three victories. He’ll be aiming for an unprecedented third straight Indianapolis 500 pole this year. Fisher was one of the most popular drivers and now, despite many challenges, fields a solid and winning team.
Anyway, it’s nice to watch (and talk and write about) good racing.
That momentum needs to continue with the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. These two races, plus the doubleheader at Detroit the weekend after the 500, are the last ones on network television this year (ABC).
With the rest of the races on NBC Sports Network, that means May is the last, best opportunity to grab the attention of casual viewers.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/Verizon IndyCar Series