INDYCAR: Series prepares for Record-Making Season
Another winter is about to give way to a thrilling launch of NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone seasons along the palm tree-lined streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday, March 5 will see the most entries in each series in over a decade.
That’s only the beginning of the 2023 storylines:
For the second consecutive season, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will appear on NBC network television a record 15 times, including two days of qualifying for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The first seven races of 2023 will be featured on broadcast TV and six of the final seven leading to the climactic season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Once again, all INDYCAR SERIES races will be simulstreamed via Peacock. For the second consecutive year, Telemundo Deportes on Universo will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.
In addition, fans will see a new side to INDYCAR with a first-of-its-kind broadcast series, “100 Days to Indy,” via the VICE Media Group and The CW Network. Cameras and crews already are capturing and chronicling the bold and brash storylines leading up to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 28. The premiere episode will air Thursday, April 27 on The CW Network.
“This is a year of unprecedented coverage of the stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “Between the front row seat that The CW Network will provide fans and the best seat in the house provided by NBC, there won’t be a storyline without a spotlight. We look forward to taking INDYCAR’s fierce and intense competition to a new and more youthful audience throughout 2023.”
A Sustainable Present and Future
This will be the most sustainable season in INDYCAR SERIES history, as the series and its teams continue to work to develop renewable technologies.
Among the highlights are the first use of Shell’s 100% Renewable Race Fuel and continued use of renewable diesel for all INDYCAR team transporters supporting the series. The use of the Firestone Firehawk alternate race tire with a green sidewall, made from guayule rubber, will expand to all street circuit races after its successful debut last August in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
Finally, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will continue to prepare for a more sustainable future as development continues with Chevrolet and Honda for the 2024 engine package. Testing of the 2.2-liter turbocharged V-6 with hybrid technology will take place throughout 2023.
Records Meant To Be Broken
2022 was a record-breaking season, with two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power becoming the sport’s all-time leader in pole positions (68). In addition, the Indianapolis 500 featured the fastest pole speed in history, fastest front row in history and fastest field in history. The most competitive open-wheel racing series on the planet was highlighted by the most on-track passes in seven seasons. The finish at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix – Scott Dixon edged Scott McLaughlin by .1067 of a second – was the closest on a street circuit in INDYCAR SERIES history.
More records are in sight in 2023. Six-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon looks to add his name to the Astor Challenge Cup for a record seventh time – tying the legendary A.J. Foyt. Helio Castroneves returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May for a second attempt at a record fifth “500” victory.
“2022 was another record-setting season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “Each offseason, in collaboration with our owners, teams and drivers, we evaluate all aspects of competition-related initiatives and believe our updates will make 2023 even more competitive. Our growing paddock is a testament to the energy and momentum, and we are excited to get the season started.”
Improved Safety, More Technological Choices
A number of adjustments are being made for the upcoming INDYCAR SERIES season with an eye on safety and technical performance.
From a safety perspective, 2023 will feature:
- In partnership with Indiana University Health, a new INDYCAR Medical Unit providing an environment for consistent and accessible care during each INDYCAR event
- Mandatory rain vanes to wick water from the aeroscreen in wet conditions
- New safety-inspired rear attenuator and stronger rear-wheel tethers
- New highly visible LED rain lights on the rear of the race cars
- New and higher headrest protection
- A new mandatory and more forgiving steering arm designed to take more punishment without breaking
Option Tire for An Oval
For the first time in NTT INDYCAR SERIES history, alternate-compound tires will be used on an oval. The Sunday, Aug. 27 race at World Wide Technology Raceway will feature the Firestone Firehawk alternates. Teams will follow the same rules as road and street circuits, with mandatory use of a new set of the alternate tire compound during the race.
Also new for 2023 is the addition of EM Motorsports Telemetry to the EM Marshalling System, which debuted in 2022. The new telemetry system will give all race teams the ability to quickly receive reliable information and react with split-second decision making. It will also introduce more over-the-air features new to INDYCAR.
From an aerodynamic standpoint, the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES rule book is allowing:
- Optional short oval barge boards on road and street course events
- At Texas Motor Speedway, the underwing sidewall has been made optional
- On the IMS oval:
- New optional underwing flap wicker
- New mandatory stability wickers
- The option of a new additional underwing inner bargeboard (also optional at other ovals)
- Optional underwing road and street course strakes
- Speedway infill wicker made optional (also at Texas Motor Speedway)
Additionally, a new pillar specification will allow 3 degrees more range for the adjustable rear wing on the IMS oval. It will increase the options for teams looking for additional or less downforce.
“At the Indy 500, drivers in the pack can run up to 10% more downforce than last year,” said Tino Belli, INDYCAR director of aerodynamic development. “With the increased rear wing range, teams can still try and trim out the rear wing for end of race speed – and go for the win – if they have worked their way up into the lead group.
“Overall, INDYCAR wants to give race teams more options going into 2023. The optional barge boards give them a crucial tool when they consider, strategically, what it will take to get to victory lane.”
Recently announced, single points will be awarded for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The change comes after a review of the double points system, first used in 2014. Analysis showed full-time championship teams were overly penalized for poor performance in the “500.”
Popular “second groove” practice sessions on the ovals at Texas Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway will continue in 2023. The additional practice, designed to help “rubber in” a higher racing line, will be available for all entries.
From an officiating standpoint, the first red flag during Segments One and Two of road and street course qualifying will stop the 10-minute clock. The clock will continue to run for the second and subsequent red flags during Segments One and Two. The Firestone Fast Six will continue to feature six minutes of guaranteed time.
Also new, to maximize time during the segments, the qualifying clock will not start until the first car during the session passes the alternate start-finish line on the racetrack.
Next Up: INDY NXT by Firestone
INDYCAR’s developmental series enters 2023 with a reimagined look. INDY NXT by Firestone is a more youthful and energetic pathway to North America’s premier open-wheel racing series. This season, 19 drivers from nine countries will pursue the 2023 championship and an increased $1.4 million purse.
The INDY NXT by Firestone champion will receive $850,000 to be applied to an oval test at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 Open Test and Rookie Orientation Program, an entry for the 2024 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and an entry for an additional 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event. For the first time, the championship team will receive a prize of $35,000.
After an expansion of teams and car count in 2022, the 2023 season will feature the highest entry list for the developmental series since 2009.
“Incorporating this series with the rest of the INDYCAR paddock has increased the profile and excitement for the drivers and teams,” INDY NXT Director Levi Jones said. “Firestone’s enthusiastic return also is another important step in developing the new generation of racers and growing the series to new levels.”
All 14 INDY NXT races again will be available in the United States via Peacock with coverage on INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, in those countries not covered by international agreements.
Other developments to watch during the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, include the return of the hugely popular PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge. The first entry to win on all three types of circuits – road course, street circuit and oval – will split $1 million with the race team and the driver’s chosen charity. In 2022, two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden claimed the grand prize with wins at Texas, Long Beach and Road America.
PeopleReady is continuing to offer an additional $10,000 to the winner of every race this season, also to be split with the driver’s favorite charitable organization.
INDYCAR’s season begins March 3-5 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season debut, Sunday, March 5 will be available at noon ET on NBC with a simulstream available on Peacock.
Peacock also will provide coverage of the INDY NXT season opener that same day beginning at 9:50 a.m. ET. The INDYCAR Radio Network will provide coverage of both races, with audio available on the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.