The 2019 IndyCar season is almost over, and it is time for fans to reflect on what was one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory. There were many ups and downs, but at the same time, a lot of memorable races. One of the most exciting moments in IndyCar this year was Tony Kanaan’s return to the track. The 2000 IndyCar champion had been away from competitive motorsport for over a decade when he drove in the 2019 Indianapolis 500. It was a special moment that many fans, including myself, will never forget. It is great to see such loyal followers and old friends of Kanaan’s competing together again.
The three-time Indy 500 winner’s return to the track was just one of the many incredible stories from this year’s IndyCar season. The entire season was filled with great racing that made for incredible television. However, with the checkered flag now flying, it is time for teams, drivers, and fans to sit back and evaluate the season. Here are some of my personal top five moments from this year’s IndyCar season:
The 2019 Indy500 was the 100th anniversary race for the IndyCar series, and it was a fitting tribute to the legendary race. The competition was fierce, and the field was one of the deepest in years. The race winner, Scott Dixon, said it best when he stated, “This year everyone wants a piece of the action, so there are no clear favorites to win the race. It is going to be a real nail-biter until the end.”
However, despite the deep field, it was rookie Alex Rossi who took the checkered flag, showing that even with the best drivers in the world, rookie drivers can still shine. It was a well-deserved victory for Rossi and his car team, Juncos, proving that even the best drivers can have a bad day, and rookie drivers can step up and grab the opportunity when it comes their way.
Another special event that I look forward to every year is the Road America 500. This year’s race was held on the very same road course where the IndyCar series had held its first race back in 1922. It was also the first IndyCar race to be held in conjunction with the NASCAR race, which took place that same weekend. With over 300 cars on the grid, it was a great showcase for American motorsport.
The track layout itself is one of the greatest in all of motorsport, and it is easy to see why. The corners are placed extremely well, and the amount of speed the cars can achieve is incredible. As a driver, it is easy to feel confident that any car, no matter how well prepared, can have a good day on the track. In the 2019 Road America 500, I believe that was proven true yet again as over 20 drivers recorded top-five finishes. Amongst them was Alexander Rossi and his teammate, Jack Harvey, who ended up finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively. This is certainly a great accomplishment for a rookie driver team, and it shows the competitiveness of the IndyCar series this season.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
One of the most historic tracks in all of motorsport, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has been the site for some unforgettable racing moments. Since the Speedway‘s inception in 1934, it has hosted an IndyCar race every year. The track was originally designed as a temporary course until the Florida Speedway opened in early 1940. In fact, the race was originally scheduled for the Florida Speedway, but on the day of the race, heavy rain caused the track to be washed out, and the race had to be postponed.
However, the schedule was changed, and the race went ahead at Las Vegas. The IndyCar series returned to the track in 1999, and since then, it has been one of the most popular tracks with fans and racers alike. The 2019 edition was no different as over 250,000 people showed up for the race, making it the most attended IndyCar race ever at Las Vegas, surpassing the previous record holder, the 2016 edition. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperative, with rain and cold temperatures making the track even more difficult to drive on. Despite the challenging conditions, it was still an incredible achievement to win at such a famous track in your rookie season.
Phoenix International Raceway:
The 2019 Phoenix International Raceway was another historic track that held an IndyCar race this year. With over 200,000 fans in attendance, it was another great showing from the city of Phoenix. The track was built in 2001, and it was the first permanent road course built outside the United States. It was also the first road course in the entire country to be lit with natural light instead of electricity.
The race itself was a great showcase for road courses as the entire duration was spent driving on dirt, grass, and loose gravel. The unique thing about this particular track is that it doesn’t just have great racing, it also has a very special atmosphere. It is well known amongst drivers and fans that this is one of the most difficult tracks to pass on the way to the green flag. The combination of the long green flag run and the challenging environment can make this race one of the most unpredictable, and exciting, on the IndyCar calendar. The natural light and fresh air give it a feel that is unlike any other race. It is truly an experience that you have to see to believe.
Texas Motor Speedway:
Located just outside of Dallas, Texas Motor Speedway was yet another track that held an IndyCar race this year. The track was originally built in 1940 and was originally named Wylie Motorsports Speedway. However, the name was changed in 1949 in honor of the track’s founder, Clint “Cotton” Wylie.
One of the greatest things about this track is that it is one of the most famous road courses in the entire country. Since the track is so close to Dallas, the most populated area of the country, it holds an incredible amount of nostalgia for anyone who grew up there. The grandstands are still a recognizable shape even after all these years, and it holds a special place in the hearts of everyone who has ever attended a race there. As a track, it is easy to see why it is popular because of the great nostalgia factor as well as the excellent layout of the course. The entire front stretch of the track, from the start/finish line to the homestretch, is a straightaway. This means that for much of the race, the cars will be traveling at high speeds, creating an incredibly entertaining viewing experience. However, this is also one of the more complex tracks because of its various elevation changes along with a few nasty twists and turns. This is definitely a track that you have to watch closely to see how the other drivers are performing and what strategy they are employing. The last thing you want to do is make a wrong move at the wrong time because there is nowhere to go but down. This is one of the more dangerous tracks to race on, but at the same time, it is also one of the most exciting. The unpredictable nature of the turns means that even the most experienced drivers can go wacky-the-whippet and end up in the weeds, which makes for an extremely entertaining race for the entire family.
The Biggest Surprise:
Now, we come to the part of this article where I tell you about the moment that I feel was the biggest surprise of this year’s IndyCar season. I was at the track watching the first practice session when Jordan King, in only his second IndyCar race, crashed into the wall. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt, and he was able to walk away from the accident. However, this is not the type of thing that you want to see at a race track, and it was definitely a letdown for the entire community. Even more importantly, this is not the type of thing that you want to see as a rookie, or even a seasoned driver, as it will surely haunt you for the rest of the day.
Practice was eventually suspended, and word went out to the media that Jordan had hurt himself. It turned out that Jordan had in fact broken his heel, and there was no way that he could compete in the race. In typical rookie fashion, King had braced for the impact, but the sudden stop caused extreme pain, and he had to be assisted from the grid. It was a rough day for everyone involved, but it certainly could have been worse. At least Jordan could walk away with his pride intact, and the community could continue to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IndyCar series.