By: Tanner Watkins
January 10, 2019 | 10:45 AM
As important as it is to generate fan excitement around IndyCar, to have an unwavering support from the series’ drivers is just as critical in modern motorsport.
As part of IndyCar’s press conference yesterday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, five-time champion Scott Dixon and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi were asked to join series executives Mark Miles and Jay Frye at the podium for the announcements.
After television listings, title sponsor teases and international race updates were announced, Dixon and Rossi offered rave reviews about the direction of IndyCar and the notable progress earned from partnerships with NBC Sports, Circuit of the Americas and more.
To receive approval from a veteran such as Dixon, who has seen American open-wheel racing evolve incredibly since breaking into CART in 2001, is just one of the ways IndyCar’s growth can be validated.
“At IndyCar, it’s very much perceived that we have the best racing product out there,” Dixon stated yesterday in Indianapolis. “I’m really excited about the NBC deal. I think if you look at what they’ve done with the Kentucky Derby or even the Olympics, they’ve got a lot of room to improve, one, what we sell – the package – and then obviously getting people to tune in, so I think that’s very big for us.
“As far as for me, with the additional races that we’ve added, the competition level for the drivers is just through the roof, and you can see that there’s a lot more new teams coming into the series, a lot of talk about another manufacturer possibly coming in. It’s just really all positive.”
While Dixon has had brief brushes with Formula One, his championship rival from 2018 truly came from another world of racing.
Rossi, now 27 and not the baby-faced rookie we remember from 2016, has come into his own as one of IndyCar’s stars following a developmental career that prepared purposefully for Formula One. What was supposed to be a stop-over year in IndyCar for 2016 ended up solidifying Rossi’s place on the American open-wheel scene.
After making minor strides from 2016 to 2017, last year served as Rossi’s breakout campaign. Following a runner-up championship finish to Dixon, the California native understands not only his place as a rising star for IndyCar, but the level of excellence all drivers in the series must uphold.
“I think it’s the responsibility of all of us drivers of the IndyCar Series to really take it upon our shoulders, to go above and beyond,” said Rossi. “I mean, this is a sport that we obviously all love and appreciate the opportunity to participate in, but at the end of the day, it’s up to us as the people who are putting on the show to ultimately convey to our fans and to the people watching how much we’re passionate about it and the reason why we love it.
“I don’t think it’s just me, I think all of the drivers do an amazing job kind of promoting the series and pushing the series and doing everything that we can to kind of increase the excitement leading into races. I definitely can’t accept that as something that I’ve done.
“I’ve seen by example, I guess, guys like Scott, guys like Ryan, obviously my teammate, who really take it upon themselves to make sure that the people love this series and this sport as much as we do.”
In the IndyCar paddock, a natural transition is underway as veterans like Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power
If the young guns are willing to listen – which it seems they are – then the future of IndyCar is in good hands. Drivers like Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti
Each year it seems IndyCar gets healthier and stronger, and that notion can be represented tangibly by rising car counts. What may be even more important – which can’t be measured – is the backing from IndyCar’s entertainers: the drivers. They make the show, and Jay Frye has them willing to run through a brick wall for the series.
IndyCar is in the midst of a wonderful renaissance period, and while the growth has been slow and steady, there’s no reason why the sky can’t be the limit. Don’t believe me, believe Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and the rest of our heroes.
Header image by James Black/INDYCAR.