A recent opinion piece arguing that IndyCar is primarily a street course series was something of a provocation. Even more provocative was the conclusion that the series ought to embrace this identity.
How, after all, can a sport built around the world’s most famous oval now embrace street circuits as its raison d’etre? With a few exceptions, the sport’s legacy is defined by places like Michigan, Phoenix, Nazareth, Milwaukee and, of course, Indianapolis. The “concrete canyons” of street circuits have rarely, if ever, been associated with the sport’s grand history. This is all a rather kind way of saying that these courses have been treated with derision for years.
Perhaps, however, it is time to look beyond history. After all, what do Michigan, Phoenix and Nazareth have in common? That’s right, they’re no longer on the schedule (Nazareth is abandoned altogether). Pocono had lousy attendance this year. Outside of Indy, oval attendance is down.
On top of that, the racing itself has been a mixed bag on the ovals. Since the introduction of the DW12, the street circuits have been remarkably competitive. No longer are they mere “parades” that pay well. Qualifying is no longer the final word on street circuits.
Every driver with title aspirations has to hold their own on the twisties. A sub-par run on ovals can be overcome; a similar run on the street courses is likely to end a title run.
Reality seems to say it, as do more and more fans: IndyCar thrives on the streets.