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IndyCar Makes its Austin Debut at Circuit of the Americas

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We break down the top three reasons IndyCar will become your new favorite sport.

By Chantal Rice, Photos courtesy of IndyCar

Strap in, Austin. Things are about to get real speedy. Circuit of the Americas, Austin’s world-class motorsports destination and home of one of the most challenging racetracks on the planet, will welcome the NTT IndyCar Series for the first time ever with the IndyCar Classic March 22 through 24.

But perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why should I care?” Maybe you’re not a big racing fan. Maybe you think all those loud engines are overkill and driving in circles is silly. Maybe you think it’s not a competitive enough sport. The truth is this: IndyCar is a thrill-a-second motorsport with a dramatic past and an even more electrifying present, featuring dazzling open-cockpit cars revved up with twin-turbocharged engines and a whole heck of a lot of horsepower, and piloted by madmen, professional masters of momentum who skillfully engage in a high-speed cat-and-mouse game, often within millimeters of other race cars, dashing to the finish while enduring extreme physical conditions and immense competitive pressure.

Here, we break down the top three reasons you will become an IndyCar speed freak.

1. You can experience it live in Austin.

For years, IndyCar’s only stop in the Lone Star State was at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, Texas. But thanks to some savvy negotiating, the COTA has been added to IndyCar’s 17-race season schedule this year, making the series’ debut in Austin a really big deal. That’s two opportunities for race fans to check out IndyCar in person in the great state of Texas, with the COTA providing the second-longest circuit of the season. And if IndyCar’s spring training at the COTA in February was any indication of what’s to come of the inaugural Austin race, we are in for a serious spectacle.

“COTA is one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world and Austin is a happening city. This is a natural fit for the IndyCar series,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said late last year. “IndyCar racing has a large and passionate fan base in Texas with a hunger to attend more races.”

But it’s not just the COTA that’s new to the series this season. And far from what many may believe, it’s not just about the Indianapolis 500. While that race certainly gets the most recognition of the season, it’s just one of many that are spectacularly edge-of-your-seat exciting.

The last race of the season will take place at Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., marking the much-anticipated return of IndyCar to its “racing spiritual home of Monterey” in late September. Home to a number of significant IndyCar moments in history, Laguna Seca hasn’t hosted an IndyCar race since 2004 and is sure to present a riveting, heart-pumping competition. Not to be outshined, Portland International Raceway in Oregon, which was added to the IndyCar schedule last season after a decade-long break, is promising to showcase some compelling racing action.

Best of all, the IndyCar series features an array of racetrack styles, from ovals to purpose-built road courses like the COTA and even street circuits, at tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada, offering a variety of venues where just about any kind of racing mayhem can and will ensue.

2. The rookies are giving the longtime pros a run for their money.

Yes, former Formula 1 driver and previous Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport is an unrelenting badass who hopes to cash in on a couple fantastic past seasons in IndyCar. And he’ll take out anyone he has to in order to do just that. He’ll certainly get some weighty challenges from the likes of fellow former Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske and his teammate Will Power (Yep, that’s really his name.), who won at least one IndyCar race each season from 2007 to 2017. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, with a previous Indy 500 win and five IndyCar championships, will definitely be a force to be reckoned with, as will Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, who won a championship his first year with the team and finished first in the initial race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla., last weekend.

But it’s the IndyCar rookies who are gaining much attention this season. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist beat out teammate and reigning series champ Dixon in the St. Petersburg race, placing fourth overall. Teenager Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing and son of two-time Indy 500-winning car owner Bryan Herta has been racing since about the time he learned to walk and is proving to the world he’s on a mission, having placed eighth in St. Petersburg, despite gaining a penalty in qualifying that left him starting 11th. And don’t count out former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who, though new to IndyCar, was marching up through the field in his debut race last weekend until mechanical failure sidelined him. He has a dynamite attitude, a solid team backing him and the racing knowledge and skills to drive himself into some key top finishes this season, perhaps even at the COTA, where he’s got more racing time than any other IndyCar driver thanks to his F1 experience.

3. There will be tons of wild racing, action and drama.

Regardless of the track venue, regardless of the drivers you may be cheering on, regardless that other forms of motorsport get more glitzy mentions in the press, IndyCar is absolutely exhilarating to behold. There will be spectacular passes and final laps, ridiculously close calls, extreme wrecks and bitter rivalries that play out before fans’ very eyes. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be the first of many seasons we’ll get to experience the extravaganza that is IndyCar live at our very own Circuit of the Americas.

Check back for more IndyCar coverage and driver Q&As leading up to and following the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas March 22 through 24.