Race Weekend Central

Inside IndyCar: 5 Tracks to Watch for Great Racing in 2024

Parity among teams and cars is one of the defining features of the NTT IndyCar Series. As we discussed last week, IndyCar sets an shining example for motorsports the world over in terms of competition, for multiple reasons. Part of this is due to the largely spec nature of the series; that’s to say, cars are closer to identical in IndyCar than in many other series. The grid is composed of drivers from diverse backgrounds with varying experiences under their belts. Most importantly, perhaps, is the diversity of the schedule.

A successful IndyCar star is a jack of all trades, capable of performing and winning on permanent road course, street circuits, and ovals. This panoply of tracks means that fans are treated to three distinct forms of racing every season and ensures that fans need to actively work to find themselves bored with the series.

That all being said, the 2024 calendar features seven road courses, four street circuits and seven oval races across five oval tracks. Which events should you keep an eye on to catch the best action IndyCar has to offer?

Barber Motorsports Park

This 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama, has been a staple of the the open rounds of each IndyCar season since 2010 (except 2020), and for good reason.

The circuit’s fast, flowing nature along with its ample levels of elevation change make for one of the most mesmerizing laps on the IndyCar calendar, forcing drivers to consistently test their car and their faith therein to find every ounce of speed they can over the course of the lap. Sharp downhill drops in the braking zones for turns 1, 7-8 and 14-15 offer plenty of opportunities for drivers to step over their limit, opening themselves up to late overtakes.

The result is a rare road course which manages to provide consistently high speeds and side-by-side racing without one coming at the expense of the other.

Just last year, Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean put on one of the best battles of the season as they fought for the win at Barber, producing a few web gems in the process.

Expect more of the same during the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix from Barber on April 28 – fortunately, the same has been awesome so far.

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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Mid-Ohio finds itself on this list for many of the reasons Barber does: fast, flowing, elevation change, and so on and so forth. However, this 2.258-mile road course near Lexington, Ohio, gets its character from its age.

Whereas Barber is a newer, more modern facility built in 2002, Mid-Ohio dates all the way back to 1962, and it shows in a good way. This track has character, lots of it.

The lap begins with a fast left-hander at turn 1, followed by two straightaways connected by the hairpin at turn 2. From there on, the circuit comes into its own as a very technical but smooth monster which demands every ounce of focus a driver could offer as well as plenty of heart from the car’s suspension and Firestone tires.

As such, Mid-Ohio is a strategy track through and through, look for the decision to start on Firestone’s durable primaries or speedy alternates to be at the front of every team’s mind when the series makes its way to the Buckeye State.

Alex Palou won last year’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, but everyone’s thoughts were with Simon Pagenaud, who suffered a massive crash at the end of the circuit’s backstretch, losing his brakes and flipping violently through the turn 3 runoff area known as China Beach.

Almost forgot! The track was repaved after the 2023 season, so keep your notepads nearby for when that new variable rears its head.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

You knew this was coming… After all, how could it not have been? (The oval, that is).

IndyCar was built around the Indianapolis 500, even the series’ name hearkens back to the city where it all began in 1911. Fortunately, the special attention this event gets from INDYCAR leadership has rarely been in vain. The Indy 500 is, nearly every year, a race to remember.

Last year’s running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing saw Josef Newgarden finally notched his first win in the event in his 12th attempt, narrowly beating out defending winner Marcus Ericsson in the process.

But we don’t need to cite past moments from the 500 to make this entry make sense. The event brings hundreds of thousands of people from around the world together in central Indiana every Memorial Day, where the love of the sport turns this hodgepodge of humans from all walks of life into a singular voice for three-or-so hours.

Streets of St. Petersburg

Many of us don’t immediately think of St. Pete when we think of great IndyCar courses, but the series’ longtime season opener has repeatedly proven itself as one to watch throughout the years.

The 1.8-mile road course is composed mostly of public streets as well as an airport runway which constitutes the frontstretch. Like Barber, St. Pete strikes a charming balance between speed and technicality, with the added factor of nearly zero runoff space through the circuit’s most technical sections, and in a series as competitive as IndyCar, the season-opening race can mean as much as the finale.

Max Verstappen can be at less than 100% and still have a fair chance of winning that weekend’s race owing to the engineering miracles being conjured by the folks at Red Bull Racing. Palou doesn’t have that luxury; open your season with a bad race and you may not have time to find that momentum again.

What might have happened for Grosjean’s 2023 if the win at St. Pete hadn’t been clawed from his grasp by a sliding McLaughlin?

Keep an eye on everybody, if you can, when the green flag waves in St. Petersburg on March 10, it may be the most important race of the year for some of the field.

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Inside IndyCar: 5 Potential First-Time Winners in 2024

Nashville Superspeedway

Time for the bombshell.

Nobody saw the news coming before IndyCar revealed that the Music City Grand Prix would be moving to the Nashville Superspeedway, except those of us who haven’t accepted that CART is no longer a thing.

The reaction, however, was overwhelmingly positive from fans, many of whom have been vocalizing their desire for more ovals to show up on the IndyCar calendar. The unfortunate removal of Texas Motor Speedway left a hole in the 2024 schedule and a few stars aligned to allow the 1.33-mile oval in the Volunteer State to fill the void, appearing on the schedule for the first time since 2008.

Whether the Superspeedway will get to stay on the calendar beyond this year is hard to say. IndyCar has made it clear that they intend to get back to the streets of the city as soon as can be done, Tennessee Titans stadium construction permitting.

Last year’s race at Texas gave us one of the best oval racing products IndyCar has produced in the better half of a decade. Certainly leadership noted how well that race was received and began taking notes. Now, the series has a chance to hit a home run and put on another great show at a venue that many fans are thrilled to see returning.

We’re expecting greatness.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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