A Novice's Guide to Watching the IndyCar Series

Tiffany DaviesCorrespondent IJune 21, 2008

As American open wheel racing's first united season is well on its way, many are left watching the races after the Indianapolis 500 wondering, "What is this series all about? There is lots of speed...but who the *$%& are all these foreign guys?" Here's hoping after this, things become slightly clearer.

Overview: Following a nasty split in 1995, the IndyCar Series (formerly the Indy Racing League) and Champ Car World Series (formerly CART) have since made amends, although it wasn't because times had changed, CCWS had simply lost the battle and was going broke.

Tony George heads the series, which has struggled to find viewers and compete with NASCAR in the 2000s. IndyCar is dominated by wealthy race teams, such as Penske Racing, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and Andretti-Green Racing, however, relative unknowns are able to race on a race-by-race basis.

Tracks: IndyCar has chosen to race mainly on ovals, however, five road courses are on the schedule, including Watkins Glen, New York and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Its crowning jewel, however, is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the greatest spectacle in racing: the Indianapolis 500. Other tracks include the Milwaukee Mile, Iowa Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Teams/Drivers: These are the main drivers, subdivided by major teams first, minor and single car teams last.

Penske Racing: Team Penske, owned by Roger "The Captain" Penske (of NASCAR and open wheel fame), is home to Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. Castroneves, known to many non-racing fans for winning 'Dancing with the Stars,' is a previous Indy 500 winner and always a contender for a win. IndyCar fans know him as "Spider-man" because he climbs the fence after a win (he was doing it prior to Tony Stewart).

Briscoe is an up-and-coming driver who also drives Penske's Porsche in the American LeMans Series. He scored his first win at Milwaukee this season. Penske is always a team to watch.

Target-Chip Ganassi Racing: Target-Chip Ganassi Racing, obviously owned by Chip Ganassi, is home to Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, and Alex Lloyd. Wheldon, a Brit who won the championship in 2005 with Andretti-Green, is also known for his stunningly good looks and charming personality.

Dixon, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter and winner, is cruising towards an IndyCar championship and is always a contender. He was poised to win the title in 2007, but ran out of fuel on the last lap at Chicagoland, giving the win and championship to Dario Franchitti.

Lloyd is relatively unknown. However, he won the Indy Pro Series in 2006 (the development series of IndyCar).

Andretti-Green Racing: AGR, co-owned by Michael Andretti and Kim Green, is known widely as the 'superstar' team. The stable is home to Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh, and Danica Patrick. Andretti, son of Michael and grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti, won his first race in 2006 at Infineon, but has struggled slightly since, yet always manages to attract a crowd. He was leading the 2006 Indy 500 when Sam Hornish, Jr. of Team Penske passed him at the finish line to take the win.

Kanaan, one of the sport's most popular drivers, is always a contender for a race win. Mutoh, a rookie from Japan, qualified extremely well at Indy, but is still learning how to race on ovals. He has taken over the #27 car that Dario Franchitti piloted to the 2007 IndyCar Championship, before moving to NASCAR.

Finally, Danica Patrick is in the media spotlight as the only competitive female in the series, and is arguably the face of IndyCar. The first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005, she may be better known for her temper tantrums and antics. Danica did score her first career IndyCar win this season at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.

Vision Racing: Vision, owned by IndyCar President Tony George, is home to Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV. Carpenter is a conservative driver who earned a top 5 finish at Indy this year, but is known for having superb equipment yet doing little with it. Foyt IV is grandson of the legendary Anthony Joeseph (A.J.) Foyt, Jr., 4-time Indy 500 Champion. He hasn't raced well, but could show promise with better equipment. An engineering switch could be just what he needs to improve his results.

Others: Sarah Fisher is one of three female drivers in IndyCar (joining Danica Patrick and Milka Duno). She is running her own startup team, but has widely publicized funding issues-keeping her from racing the full 2008 season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay: The highest finishing rookie at Indianapolis, he is an up-and-coming driver for Rahal-Letterman racing, co-owned by 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal and talk show host David Letterman.

Rahal's son Graham is now in IndyCar, having come aboard with the reunifcation with Champ Car, though he drives for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Graham won the second race of this season in the rain at St. Petersburg-his first IndyCar race (he crashed his car and withdrew from the season-opener at Homestead-Miami).

Vitor Miera: An always-high finisher for Panther Racing, he currently sports the series' longest winless streak but is one of its most popular drivers. Miera's #4 car carries the National Guard colors.

You can learn more about this exciting form of open-wheel racing at the IndyCar website: www.indycar.com