Ask racing drivers what one thing they'd change about a series if they could make that decision, and pretty much every single one would say “give us more power.”
With the Verizon IndyCar Series already on track for a new engine formula beginning in 2021 that could provide upward of 900 horsepower, the question put to five INDYCAR champions became: Other than more power, which you are getting in a few years, what else would you change?
“I want more wins and more championships,” reigning champion Josef Newgarden said with a huge grin.
“It's a good question. I'd put more tracks on the schedule is what I would do.”
That process also is already underway. INDYCAR will return to Portland International Raceway for the first time in 11 years on Labor Day weekend this year. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the scenic road course nestled in the hilly coast of California near Monterey, has been named to host the 2019 season finale.
Four-time champion Scott Dixon echoed Newgarden's call for more venues. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver also wanted expanded horizons.
“I think more tracks, a bigger schedule and more overseas races,” said the New Zealand native. “I think we definitely need to get to Asia, the Middle East and even Australasia. There are many good options out there, it's just trying to find the right fit.”
And where should the Verizon IndyCar Series focus on getting a race first? “New Zealand,” Dixon deadpanned.
While Ryan Hunter-Reay understands the desire to ensure that competition remains close, he would like to see more opportunities for the teams to flex their engineering and intellectual muscles.
“I think we need to open up a few more areas on the development side of the car for the engineers and the teams to have a wider array of options available to us on race day,” the 2012 champion said, adding, “and I do like the more power part.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series introduced a universal aero kit this season. Some areas for parts are open to development. More could be added to the list.
Will Power, Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate, gives the 2018 car a “10 out of 10, 'A' grade.” The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 champion believes INDYCAR has done a great job ensuring close action on the track.
What he would like to see is limits on using the push-to-pass button – which provides a short turbocharger boost of some 50 horsepower – to defend others from overtaking. Currently, if a driver knows the competitor behind him is on the button attempting to pass, he can use his own overtake assist to try and prevent the maneuver.
“I think on some tracks they need a no-reply push-to-pass system so the car in front can't respond. That will create a lot more passing, which would be good,” said Power.
“And that's from a guy who qualifies at the front often, so it wouldn't be that good for me, but for people coming through the field I think it would make very good television.”
Although some were happy to offer suggestions, not all were quick to find something that needed improvement. Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 champion, took a firm “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” stance.
“There's honestly nothing I'd want to change,” Pagenaud said.
“I love what I do here. We have the Indianapolis 500, we have a great championship, I enjoy driving the cars and it's pure competition. I don't think I'd want to go anywhere else. I think the formula is really, really good — not because I am in it or that I could get in trouble — and I have nothing to ask for.”