Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is looking back at a fantastic, entertaining 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics. This 10-part series will run regularly in October.
Today’s question: How will the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season be remembered?
Curt Cavin: Helio Castroneves’ record-tying Indianapolis 500 victory. It took 61 years for a driver to win for a fourth time – A.J. Foyt in 1977 – and it had been 30 years since Rick Mears became the most recent four-time winner. Interestingly, that easily could have been Castroneves’ sixth win. He got passed by Team Penske teammate Gil de Ferran late in the 2003 race after misjudging the lapped car of A.J. Foyt IV, and Ryan Hunter-Reay edged him by .06 of a second, the second-closest finish in event history, in 2014.
Zach Horrall: I think we’ll look back on the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season next year and many years from now as one of the most unpredictable and exciting in recent memory. It started with seven different winners, four of which were first-time winners. Then, we saw young guns steal the veterans’ thunder (Scott Dixon only won one race this year). Plus, several races set or came close to records for most on-track passes. It was so much fun from the drop of the green flag at Barber Motorsports Park to the checkered flag at Long Beach. I’ll take more seasons like this one, please.
Paul Kelly: This season will be remembered as the start of a significant changing of the guard in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Time stands still for no one, and there are some true mainstays of the last decade or two who are in the twilight of their career due to either age, performance or both. Forty-something stars like Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves – all fan favorites – probably won’t be competing full time or at all in the series within the next five years. That’s a chilling thought for many, but this season proved that the future is in good hands, indeed, with a new wave of talented newcomers who are winning races and championships or appearing to be major threats for both. We’re talking drivers like Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta, Jack Harvey, Marcus Ericsson, Rinus VeeKay, Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin, all of whom have become full-timers in the series in just the last three seasons.