Youth on Rise in IndyCar, but Experience Still Matters
With several young drivers coming up through the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, it’s no surprise to see many new faces entering the NTT IndyCar Series.
Colton Herta proved they are not entering the series to just ride around, either, when he became the youngest series victor at the Circuit of the Americas. Though, he isn’t the only rookie impressing right now, with Patricio O’Ward scoring top-10’s in his first two IndyCar starts. Felix Ronsenqvist has also shown potential with a fourth at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“The field is extremely tough,” Scott Dixon said. “It’s great to see the young talent coming through. It’s very important for the sport. There’s such diversity, which is really important, especially in the growing times of the series. It was so cool to see Herta win at COTA. He’s been driving fantastically, so has Pato, and even Felix for that matter.
“There’s been a lot of new guys this here and guys stepping up, as much as (Robert) Wickens did last year, too. It’s great to see, and it definitely keeps us all on our toes, and you know, and I need to hold out for a couple more years at least.”
Despite the youth movement, though, the veterans are still holding their ground. The podium for Barber Motorsports Park featured three drivers over the age of 30 – Takuma Sato, Dixon, and Sebastien Bourdais.
With strategy reigning importance in the second half of the event, Bourdais says the previous experience each of them have from similar races helped.
“I think the experience and races like this where you’ve been there before, you’ve had to manage those tires and you know the fuel game and you know the place and you know the feel, when it starts to give you the little indication that the left rear is kind of starting to give up, you know what to do and you’ve been there before and you take counteractive measures and you just wheel it out,” Bourdais said. “That’s certainly a place I’ve been familiar with before and I knew I could survive to a certain point. I didn’t really know I was going to survive it all the way, but yeah, I mean, definitely experience in that series is very important.”
Sato’s victory is a testimony of a driver growing with each race under their belt. Through his first seven seasons in the series, he deemed as an overaggressive driver and only managed to score a single victory. He has now won in each of the last three years, currently ranked third in the standings.
“He’s done a good job, and I know he’s got a lot of good people around him, and when you feel comfortable, you excel, and he’s done that,” Dixon said. “I think sometimes when everybody is under pressure, you make mistakes, but today he drove flawlessly and they came away with the win.”
With only three races into the season, the battle is currently wavering towards experience as past series champion Josef Newgarden leads the standings ahead of Dixon and Sato. But they will certainly be glancing in the rearview mirror as Herta is not far behind, currently ranked fifth.
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