Photo: Josh Chin/Motorsports Tribune

BARNES: IndyCar Inspiration

By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

There are times in motorsports that you just need to sit back and appreciate the moment.

Yesterday, we witnessed one of racing’s greatest champions remind the world of his capabilities and put everyone on notice that he’s still one of the best to ever compete in an Indy car.

Every headline imaginable that would be perfect for a Hollywood movie took place on the streets of St. Petersburg. The ‘little team’ at Dale Coyne Racing that reunited a decade old all-star team and a former four-time champion, overcame starting dead last to beat arguably the most dominant driver on undoubtedly the most dominant team – sounds like a blockbuster hit to me.

However, now that any movie made about it can only run the preface ‘based on a true story,’ it’s important to note what this truly means to the sport.

At a time when just about every form of motorsports is suffering from some sort drawback, mostly due to these economic times or a genuine lack of interest, it’s important to look at what we have instead of what we lack.

It’s a glass half full kind of thing.

For several years now I have heard the clamoring that CART was the ‘Golden Age’ of open wheel racing in America, and with the level of talent, attendance, purse size, etc., it was always hard to counter that claim.

Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting that we are anywhere close the astronomical bar that the CART era of the late 1990s set.

However, unlike Formula 1 and NASCAR, the Verizon IndyCar Series has become the land of opportunity.

Like America in its early form, aspiring drivers or team owners can settle into one of the most competitive racing divisions that exist today and even go after the most prestigious race in the world – the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar teams operate at a fraction of any F1 or NASCAR Cup Series team and as we saw on Sunday, even a low-budget team can take the fight to the giants of the sport.

Teams like Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports won’t get beat by backmarker squad unless the ‘Big One’ happens on a restrictor plate track like Daytona or Talladega.

At no point will a Sauber dethrone a Mercedes or Ferrari in F1 unless there’s a melee on the streets of Monaco. In which case it likely happened at the start and every car was collected minus the Sauber and thus a boring Sunday drive is about to commence for that sport’s most iconic event.

The win yesterday by Sebastien Bourdais didn’t come at the expense of a 20-car pileup, weather, or a fluky late caution. It was earned by what every form of motorsport should be known for – racing.

Strategy and hard-nosed driving is everything a racing purist could hope for and that is exactly what was delivered on Sunday with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After the race came to its conclusion, we saw a humble and grateful four-time champion do his best to keep hold of his emotions.

It was that moment that gave way to the purity of sport.

After only just one race, IndyCar already has itself a feel-good story of year contender.

Bourdais was the original Frenchman that came over and kicked ass, left to pursue a Formula One dream that fizzled and returned to Indy car racing only to become an afterthought by many with the rise of drivers such fellow countryman Simon Pagenaud, whom finished second on Sunday.

As the saying goes, “Nothing beats the original.”

For IndyCar fans and racing purist everywhere, the sport has both the original and next generation.

It’s not CART, but what we have now is pretty damn good. If Sunday is any indication, we are in for one hell of a year in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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Joey Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Motorsports Tribune. He has covered auto racing since 2013 that has spanned from Formula 1 to NASCAR, with coverage on IndyCar. Additionally, his work has appeared on Racer, IndyCar.com and Autoweek magazine. In 2017, he was recognized with an award in Spot News Writing by the National Motorsports Press Association.