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10 takeaways from IndyCar’s content days

Written by Dan Jones and Archie O’Reilly

DIVEBOMB virtually attended IndyCar’s two annual pre-season Content Days on the 10th and 11th of January. In-depth daily round-ups are available on DIVEBOMB’s YouTube or the DIVEBOMB IndyCar Podcast feed, but here is a look at the key takeaways from the two days.

A dinner with Penske Entertainment executives

Possibly the biggest story to emerge from the Content Days was the fact that some of IndyCar’s more senior drivers sat down for a dinner with Penske Entertainment executives last week. This comes amid a somewhat turbulent off-season, including the hybrid system’s introduction being delayed. But there does seem to be lots to be positive about.

Graham Rahal gave one of the most enlightening insights over the two days. “There's stuff you'll hear about soon I can't speak about that I think are major positives for the sport,” he said. This was reinforced by Marcus Ericsson one day later, speaking about “a lot of work” that is going on behind the scenes.

“There's a lot of good things that's going to come out here in the next few months about the series, about the direction we're going,” Ericsson said. “If all of those things come true, I think there is a lot of excitement for us as a series.”

Ericsson suggested there are “a lot of things” that IndyCar “should be proud of and happy about”, while Rahal went on to say that there is lots of work being done to help the series in the long run. He feels there could be a bright future under Greg Penske once his father, Roger, steps down from the helm at IndyCar.

“We're on a very solid footing with Penske, and I think the future is great,” Rahal said. “I don't know how many of you guys know Greg Penske, but Greg is an awesome guy, and I think the future is going to be - maybe I'm making the assumption that he's the guy, but I'm pretty sure, and he's a great guy — very bright.”

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi also spoke of the dinner with Penske executives. While neither went into the specifics either, there was similarly positivity. All of the drivers involved in discussions could see a clear direction.

“It was a good check-in last night,” Newgarden said. “I think the Penske Entertainment folks are trying to do a good job of staying engaged with everybody in the series so that we're understanding where they're going and where the plan is. But there are a lot of good things on the horizon.”

Rossi later added: “Obviously they are not going to give you a play-by-play and a step-by-step as to how they are tackling challenges and preparing for the future and doing things. You've got to trust the process. We all do. But ultimately the people that are running the ship and in charge of the direction are the right people to be doing that. 

“I think there's a lot of positive news that's going to be coming over the next three to five months that people are going to be very excited about.”


Credit: Joe Skibinski

Pato O’Ward on change and growth

Out of all 28 drivers featured over the content days, Pato O’Ward was quite easily the most engaging. It’s no secret the Mexican has been outspoken about his views on the series in recent years, despite still being one of the younger drivers in the series, at 24 years of age, and his Thursday morning appearance at Indianapolis was no different.

IndyCar’s been relatively stable in the last few years, the series is still recovering from it’s messy split with CART on a global perspective, but continues to grow, particularly from an international standpoint. The chassis, as an example, is going into its 13th year of use in 2024, something O’Ward has been critical of in recent months.

O’Ward quickly stated: "But when you're just speaking of growth, change will usually kind of rattle people's floor. Like it'll kind of move things around. Some people will like it, some people won't like it. But when you don't evolve and when you don't change, you sure as hell will not grow. The only way to doing that is to change things up"

The Arrow McLaren driver did look at it from an external perspective, and noted how change is significantly different to how it was 30 years ago, but stated ‘you want people to be a part of something.’ The series’ recent growth has been supported by it’s excellent racing product, which was noted by O’Ward but believes the series is ‘missing something that we have quite yet to crack.’

IndyCar’s growth in recent years has been encouraging, particularly from an international standpoint, and the work in promoting the series by going to venues such as Nashville, or the double-header weekends with NASCAR could only have been beneficial for the series.

O’Ward still believes the series is growing ‘incrementally’ though, the McLaren F1 reserve believes that the series can grow by double or even triple each year, and notes the series ‘really has the potential to make massive gains.’

The loyalty of IndyCar’s fanbase is significant and was noted by O’Ward: ‘Once people see and watch it, they're going to want to stick around. The problem is you need to get it in front of as many eyes as you can.’

O’Ward wasn’t present at the Penske dinner, but he is a huge voice for the future of the sport. The series has made excellent ground in the last couple of years in stabilising the ship, but O’Ward’s ideas for radical growth is something the series needs to consider should it want to compete with the likes of Formula One, NASCAR or MotoGP.

It’s particularly impressive that someone so young is so outspoken and vocal about what the series can do to grow, and with his long-term future likely to be in the series, a driver of his support and his calibre is certainly someone to listen to.


Credit: Arrow McLaren via X

Will IndyCar go international?

Many drivers mentioned the positive discussions about IndyCar’s future during the two days, as touched on by Archie above, but maybe one of the most significant steps into IndyCar’s future is the prospect of international races.

It’s been no secret that a potential race in Latin America has been on the cards for 2024, with Argentina cited as the primary option at least in the short-term, 

Agustin Canapino has had a significant impact on these discussions. His ventures into IndyCar have brought in a huge fanbase that otherwise wouldn’t exist, and unlocked a crucial market for IndyCar, and is the reason why Argentina seems to be top of the list to host an international race.

When asked about the prospect of racing in Argentina by DIVEBOMB, Canapino swiftly responded with ‘yes,definitely.’ Canapino continued to state that a potential Argentine visit would be ‘amazing for the series,’ and supported by saying the country would ‘have an amazing event.’

Canapino emphasised the support of the fans in Argentina, before continuing to say it would be a ‘dream’ to race there, but crucially stated that he’s ‘confident’ that a race will happen.

Maybe the series’ next option would be looking at Mexico, which prompted Pato O’Ward to be asked about the chances at going international, and as mentioned above, O’Ward is particularly vocal about growth of the series, with his views on international racing no different.

When asked, O’Ward stated it was ‘definitely high on my priority list,’ but confidently said "I think it’ll happen some day," but he’s ‘not quite sure when it’s going to happen.’ O’Ward interestingly said a race in Mexico may not be at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the current home of the Mexico City Grand Prix and E-Prix and CART between 2002 and 2007.

O’Ward is one of few who is so vocal about the growth of the series, he went on to say, "The excuse is always, well, the partners don’t care about going international. Well, why? Like we need to be able to offer a product that makes international brands want to be a part of it." 

International drivers bring international fanbases, look at the likes of Romain Grosjean or the aforementioned Canapino, but O’Ward emphasised: "Just having a driver in a series from a specific country doesn’t quite necessarily bring you the potential it could if you had a race."

O’Ward’s view is compelling, rather than seeing it as an option to give diversity to the series, whilst ‘sticking to its roots.’ The prospect of growth in key markets is something IndyCar has to investigate. News has died down in recent weeks about the potential non-championship race in Argentina, but for its long-term growth, it’s something the series must look at.


Credit: James Black

Streamlining and improvement at Andretti

Andretti Global’s three drivers were some of the most fascinating to listen to across the Content Days. There was brutal honesty when it came to the assessment of some shortcomings last season, which saw none of their four drivers finish higher than 10th-place in the championship.

Colton Herta had won at least one race in each of his four full seasons prior to 2023, but the seven-time winner came away with only the single podium on top of two pole positions. He described the campaign as “for sure probably my worst” so far in IndyCar.

“It was a season of what could have gone wrong, did - it was just all over the place,” Herta said. “The goal is to obviously get that back, and going forward, working on the tempo through races and just having a more consistent weekend.”

Both Herta and Kyle Kirkwood, who are the only two of Andretti’s four drivers from last year to remain with the team, acknowledged that there were some things in and some things out of their control that led to the team’s inconsistency. An honest Herta admitted that certain mistakes need to be noted down so they are not repeated.

Kirkwood was reminded that his two wins were his only top fives in his first season with Andretti and his sophomore IndyCar season. While this was largely circumstantial in his eyes, he acknowledged that “the goal is next year to have consistent finishes”. 

“That comes with, I think, experience mostly and understanding of how the races go, when to push, when not to push, when to save fuel, when not to save fuel, the cadence of everything,” Kirkwood said.

There is positivity in the Andretti camp that slimming down from four cars to three, and adding Marcus Ericsson to the fold from Chip Ganassi Racing, will be beneficial. The consensus across the drivers was that weight could be lifted from a workforce that has by no means been reduced, with more personnel focused more in-depth on each car.

Kirkwood described the addition of Ericsson as having “a wealth of knowledge” added to the team, with the Swede bringing lots of knowledge from his time with arguably the series highest-performing team in Ganassi. Herta says Ericsson has already been quick in testing, brings “very good” feedback and is “very calm and very collected”.

There is certain confidence around Andretti heading into the 2024 season.


Credit: Andretti via X

RC Enerson and the return of bumping

R.C. Enerson was a late, but very welcome addition to content day, as he pilots the # 50 Abel Motorsports once again at the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, at a similar time where a full-time opportunity for Abel is looking to open up for 2025.

Enerson’s entry practically confirms bumping will take place on May 20th this year. The 27 regular full-time entries will be joined by Enerson, as well as Christian Rasmussen, Helio Castroneves and the highly anticipated Kyle Larson.

It is more than expected that Marco Andretti will once again return for his father’s team, whilst Dreyer and Reinbold have stated their intentions to run two cars again, bringing the total to at least 34, one more than the field requires.

And Enerson and Abel’s 2023 campaign was a feel-good story. Enerson noted that ‘the sole focus was to make the field,’ something he was unable to do with Top Gun Racing in 2021. And although it was cut short due to reliability, Enerson has still taken a lot from it: "The biggest learning curve was running in traffic," and 'the amount of tools at your disposal.'

When asked by DIVEBOMB, Enerson claimed: "I talked to a couple of the drivers because I was like, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. But they're like, no, you’re doing the right things, it’s just difficult to pass."

And Enerson emphasised how difficult the journey was in learning how to race at the 500: "The first day running in traffic I was more mentally exhausted in the one-hour practice session than I'd been all of it combined," and that it was ‘the real battle the entire time.’

The emotion of the Indy 500 should not be understated. Enerson said that they were ‘unanimous pick’ to be bumped, and making the field was a ‘pinch me kind of day.’ Enerson jokes: "They wouldn’t let me out the car until the garage because I was freaking out!"

Enerson and Abel Motorsports was one of the feel-good stories of the 107th Running of the Race. The team are optimistic too — they’ll be going to the open test in April, unlike last year, and the added experience of last year's campaign has clearly sat with Enerson well.

Enerson is still hopeful of a 2025 full-time seat, however, the focus is on May, where Enerson, and bumping will be back.


Credit: James Black

Josef Newgarden’s altered approach

Josef Newgarden opened up the first Content Day and was up there with the most engaging drivers to listen to. He was really illuminating in his insights following on from a very mixed year in 2023, where he was nigh on imperious on ovals but acknowledges a struggle to find masses of consistency on road and street courses. 

“I pared down this off-season a lot of things, which I think has been productive personally,” a very reflective Newgarden said. “I've tried to refocus my task list and really my priorities, and from that standpoint, it's been really, really positive… I think there was definitely room for improvement and trying to create some better focus in areas.”

Then came what felt like one of the more significant lines from across the two days.

“In a lot of ways, just to be transparent, I want to get back to loving this. Not that I didn't love it in the past, but I think when you get bogged down by too much, then sometimes the joy slips away.”

Newgarden is refining his approach and placing his focus more on racing again rather than allowing himself to get sidetracked, which he admitted he is “excited” about. Newgarden has now gone four seasons since winning his second championship win, finishing a “very crushing” runner-up three successive times before a fifth-place finish in 2023.

Despite the fulfilment of winning a legacy-sealing Indianapolis 500 last year, Newgarden still feels “getting back to some simplicity” could benefit him at this stage of his career, 13 years on from the start of his IndyCar journey. “I'm trying to just find clarity on what is most important to me objective-wise,” he added.

Newgarden is heavily results-driven but simultaneously keen to improve in every aspect to achieve even more success. He is already thinking about his next Indy 500 campaign rather than continuing to focus on his victory last year — he is looking at how he can now get a second, a third, a fourth. 

“It's a never-ending process of trying to stack success on to one another,” he said. “That's what motivates me.”


Credit: Joe Skibinski

The end of Bus Bros (or maybe not)

Part of Josef Newgarden being questioned about changes this off-season was due to the splitting with Brian Simpson — former IndyCar Communications Director who managed Newgarden’s digital content. Simpson’s previous company, Dream Digital Services, has been dissolved. 

Simpson has launched a new media company, Stillhouse Studios, and has otherwise essentially kept the same clientele onboard, including Scott McLaughlin. This situation has thrown into doubt the future of the popular Bus Bros YouTube series run by Newgarden and McLaughlin — a hot topic across the first Content Day.

Newgarden admitted he is not involved in any new media marketing venture “at the moment” and said: “Bus Bros, right now, they're taking a long nap. But you just never know with those guys. Anything is possible.”

He admitted that the Bus Bros are “definitely out of the game” at the moment but does not know what the future may hold. McLaughlin, meanwhile, was more certain when he later appeared in front of the media. 

“Josef sacked the producer, so we've got no producer now,” McLaughlin said. “Bus Bros is not going to happen.”

He went on to add: “Bus Bros was fun because it was an opportunity for people to get to know me and Josef and see who we are outside the car. We did some pretty stupid stuff, but it was a fun chapter. If this is the end, it's the end. If not, we probably might do something, I'm not sure. Definitely not a good start when we don't have a producer anymore.”

Fans of the show were left disappointed but could leave the Content Days with some hope. In what could be viewed as a form of U-turn, McLaughlin later took to X and released a light-hearted statement ending: "People will ask if there is another chapter. Yes, there will certainly be another chapter. See you in St, Pete.”

All hope is not lost for one of IndyCar’s great off-track assets..


Credit: Joe Skibinski

New race suits and sponsors for 2024

One of the most interesting parts of the two Content Days was seeing what suits certain drivers entered the press conference room with, plus whether any new sponsors were present for any of the individual drivers or teams. There was a fair amount of change. 

Looking purely at the aesthetics of the race suits, McLaren’s trio of Alexander Rossi, David Malukas and Pato O’Ward were sporting an incredibly bright papaya suit.

From our viewpoint through a Zoom call, the suit was so bright that it was almost shining and the true colours could not even be captured. Finished off with some black, could this also be a livery hint?

One of the hardest things to get used to will be seeing Alex Palou sporting the red and yellow of DHL after their switch from Andretti Global to Chip Ganassi Racing. Marcus Ericsson, who moved in the opposite direction, has ditched the red of Huski, who he is not working with at the moment, and wore the existing dark blue Delaware Life colours. 

Meanwhile, other changes included a Force India-like orange streak (from their time in Formula One) at Juncos. Kyle Kirkwood wore a more white than pink AutoNation Mobile Service suit for Andretti, similar to Meyer Shank Racing’s Tom Blomqvist and Felix Rosenqvist. Journie Rewards appears to be the sponsor of Ganassi rookie Kyffin Simpson.

Some of the most notable alterations came at Ed Carpenter Racing, whose race suits are littered with sponsors. BitNile, who Conor Daly brought to the team as a headline sponsor, seem to have taken a back seat while still having their emblem in one corner of the race suit. But the new headline sponsors do remain in the Todd Ault - owner of BitNile - family. 

Men’s health company GuyCare is the new main sponsor for the shared Christian Rasmussen and Ed Carpenter ride, while AI-related RiskOn International take centre stage for Rinus VeeKay. The suits are mainly black, with some light blue detail for Carpenter and Ramussen and Juncos-like green for VeeKay.

There was lots of talk about the 5-Hour Energy drink sponsor for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, who Graham Rahal says have had a lot of investment, largely due to the fact it was keeping people awake during the lengthy Content Days. 

Sting Ray Robb worked hard to put a budget together to secure his ride at AJ Foyt Racing this off-season, with his headline sponsor being PRAY.COM. This is significant for Robb as it aligns with his own beliefs surrounding the value of prayer.


Credit: ECR via X

Rounding up other notable stories 

With 28 drivers to speak to, there’s plenty more nuggets to be had across the two days, however big or small they may be.

One story is particularly encouraging for the diversity of the series. As Chip Ganassi Racing expanded to five cars in 2024 with the addition of Kyffin Simpson, a staff reshuffle took place across the five cars.

Angela Ashmore will become the third female lead engineer as she crew chiefs Marcus Armstrong in 2024. She joins Diane Holl, who worked with the likes of Adrian Fernandez and Tony Kanaan, as well as Lenna Gade, who supported James Hinchcliffe for the first six races of 2018. Ashmore is an inspiring story, and hopefully an individual many will look up to.

‘The Dragon,’ the manoeuvre of weaving down the straight at Indianapolis, which has been used by the likes of Marcus Ericsson and Josef Newgarden looks set to be restricted in 2024 after it drew controversy at last year’s event.

Ericsson stated that it isn’t a ‘good look,’ particularly on the basis of safety. Ericsson said that Newgarden ‘took it to an extreme,’ when he crossed the pit entry line, with concerns an accident colliding with the attenuator growing.

Linus Lundqvist was a much-welcomed addition to the 2024 field, but when asked by DIVEBOMB, Lundqvist emphasised the importance of the three races he subbed in for Simon Pagenaud at Meyer Shank in 2023, stating he ‘would not be sitting here today,’ if it weren’t for those races.

Lundqvist notes that Chip Ganassi called him some-time after, and described it as a ‘dream’ to race for the team. Lundqvist also states he had ‘serious doubts’ about getting a full-time seat in the series, and ‘almost hassled’ team owners and principals in his bid for a 2024 seat.

Kyffin Simpson will pilot the #4 Chip Ganassi Racing car, which was announced on Content Day, previously used by the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Alex Zanardi and Bryan Herta.

Simpson, in his first content day,’ gave some revelations into how he got into motorsport, through F2 star, Zane Maloney, with the first IndyCar race he watched the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Simpson sees 2024 as a learning year, and aims to maximise performance, with a particular fondness of Road America.

Love is in the air in the IndyCar paddock! Marriages for Rinus VeeKay and Alexander Rossi have occurred since Laguna Seca, with Alex Palou’s wife, Esther, giving birth to their first child.

Agustin Canapino is now engaged, with Santino Ferrucci set to be next on the wedding list. Sporting an exuberant mullet, Ferrucci described it as the ‘wedding cut.’ When asked if he’d have a pit road hair battle with Ferrucci, Sting Ray Robb joked: "Has anyone got an electrical outlet with a fork."

Will Power suffered a difficult 2023 season as the defending champion at the time, being the first winless year of his IndyCar career since 2006. However, his wife Liz has recovered from an illness, which affected Power early on in the season, saying he ‘could not compete at 100%.’

Power’s confident that he can return to his best, but marvelled at the performance of Alex Palou exclaiming ‘the dude mopped the floor,’ but recognises the Ganassi man will be tough to topple in 2024.

And being a content day, there were a couple of funny nuggets. Santino Ferrucci knows that Josef Newgarden and himself don’t have the best history, saying that ‘I know Josef would love to have me sit down and debrief according to IndyCar memes.’

David Malukas was his exuberant self, stating he was ‘ready for greatness’ awaiting questions from journalists. Agustin Canapino stated that last year’s content day was more pressure than ‘Indy 500 qualification,’ when the Argentine spoke minimal amounts of English.

My added inability to speak Spanish has given me the challenge of speaking to the Juncos Hollinger Racing driver in Spanish for next year’s content day, to match his vast improvements in his English.


Credit: Chris Jones

Helio Castroneves remembers Gil de Ferran

Maybe the most poignant moment over the two days was Helio Castroneves’ tribute to IndyCar Champion and 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner, Gil de Ferran, who tragically passed away on December 29th. 

Castroneves, clearly touched by the raw emotion reflected on his time with de Ferran stating: "He was one of those guys, a big heart, very, very intense, incredible knowledge, and yeah, we had a lot of good moments."

Castroneves described him and de Ferran as part of ‘The Three Musketeers,’ alongside Tim Cindric, stating ‘nothing could stop us,’ in a period where de Ferran and Castroneves took home three Indianapolis 500’s in a row. 

The Brazilian is a gem in the paddock, a real ray of sunshine, but even in the most emotional of moments, Castroneves still reflected on his friend’s passing with a genuine smile on his face and found great comfort in reflecting on life with one of his closest friends.

But his final words reflecting on de Ferran were touching: ‘He's the first guy or first person actually that close in my life that is not going to be with me or with us anymore,’ and ended on a particularly fitting tribute: "I'm sure he is up there right now redesigning the gates of heaven, so trying to make a modernised or electric or whatever it is, I’m sure he’s having fun up there."


Credit: IndyCar

A huge thanks to all at INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the opportunities DIVEBOMB had during both content days, with the privilege to speak to 14 drivers across the two days, and attend all press conferences, with valuable insights gained and a great experience had for both of our journalists ahead of the 2024 season.


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