It’s once again cool to be a racing fan in the United States.
That’s thanks in large part to Formula 1’s Drive to Survive Netflix series and team owners like Michael Jordan and Pitbull in NASCAR.
But what about IndyCar, which is home to perhaps the world’s most prestigious auto race in the Indianapolis 500?
The series that’s created names such as Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt was in need of boost in recent years.
That’s where star drivers Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou come in.
Newgarden, who at 32 is young for the sport but perhaps not by other sport standards, is a two-time series champion and won his first Indy 500 earlier this season.
Palou, meanwhile, is a 26-year-old Spaniard who won a championship in just his second series in the series in 2021 and looks set to add another this season.
The pair currently sit first and third in the IndyCar points standings and sat down with BroBible to talk about the championship race as well as a bevy of other topics.
Josef Newgarden And Alex Palou Both Have Their Eyes On The Prize
With just three races remaining in the season, Palou holds a 101-points lead over teammates Scott Dixon and a 105-point lead over Newgarden in third.
Drivers can earn up to 54 points in a race weekend if they win the race, start on the pole, and lead the most laps. Meaning that Newgarden will have to be nearly flawless the rest of the way and hope Palou stumbles to have a shot at the title.
But that isn’t changing he or his team’s approach.
“It’s really simplistic from our point of view,” Newgarden said. “Whether we’re ahead or we’re chasing, we’re going out there to maximize or day and have the best finish possible.”
Palou, however, isn’t planning on playing things conservatively.
“We’re at this really good place because of the way we’ve raced all year,” he said. “Changing that, I think, would be a mistake…in IndyCar, there’s so many points when you win, when you finish up there (in the order) that you can make a big swing.”
This weekend, the series heads to World Wide Technologies Raceway outside of St. Louis. It’s the final oval track of the season, in a season where Newgarden has won every oval thus far.
A win on Sunday would make it a perfect sweep of all five ovals, and that’s something Newgarden says he’s definitely aware of.
“We’ve been really good on the ovals this year, and that’s been big for us because early in the year we lost some solid results just didn’t work out for us,” he said. “So it’s big to be able to sort of make those points up.”
But despite the success, he says that maintaining balance between oval, road and street courses is important to IndyCar’s success.
“I think there’s a strong desire from the series and our fan base (to add more ovals),” he said. “But that mix, that balance of ovals and road courses and street circuits is what makes IndyCar unique. So it’s about finding a balance as well as partners and venues that are right for the series and right for fans.”
Palou, meanwhile, started his career in Europe not racing on any ovals. But he’s quickly become accustomed to the high speed tracks, finishing in the top 10 in all four races this season, including a pair of podiums.
Palou And Newgarden Showcase Separate Personalities Away From The Track
While both Newgarden and Palou are stars on the track for the series, they’ve also helped the series grow away from it as well.
The latter has even gone above and beyond with his own YouTube show alongside teammate Scott McLaughlin.
The show, which is called Bus Bros, chronicles Newgarden and McLaughlin’s lives both at and away from the track.
McLaughlin, a New Zealander, joined the series full-time in 2022 and quickly formed a fast friendship with his new teammate.
The show then began the following year and the two haven’t looked back.
“Honestly, it was just something that sort of came together without really much effort,” Newgarden said of the show. “Which was kind of the point. We wanted to showcase, sort of, what we’re doing a race weekend and then sort of get a peek into the personalities of some of the drivers and specifically stuff (fans) didn’t know.”
Palou, on the other hand, is a bit more laid back.
“Everything I do throughout the day and the year is all about racing,” he said with a chuckle. “I love working in the (racing) simulator) and working out. But other than that it’s about spending as much time as possible with my family.”
Palou and Newgarden clearly have separate approaches. But both approaches have led the drivers to the forefront of the series.
IndyCar set records for viewership in 2022. And with stars such as Palou and Newgarden leading the way, it’s easy to picture the sport’s popularity only continuing to grow in the years to come.