A viewer’s guide to IndyCar in 2023: ‘Hate sells’ and other storylines to watch


With the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season set to begin today, a viewer’s guide to key storylines when the green flag drops on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock):

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Hate sells.

It’s the key to any rivalry in racing. If you want to gain new fans and keep their attention, your stars regularly need to lock horns and occasionally throw fire at each other when the cameras and recorders are running.

Petty vs. Pearson. Lewis vs. Max.

Josef vs. Simon?

As the NTT IndyCar Series prepares to launch a new docuseries (“100 Days to Indy”) squarely aimed at capturing the zeitgeist the way that Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” did for Formula One, the biggest question is how real can it get for a series that has very affable and appealing stars but often has lacked the feuding that has fueled the growth of NASCAR and Formula One?

There are some budding rivalries among IndyCar’s diverse driver lineup. But its collection of stars also can be chummy in public and often decline to take the gloves off during the periods with peak eyeballs when the audience demands drama to stem from the on-track scuffles that stoke emotions in every race.

Conor Daly has encouraged aggression of access from the CW/VICE docuseries that will follow IndyCar through the 107th Indy 500.

“I told the producers and the director, ‘Really get in our faces right after the races,’” Daly said. “That’s kind of when we really will be honest about what happened or who did what to who. There are really a lot of us, for sure, who do get along. On track a lot of those friendships go out the window. Talk about that! Talk about who you trust and talk about who you don’t. I think that’s something people would really want to see.

“It’s uncomfortable to be generating that type of chatter between drivers because there are some fans and people that support some drivers more than others, and if there is something said about that driver that they support, then they will come after you.

“But honestly, good. What’s happening on F1 and NASCAR Twitter is very aggressive and very angry and very crazy at times, but it is people talking about it, so that’s good. The more talk the better.”

The Ed Carpenter Racing driver would be an obvious candidate for more conflict given his many run-ins with the brash Santino Ferrucci, who returns to IndyCar full time this year with AJ Foyt Racing.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud has spent much of the preseason throwing darts at former Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, and it’s been hard to tell if the potshots are playful or rooted in anger.

“I don’t think punching is his style,” Newgarden cracked about the Frenchman. “He’s like throwing crepes or something. But yeah, I love me some Pagenaud.”

Newgarden openly is wondering when (not if) he and teammate Scott McLaughlin won’t see eye to eye. Even though they have celebrated their tight-knit friendship with an irreverent video series called “Bus Bros”, Newgarden was joking before the season opener at St. Petersburg about preemptively attacking McLaughlin to slow his rapid development into IndyCar championship contender.

“I kind of just want to break Scott’s leg at some point and get it over with,” Newgarden said. “We’ve not had a big moment yet. I think it’s inevitable we’re going to have a scrap at some point.

“It’s a hard balance. He’s probably the first teammate I’ve had that’s really understood the dynamic of look I want to beat him terribly badly, and he feels the same about me. But we’re professional about it. He respects my craft, and I respect his. There’s no one I hold higher than McLaughlin. There’s respect between us that makes it work right now. I think it’s inevitable that we have a scrap. When that happens, I don’t know the outcome, but we’ll have to work it out.”

Rivalries can be tricky in racing because of many underlying factors.

Teams are largely funded by the support of corporate sponsors that tend to frown upon outspoken personalities who skirt the edge of controversy and can drum up publicity that might be perceived as negative.

“The world nowadays, you’ve got to be so careful what you say, what you do, how people are judging you,” 2004 champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan said. “Social media just hammers you all the time.

“Yeah, to be a good one I think we’re going to have to just be honest, and I think we’ve seen other examples of other reality shows that — you can still show controversy. You can still show that we don’t all love each other. Some guys out there, we definitely don’t like each other, and it’s fine.

“It will be really important for the series, but also I think it’s on the producers as well, to put the pressure saying, ‘Guys, this is not a movie. This is a reality show, so be real.’ ”

Alexander Rossi already has gotten a taste of it with a “100 Days to Indy” sitdown in which he discussed his altercation last year at Mid-Ohio with former Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean. On his “Off Track” podcast, Rossi said IndyCar drivers will need to get outside their comfort zone by getting outspoken about their competition.

“I hate when we go back to ‘Drive to Survive’ because it’s different, but like you look at the honesty of not only drivers but the team owners, that’s what made the show,” Rossi said. “The real, “if that guy doesn’t perform, he’s fired.”-type thing. So I think you’ve got to have a level of that.”

Some other storylines and teams to watch entering the season opener:

–With pole-sitter Grosjean and Colton Herta sweeping the front row, Andretti Autosport has backed up the promise that the team has shown in strong preseason testing performances.

There’s much at stake for Herta, who signed a contract extension last year and believes he is ready to win a championship, and Grosjean, who is entering a contract year with the team after a disappointing 2022. New addition Kyle Kirkwood, who qualified fifth, could be pushing both of them after learning the lessons of a wreck-filled rookie season at AJ Foyt Racing.

–Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has overhauled its engineering department by bringing in Formula One veteran Stefano Sordo as its new technical director. Graham Rahal, who remains in the cockpit of the No. 15 Dallara-Honda but naturally is transitioning into a management role, said the team is in the midst of a “cultural shift” from top to the bottom.

–Kirkwood has taken the spot of 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who left for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team after seven seasons with Andretti. Ferrucci will be teamed at Foyt with rookie Benjamin Pedersen. Sting Ray Robb

–In adding a third car for Rossi to pair with Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren has been part of an expansion to a track-record 27 cars for the season opener. Juncos Hollinger Racing also has added a second car for Argentine rookie Agustin Canapino.

Motocross 2023: Results and points after SuperMotocross Round 18 at Hangtown


For the second consecutive week, Jett Lawrence had perfect results in the Pro Motocross round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California with a pair of moto wins and the overall victory, only this time he didn’t have Chase Sexton, who sat out the round with a concussion, to keep him honest in the second race.

Jett Lawrence’s performance in the first two Motocross rounds has him thinking of a rookie championship. – Align Media

Lawrence led all 16 laps of both races after taking the holeshot in the second moto and grabbing the lead from Dylan Ferrandis in Turn 2 of Moto 1. Lawrence claimed a four-second lead in Moto 1 and five seconds in Moto 2, but as dominant as it seems on paper, there were some exciting moments during the weekend. In the second race, Lawrence wanted to build an advantage that would allow him to maintain his pace and he nearly high-sided a couple of times in heavy ruts.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

In his second race back from a concussion, Ferrandis finished in the runner-up spot with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. While his finish of second overall goes into the record books, Pro Motocross points are rewarded for each individual race and that meant Ferrandis lost eight points in championship battle to Lawrence. With Sexton failing to mount up for the race, Ferrandis advanced to second in the standings with an 18-point gap to Lawrence. Equally important, Ferrandis gained ground in the SuperMotocross World Championship (WSX) points and now has a gap of 44 over 21st-place Justin Starling.

Cooper Webb is also in his second round since returning from a Supercross injury suffered in Nashville at the end of their season. Claiming results of fourth and second in the two races, Webb earned 40 SuperMotocross points at Hangtown and closed in on Sexton in the WSX battle. Sexton entered Hangtown with a large enough lead that he could not be overtaken, but he is now only 38 points up and could face a difficult decision next week at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado if he wants to hold onto his lead.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger had an adventurous weekend in which he seemed to close on Lawrence in his second race before crashing and dropping to fourth. Coupled with a fifth-place finish in Moto 1, he earned 35 points and was credited with fourth overall.

Cashing in on confidence he gained in the final rounds of the Supercross season, Adam Cianciarulo earned his first top-five of the Pro Motocross championship after narrowly missing out last week with a sixth. He earned the distinction with consistent results of fifth in Moto 1 and fourth in Moto 2.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Hunter Lawrence showed his back to the competition at Hangtown, just as he did the week prior at Fox Raceway. – Align Media

The Lawrence brothers made history last week as the first siblings to win in two Pro Motocross divisions on the same day. Fans should get accustomed to seeing this happen with some regularity as Hunter Lawrence posted identical results in Hangtown to those he had at Fox Raceway in the season opener.

In both races, Lawrence got off to a slow start in Moto 1 and had to claw his way back to the podium. He dominated Moto 2 in both rounds to earn the overall victories.

Justin Cooper did not allow Lawrence to gain much of an advantage in the Motocross points’ standings, however. Finishing second in both motos, the earned only one point less than Lawrence. His modest showing in Round 1 of the outdoor season has him 12 points out of first in the championship standings.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Haiden Deegan scored his first moto win in just his fourth start in the series. In the first race of the day, he had to withstand constant pressure from Cooper, but when his teammate closed in on him, Deegan reached down and found a little more speed. Now that he’s won one of these races, he has his sight set on challenging Lawrence for the title. Deegan is second in the Pro Motocross championship standings with a 10-point deficit to the leader.

Haiden Deegan scored podiums in both Motocross rounds of 2023. – Align Media

Tom Vialle tied his career-best finish of fourth overall with a seventh-place finish in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. Vialle was fourth last week in overall ranking and has one fourth-place finish in the Supercross series that came in the Triple Crown format at Arlington.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

RJ Hampshire rounded out the top five with a pair of fifth-place results and 32 points for the round. Even though the deficit is a whopping 61 points, Hampshire climbed to second in the SuperMotocross championship standings now that Jett Lawrence has moved to the big bikes.

Jalek Swoll struggled last week and finished 21st overall at Fox Raceway. This week, he finished on the cusp of 10th in both races with a ninth in Moto 1 and 11th in Moto 2. In the SuperMotocross standings, he has a lot of ground to make up. He currently sits 49th on the chart with a 70-point gap to Chance Hymas, who is on the bubble to earn a guaranteed position in the SMX Mains for the three playoff races that will be held on September.

2023 Motocross Results

Round 1: Jett Lawrence, Hunter Lawrence win

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 18: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top
Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s