We’re down to the final race of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season. Right now, it looks like we very well could have an American hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy for just the fourth time in the last 14 years. It’s all dependent on if Josef Newgarden can make up 32 points on Scott Dixon for Sunday’s season finale on the streets of St. Pete.
In 2012, Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American driver since Sam Hornish Jr. to win an Indy Car title. Newgarden was the second in 2017. Now, Newgarden can make this three titles in the last four years for American’s, all by himself.
“I mean, I think so,” said Rossi said last year heading to the season finale on if it would be big for the series for an American to win the championship. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying it doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares. I can’t really get onboard with that.”
Rossi, notes that in the Olympic years, fans get behind their countries. Why is Indy Car any different?
“I mean, I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus and Felix.
“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, Oh, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”
In the heyday of this series, there were American’s winning left and right.
From World War II to the split in 1995, only three non American’s won the championship. Emerson Fittipaldi (1989), Nigel Mansell (1993) and Jacques Villeneuve (1996) were those drivers. Everyone else was American.
In the split, the “IRL” saw six of its first seven champions crowned be Americans. In CART, Jimmy Vasser was the lone American champion in their 12 year post split existence.
But, from 2003 through 2011, “IRL” had eight non American champions in a nine year span. In fact, in 13 of the last 17 years, a non American was crowned an Indy Car champion.
Now, we have two in the top three and three in the top six in the standings right now as American’s. Nothing against the others competing in the series these days, but as Rossi is saying, if we want this series to grow domestically, the home fans need someone close to root for.