It’s That Time of Year!

We have reached that point of the offseason, where things get fun. All of the seats have finally been filled, and even many one-off seats for the Indianapolis 500 are now taken. The cars take to the track next week near Palm Springs, CA at the Thermal Club – a club track that sounds interesting.

But this week we got a peek at some new liveries, as they were strategically dropped on social media.

Times are sure different from the 90s. Rather than taking a glance at social media a couple of time s a day, to see if anyone else has unveiled a new paint scheme – we used to have to wait by the mailbox to see if our monthly or weekly racing magazines were in that day’s mail.

I used to subscribe to three racing periodicals in the 90s – Indy Car Racing Magazine and Racer were my two monthly magazines, while AutoWeek came each week. You would think the name would make that obvious, but in the early 2000s – someone there got the bright idea to publish every other week. When they did that, I allowed my subscription to run out and I never renewed.

I think Racer published three issues before I started subscribing in 1992. The articles were thorough and the photography was excellent. It was a top-flight publication. I think I finally dropped my subscription around 2008. There was just too much free content on the internet.

Indy Car Racing (ICR) was the polar opposite of Racer. While Racer had the look and feel of an international periodical, ICR was much more homespun. The editor was Ned Wicker and it was based in Milwaukee. From what I can tell, Ned is still with us. It appears he was, or still is, a hospital chaplain in Milwaukee. But back in the 90s, he headed up a charming little magazine that was devoted exclusively to covering the CART PPG IndyCar World Series.

Wicker wrote many of the articles himself, but his small staff cranked out a lot of good writing. The photography was not on ther same level with Racer, but they did the best with what they had. I subscribed to ICR until they ceased publication, sometime in the early 2000s.

Between those three publications, ICR did the best job of showing off the new cars and liveries. Keep in mind, this was the era when the top teams bought brand new cars each year. A 1994 Lola looked much different than a 1993 Lola, then when the 1995 Lola came out – it was interesting to note the differences. When the Galmer or Reynard first appeared, it was stunning to compare them with the new Lola. Then there was always the PC chassis from Penske Cars. Sometimes they led the pack; and sometimes they didn’t.

Back then, teams went testing literally out of the box. The cars were taking the track in unfinished carbon-fiber exteriors and those would be our first glimpses of the new car – usually in the January issue.

The next month is when we would see cars in either a new or very familiar paint scheme. You knew the Penskes would always be in the traditional Marlboro chevrons. Ganassi would be in a red Target car, but in the early days – they shared primary sponsorship with Scotch Videotape. Still there were always differences from one year to the next with Ganassi. Newman/Haas were usually white with black sidepods in the early 90s. The K-Mart/Havoline cars were sometimes K-Mart/Texaco; and they dabbled with different color schemes. But until the cars went solid black (or red), you always knew it was a Newman/Haas car.

Those were good days. There was always something a little more special about holding a magazine and staring at the new liveries, versus seeing them randomly drop in by the teams on Twitter, and staring at them on your iPad.

So far, we’ve seen the No. 88 Sexton Properties car of Benjamin Pedersen in Coyote Orange. Tuesday, we got an underwhelming glimpse at the new car for Alexander Rossi. At first glance, it looks quite similar to the Vuse car that Felix Rosenqvist drove last year.

McLaren 7

Wednesday, McLaren released the pictures of the No. 6 car of Felix Rosenqvist. It is similar to Rossi’s car, but is a slightly darker blue with NTT Data sponsorship on the sidepods. Nathan Brown of pointed out that the easiest way to tell the difference between Rosenqvist and Rossi is the band around the top of the aero screen. Rosenqvist will carry a blue band, while Rossi’s will be papaya orange.

McLaren 6

The NTT Data sponsorship has migrated over from Chip Ganassi Racing, where it spent a better part of a decade. It is now on the No. 6 of Rosenqvist, for 2023 anyway. Something tells me that for 2024, Alex Palou will be reunited with his sponsor for the last two seasons. I also wonder if NTT Data will be the primary sponsor of Tony Kanaan’s McLaren car in the Indianapolis 500. He has had a personal sponsorship with them for years.

On Thursday, Arrow McLaren released the No. 5 livery for Pato O’Ward. I think there are fewer changes on that car, than the other two. About the only real difference I see in this year’s car is that the “5” is in blue. Last year, it was in black. Here are the two for comparison. The 2023 version is on top, the 2022 car is underneath.

McLaren 5

Pato 22

We also saw one of the liveries that Jack Harvey will be sporting in his second season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLLR), now that he has been yanked out of the No. 45 Hy-Vee car he drove last year. This year, Harvey will be in the No. 30 that was driven by Christian Lundgaard last season; while Lundgaard will drive the No. 45 Hy-Vee car. There is no official explanation for the switch, but you have to think it is strictly related to the results that Harvey had in the No. 45 last season (twenty-second out of twenty-five fulltime drivers).

Harvey 30

The No. 30 has had rotating sponsors like the No. 15 of teammate Graham Rahal. RLLR released the Kustom Entertainment livery that Harvey will drive for seven races this season.

I’m sure more will be revealed over the next few days, as we approach what IndyCar is officially calling the Open Test, but everyone else is calling Spring Training – at the Thermal Club near Palm Springs, next Thursday and Friday Feb 2-3. There are usually a couple of blank sidepods and generic schemes at Spring Training, but most will have their 2023 colors on full display. I’m looking forward to seeing them all. It’s that time of year!

George Phillips

3 Responses to “It’s That Time of Year!”

  1. Davis Brewer Says:

    George on the local Indianapolis news this morning reported there will be another Indycar-type magazine. A magazine in 2023 is bold and risky even with T&A.

  2. Joseph Mudrak Says:

    “On Track” was the best of all racing oriented periodicals.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    The passion behind ICR/Championship magazine always showed through. Racer and On Track were better productions (and I especially loved the comic strip that appeared in On Track), but ICR felt “closer” to the sport through its less varnished presentation. The team-by-team recaps of recent races were especially welcome, as you may not have heard on TV why a driver who wasn’t a star or involved in an incident dropped out of the race or struggled to a poor finish.

    Can’t wait to see more paint jobs revealed.

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