Number 290: The 2017 Champions Issue
Having sat down to write a column applauding some of the racing champions of 2017 (this being RACER’s Champions Issue, according to my editorial calendar), I quickly realized that my whole focus was on 2018 and the fact that we have some seriously exciting things happening in North American motorsports right now.
Props to Josef Newgarden, the Taylor brothers, Martin Truex Jr., Patrick Long, and the like for what they each achieved last season, but I’m pretty sure they’re done staring at their trophies now and are all about what comes next, too.
The 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship looks like it could be one for the ages, with its headlining Prototype class stacked to a level not seen since those heady, but long-gone GTP years.
Acura makes it four fully-committed DPi manufacturers, while incoming teams and drivers of the quality of Penske, Joest Racing, Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Felipe Nasr and Oliver Jarvis bolster an already deep roster. Add in another season of the GT Le Mans factory slug-fest, plus GT Daytona’s ever-changing hegemony, and calling this the best sports car series on the planet would be pretty difficult to argue against.
As an added bonus, the influx of star power for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, including Fernando Alonso, should deliver a boost in global profile that could last way beyond the short-term.
Alonso’s entry in last year’s Indy 500 gave that race a worldwide kick, but pending any similar revelations this time around, the Verizon IndyCar Series has to maintain momentum by its own devices (as it were). Cue the UAK18 aero kit, where the buzz from early testing suggests the standardized bodywork will deliver on its mission to take an already competitive series up another notch.