Is IndyCar A Spec Series? (Full Explanation)

All motorsports conform to their own specific sets of rules and regulations. From Formula One to NASCAR, every discipline has its own guidelines, from the cars to the racing. IndyCar is no different, but many new fans of the sport may wonder if IndyCar is a spec series.

IndyCar is not a spec series, as not every car racing on the track is identical to the others. IndyCar has 2 engine manufacturers – Honda and Chevrolet – and each team can also change and develop various parts of the cars, making each car on the grid slightly different.

Below, we will outline what constitutes a spec series, its advantages, disadvantages, and how to tell whether a racing series is spec. We will then outline whether IndyCar has ever been a spec series, discussing how the series has changed in recent years. 

What Is A Spec Series? 

A spec series is a series where the cars are exactly identical to one another, from the make and model to the engines and tires used. Its aim is to equalize the playing field so that races are about driver skill and not level of funding. However, funding still plays a role in who gets hired.

Some people also call a spec series a one-make series. This is because in a spec series, everything from the make and model of the vehicle to the engines and tires are all the same. Not a single component in these cars deviates from one another. A spec racing series will attract a unique fan base that prefers watching races based on driver skill instead of team funding. 

A spec racing series may allow minor modifications to cars, but they often allow modifications only to fit a driver’s preferences within the sanctioning body’s specifications

While all cars in a spec series remain on a level playing field, there are still small instances where a better-funded team can gain advantages. For example, they can hire more skilled drivers to drive their cars, and they can also afford better mechanics, more talented pit crew members, and better crew chiefs. 

Advantages Of A Spec Racing Series

One big advantage of a spec racing series is that, since none of the drivers have a competitive advantage with better cars or equipment, it is widely believed spec racing truly allows the best driver to win the race. This isn’t always the case, as much can happen during an event. But overall, the best drivers will win while those without the skill will regularly find themselves at the back. 

Spec racing is also great for teams with smaller budgets. In most of the world’s top racing series, you will almost always see drivers from organizations with larger budgets dominate races. They have the means to more equipment, so if something runs faulty, it is more easily replaceable. 

While richer organizations can afford established drivers, builders, and team members, the fact that all cars use the exact same engines and components minimizes this effect. This further makes it easier for unestablished talent to gain visibility in a spec racing series. 

Since there are either no or only minute differences between the cars, you will normally see closer racing in a spec series than in their non-spec counterparts. If you want to see more than just a few cars battle it out for the win, a spec racing series is where you will find this action. 

Disadvantages Of A Spec Racing Series

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of a spec racing series is that there is no real brand identity. Since all cars are the same in every aspect, no manufacturer or brand can come in and beat the others

Manufacturers who compete in non-spec series do so because they want to outperform competing manufacturers. This adds a sense of brand awareness to potential consumers to whom they can sell their cars. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” is a big thing for these manufacturers. 

Another disadvantage of a spec racing series is that there is no incentive to innovate with a sense of urgency. Organizations like NASCAR and Formula 1 are not spec series. And while their cars may look identical at first glance, there are really some prominent differences between them. 

This is what forces innovation not just for organizations but also for manufacturers. And while the aforementioned series have their respective specifications, they also allow enough leeway to ensure their cars distinguish themselves from one another

How To Identify A Spec Racing Series

There are many different types of races going on with national and even international prominence. In 10 months out of the year, NASCAR holds 38 weekend races, while IndyCar holds 23 events, and Formula 1 hosts 22 Grands Prix

But you will also find high-end series like the Porsche Supercup, Radical European Masters (REM), and Formula Car Challenge, among other auto racing series, all hosting events throughout the calendar year

But how do you know whether you are watching a spec racing series or a non-spec series? First, look closely at the cars. While they may all look the same at first glance, it won’t take long until you notice some differences, such as the manufacturer logo or subtle differences in car design. Different manufacturers often mean at least slight variances in the engines, and that it’s not a spec series.

Is IndyCar A Spec Series?

IndyCar is not a spec series. However, it largely was from 2009 until 2011 as Honda was the only manufacturer at that time. Currently, however, it is not a spec series, as it uses 2 manufacturers: Chevrolet and Honda. It is often mistaken for a spec series due to the similarities of the cars.

Since Chevrolet and Honda serve as manufacturers for IndyCar, that alone shows that the series is not spec since a true spec racing series can only have one make of vehicle. With two different makes come two different engines. And while IndyCar has its specifications that Chevy and Honda must follow, the components of the two engines are not required to be exactly the same. 

Has IndyCar Ever Been A Spec Series?

Many sources will refer to IndyCar as a spec series even though it is not because their cars are far more similar to one another as opposed to Formula 1 and NASCAR. However, IndyCar spent time in the spec category, taking its first steps into becoming a spec series back in 2006. 

That season, Chevrolet and Toyota left the series, leaving Honda as the only manufacturer. This left all the teams using Honda engines. However, teams still used different chassis until 2009. When the 2009 season rolled around, all cars used Honda HI9R V8 engines, Firestone Firehawk tires, and Dallara IRS chassis. 

From 2009 until 2011, you could call IndyCar a spec series. However, when 2012 rolled around, things changed when Chevy rejoined. Other than the differences in manufacturer, most components, such as the Firestone tires and the Dallara DW-12 chassis, remained the same. In 2015, Chevy and Honda debuted new aerokits, which further set IndyCar apart from its brief time as a spec series

Will IndyCar Become A Spec Series?

Ultimately, IndyCar will listen to its growing fan base as to whether they will become a spec series in the future. If fans continue to flock and see entertainment and value with different manufacturers, engines, and aerokits, they will not go spec. But if the fans want to see otherwise, IndyCar might just oblige

KEY POINTS

• Spec racing series have their advantages and disadvantages

• Most major motorsports are not spec series

• IndyCar was a spec series in the past, but it is unlikely to become one again any time soon

Final Thoughts

IndyCar is not a spec series, and while it may have been for a brief time in the past, IndyCar have no plans to become a spec series in the future. The main reason that they’re not a spec series is that they use 2 engine manufacturers – Honda and Chevrolet – and various aero kits.

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