IndyCar is ready to go racing again after six months spent solidifying the business side of the series as it executes a five-year plan aimed at continued growth.
Kiwi Scott Dixon wrapped up his fifth IndyCar championship last September and IndyCar has since landed new title sponsorship from Japanese communications giant NTT, moved to a single steady television partner in NBC Sports and continued the push towards expanding the grid and making it easier for new teams to crack the series.
"It feels good, like we have momentum again," said Jay Frye, promoted to IndyCar president in December. "There's been a huge amount of work and it's been an organised process that we believe is working."
The series opens this weekend in St Petersburg, Florida, and the starting grid will consist of 19 veterans, five classified rookies and three drivers making their IndyCar debut.
Among the newcomers are Felix Rosenqvist, the new team-mate to Dixon at Chip Ganassi Racing.
"I'm looking forward to Felix, I think he can really help the programme," said Dixon. "He's a big talent, fast, will raise our whole game and effort, especially when you're competing against the likes of Penske and Andretti right now. Andretti are a great team. They've been doing a lot of good things."
Alexander Rossi anchors Andretti Autosport, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose championship in 2012 was an anomaly during a decade dominated by Ganassi and Team Penske.
Ganassi has won six titles with Dixon and Dario Franchitti since 2008, while Penske drivers Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden each won one.
The 24 entries equal the size of last year's field but is up three cars from two seasons ago. It's part of Frye's five-year plan that began in 2016 and focused on collaboration among series stakeholders to help IndyCar return to the buzz of its glory days 30 years ago.
The plan has produced a new car that earned strong reviews in last year's inaugural season. The number of passes during the season was improved, the series had eight different winners over 17 races and parity deep into the field.
The Indianapolis 500 has a growing number of entries — it has already passed the maximum 33 — ensuring there will be bumping for "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" and the crown jewel of IndyCar.
The field will include two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso competing in an independent effort for McLaren, the first step in what could be a return to IndyCar for the beloved organisation.
IndyCar wants McLaren with the same enthusiasm it is chasing a third manufacturer for the series. It's been only Chevrolet and Honda since 2012 but Frye is hopeful another manufacturer could be on the track by 2021.