Ranking the Road Courses Since 2008

I got thinking the other day, what are my favorite road courses that we have seen since Indycar and Champ Car merged in 2008? Well hell, let's make a list. I took a lot of different variables into making my decision, but chief among them is quality of racing and how I feel after watching a race there. Here are my rankings of all 16 road courses Indycar has raced on since 2008 (Road American and Boston are not on the list):

17) NOLA Motorsports Park (Avondale, Louisiana)
This race was a complete joke from the beginning. It had the potential to be a marquee event on the calendar, but bad crowds, shitty weather, and a terrible display by the drivers meant that NOLA was a one-and-done event for Indycar. To add insult to injury, a host of lawsuits ensued between NOLA management and Andretti Sports Marketing, further adding to just how bad the event was. The one and only race in 2015 at NOLA was without a doubt the worst road course race I've ever seen.

NOLA (Photo: Indycar Media)

16) NRG Park (Houston, Texas)
Simply put, this track was a disaster. The only reason this race happened is because Shell/Penzoil forked over the money to sponsor the race. It was very kind of them to sponsor a race in the middle of a parking lot outside of an NFL stadium. Making a return in 2013, Houston immediately appeared as a place where bumping and crashing would be common. Sadly, this would be the last race track that Dario Franchitti would race at before suffering a career ending accident. 2014 saw more drama, but it was clear that this track didn't belong on the Indycar schedule.

Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston - Day 3
Houston (Photo:Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)

15) Edmonton City Centre Airport *Old Layout* (Edmonton, Canada)
This track layout was awful and boring. It also gave birth to the infamous moment where Helio Castroneves *blocked* teammate Will Power, leading to a penalty. This led to rage mode Helio, which is something we haven't seen too often. Still, this track layout that was used between 2008-2010 was dull and uninteresting. Thank god they changed it (see later).

Rexall Edmonton Indy
Edmonton - Old (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

14) Twin Ring Motegi (Motegi, Japan)
This race was birthed out of a crisis in Japan. After damage was done to the oval circuit in Motegi, Japan, Indycar and officials decided not to abandon the race, but rather they switched venues to the Motegi road course. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan is one of the most devastating natural disasters in the last decade, so I was honestly surprised that everything got in order for the race. The circuit was meh, and it served as the last time Indycar would go to Japan. It remains to be seen if Indycar will ever get back to Japan.

Indy Japan 300
Motegi (Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)

13) Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indianapolis, Indiana)
This race has been around for two years, and so far it has been very meh. Yes it's in the heart of racing and will always draw a decent crowd, but the racing has been less than stellar. The layout is good, the passing zones are good, but it seems to be missing that 'it' factor. The race is still young and it appears its poised to be a mainstay on the Indycar schedule, so it will have time to develop.

Grand Prix of Indianapolis
Indianapolis (Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images North America)

12) Surfers Paradise Street Circuit (Surfers Paradise, Australia)
Indycar raced here as an exhibition race in 2008 out of contractual obligations. Still, it served more as a pre-season race for the 2009 season, as many drivers debuted with new teams (Dario Franchitti made his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing and Dan Wheldon with Panther Racing). The track is gorgeous and the fans are crazy, but the old-model Indycar racing around the streets made for a very dull race.

Duplicate: IndyCar  Nikon Indy 300 : Practice & Qualifiying
Surfers Paradise (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images AsiaPac)

11) Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Lexington, Ohio)
A main fixture on the Indycar schedule, the course at Mid-Ohio is a beautiful one. Great winding turns that flow well together. But the races there have been horrendous at times. With only one good passing zone and a lot of rhythm sections, passing is not common. Most of the races here depend on strategy for a good result, unless your name is Scott Dixon.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Mid-Ohio (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

10) Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, California)
A once terrible, boring, awful event on the Indycar calendar has been given new life in the DW-12 era. With several passing zones and great elevation changes, the lighter and more nimble DW-12 has thoroughly enhanced the racing here. It also has created lots of drama in the past couple years. While I don't think it belongs as the season finale of the Indycar season, it has turned around to become quite a good race.

Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Sonoma (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

9) The Raceway on Belle Isle (Detroit, Michigan)
The old layout used in 2008 and in the old CART days was less than stellar. A return to the track returned in 2012 in disastrous fashion. The track literally fell apart in the race, leading to the famous "meltdown" my James Hinchcliffe. But ever since then, the track has really turned it around, thanks to a sizeable investment by Roger Penske. I hope this race stays on the calendar for years to come. It has become a race to look forward to.

Chevrolet Indy Dual In Detroit - Dual II
Belle Isle (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images)

8) Edmonton City Centre Airport *New Layout* (Edmonton, Canada)
See above for my opinion on the old Edmonton layout. The new layout was an amazing change of pace, and it created plenty of passing and plenty of animosity between drivers. Sadly, the race which was resurrected from being pretty boring to being pretty awesome was dropped from the schedule after 2012. This is one I miss for sure.

Honda Indy Edmonton
Edmonton - New (Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)

7) Streets of St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, Florida)
A marquee event on the calender for the Indycar series is in a beautiful part of Western Florida. The track switches from airport runway, to downtown St. Petersburg, to a ride next to the Gulf of Mexico and nice yachts. Given that it has established itself as the inaugural race to each Indycar season, St. Petersburg is one of those races that people look forward to every year. The racing is pretty good, some races are better than others.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Practice
St. Petersburg (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

6) Barber Motorsports Park (Birmingham, Alabama)
One of the best looking road courses in North America, Barber offers a chance for drivers to show their abilities on a tough road course full of elevation change and rhythm. The races hosted there are usually pretty stale, but last year's race was one of the best road course races I've ever seen. If it can host more races like that, this could become of the best road courses in North America, to go along with its good looks.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - Day 3
Barber (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images North America)

5) Streets of Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
This street course was absolutely banging, and the races were utterly thrilling. The last race, which took place in 2013, was one of the best finishes I have ever seen. James Hinchcliffe passed Takuma Sato at the last turn on the last lap to take the win. Other races there, which began in 2010 an ceased in 2013, were full of drama, passing, and unpredictability. Plus the crowds were absolutely huge. A big loss in my eyes for Indycar.

Sao Paulo Indy 300 - Day 2
Sao Paulo (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

4) Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, New York)
One of the best road courses in North America no longer hosts Indycar, and it is pretty sad. As road courses go, this one packs plenty of dramatic races and an element of unpredictability. When Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay win in an era of Ganassi-Penske dominance, you know the track holds plenty of surprises. A damn shame we don't race there anymore.

Camping World Indy Grand Prix Practice
Watkins Glen (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images North America)

3) Streets of Baltimore (Baltimore, Maryland)
The best street course that never was in my opinion. Baltimore drew epic crowds, had an amazing layout through a very great and thriving part of the beautiful Baltimore, and plenty of dramatic moments for Indycar meant that this was one of my favorite races over the course of 2011-2013. But terrible management and politics means that this race has disappeared. A damn shame because this race could have been on the schedule for at least 20 years if it had been managed correctly. Hate how politics ruins great races.

Grand Prix Of Baltimore - Day 3
Baltimore (Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images North America)

2) Streets of Long Beach (Long Beach, California)
The crown jewel of street races on the Indycar schedule is of course the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. So much history at the track makes it a marquee event on the schedule. But it takes more than history for the race track to be at the top of the list. The layout is an epic one that gives drivers several chances to pass on the track. Long Beach is a must for every Indycar fan. I need to go one day!

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

1) Exhibition Place (Toronto, Canada)
The best road course layout on the entire Indycar schedule has to be Exhibition Place in Toronto. This race is my favorite road course race of the year by a mile. The reason? Drama, unpredictability, speed, passing, and world class driving. Several passing zones and a rhythm section that you can actually pass and go two-by-two in means that drivers must be on their toes at all moments. What an insanely good race track. I love this track so much.

Honda Indy Toronto - Day 2
Toronto (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Let me know what changes you would make to my list!

-Matthew Hickey