By John Zenor, Associated Press

The first episode of “100 Days to Indy” featured a behind-the-scenes look at the IndyCar series and its personalities, and even a shirtless Josef Newgarden.

It’s meant to lure in new fans, after all.

“They made sure that Josef Newgarden was shirtless for the first half, which is a really good idea to get the audience in,” fellow driver David Malukas joked Friday.

IndyCar drivers got to see the show’s premiere either in Long Beach, California, or Thursday night before convening for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix this weekend. The six-part documentary series, produced by Penske Entertainment and VICE Media Group, debuted on The CW Network.

It’s a showcase for a series that competes with NASCAR and Formula One for viewers — and IndyCar is hoping it helps bring a jolt of popularity with the crown jewel Indianapolis 500 coming up.

Newgarden said the series “can be really, really intimidating” for new fans trying to figure out what’s going on. “The “100 Days to Indy” show makes it more accessible and gives insight into drivers’ backgrounds and personalities, he said.

“I think this is the type of show that can make it more approachable and give you more reasons than one to follow it,” said Newgarden, a two-time series champion who drives for Team Penske. “It’s not just the great on-track competition. If you’re a car fan or a motorsports fan, it’s kind of easy to be drawn in. But if you don’t care anything about that, you’ve got to have another reason to tune in. And I think this gives people that.”

The show’s crew didn’t have to talk him into going shirtless during a workout at his home gym and yard.

“It was really hot and humid the day that they were there,” Newgarden said. “When I end up outside, the shirt typically comes off.”

Fresh from his first series win at Long Beach, Kyle Kirkwood figured the first episode had a lot crammed into it and figures it will get more in-depth — and better — going forward.

“There’s a lot of aspects that will probably create interest within the personal lives of the drivers that I think people will enjoy,” he said. “I thought people could see the level of expertise from a hardcore racing fan and I feel there was a lot of things that were very easy for people to understand for just a normal guy who was just turning on The CW and said, ‘Hey, look, there’s some racing on. Let’s see what’s going on here.’”

Ericsson’s bliss

Marcus Ericsson’s biggest moment of 2023 came with no cheering crowd, and the bare minimum of witnesses.

The defending Indy 500 champion married Greek girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahl on the coast in Santa Barbara, California, a day after the race at Long Beach.

Grand Prix driver Marcus Ericsson, center, makes his way up the steps to the Terrace Theater for the world premiere of “100 Days to Indy” in Long Beach, Wednesday, April 12, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

“We want to start our life here in the States and we want to do it with just me and Iris and then we want to have a proper wedding party with family and friends in Europe in the offseason,” said Ericcson, who is from Sweden. Only his trainer Alex Elgh was in attendance.

The pair began dating weeks before the 2022 Indianapolis 500 and shared a celebratory kiss on stage.

“Iris is my biggest supporter and someone that’s been a big part of my success the last couple of years and my growth as a driver and as a person,” said Ericcson, the current series point leader for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Closing it out

Kirkwood closed out his first IndyCar win and then promptly flew back to his hometown for another type of closure.

He closed on a home in Jupiter, Florida, which is 15 minutes from his childhood home and a mile from his mother’s art gallery. It’s also near his happy place off the track: the beach.

“It’s what I love. I grew up near the water and I don’t want to leave it,” the Andretti Autosport driver said. “Indianapolis is great and I love motor racing and I love how big the motorsport industry is in Indianapolis. But there’s something about the water.

“I grew up fishing, surfing, diving and that sort of thing. Being near the beach just creates some sort of calmness within me, and I don’t ever want to leave it.”

IndyCar drivers walk the red carpet in Long Beach to premiere ‘100 Days to Indy’