The green flag is set to fall on the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season this Sunday during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. While most of the series remains unchanged from last season, there’s still plenty of intrigue this season. Here are the top Indycar News and Rumors for 2023.
This year’s rookie class features another diverse group of drivers. Once again, graduates from the Road to Indy ladder have made their way to the IndyCar grid. Following a runner-up finish in the Indy Lights championship in 2022, Sting Ray Robb was signed to drive the No. 51 for Dale Coyne and Rick Ware. Robb stood on the podium eight times during last year’s Indy Lights season and scored his first win in the final round of the season at Laguna Seca. He takes over the driving duties of the car that has been occupied by ex-Formula 1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Takuma Sato the past two seasons.
Sting Ray Robb could find himself as the favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. However, Danish rookie Benjamin Pederson will want to make a strong IndyCar debut in St. Petersburg. Pederson finished 5th in last year’s Indy Lights championship, scoring one win at Portland. He is signed to drive the No. 55 for AJ Foyt Racing this season. There’s much intrigue to this rookie battle as both drivers will be piloting rides that have struggled to find victory lane in recent seasons. The No. 51 for Dale Coyne and Rick Ware has had successful race results with both Grosjean and Sato, but the AJ Foyt team has not shied away from its on-track struggles. Despite this, Pederson will have the experience of veteran Santino Ferrucci as his teammate while Sting Ray Robb joins as second-year driver David Malukas’ teammate. If Ferrucci is willing to provide support for his rookie teammate, it could likely improve the Foyt team to reach the level of the Coyne and Ware team.
Argentina once again has an IndyCar driver. Agustín Canapino joins Juncos Racing’s new No. 78 team to run for Rookie of the Year in 2023. Canapino is the first Argentine IndyCar driver to run a full season since Juan Manuel Fangio II ran for Dan Gurney’s All American Racers in the 1997 CART series. Gastón Mazzacane ran a partial schedule for Dale Coyne Racing in the 2004 ChampCar World Series while Esteban Guerrieri finished runner-up in both the 2011 and 2012 Indy Lights seasons. Despite a Freedom 100 victory and the back-to-back runner-up finishes in the championship, Guerrieri never competed in an IndyCar race.
Canapino’s rise to the IndyCar series follows a different path than his Rookie of the Year rivals. A strong relationship with the Argentina team Juncos Racing helped him join the team in 2019 during their attempts at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Following successful test sessions, Canapino was offered a chance at his first professional single seater series following successful tests and exhibition outings with Juncos Racing last year. He boasts 15 wins in Argentinian Touring Cars with his most recent victory coming last year.
Finally, there’s one last rookie on the grid that shouldn’t be overlooked. Despite signing to run only the road courses, Marcus Armstrong joins Chip Ganassi Racing after having competed in Formula 2 the past three seasons. Armstrong joins the multi-time championship squad following his best season in F2, notching three wins, but finishing 13th in the standings for the third-straight year. It will be difficult for Armstrong to compete for the Rookie of the Year honors given he will be the only rookie to not be contesting the full season. However, he’s in arguably the best team compared to his rivals. He’ll also have Indy 500 winners Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, and Takuma Sato as teammates, along with Alex Palou, the 2021 series champion to help guide him during his freshman season.
Once again, despite numerous claims to rectify the problem by series owner Roger Penske, Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa, and Gateway remain the only four ovals on the IndyCar schedule. While that might still be a disappointment to many fans, there’s still interesting storylines to look for when the series arrives at the speedways.
Last year, Will Power spearheaded an effort to rubber in the top groove at Texas. This effort worked well and led to a thrilling finish between Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin. It seems as though IndyCar and its drivers have at long last figured out a solution to deal with the PJ1 track compound used by NASCAR. With last year’s attempt proving to have worked, it remains to be seen if the drivers and the series can do it again. Not only is the question whether or not they can do it again, but also whether or not they can do it better. We’ve now seen that it is possible to bring Texas back to its former glory as an IndyCar speedway, now it’s time to look at ensuring that for the future.
On the opposite end of the schedule is Gateway. IndyCar and World Wide Technology Raceway have boasted a positive relationship since the track returned to the schedule in 2017. Fans have raved about the excellent experience and racing quality. This year, there will be another element to the racing as the series debuts an option tire for the first time on an oval. Never before has an IndyCar oval race featured an alternate set of tires for use by the teams. Now, during the Bommarito 500, teams will have the option to switch to a softer compound tire that will have increased grip levels, but wear out faster. This new strategy layer substantially boosts the interest level for the final oval race of the year and if successful could see it debut in future oval races.
New Faces in New Places
Alexander Rossi left Andretti Autosport for Arrow McLaren last year, having been with the Andretti team in some capacity since 2016. Kyle Kirkwood departed AJ Foyt Racing to take over the No. 27 ride vacated by Rossi. Santino Ferrucci returns to full-time IndyCar racing, taking over the No. 14 from Kirkwood, following time spent in NASCAR.
Those moves involved much less controversy than the impending move of Alex Palou to McLaren. Palou begins his lame duck season with Chip Ganassi Racing before he is scheduled to move to the Arrow McLaren team for 2024. Will Ganassi continue to give Palou top tier equipment or will the team decide to let the Spaniard test some R&D equipment? How Palou and Ganassi will tackle the upcoming season will likely be one of the more interesting storylines to follow throughout the season.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan shuffled their driver lineup over the offseason and moved sophomore driver Christian Lundgaard to the team’s HyVee sponsored No. 45 entry. Following a dismal season in the No. 45, RLL moved Jack Harvey to the No. 30 team in hopes of improved results. The team also brought Katherine Legge in to run the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 44, the team’s first ever fourth team.
Tony Kanaan is expected to contest his final Indianapolis 500 this year running for the Arrow McLaren team. Following a third place finish in last year’s race, Kanaan believes he has the best opportunity to finish his career on top and with another sip of milk.