Top takeaways from the 1st 5 races to the 2023 INDYCAR Season as we head into the Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS — We’re five races into the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Up next is the big one – the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (May 28). With that said, here are my top thoughts on the season thus far.

  • 5 races down with 5 different winners. This season is shaping up to be one to where it may be vastly difficult to rattle off more than 3-4 wins.
  • Among the 5 winners, all hail from the “Big 3.” Chip Ganassi Racing has won twice (Marcus Ericsson – St. Pete, Alex Palou – Indianapolis). Team Penske has also won twice (Josef Newgarden – Texas, Scott McLaughlin – Barber). Andretti Autosport won the other (Kyle Kirkwood – Long Beach). Combined, the “Big 3” have won every series championship since 2003 and 84% (43-for-51) of the races in the Aeroscreen era. They also have 8 of the top 10 drivers in the standings right now too. Combined, Ganassi, Penske and Andretti have also won 14 of the last 18 Indy 500’s and 18 of the last 23 (since 2000). RLL is the outlier who took two of the top three spots in 2020 and have won 2 of the 5 that the “Big 3” didn’t since 2000.
  • Penske/Ganassi Still Thriving – They’ve won 4 of the 5 races this year and come to the Indy 500 with four of the top six drivers in the points too. They’ve won 38 of the 51 (75%) of the races with the Aeroscreen and each of the last 10 championships overall as well.
  • McLaren Coming – Alexander Rossi is pleased with how well his team is already clicking. He has three top eight finishes in five tries this season and comes to the ‘500 on the heels of podium. So does his teammate Pato O’Ward who has three runner-up finishes in five races this season. He’s P2 in points and was runner-up in last year’s Indy 500 too. Their teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, gave McLaren all 3 cars in the top five last Saturday giving some big momentum coming to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
  • Last 2 Indy 500 runner-up’s 1-2 right now in points – Alex Palou comes to the Indy 500 on the heels of a GMR Grand Prix victory. He was runner-up in the 2021 Indy 500 too. He also currently leads the points too. Second in points is Pato O’Ward who was the 2022 Indy 500 runner-up.
  • Oval Reset for MSR/ECR/Foyt – This has been a dismal start to the season for these three camps. They’re the only teams yet to lead a lap this season. However, most of their drivers are fast on the Indy oval. Is this the reset that they need? Meyer Shank Racing sits 20th (Helio Castroneves) and 24th (Simon Pagenaud) in points. This duo has won two of the last four Indy 500’s between them but this season, Castroneves has finished 23rd, 10th, 21st, 21st and 22nd respectively. Pagenaud has been 26th, 17th, 15th, 18th and 25th respectively. These two didn’t forget how to drive….For ECR, Rinus VeeKay is 18th in points. He’s finished 21st, 11th, 26th, 16th and 13th respectively. Conor Daly is 24th. He’s finished 14th, 20th, 23rd, 25th and 19th himself. However, VeeKay has qualified on the front row in each of the last two years while Daly led the most laps in 2021 and was sixth in 2022. They get bossman Ed Carpenter back this month too. For Foyt, Benjamin Pedersen is a rookie but finding ways to finish races while Santino Ferrucci is undefeated with top 10 finishes here and is hopeful to bring Foyt their first INDYCAR win since 2013 and their first Indy 500 victory since 1999.
  • 4 of the 5 races were won by a Row 2 starter this year (4th, 4th, 1st, 4th, 3rd place starters have won respectively).
  • Silly Season – I think this could be a wild one. 3 of the top 4 drivers in points don’t have a contract in place next year. Although we do expect the points leader (Alex Palou) to end up at McLaren. What happens to his seat? Does it go to current teammate Marcus Ericsson (third in points)? Word is he and his financing backers are splitting up. He wants to be a pay driver. Does Ganassi slide him over to the funded 10 seat? Can he afford to lose 2 of the top 3 drivers in points right now to rival teams next year? You know McLaren and Andretti have to be talking to Ericsson right now. However, does he go after Callum Ilott? What about the HMD relationship? Does David Malukas play into that mix? Does he slide Marcus Armstrong over to the 10? Ganassi has a lot of questions. Same for Andretti. DHL is rumored to be staying. So what’s the holdup with Romain Grosjean? Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood are signed and it sounds like Devlin DeFrancesco could be on his way out. The 29 car needs a financial backer. MSR has to be frustrated all around and word is both drivers are free agents at seasons end. I think Tom Blomqvist ends up in 1 of those seats pushing one of the current drivers out. Does the one out end up at Andretti? Where does Felix Rosenqvist land? What about Jack Harvey? There’s a lot of moving pieces at the moment.
  • Speaking of Palou, he’s become the lead driver in terms of stats at Ganassi right now. Since he joined Ganassi in 2021, he’s won 13% (5-for-38) of his starts. He also has 15 podiums (39%) and 19 top five finishes (50%). By comparison, Scott Dixon has won three times in this span, had 10 podiums.

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