Dre’s Guide To The 2024 IndyCar Season

Is Palou now the guy in IndyCar? Can Dixon go for #7? Will the oval push bring Josef Newgarden back into play? Dre Previews the 2024 IndyCar Season!

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Read time: 28 mins

Okay, time for Round 2 of the Season Preview season! In this second part of our triple-header breakdowns, it’s time to look into the crystal ball over IndyCar’s 2024 Season. It’s always an excitable time to be an IndyCar fan with some of the best single-seater racing action in the world, and coming off its most-watched season since 2012. But we have to get a fair amount of unsettling public news around the series out of the way first. Allow me to explain:

Hybrid Issues: The series was set to move to hybrid power units in 2024 after a test at the end of last year, but in January it was announced that there’ll be another delay for the full rollout of the package until the second half of 2024, guaranteed to be after the Indy 500 in May. This is another bad look for the series, with it now being two years of delays since the original plan had the Hybrids debuting in 2022. It’s been an ongoing mess of concerns, from Honda and Chevrolet having to work together to get the software in place, the fact the power unit itself is more of a bolt-on to the existing ICE’s than an F1-esque unit and the other big domino that’s wobbling – Honda’s very participation in the series itself.

I’ve talked about it a fair amount on M101 already since the news broke around Christmas, but Honda was open about the fact that if costs don’t come down soon, they’ll consider bailing from the series when their current agreement expires in 2026. The reasons were made pretty clear, current IndyCar doesn’t represent good value for money as an engine supplier compared to other series like IMSA and Honda wants Chevrolet/Ilmor to supply the whole grid and let the battlegrounds be drawn over software instead of hardware. A big ask when they’ve just admitted the current plan doesn’t make sense for them. “Hey guys, we’re losing money on this to the point we may quit, do you mind falling on this grenade instead?!”

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is now publicly admitting he’s under pressure to get a third supplier before Honda has to make a decision. But if what Honda is saying is true (And the evidence of all the participation in sportscars suggests they’re onto something), how do you convince another supplier to take the plunge in a series using antiquated technology and is likely to lose money out of the box? It’s an extremely tough sell. Even more so when RACER magazine themselves put out an open plea to the series to get its house in order. Not exactly confidence-inspiring. 

Nashville: As I started to write this guide on the day the news broke, Nashville’s downtown race plans as the new IndyCar season finale look like they’re in tatters. For many fans, it’s kind of a good news smokescreen – It’s another oval race back on IndyCar’s calendar, taking the total amount of oval races on the year to seven, more than any other discipline on the calendar. 

When you see what happened behind the scenes, with official promoter Scott Borchetta explaining to the press that it was a hot mess dealing with the NFL and the Titans building their new stadium in the area, as well as the locals kicking up a stink about part of their streets being turned into hospitality units and a paddock. (And good luck with the idea of helicopter shuttles for the bigwigs.) And if Borchetta’s name rings a bell, yes, he’s the promoter that got into beef with Taylor Swift a few years ago, and why her re-recorded albums happened. Yeeeeeeeeah, contracts are fun. And with Nashville now on a three-year deal until 2027, it feels like the aspiring Broadway race is dead. 

Look, how we got here was messy as hell and another peek at IndyCar’s occasional unseriousness, but I do think this is ultimately an accidental good move. While Nashville isn’t a “Superspeedway” (It’s 1.33 miles), it is another oval for the calendar, the unique selling point for the series, oval races tend to be less predictable, and it will probably make for a more thrilling finale from an action standpoint, and from a narrative standpoint given early Championship finishes are rare in IndyCar. (Outside of Alex Palou’s last year, the last was Sebastien Bourdais’ Champ Car title in 2007)

Talking Television: IndyCar’s current TV deal also expires at the end of the season and no one’s quite sure at the moment as to who’s picking up the series’ rights. FOX has recently emerged as a serious contender with their CEO visiting the series last year. There’s some pull there, as FOX is trying to bring together a portfolio of racing products, ala Speed Channel days. There’s also their big upcoming massive sports streaming collaboration service in the works with themselves, ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery too.

It could be a cool new home for the series, but it could also mean the end of any chance of the series being on free-to-air television. IndyCar wants more from its TV rights given the loaded marketplace of NASCAR getting over a billion a season across its spread network coverage, and F1 getting at least $75m a season via ESPN (All numbers from Marshall Pruett at Racer.com), but I’m not sure FOX is going to pay anywhere near that kind of money.

From a quality standpoint, moving away from NBC could mean the end of Leigh Diffey as the voice of the series, who is one of the best and most versatile commentators in sports today. And with James Hinchcliffe becoming a more integral part of F1’s in-house coverage, the series could be sounding very different in the not-too-distant future.

Charter, Smarter: And just last week, the big journos dropped another bomb – That the series is strongly considering a charter system ala NASCAR to placate the bigger teams in the series. I’m genuinely astonished the series thinks this is the right time to implement such an idea. NASCAR is going back and forth across a negotiating table as we speak with lawyers trying to figure that shit out. IndyCar doesn’t want these problems right now.

Now, this isn’t DEF-CON-1, guaranteed Indy 500 qualifying spots are not on the table. Yet. But it feels inevitable that it will be discussed as a potential option when Mark Miles has been on the record saying they’re basing discussions around the current 2023 grid. And on that grid, it was dominated by Penske and Ganassi taking six out of the top eight spots, with fringe appearances from Andretti, McLaren and RLL. And if you’re a big team that is going to want as much skin in the game as possible, not having to worry about getting bumped from the series’ biggest cash cow is a heck of a pot sweetener. Remember, Will Power’s Penske struggled to make the show only three years ago.

I’m not fond of this idea at all. The Indy 500 is already problematic for the series for the amount of clout it has for IndyCar in general, and guaranteeing all the big hitters automatically make the field kills so much of the jeopardy that makes the race and the fortnight of preparation behind it so special. “Bump Day” is one of the great days in the Motorsport calendar. The whole point of the 500 is that “The Fastest 33” makes the show. No ifs, no buts. And this is politics tampering with the holy grail of your series.

I’ve only been a series fan for less than a decade. In that time, IndyCar’s already had heartbreaking moments like James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann being bumped, Kyle Kaiser’s last-second run to eliminate Fernando Alonso’s infamous second attempt at the Triple Crown with McLaren, and Jack Harvey’s double-dip run at the final gun to knock out his teammate Graham Rahal. You take that intrigue away with a 25/8 rule and leave any jeopardy to the smaller teams and the part-timers. And if you do that, those smaller teams may not even bother trying if the series cannibalises all those trying to make the field.

All this is going on while IndyCar’s in a genuinely brilliant position in terms of participation. As you scroll down, you’ll see we have 27 full-time cars. There are murmurs that teams like PREMA from the European junior ladder, HPD, Pratt Miller and Abel Motorsports are all enquiring about the possibility of full-time entries. And now you want to bring in a charter system that potentially takes food off their plate before they’ve even started? IndyCar is a series that has thrived as an “Anti-F1” by gassing up how competitive it is. Introducing a charter system shoots that mentality in the kneecaps.

This segways us nicely to the rest of the calendar, which has taken a fair few changes for this year. 

There’s a reason why I mentioned we now have seven oval races in 2024 and that’s because, alongside Nashville’s changes, Texas is gone, replaced with two more oval races at the end of the season at the historic Milwaukee Mile after a nine-year hiatus. There are also two big breaks races between Championship rounds this year, with there being one in March after the opener to get their new million-dollar exhibition round at the Thermal Club on March 24th, and another at the end of July into Mid-August to facilitate the broadcasting of Olympic Games in Paris. A rumoured post-season exhibition race at the Termas Rio del Hondo track in Argentina was promising but collapsed after their new president took a chainsaw to it.

Also, Laguna Seca is now on June 23rd after being moved off the finale spot for Nashville as publicised last Autumn, we’re only racing at Indianapolis road course once this season, and in purely self-indulgent news, Gateway’s now on my Birthday. 

And this is why the overall vibe check is all intertwined; We’ve got new hybrid power units that the field lacks experience with, debuting in the back half of a season where there are six ovals in the final eight rounds, with the new finale also now an oval. As much as IndyCar is high on its supply of loving the on-track product, at what point do we go: “Hang on, is the best man truly going to win here?”, because this planning of the calendar, the future hybrid drop and a finale on a track the series hasn’t raced on since 2008 is the embodiment of chaos. 

And I’ve barely even mentioned the rumours about the possibility the 25/8 rule could return as an incentive to the long-standing teams…

So with all that put in a neat little bow, let’s get into the teams. As it stands, the series is set for 27 full-time runners again in 2024, increasing to at least 35 for the Indy 500 in May. As it stands, the part-time extras are:

As it stands, we’re looking at a Bump Day for two runners for the 500, maybe three (According to Marshall Pruett, Foyt is open to using the spare chassis but needs a compelling offer). Into the teams that are going to be here full-time, and as with the MotoGP post, the brackets are their 2023 season finishing position:

Code: 🏆 – Indy 500 Win, ⭐ – Series Champion, 🔰 – Rookie (One for each) *Massive salute as ever to my man RJ O’Connell, whose upcoming Super Formula 2024 Season Preview was the inspiration for me to learn some more WordPress formatting and stuff. <3

It was another difficult season for AJ Foyt Racing in 2023, with one obvious bright spot. Their Indy 500 was incredible with Santino Ferrucci finishing third, inches from leading off that infamous final restart, with Benjamin Pedersen making Day 2 of Qualifying as the field’s fastest-ever rookie. But outside of that, they were dreadful, with Pedersen being the lowest-scoring full-timer across the season, with Ferrucci barely making the Top 20 overall and zero Top 10s beyond Indianapolis. 

It’s the same old story for Foyt, find a way to get off the bottom of the board, and this lineup doesn’t make me think that’s going to happen. Ferrucci is still a dab hand on ovals in a decent car, but he’s still not adapted to road and street courses yet and hasn’t been anything to write home about. Big “Best Driver Available” energy. 

And then Sting Ray Robb alongside him reeks of the cash grab given the clear miscommunication between the now departed Pedersen and the team who cut him mid-contract. Everyone knew Robb had omega funding from his ties to the Church, and Foyt’s taken him in a revamped #41 car. 

There IS some hope given that Foyt now has a technical alliance with Penske, but it’s going to have to have an immediate impact for me to think Foyt’s going to be anything other than a tailender here. The driver lineup may change again too if Penske has the clout to move Indy NXT talent up. More on that at the end. 

2023 was a chaotic year for Juncos. Callum Illot put together the best season they’ve ever had in one of their cars, only to lose his job at the end of the year after reveals of a fragmented relationship between driver and team boss that culminated in the now infamous teammate clash at Laguna Seca at the finale. Illot won’t be returning to the series as he drives for Jota in the WEC now, but ironically his agent signed his other major client Romain Grosjean to the team. 

So let me get me straight Juncos, you fire the “disruptive” but best driver you’ve ever had in Callum Illot, and replace him with another driver who lost his job based on blowing his top in 2023? Good luck to ya! Romain Grosjean joins the team after being unceremoniously dumped by Andretti (A case which could still end up in front of a judge at some point as Grosjean is seeking damages).

I think what Grosjean needs above all, is some stability, even more so he’s now pulling double duty with the French-Swiss driver also in the WEC for Lamborghini’s Hypercar programme. Grosjean was the best driver in IndyCar early in 2023 until May when bad luck, crashes and visible angry spats completely derailed his season. For his sake, I hope Grosjean and Juncos hit it off because it has all the makings of a volatile pairing. 

Agustin Canapino is the prized possession of the Juncos team and we all knew the endgame of Juncos was to have the Argentine in one of his cars. Year 1 was solid from Canapino, winning fans over with his fast learning of English, his love for coffee, and solid results in places. But he’ll likely be under more pressure to start cracking the Top 10 on occasion and stay in the leader’s circle overall. Also, I do wonder if funding will come into play as Canapino isn’t carrying the same total sponsorship he had in 2023 after new President Javier Milei has been “chainsawing” the funding.

There’s also a new partnership with McLaren now confirmed for Juncos too, but I do wonder how deep that rabbit hole is. We know it’s for engineering staff, but I do wonder if that will extend to drivers or potential car absorption in the future given McLaren’s made it a pretty open secret they want four cars full-time in the future. For me, Juncos needs stability and shutting up and getting results will always be the best way to do that.

Speaking of chaotic years, Meyer Shank Racing across the board was carnage. An embarrassing cheating scandal in IMSA’s 24 Hours of Daytona lost them their car there, and then a horrific injury to Simon Pagenaud in Mid-Ohio via a brake failure has put the Frenchman’s career on ice. 

2024 feels like a rebuild from the Shank team, and they’ve picked some solid drivers to go forward with. Helio Castroneves steps aside from full-time driving to become a part-owner and 500-specialist entry, with the “qvist”-gang coming in full-time with Felix and Tom coming in. 

Felix Rosenqvist now has plenty of experience in the series, especially with top-tier resourceful teams like Ganassi and McLaren and should be a good “glue guy” to build around, even if his results never quite justified his elite-team standing. Alongside him is more of a project in Tom Blomqvist who to me, just needs more seat time. He’s one of the truly elite drivers in Sportscar racing and if he can convert that to IndyCar, he’s going to be fine. 

Linus Lundqvist’s stand-in drives did prove this team can still challenge for single-digit results with the right drivers, and that should be a reasonable aim. Get a handful of those like the Jack Harvey days and this could be the start of the Shank crew getting back up the standings after a tough few seasons. 

Okay, I openly admit, that I’m winging this one because on the day of publication (March 5th), Dale Coyne has only just announced their lineup for 2024, and it’s a pretty strange mix that needs explaining. As their testing plans foretold, the #18 car is being split. Jack Harvey makes the move over after a shockingly sad run with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Not even finishing his second season with them), and he takes 13 out of the 17 races.

Credit Motorsport.com

Nolan Siegel joins the team and he’ll be pulling double duty alongside a second full season in NXT with HMD Motorsports. Siegel was a headline grabber in the series last season, winning in Detroit and Road America and finishing 3rd in the standings as top rookie. And he’s still only 19. Siegel will race in the #18 at the Thermal Challenge, Long Beach, Toronto and the Indy 500. Yes, all the rounds he’s not got NXT commitments with, how did you guess? It’s a clever workaround for a potential star of the future and Siegel will likely keep rookie status for 2025. (More testing and extra tyres)

Finally, Sportscar legend Colin Braun joins in the #51 car, but only for the first two rounds (St Pete and the Thermal Challenge). Unless deals are made between now and later, it’s unlikely he will get more (He has commitments in IMSA’s LMP2 class and GT World Challenge at the moment), but delighted another one of sportscar’s elite gets a shot.

I just hope this is enough to keep the coffers going at Coyne. They’re the survivors of the difficult split and I was fearing another 2016 season where the seats could rotate round by round because of leaving it until the week of the season opener to announce their drivers. Losing David Malukas very early on in 2023, a very quick raw talent that would have been ideal to build around is not ideal. Siegel might be the next man up, but it’s going to be at least another year before we truly see what he has. Not to mention the earlier interest in other teams. If IndyCar has to start cutting people to make space, Coyne seems like one of the first on the chopping block. Some stability here would be ideal.

It’s a shame it had to be announced so late due to funding, but it’s a genuinely feel-good lineup. Harvey gets another chance to redeem himself, which he deserves because the man cooked at Meyer Shank. Siegel is a star of the future and I’m delighted he gets to bed himself in and get a free go at the 500. And Colin Braun is a beloved figure in American autosport and it’s another homegrown star crossing over, and those are always cool. Seriously, the vibes here are surprisingly nice.

I said last season that last season felt like ECR had gotten lost in the shuffle. A driver with superb upside in Rinus Veekay who did little to stand out all season, and a controversial mid-season firing of Conor Daly for Ryan Hunter-Reay, with neither doing anything of real substance either. 

Ed made it no secret that they were looking for some experience to figure out why they were struggling so much and I doubt 2023 solved any of that. So much so, they’ve downscaled their operation slightly, with owner Carpenter himself now sharing a car with new rookie and 2023 Indy NXT Champion, Christian Rasmussen, rather than taking one for himself at the Ovals, with Rasmussen getting a separate car for the 500. 

Rasmussen isn’t the super-prospect that Kyle Kirkwood was last year but the man has always been fast, winning the title in all three stages of the Road to Indy, 5 wins in NXT last year, and an incredible class win at the 24 Hours of Daytona, with Rasmussen the fastest man in LMP2. I’m not sure this was the best landing spot for him, but he might be fast enough to compensate for it. He’s quick and I think he’s gone under the radar.

Rinus Veekay is in a strange place in his career. It’s hard to believe that he’s entering his fifth year of full-time IndyCar competition and he doesn’t turn 24 until the final week of the season. He’s a brilliant qualifier at the Indy 500 but that first win at the IMS was nearly three years ago now and he’s only had two podium finishes since. He feels like a talent that’s stuck, his 2022 free agency was completely glossed over when Alex Palou forgot how contracts work. A double whammy given talents like him, Christian Lundgaard and the F2 import craze have passed him by. Rinus Veekay can’t show himself off fully because he drives for Ed Carpenter, but Rinus Veekay can’t get a better gig, because he drives for Ed Carpenter.

Veekay has to try and get the best out of what he’s got more consistently, or find a team that’s prepared to take a chance on him as a 3rd or 4th driver in a bigger team. I’m not sure ECR’s going anywhere fast and Rinus is almost certainly better off elsewhere. But he needs a big, Josef Newgarden-esque early season to get the people talking. Ed, give us something, anything, please!

What a rollercoaster RLL Racing was in 2023. Christian Lundgaard puts the team on his back, while also taking the embarrassment of none of their four cars taking the Indy 500 grid higher than 30th (And Legge didn’t exactly cover herself in glory after Quali either). And pound-for-pound, the Jack Harvey signing turned out to be a complete disaster, not even finishing his second season with the team. 

However, there were positives to take out of the year. Graham Rahal had to fire his old crew chief but did seemingly find a bit of his old mojo in the back half of the season, even if the results didn’t quite match the form barring his excellent second in Indy’s second road course race. 

And of course, Christian Lundgaard was incredible. Got his first win in dominant fashion in Toronto and was Top 5 in the field on road and street tracks in 2023. The team has a star in the making if he can replicate that form again. The problem is, he’s in a contract year, and the bigger teams will be sniffing. I’m dead serious, I think there’s an above 0% chance he ends up in a Penske next year. I rate him this highly. 

And joining the team in the #45 car is rookie Pietro Fittipaldi, and he feels a lot younger than his 27 years of life! But he’s a veteran of versatility, driving in open wheelers like Formula Renault 3.5, a handful of previous IndyCar appearances part-time, as well as DTM and WEC. A good safe pair of hands, but I am concerned he may end up with another Harvey given the quality of the rest of the team.

I do still wonder if RLL has stretched itself too thin with the three-car expansion of the team, as well as expanding into WEC with BMW. In any case, it HAS to improve its horrible oval form with the season focusing more than ever on the discipline and the embarrassment of last year’s 500 woes with Rahal bumped and three of their cars in the last chance qualifier.

Takuma Sato’s coming back home to the team he won his second 500 with back in 2020, how on earth does a former team winning this race fall off so hard, so quickly? If they can fix that, they should be fine, and Lundgaard could be a fringe title contender because, to me, the road/street game isn’t far off the very best. Just one problem – He’s a free agent at the end of the season and if he holds up, the big teams will be making calls.

It all looked so promising for the newly rebranded Andretti Global last year. They started immensely strong with a 1-2-4 at Long Beach and Romain Grosjean going on an absolute tear. But not all that glittered was gold in the Andretti camp as their season was hampered by bad luck, mistakes all around, off-track anger and ultimately, not much to write home about in a season where McLaren cemented their new place in the pecking order. 

The brightest spark of their year came from Year 2 of Kyle Kirkwood. God knows why they ever dumped him into an AJ Foyt car to start his career because he was every bit as good as advertised. Two wins in Long Beach and Nashville, and both getting the better of established great drivers like teammate Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin. Was running Top 5 on the winner’s strategy at the Indy 500 too before Felix Roseqnvist’s crash collected him and sent his tyre into the car park. He had some clumsy mistakes like Road America and Toronto, but if he can iron those out, I think he has superb potential to be an all-around ace. 

Colton Herta is another driver in a weird place. Rightly deserved his status as a team leader in the flagship #26 car. But he’s also now on a 29-race dry spell since his last win. He had a great chance at Road America last season but a botched stop ruined his chances. Herta’s upside is clear as day but he’s not been able to find it for a whole heap of reasons. He needs to wrestle control of his team back because of the infighting and similar performances from former teammate Alex Rossi, Grosjean and now Kirkwood is going to have people start to ask questions. 

But the signs are promising. If you’re a Sportscar viewer, his stint at Daytona with WTR was stunning, the best of any “Gold” rated driver in a largely uncompetitive Acura. The speed is very much still there. He just needs to channel it more.  

And with Grosjean now gone, Marcus Ericsson has joined after Chip Ganassi got cold feet over whether Marcus deserved a big money extension. I think it’s the perfect signing for what Andretti needs right now, covering their weaknesses.

They’ve not had a big hitter for the 500 since Alex Rossi faded, Marcus has finished 1st or 2nd the last two years. They need a consistent points-stuffer, and Marcus has been that, finishing sixth in the standings for the last three years. Andretti needs to raise their floor, and Marcus is the safest pair of hands in IndyCar right now, even if he maybe lacks that final 2% to win semi-regularly. But that’s what you have Kirkwood and Herta for, right?

I’m going to be very curious to see how Ericsson gets on for 2024. A lot of his biggest detractors still have a whiff of his F1 past and say his success was down to the Chip Ganassi machine. If he can replicate what he’s done there at Andretti, it’ll confirm that he truly is a top driver in the series. Andretti and McLaren now competitively are joined at the hip and I want to see who can take the upper hand again because, on paper, I think their teams are very evenly matched.

We miss you, Gil. 

Arrow McLaren’s 2023 was one of… disruption. Pato O’Ward spearheaded a good title campaign, but littered with mistakes and a sprinkling of bad luck too. Still can’t get over that plenum fire in St Pete. The rest of McLaren’s team didn’t set the world on fire, and of course, had to activate Plan B after finding out Alex Palou wasn’t coming over after all.

So they’ve let Felix Rosenqvist walk to Meyer Shank and now Dale Coyne hotshot and shitposter extraordinaire David Malukas is in the #6 car instead. I’m a big fan of Malukas. He did a great job with the limitations that came with DCR and this is a great landing spot for his next chapter. He’s also excellent on ovals, scoring podiums at Gateway in the last two years as well as over strong showings in Texas and Iowa.

But this will be a step-up in expectation and being in the shadow of what should have been Alex Palou will be tricky. And what doesn’t help is he’ll be missing the first two races of 2024 after fracturing his wrist in a mountain bike accident, with Callum Illot filling in at St Pete and the Thermal Challenge at the minimum. Still really excited to see how Malukas fares in what I think is a great fit for the young Lithuanian/American star.

And on a side note – With McLaren making no secret of their push for four cars, is this a preview for Callum Illot before the inevitable expansion?

Pato O’Ward needs no explanation here. He’s an elite driver in the series now, and for me someone I consider a “three-tool” driver who has Top 10 pace everywhere on the calendar, across all formats. And if anything, the calendar change to seven ovals does him a favour as I think he’s the best short oval runner in the series today. 

He still has just one major weakness though – He’s a heart-on-sleeve driver. When he gets over-emotional or frustrated, the mistakes can creep in. He had a golden shot to take the Indy 500 but slammed into Marcus Ericsson in a gap that was always going to disappear. His frustration in Detroit put him into a wall. Qualifying errors in Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio too compromised weekends. If that discipline can be found, there’s no reason he can’t mount a title challenge. 

And then there’s Alex Rossi, who I still maintain in IndyCar for the last few years has been… there. In 2023 he was consistent, regularly in the Top 10, and a handful of Top 5’s, but not back to what we’ve seen from him in the past. He’s a safe pair of hands, and he’ll try to come alive as a 500 specialist, but I do wonder if he’s peaked early in his career. Four straight years of finishing 9th or 10th in the Championship is fine… but we’ve been more critical of Marcus Ericsson than him in recent years, and the latter’s been objectively better since his days at Ganassi. 

McLaren as a new entity has pumped more than anyone into IndyCar and has become a genuine upper-midfield team. But we’re still waiting to see if they can genuinely get a foothold amongst Ganassi and Penske. If they can fully execute, I think they have a shot. Anything less and it’ll be another year of frustration for Zak and Co. 

2023 was a “monkey paw” season for Penske if I’ve ever seen one. Josef Newgarden finally won the Indy 500 at the 12th time of asking and the team dominated the short ovals, winning four out of five. But their road and street form did take a little bit of a dip, with Ganassi dominating the Astor Cup standings with a clear 1st and 2nd. 

They’ll be looking to right the ship this season, and that effort may start with Scott McLaughlin. McLaughlin was super consistent in the back half of 2023, averaging a Top 5 in race and qualifying trim and being the only Penske driver to win a race on a track that turned right. Scott was consistent enough last season and if he can find that peak he had in his 2022 season where he had three wins, I think there’s a possible title campaign there. Could do with a good 500 though, it’s the one big feather in his cap he’s missed in his career to date. 

Josef Newgarden couldn’t have a tale or two more different seasons. On Ovals, stunning, winning four of five on the season and a brilliantly aggressive 500 finish, winning at his 12th attempt. But on road and street courses, he had an average finish of 11th place. That’s not winning a title. Don’t get me wrong, Josef would take that 500 win instead all day long, but given how determined he is as a driver, he’ll be irked the rest of his season didn’t lead to an Astor Cup campaign. Remember, his last season title was back in 2019. Weird given no-one’s won more races in the series since. And yes, as much as he just won a Rolex at Daytona, advanced stats suggested he was one of the slowest GTP drivers in the field, another cause for concern.

But lowkey, Josef’s made an important change that may go under the radar. He’s left his version of “Bus Bros”, the comedic and f***boi-vibing YouTube show he did with McLaughlin, leaving the latter to take it on himself in 2024. He’s dropped his social media team in general. I LOVE this move from Josef. It says to me exactly what I hope his mentality was at the end of the year. Even though he won the Indy 500, he wasn’t satisfied with the distractions he gave himself during the year. I’m not sure he’d ever admit it outright, but I think he was disappointed with his 2023 campaign. Which by his incredible standards, was sub-par—Borg-Worner or not.

And then there’s Will Power. His 2023 had a little lost in the shuffle down in eighth, but it was understandable given he was dealing with his wife Liz nearly passing away due to complications with a Staph infection. If “100 Days To Indy” Season 1 did nothing else, it proved his head wasn’t fully in it and that was reasonable enough.

But it is an interesting time for Will. This will be his Age 43 season, right around the time Roger Penske made the call to replace Helio with Josef Newgarden. Power was the clear third wheel amongst the team last year and if it happens again, it may be time for Roger to let go of one of his greatest warriors. But if so, for whom? 

Roger has the oval game on point, but their bread and butter was compromised last year. One of their three drivers has to be on point there if they want to go one better than 2023.

Chip Ganassi ticked almost every box in 2023. Alex Palou put together one of the greatest seasons in IndyCar history, averaging almost a podium finish and winning the title early for the first time in a decade and a half. Scott Dixon was brilliant too, finishing with a 3 out of the last 4 winning rampage and proving he’s still him when he needs to be, with Ericsson backing them up well as ever and Marcus Armstrong impressing as a rookie. 

Chip pulled off the unthinkable amongst the contract drama – He’s kept Alex Palou. And even better, he couped Andretti’s prized DHL Sponsor to make Palou’s #10 car THE flagship car on the grid. But what I’m about to say may shock you… I don’t think he’s the favourite to retain his title this year. Palou is without question the best all-rounder on the grid, but with a calendar now rocking 6 short-oval races, his one even sniff of a weakness is a concern and he’s probably the biggest victim of that calendar shift. It’s a hole in the armour that slightly stronger oval runners like Dixon, Newgarden and O’Ward could exploit. Palou was so dominant on road and street courses though, that it might not matter. 

Another interesting aspect of Chip Ganassi is its expansion to five full-time cars for 2024. Kyffin Simpson joins the team and is an interesting prospect. His progression through the Road to Indy led to a quiet and unspectacular NXT season in 2023. But he’s been excellent in Sportscars, matching drivers twice his age in IMSA. I’m glad everyone I’ve heard in their camp has kept expectations modest, that’s the way to play it, and we’ll see how his rookie campaign plays out. He’s better than his Road to Indy record suggests, even if I think ideally he could have done with an extra year of seasoning.

The more interesting younger prospect to me is Linus Lundqvist, who finally gets his full-time opportunity in IndyCar after being screwed out of a full-time seat when Indy NXT lost its financial backing partner and didn’t have the cash to move. He impressed very quickly in his cameo spell at Meyer Shank and I’m astonished that the entire field let him fall into Chip’s lap. Linus is FAST. He had “Fast 12” pace on debut, and was dominant in Indy Lights, winning eight times in his two seasons there. And he’s in the best-supporting team in IndyCar. And he’s their third option, an insurance policy. I love everything about this poaching and Chip could have a piece for the next decade if he’s anything like the formbook suggests. 

Marcus Armstrong has taken the time out of his “Screaming Meals” schedule to become the #11’s full-time driver, now with 100% more ovals. I was impressed with Armstrong’s 2023. He looked like an immediate Top 10 driver for road and street course pace and was unlucky in Portland and Road America when he was set for better still. But going from zero ovals to seven in 2024, including a 35-entrant 500 is going to be tricky for the Kiwi and he’s got to learn fast to get a decent place in the standings. Christian Lundgaard is his fellow F2 adversary and he’s still not getting it down right in two years stateside. At least Marcus is in a way better team to learn.

And then there’s Scott Dixon. I think he’s the most interesting part of the Chip Ganassi conundrum. Dixon’s 2023 was still proof he’s one of the very best in the series. It was a Championship season in any other climate but Palou’s. Cracking 550 points with only single points at the 500 is title-worthy. But he’s been beaten by Palou in two of the last three seasons and there’s an argument to be made it’s now Palou’s team, especially with how hard Chip’s fought to keep his wholesome Spaniard. 

Has Dixon got one more push left in him for his seventh national title, to tie him with Foyt? Can he take a 500 for the first time in 16 years? And can he beat the man who’s modelled him off his own game, a Dixon clone in all but name?! I’m fascinated to see if he can replicate that end-of-2023 form again. He’s an ageless wonder, but Father Time is still undefeated. Can Dixon be the one to beat the clock?

And Alex Palou… is him. He’s so “him”, if he was a Flakko811 Instagram reel, he’d be zoomed in on a picture of himself. Palou put together arguably the greatest IndyCar season ever that didn’t have a double cup win by the end of it. An average finish of Sub 4, finishing every race in the top eight, and the first early title clincher in nearly two decades. The only thing he’s missing is a 500, and he’s arguably been the best guy at that too since his debut, without winning it. He ticks that box off… we’re looking at an all-time series great and he’s only entering his Age 27 season. F1’s loss is IndyCar’s greatest recent gain.

Chip once again has all the tools for success and has a full cheeseboard of drivers amongst his fleet that can do everything, as well as keep one eye on the future. But is he stretching himself too thin with five cars?

A quick look at Indy NXT for 2024, and I genuinely like where things are heading. The series has been criticised for losing ground in the development race compared to Formula 2 and Europe in general and ovals are the obvious kicker to that. That has carried over into NXT with four races on the docket during the 14-race season (Iowa, Gateway, Milwaukee and Nashville). 

Amongst the field, some obvious big names will draw some eyeballs. For me, the title favourite will be 20-year-old Brit, Louis Foster. I think he could have been in IndyCar this year. He won twice in 2023, had a litany of bad luck and came off the wrong end of a 50-50 in Indy’s Road Course. He tested very well for Andretti too in the off-season. A strong 2024 season and he will be fielding top-class offers.

Amazingly, I think he’s going under the radar compared to Nolan Siegel. The 2023 rookie of the year won twice too in Detroit and Road America and had a great showing at Daytona in the LMP2 class (Despite the rest of what happened with Lieger). I still think Dale Coyne should take him on as a project in IndyCar full-time in 2024, but he’s here for another year (For now).

And it’s hard not to get absorbed by Myles Rowe making his debut with HMD in collaboration with Force Indy, trying to improve diversity in the field. I’m not going to lie, I feel this is an awkward move in a lot of ways. Another promising black driver – Ernie Francis Jr, was let go from the Force Indy project and he was genuinely making good progress in the series.

Rowe has had a LOT of backing under the table to get him here because he’s been excellent in the lower leagues. I hope people just let Myles drive and don’t put any unnecessary pressure on him, but I think there are a lot of people (Including Roger Penske), who want him to be the poster boy for the series’ changing attitudes, and that’s not straight-forward. 

Season Champion: Scott Dixon – I just have a feeling it’s going to be Scott’s year with the extra ovals and his remarkable consistency coming through even more in IndyCar’s most chaotic calendar of recent times. 

Indy 500 Winner: Alex Palou – Although I do think this will be the year that Palou finally puts together that 500 win. He’s come extremely close on two separate occasions and is one of the fastest to ever do it around Indianapolis. He just needs a sprinkling of that good luck you need to win one of these things. 

Dre’s Breakout Star of the Year: Kyle Kirkwood – He’s still a little rough to me, but I think Kirkwood has a great chance of finishing Top 6 or 7 in the Championship this year. 

Rookie Of The Year Winner: Linus Lundqvist – The kindest thing I could say about Linus las year, was that he looked like he’d been doing it for half a decade already. 

Let me know who you think will stand out in IndyCar in 2024, and see you on the track in St Pete on March 10th! 

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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