Today is the first in a series of preview articles as we head into the 2023 NTT Indycar Series season. Let’s take a look at four drivers who I think are going to have much improved years. Three are rookies from last year, and one young veteran I think is about to hit his stride. We will also look at some drivers who may be fighting for their jobs this year.
Drivers to Watch
Kirkwood seems to be enjoying his new team. he has been quick in testing, as have his Andretti teammates. What remains to be seen is if his racecraft has improved. Last year Kirkwood sometimes tried too hard to overcome equipment deficits. the result was a lot of unforced errors and a 24th place finish in the final standings. He has the equipment and the team behind him to succeed this year. i expect to see a lot of the Kirkwood we saw on the Road to Indy in 2023. Will he win a race? I think that is possible, but not likely this season.
Lundgaard quietly earned Rookie of the Year in 2022, and showed steady improvement as the season went on. He earned seven Top 10 finishes, including two Top Fives and one podium. A year’s experience, backing by Hy-Vee, and an improving RLLteam should combine to see even better results for Lundgaard in 2023. I see him ending up in the TopTen at the end of the year.
A rough start to 2022 probably cost Malukas the Rookie of the Year title. He lost to Lundgaard by only 18 points. A driver who showed increasing maturity as the year progressed, Malukas drive to a brilliant second place at World Wide Technology Raceway. Malukas had one other top 10, at Iowa. He was the highest finishing rookie at the Indianapolis 500, but his lack of NASCAR titles cost him Indy Rookie of the Year. Of the three sophomores, I think Malukas is the most probable to eke out a win in 2023. Dale Coyne Racing doesn’t have the best equipment, but they know how to play the rules, and I think a race will fall his way.
It’s time for Rinus to stop teasing us. The potential is there for a breakout season. We have been waiting for the ECR driver to put together a solid, consistent season. VeeKay won the pole at Barber and finished third after a slow out lap following his second pit stop. He had a decent year in 2022 with six Top Tens and three Top Fives, but just one podium. Maybe we expect too much of VeeKay. I look for a top ten season finish and more regular top five appearances. A win is possible.
Three drivers need to have really good seasons if they wish to stay in Indycar in 2024. One will be leaving his current team after the season, and this year is an audition for all the other teams. The other two have to show significant improvement in 2023.
We still aren’t sure what kind of a driver Jack Harvey is. Harvey had just one Top ten in 2022. That will not be good enough this coming season., I hoped for better results since he joined the series. For 2023, a different sponsor, different car number, and new crew may help Harvey rise to the level that fans have expected of him. I’m not expecting a win, but a final spot in the top 15 would be a significant improvement.
I don’t know Grosjean’s contract status, but I thought when he joined Andretti, he would be a consistent contender for podiums and wins, 2022 was not a good year for Andretti overall, but I thought the former F1 driver would enhance their program. It didn’t happen. Grosjean has been quick in testing during the preseason, and he seems to feel the team has a better baseline heading into 2023. A win is possible, but more top five and top ten finishes are needed.
Rosenqvist will depart Arrow McLaren at the end of 2023. In 2022,he had to fight to keep his job, and he showed himself to be up to the task. In 2023 his objective si to show the other teams that he belongs in Indycar. I think he does, and I have no doubt Rosenqvist will show well this season. A win will be tough given his teammates and the competition from other teams,but look for Rosenqvist to have a deal in place with a new team for 2024 before the season ends.