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2023 IndyCar Predictions

Written by the Divebomb Team, Edited by Juan Arroyo

The 2023 IndyCar Season opener is just around the corner.


With the season opener to be held on the 5th March in St. Petersburg, the DIVEBOMB team is keeping the tradition of conveying their thoughts ahead of the season, as they predict the outcomes of IndyCar in 2023.



Dan

Champion - Alex Palou

Alex Palou seems likely to part ways with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2023. While he was unable to replicate his stunning championship-winning performance from 2021 last season, nothing indicates that Palou won't be a top contender once again.


Dan predicts Palou to have a rememberable last season with Ganassi. Credit: Karl Zemlin via IndyCar


Palou's consistency stands out from other members of the "youth movement," and this is a crucial element in winning IndyCar titles. In the previous season, the Spaniard stepped onto the rostrum three times. However, Palou will need to focus on improving his performance on ovals, which has been challenging for him in his brief IndyCar career.


Nonetheless, Palou possesses abilities beyond his years, which leads me to predict that he will become the champion. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean he won't face competition.


We can never rule out contenders like Newgarden, Dixon, and Power, as well as new faces like Scott McLaughlin and Marcus Ericsson. But for me, it will be Palou who reigns supreme in IndyCar.


Indy 500 Winner - Scott Dixon

It's always challenging to predict who will be strong in the Indianapolis 500 three months before the race. However, it's almost certain that Scott Dixon will be among the front-runners.


Remarkably, Dixon hasn't been able to add to his 2008 crown, with 2022 being the closest he came until the Kiwi sped in the pit lane. Dixon has been dominant at the Speedway, securing five pole positions and five podium finishes, despite experiencing his fair share of bad luck.


Chip Ganassi Racing has always been a strong contender at Indianapolis, with all five cars making the Fast 12 last year.


With Penske and Andretti looking less of a threat and Dixon's extensive experience, this could be a great chance for him to finally claim his second Indianapolis 500 crown.


Rookie of the Year - Sting Ray Robb

Marcus Armstrong is a common theme for the Rookie of the Year, so I'm taking a risk and picking Sting Ray Robb.


Armstrong will be sitting out the oval races, while Robb will be competing in all 17 events. Although Armstrong is part of the Chip Ganassi Racing force, his lack of experience in American racing and circuits, coupled with the five races he'll be missing, might hinder him.


On the other hand, Robb finished second in Indy Lights last year and has been successful on the Road to Indy ladder. Robb's teammate, David Malukas, who was relatively unknown but finished second in Indy Lights, had a strong rookie season in 2021, which makes me believe that Robb can do the same.


Pedersen looks like little threat for ROTY in a Foyt, and Canapino's inexperience, not only in America but also in single-seaters, will likely impact him.


If Robb can finish in the top 20 in all five oval races, he will pick up 50 points against Armstrong, which I believe will be the most significant factor in him claiming the Rookie of the Year title.


Most improved - Kyle Kirkwood


How will Kirkwood adapt with his much-awaited move to Andretti? Credit: Karl Zemlin via IndyCar


Kyle Kirkwood had a lacklustre rookie season in IndyCar, especially given all the promise he showed on the Road to Indy. He only managed a solitary top-10 finish in Long Beach.


However, a move to Andretti Autosport will finally allow the Floridian to unleash his potential on the IndyCar stage, and I expect him to achieve the occasional podium throughout the season.


Although Kirkwood struggled and finished 24th in the standings last year, it's unlikely that he'll end up in that position again, unless something goes seriously wrong.


Kirkwood was prone to incidents last year, recording seven DNFs, but his experience from last year and the significant leap to Andretti Autosport put him in a great position coming into the 2023 season.


Flop - Pato O’Ward

Pato O’Ward had a frustrating 2022 season, with consecutive DNFs in Road America and Mid-Ohio, where he was running in the top 5 on both occasions, bad strategy calls, and missing out on the Indy 500.


There was a lot to be desired from the Mexican, and unfortunately, I expect this struggle to continue. O’Ward never really seemed to get going last season and was never able to get a run of form, which he did so successfully in 2021.


With Felix Rosenqvist looking like much more of a threat against the Mexican last season, as well as the formidable Alexander Rossi joining McLaren, O’Ward may endure another frustrating year, where we could even see him lose out to his teammates.


Surprise of the Year - Alexander Rossi

While I expect O’Ward to struggle, I also expect his new teammate, Alexander Rossi, to thrive. Rossi finally showed old signs of himself in 2022 by picking up a victory in Indianapolis, a pole in Road America, and knocking on the door of a victory in Detroit, albeit in conscientious circumstances.


His move to Arrow McLaren seems like an exciting one, with the Indianapolis-based team looking more of a threat than Andretti in recent years. Rossi is a proven winner in IndyCar, and the McLaren team, which is improving year-on-year, could finally put him back to the front of the field.


Although many expect O’Ward to win the McLaren battle, I believe Rossi will surprise everyone by being the lead McLaren on several occasions this year. I also expect to see him toward the pecking end of the championship at season's end, and maybe even with a few race wins to his name.


Morgan

Champion - Josef Newgarden

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been saying it’s going to be Newgarden’s year for a couple of years now, but I really mean it this time. It’s been three seasons since he last won the championship, and he’s finished as the runner up all three of those years.


He doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon in terms of talent, and Team Penske’s still proving their ability to fight at the front unlike any other team at the moment.


He’ll have a tough fight for sure, especially against his teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin. It’s an inevitability more than anything, that Newgarden is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.


Indy 500 Winner - Takuma Sato


Can Sato join the greats in the three-time Indy 500 Club? Credit: Michael L. Levitt/Motorsport Images


Chip Ganassi Racing bested the Indy 500 last season with pole and the win for Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson respectively. The whole team was up at the top throughout the month of May, and there’s no reason why that should change for 2023.


Already a two-time 500 champion, Sato will be attempting a third in the no. 11 Chip Ganassi car this year. He’s only doing ovals for the team, but there’s nothing to suggest that Sato won’t be at the top of his game by race time. He proved he’s still a quick and formidable driver last year at Dale Coyne.


Rookie of the Year - Sting Ray Robb

This year’s rookie class is an interesting one. Pederson and Canapino will be competing with cars that, simply put, don’t have the ability to run at the front. Whatever their level of talent proves to be, they won’t be contenders for the Rookie of the Year award.


The driver in the best car is Armstrong, who will pilot the no. 11 Chip Ganassi car, but he’s completely new to IndyCar itself. Robb, while a little lower down in the pecking order both on a driver and a team level, will have the best shot at scoring the title of best rookie. The Dale Coyne car has shown itself to be a strong contender, especially at oval racing, where Armstrong won’t even be in contention.


All in all, it won’t be the most exciting crop of rookies IndyCar has seen in recent years, but if Armstrong proves capable on the non-oval tracks and Robb has trouble getting up to speed, we might have a fight on our hands.


Most Improved - Alexander Rossi

2023 is going to be a telling year for Rossi, who’s had a few up and down years at Andretti Autosport. Now, he’s coming into Arrow McLaren, driving for another team for the first time in his IndyCar career.


I’m betting on Rossi improving in this new environment, which he already seems quite comfortable and happy in. It’s been clear throughout all of his career thus far that he’s a good driver, and in the McLaren team I think he’ll be able to show that potential fully in a way he wasn’t able to do at Andretti.


Flop - Alex Palou

Palou’s fall from grace in 2022 was a big one, although most of it happened off the track. He went from taking his first IndyCar title in 2021 to finishing fifth the next season in the midst of a lawsuit with his own team.


Despite the off-track drama, Palou still managed to stay in the title fight for the entire season. He didn’t even win a race until the season finale at Laguna Seca, but remained in contention all the same.


For 2023, Palou remains with Chip Ganassi, despite his initial plan (and announcement) to move to McLaren. He says everything is good between him and the team, but there’s still bound to be a level of tension as he serves the last year of his contract.


It’s hard to see him challenging for the title in quite the same manner with everything going on. He’s a talented driver, and one who has proven his ability to contend with (and beat) some of motorsport’s greatest talents, but this year is going to be a hard one for Palou.


Surprise of the Year - Agustin Canapino


Will the unknown Canapino exceed expectations? Credit: Chris Owens via IndyCar


Most people found Juncos Hollinger Racing’s new signing interesting, considering the fact that Canapino will be coming into IndyCar without any single-seater experience. It’s definitely a risk, despite his success in stock cars. When you consider the fact that there were plenty of available drivers who have already proven their ability to succeed in single-seaters, Canapino’s signing is confusing and, for some, disappointing.


I’m not expecting him to be a standout performer, or even beat his teammate Callum Ilott. But I imagine there’s more to Canapino than meets the eye, and his level of dedication has already shown through in other areas. And let’s not forget the last driver to come to IndyCar without any single-seater experience: Scott McLaughlin.


There’s no way to know yet if Canapino has the same level of talent as McLaughlin, and certainly in the no. 78 Juncos he’ll have trouble showing everything he’s got, but don’t count out Canapino as a rising talent just yet.



Olly

Champion - Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood has proved time and time again that he’s America’s next racing star. He’s delivered incredible results at every level and dominated the Road to Indy scene.


From 2017 onwards, Kirkwood didn’t take his foot off the gas for a second, cruising to 4 Road to Indy Championship titles between 2017 and 2019. After a gap year in IMSA, Kirkwood returned to the Feeder Series to demolish his competition on his way to the IndyLights title.


Andretti took him to that IndyLights title and they’ve kept him on their books ever since, even nearly promoting him to their IndyCar setup for his first year.


They instead opted for F1 veteran Romain Grosjean, and now with a year of hard-work under his belt at A.J. Foyt, Kirkwood joins the Andretti squad for 2023.


In my eyes, there is no way that 2023 plays out without it being a success for Kirkwood. Whether or not he can get the championship is left to be seen, but as one of the best youngsters on the grid at a top team like Andretti, I say: why can’t he win the title?


His racing CV speaks for himself, and all that he’s lacking is experience fighting at the front, which is what he’ll spend 2023 doing. If the transition to Andretti is smooth (and I’m sure Andretti will make sure it is), then he can surely soar right into contention alongside his teammates.


He is, of course, joining off the back of a poor year for Andretti, but that certainly doesn’t rule him or the team out whatsoever. While this year could be make or break for Kyle, I’m predicting it will be the making of a racing superstar.


Indy 500 Winner - Pato O’Ward

If Pato’s proved anything in his years in IndyCar, it’s his red-hot pace on an oval.


O’Ward heads into 2023 off the back of an exceptional year in the five oval races of the season, taking podiums in three and top 5s in four as well as making it to the rostrum for a second time in the 500.


With an Indy500 podium already under his belt and a hunger to deliver on his ability around ovals, there’s no one else who’ll have the desire when it comes down to those vital 250 laps around the Brickyard Speedway.


Rookie of the Year - Marcus Armstrong


Will Armstrong replicate the successes of Ilott and Lundgaard? Credit: Chris Owens via IndyCar


There aren’t a great deal of promising rookies on the grid this year aside from Chip Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong.


The Formula 2 race winner heads across the pond for the first time in 2023 to debut in Indy and share the Number 11 Chip Ganassi car with two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who’ll race the ovals, while Armstrong takes the road courses.


The added benefit for Marcus of being with Chip Ginassi is that he debuts in IndyCar with a successful, front-running team that won the championship in 2021, and the 500 in 2022.


For me, even if it comes down to raw pace, Marcus has the edge. He has a great advantage over the other rookies that massively aids him in his challenge for the Rookie of the Year crown.


Flop - Romain Grosjean


Will Grosjean's Andretti struggle continue? Credit: Kristin Enzor for IndyStar


When you pair an F1 veteran, who’s accumulated multiple podiums in his career with a frontrunning team like Andretti, you’d expect instant results. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Grosjean.


2021 seemed to be a good start for Romain in IndyCar. A neat midfield season with a smaller team like A.J. Foyt definitely felt like a nice platform to build off of for Romain.


Following his move to Andretti, you would’ve thought he’d massively build off of that platform and match his team’s expectations in becoming a frontrunner.


However, his aggressive and sometimes chaotic racing style didn’t seem to go down well with his fellow drivers now that he was often contending for big points.


Fifteenth in 2021 with A.J. Foyt only turned into fourteenth in 2022 with the IndyCar giant Andretti. With his sights already set on the Lamborghini Hypercar project in 2024, and his age now the wrong side of 36, I’m struggling to see how Romain can properly turn into the frontrunner that he should be on paper.


Surprise of the Year - Callum Ilott

It’s fair to say that since his F1 dreams seemed to falter and fizzle out, Callum’s taken it upon himself to prove himself once more in America.


The second half of 2022 was nothing short of magnificent for Ilott with Juncos. Despite driving for a backmarker team like Juncos, Callum maintained impressive big points scores to eventually outdo drivers many years his senior.


As long as Callum replicates this success in 2023 and produces just a few more top 10 finishes, then there’s no doubt in my mind that Callum can cause a stir in the midfield and be considered the surprise package of the 2023 IndyCar season.



Archie

Champion - Scott McLaughlin


Can McLaughlin continue his upward climb through IndyCar? Via IndyCar Media


Regardless of his inexperience in IndyCar, Scott McLaughlin has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with.


Building on a 14th-place championship finish and a single podium in his debut season, the Kiwi finished fourth in the standings in 2022, notching seven podiums - including three wins. Only Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden won more races last year, and there is no reason why McLaughlin’s upward trajectory won’t continue into 2023.


If it wasn’t for a selection of errant results that added a slight blemish to an otherwise sensational season, McLaughlin could have put up an even greater challenge for the championship last year, as he ultimately only fell 41 points short of Will Power.


Eradicate the occasional inconsistencies, and McLaughlin is arguably the full package, thus a very good bet to go all the way this season.


Indy 500 Winner - Alex Palou

It feels only a matter of time until Alex Palou gets a taste of victory (and milk) at the Indianapolis 500. He crashed out of his first Indy 500 in his rookie season in 2020, but he has been in contention for the win since making the switch to Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of the 2021 season.


I was tempted to go with one of the Ed Carpenter Racing entries as more left-field shouts, with Conor Daly often strong in his home race, and young Rinus VeeKay having shown a knack for running towards the head of the field at times.


But it is hard to look past a Ganassi driver reigning supreme at The Brickyard, especially given the strength of their performance last year, with Scott Dixon taking pole position and contending for the win before a penalty of his own, and Marcus Ericsson coming out on top.


However, with tensions seemingly eased between himself and Chip Ganassi and two successive strong Indy 500 performances, I can’t look past Palou as my pick for the 2023 winner.


Rookie of the Year - Marcus Armstrong

Choosing a rookie of the year was a tough decision, in large part because Armstrong, despite being in the strongest team of the four rookies, is not running the ovals.


With a notably superior team in Chip Ganassi Racing for road and street races, I back Armstrong to have a narrow edge on Sting Ray Robb. Callum Ilott similarly made the switch from Formula 2 and had an unexpectedly strong rookie season in a Juncos.


While Armstrong’s F2 career never reached the height that saw Ilott finish second in the 2020 championship, there are certain parallels between the pair.


If Armstrong can adapt quickly to American racing, the disadvantage of not competing on ovals could well be cancelled out by the strength of the Ganassi team. I fancy him to have a narrow edge over Robb to win rookie of the year.


Most Improved - Jack Harvey

Jack Harvey had a wretched 2022. And it is that which largely contributes to my view that he will be the most improved driver this year.


It can’t get much worse than last season, with Harvey finishing 22nd in the championship in his first season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing - eight and 11 places behind teammates Christian Lundgaard (in his rookie season) and Graham Rahal respectively.


Harvey only once finished inside the top 10 in 2022 - in a chaotic race in Nashville - and failed to convert the odd strong qualifying results such as seventh and sixth-place starts in Iowa.


There were some signs of promise from Harvey, but the most encouragement heading into this season will be from prior results during his time with Meyer Shank Racing.


Harvey finished inside the top 10 five times en-route to a respectable 12th-place championship finish in 2021, hence it was somewhat puzzling that he struggled so much after making a step up to RLL for 2022.


Now in his second year with his new team, Harvey will hope to be more settled and find more consistency.


Flop - Will Power


Archie predicts the 2022 champ to struggle in 2023. Credit: Chris Owens via Penske


Will Power won his second IndyCar championship in his 15th season in 2022 - his first coming a whole eight years prior in 2014.


It’s for this reason that I don’t particularly see Power retaining his second crown. It feels disingenuous to suggest he will be a ‘flop’ amid a field continually brimming with more and more talent, but it is hard to envisage Power establishing the same consistency that led him to finish inside the top six 13 times and on the podium nine times, as he did last season, this time around.


Power only won a single race on his path to topping the standings in 2022, which was inferior to Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (with five) and Scott McLaughlin (with three), as well as two-time race winners Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward.


It was superior consistency that ostensibly won Power the championship, but misfortunes of others - for instance Dixon seeing himself put out of contention by a penalty in the double points-paying Indianapolis 500 - also contributed to a sizeable extent.


Others showed greater race-winning pedigree, and the likes of Newgarden and McLaughlin, among others, avoiding mishaps could well see Power fall down the order this year.


Surprise of the year - Conor Daly

Conor Daly enters the 2023 IndyCar season having started 97 races. Across this period, he has established himself as one of the series’ great characters.


But his on-track pedigree hasn’t often been much to write home about; his career-high championship finish of 17th has been achieved twice, including last year, and only one podium has been managed across his IndyCar career to date.


However, Daly has occasionally proven that he is capable of producing strong results - both in qualifying and races.


Despite the fact that Daly is yet to translate any strong qualifying performances and laps led into a victory, there is a sense that his time will come at some point.


And maybe 2023 will be the year that Daly starts producing these performances somewhat more consistently to find himself in victory lane.


And there we have it: the DIVEBOMB IndyCar predictions 2023.


How many will we get right once the flag falls at Laguna Seca?


Let us know what you think will happen in the 2023 IndyCar season, comment below!


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