Written by the Divebomb Team
The 2023 IndyCar season has come to an end, with the ardous six month wait an opportunity to analyse each segment of the season. So we asked our IndyCar experts to rank the 2023 field from worst to best, and calculated the average across all six writers, here's our top 10.
10. Alexander Rossi
Championship Position: 10th
Highest Ranking: 8th (Katie Gregory/Dan Jones) Average Ranking: 11.5
2023 saw Alexander Rossi make the leap from Andretti to McLaren, meaning all eyes were on him and what he could do in his new team. While Rossi has finished ninth in the championship both this year and the last, these results do not tell the full story.
Three years at Andretti stagnated Rossi’s IndyCar career, but the season opener in St Pete proved he had an abundance of skill to show off. Rossi brought home a fourth place finish, missing the podium by a single spot. However, the podium was well and truly his at the GMR Grand Prix, in which he jumped from tenth to fifth on lap one - and eventually finished third. Throughout the season, Rossi demonstrated his competence in a quiet manner, and made very few mistakes.
It will be fascinating to see how he performs in 2024 and for Alexander Rossi; the sky is the limit.
9. Marcus Ericsson
Championship Position: 6th
Highest Ranking: 8th (Archie O’Reilly/Olivia Hicks) Average Ranking: 10.3 Marcus Ericsson’s final year at Chip Ganassi Racing can probably be described as unspectacular, as he continued his formidable consistency, picked up the occasional podium, and did the job in a quiet, but professional fashion. Ericsson rounds out 2023 with a solitary win, which he picked up on the Streets of St. Petersburg, after he took advantage of Pato O’Ward’s misfortune, when the Mexican suffered a plenum fire.
Ericsson will probably leave slightly disappointed he wasn’t the first man since Helio Castroneves to go back-to-back at the Indianapolis 500, after Josef Newgarden snatched it away in a controversial final lap, but nethertheless, Ericsson continued his remarkable consistency of finishing inside the top 10, and finished sixth in the standings for the third consecutive year in a quietly respectable season, as he leaps to a new IndyCar adventure for 2024.
8. Will Power Championship Position: 7th
Highest Ranking: 4th (Katie Gregory) Average Ranking: 8.3
Will Power was unable to defend his 2022 IndyCar series title and finished the championship in seventh place. Power’s streak of 16 consecutive seasons with a race win was shattered in an underwhelming fashion as he failed to secure a victory.
While his races didn’t always come together, he proved he still has the raw pace necessary to be a threat; and even took pole positions at Iowa’s double header. Power earned four podiums this season and had eleven finishes inside the top ten.
Power clashed with Scott Dixon and Romain Grosjean, producing the return of his famous double digit salute. Despite a difficult season, Power remains at Team Penske for 2024, the very place where he could make his next title charge.
7. Kyle Kirkwood
Championship Position: 11th Highest Ranking: 5th (Caitlyn Gordon) Average Ranking: 8.0 Kirkwood headed to Andretti for 2023 and he showed he is a driver to watch out for in the future. Out of Kirkwoods three teammates he was the only driver to secure a win all season and respectively finished above his much more experienced teammate and just five points behind Herta. Kirkwood whose previous best finish in his IndyCar career was 10th place earned seven Top 10’s throughout the season and two phenomenal wins.
Kirkwood took both his maiden pole and win at Long Beach earlier in the year. He won in a dominant fashion after he led 53 of the 85 laps and crossed the line with over a second advantage to his teammate in second. The Americans’ second win came in Nashville where he crossed the line only 0.7 seconds ahead of second place. Kirkwood fought with all his might for the final three laps of the race with McLaughlin trying to push for a win. Out of the 80 laps he led for 34 of them and 27 of those came on the final stint of the race.
Kirkwood’s ability to maintain calm and not cave under the pressure is just one example of why he has been incredible to watch this season. Kirkwood who finished 11th overall in the standings has had a great second season in the series and is definitely a driver worth keeping an eye on in the future.
6. Christian Lundgaard
Championship Position: 8th
Highest Ranking: 4th (Olivia Hicks)
Average Ranking: 6.2 Christian Lundgaard’s maiden IndyCar win at the Honda Indy Toronto race situated the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver as one to watch. The Danish racing driver made history by securing the country’s first IndyCar win and ending the team’s three year dry spell. Four podium finishes this season proved Lundgaard’s performance on Canadian soil wasn’t just a one-off.
After making his IndyCar debut just last year, the twenty-two-year-old driver nearly doubled his championship rank — jumping from 14th in 2022 to eighth in 2023. Lundgaard trailed behind former IndyCar winner Will Power and Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson in points. Compared to his teammates, the former Formula 2 driver outranked them all, beating the team’s namesake, Graham Rahal, by seven positions. In a season overshadowed by uncharacteristic dominance, Lundgaard shook up Alex Palou’s winning streak and provided a welcome surprise winning performance.
5. Scott McLaughlin
Championship Position: 3rd
Highest Ranking: 3rd (Katie Gregory) Average Ranking: 4.5
Heading into the 2023 season, McLaughlin was fancied as a championship contender by many. However, despite taking a win at Barber, and earlier being right in contention to win in St Pete before colliding with Romain Grosjean, he was not content with the start of his campaign. This climaxed during the Month of May, when McLaughlin was displeased with 14th-place in the Indianapolis 500 - coming after a 16th on the road course.
The post-500 element of McLaughlin’s season, by contrast, saw him probably the most impressive driver aside from Alex Palou and Scott Dixon. He notched 11 consecutive top nine finishes, standing on the second step of the podium three times. In qualifying, he finished inside the top two in seven of his final eight runs (a total of eighth for the season), taking two NTT P1 Awards. He was unfortunate not to win again.
There were lofty expectations heading into the season, but McLaughlin continued his development, becoming much more consistent, to remarkably oust his two richly experienced, two-time champion teammates in only his third full-time year in open-wheel racing. He was also the top Chevrolet car, third in the championship. That is some achievement.
4. Pato O’Ward
Championship Position: 4th Highest Ranking: 3rd (Dan Jones/Olivia Hicks) Average Ranking: 4.2
Pato O’Ward suffered a season of frustration, disappointment, terrible fortune, but also one of significant development and progress and the building blocks to mount a proper title hunt in 2024. Despite not finding himself in victory lane in 2023, O’Ward still took a career-best seven podiums, only bettered by that of the dominant Alex Palou, and it could well have been more if not for a combination of awful luck at times, and hints of desperation mid-season.
O’Ward rates so highly on my list due to his newfound consistency to pick up strong results, finishing in the Top 4 in over half the events this year, and continues to solidify himself comfortably clear of any Arrow McLaren teammate he is placed against. Although, O’Ward may reflect on the year with a slightly disappointed tone, he fixed many of his issues which have plagued him in years past, and has the ground to mount a title charge in 2024.
3. Josef Newgarden
Championship Position: 5th Highest Ranking: 2nd (Olivia Hicks) Average Ranking: 3.7
Newgarden’s 2023 season was a strange one. On road and street courses, much like in 2022, there was a little bit too much inconsistency. Part of this was down to the equipment at his disposal at times, as he was ultimately only able to make three Fast 6 appearances on road and street courses. He managed seven top 10s in those 12 races.
Despite this, Newgarden probably should have finished third in the championship. He showed history-making form on ovals, winning the first four oval races, before just falling short of a sublime season sweep at Gateway. This run included winning his maiden Indianapolis 500 on his 12th attempt, which is a monumental feat that more or less secures his legacy as an IndyCar great.
Misfortune cost Newgarden what looked nailed-on to be at least third in the championship. He was caught up as an innocent party in a first-lap incident in the Gallagher Grand Prix, before the same fate befell him at Laguna Seca. For his oval form alone, which seals his status as one of the best ever on that track type, he is no doubt one of the drivers of the season.
2. Scott Dixon
Championship Position: 2nd
Highest Ranking: 2nd (Caitlyn Gordon, Katie Gregory, Archie O’Reilly, Jake O’Callaghan, Dan Jones) Average Ranking: 2.5
Scott Dixon finished second in his 23rd season of IndyCar racing. He had a really difficult start to the season, with just one podium in 13 races. However, going into the final races, something changed at the No. 9 team, as they went on to win three of the final four races, and finished third in the other.
Dixon shot up to a solid second place in the championship following crashes for rival Josef Newgarden in Indianapolis, Gateway, and Laguna Seca. The 9 team showed particularly exceptional ability in strategy calls and fuel / tyre management, each of which played important roles in each of his victories. Dixon finished the season in second, and that is where he deserves to be in the 2023 Driver Rankings.
1. Alex Palou
Championship Position: 1st
Highest Ranking: 1st (Everyone) Average Ranking: 1st
Alex Palou put on an incredible performance throughout the whole IndyCar season. Finishing with a 78 point advantage, the No.10 has been a dominant force to be reckoned with. Palou became the first driver since 2020 to win three consecutive races in a row, and this amazing performance was continued when he took pole position for the Indy 500. He finished every race in the top 10 and out of all the 17 races he achieved 13 in the top 5. The numbers alone speak for the impeccable season Palou had.
Palou wrapped up the Championship in Portland, he became the first driver since 2005 to settle the Championship before the penultimate race. Palou deserved the Championship after the superb year he has had in the series. With Palou now locked into a Chip Ganassi Racing seat for 2024, a third Championship may be near for the Spaniard.