Kyle Kirkwood

Note: The Penske Entertainment editorial staff is looking back at the 10 biggest moments of 2023 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES showed fans the future of the series is flush with new talent, as two sophomore drivers reached victory lane and joined the conversation of the next potential breakout stars.

In an era of the INDYCAR SERIES that has a great mix of veteran and youthful drivers trying to carve a place in the most competitive series in the world, Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Lundgaard showed promise they can one day become series champions.

Before you can reach that status, you must win. That’s exactly what both did this past year.

Kirkwood scored two victories in 2023 for Andretti Autosport, both on tricky street circuits. He scored his first career win in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and followed with a win in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in August in Nashville.

Lundgaard was equally impressive. The second-year Danish driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing started slow, with finishes of 14th or worse in four of the first seven races.

Ten races later, Lundgaard not only earned his second career NTT P1 Award but claimed his first career race win in July at the Honda Indy Toronto. His average finishing spot in the first seven races compared to the final 10 improved from 12.42 to 10.22.

Strong qualifying performances were a big part of Lundgaard’s resurgence. He had started 11th, 27th, 17th, sixth, first, 31st, 18th in those first seven races. Over the final 10, he started seventh, fifth, first, 20th, 21st, 13th, second, 20th, 17th and third. He went from an average starting spot of 14.28 to 8.9.

Another breakout performer was rookie Marcus Armstrong. Despite not contesting any of the five oval events, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver still earned Rookie of the Year honors.

Armstrong had seven finishes of 11th or better in 12 starts, highlighted by a sixth-place run on the Streets of Toronto.

These three drivers could challenge for the title soon if they find their feet on ovals. With Kirkwood just 25, Armstrong only 23 and Lundgaard just 22, the future is bright for this trio.

“I would say yes, it’s a pretty special place to be really, especially at my age,” Armstrong said. “It gives me the best opportunity, I think, to compete for championships, something that I believe I’ll be capable of soon.

“I feel like, had you told me two years ago that I’d be here, I probably wouldn’t believe you. Yeah, to think about it like that, it’s a place exactly like I planned when I was 8 years old.”