Racing at St. Petersburg

The calendar reads 2024, which means the latest NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is visible on the horizon.

The first week of the year offers the opportunity to look ahead while remembering the successes of the recently completed season. Questions abound. Can Alex Palou repeat as series champion, earning his third title in the last four years? Will there be another stirring Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, which Josef Newgarden won last May amid a last-lap dogfight with reigning champion Marcus Ericsson? How will former NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson fare in his Indy debut? Which team or driver will take the next step in the title pursuit? How will the spotlight shine on the new non-points race at The Thermal Club, the doubleheader return to the Milwaukee Mile and the season finale to be held for the first time on Nashville’s downtown streets?

Much awaits. Consider this a primer for the upcoming 17-race season:

The Schedule: There will be seven months of events beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday, March 10. The season-opening race kicks off NBC’s run of 10 broadcasts, with USA Network (six races) and Peacock (two races) showcasing all track activity, including live practice and qualifying sessions. Include in the offering is coverage of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (May 18-19) ahead of the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (Sunday, May 26). NBC again will showcase the action on the world’s most iconic oval. The first of USA Network’s races will be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 21. The Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, July 21) and the first race at the Milwaukee Mile (Saturday, Aug. 31) will be exclusive to Peacock.

The Field: Twenty-seven car-and-driver combinations are expected to compete full time this year, although not all of the drivers have been announced yet. However, we know what engine manufacturer alliances are in place. Honda will have 15 of those entries (Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Armstrong and rookies Linus Lundqvist and Kyffin Simpson; Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist and rookie Tom Blomqvist; Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Pietro Fittipaldi; Andretti Global’s Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood and Marcus Ericsson; and two yet-to-be-announced drivers from Dale Coyne Racing); and Chevrolet will have another 12 (Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Scott McLaughlin; Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay with Ed Carpenter and rookie Christian Rasmussen sharing a seat; Arrow McLaren Racing’s Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and David Malukas; AJ Foyt Racing’s Sting Ray Robb and a driver TBD; and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino and Romain Grosjean).

Additional Confirmed Indianapolis 500 Entries: The most prominent is Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion who will drive for Arrow McLaren with support from Hendrick Motorsports. Additionally, Helio Castroneves, who won the “500” most recently in 2021, will seek a record-setting fifth victory in the event in the third entry of Meyer Shank Racing. INDY NXT by Firestone champion Christian Rasmussen will pilot a third car from Ed Carpenter Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner Dennis Reinbold has said there will be two entries (drivers TBD) from the team’s shop. Marco Andretti is expected to return to Andretti Global. And there will be others, to be sure.

The Rookie Class: Tom Blomqvist, Linus Lundqvist, Kyffin Simpson and Christian Rasmussen. Blomqvist and Lundqvist got their first series action in 2023; Simpson and Rasmussen will make their debuts in St. Petersburg.

Veterans on the Move: Marcus Ericsson is new to Andretti Global, David Malukas switched to Arrow McLaren, Romain Grosjean is now at Juncos Hollinger Racing, Pietro Fittipaldi has returned to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES by way of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Felix Rosenqvist has transitioned to Meyer Shank Racing, and Sting Ray Robb has joined AJ Foyt Racing.

The New Events: The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will have 17 events in its regular season, and there will be a non-points event held for the first time at The Thermal Club in Southern California. The series traveled to the exclusive road course located just outside Palm Springs last year for an open test. The 17-turn, 2.9-mile layout offered an opportunity for interesting racing, and the format figures to be unique once it’s fully vetted. The weekend will include testing Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, followed by the actual competition on Sunday, March 24. NBC will carry the action on race day. The Milwaukee Mile will host NTT INDYCAR SERIES races for the first time since 2015. Scott Dixon (2009) and Will Power (2014) are the active drivers with race wins on the historic circuit. The Mile last hosted two series races in the same season in 1982, but this will be the first time for a weekend doubleheader. This year’s first race will be Saturday, Aug. 31 with the closer Sunday, Sept. 1.

The New Circuit: Racing returns to Nashville for the third consecutive year, but this time the action will include part of downtown, and it will be the season finale live on NBC on Sunday, Sept. 15. Expect another large crowd from the Music City faithful, and the excitement for a championship-deciding battle figures to add to the intrigue.

The Return of the Iowa Doubleheader: The Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway returns for a third year July 13-14, with another impressive lineup of musical acts before and after each NTT INDYCAR SERIES race. Luke Combs and Post Malone are the first musical acts to be announced for weekend performances.

The Run to the Championship: The series’ summer stretch again will be hot and heavy, with 10 races held in June, July and August. But unlike last year, teams will have a bit of a breather before embarking on the championship-deciding race. There will be a weekend off between the Milwaukee doubleheader (Aug. 31-Sept. 1) and the finale in Nashville (Sept. 15).