Santino Ferrucci

Today’s question: Which driver will be the next first-time winner in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this season?

Curt Cavin: This is difficult because there are no obvious candidates to win this season. I’d consider Linus Lundqvist or Marcus Armstrong, but I don’t think either are ready to beat teammates Alex Palou and Scott Dixon in the same race under normal circumstances. Romain Grosjean has been in line to win a half-dozen races, but he’s now driving for a team that has never won a race in this series. Christian Rasmussen has proven to be exceptionally quick, but he won’t have a full season this year with Ed Carpenter Racing. And then there’s Kyle Larson, whom my pal Davey Hamilton insists “absolutely” can win the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as a rookie (I don’t buy that). Who does that leave? Tom Blomqvist? Santino Ferrucci? Pietro Fittipaldi? I struggle to think any of them can break through this season, although taking Ferrucci at Indy is enticing. Pen to paper, I’ll go with Conor Daly at the Speedway. A stunner? Sure. But the vet knows what he needs at IMS, and he’ll benefit from having Ryan Hunter-Reay as a teammate.

Eric Smith: I’ll not only take Santino Ferrucci, but I’ll name the race – 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Ferrucci is at his best at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In five Indy 500 appearances with four different teams (Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and AJ Foyt Racing), he’s never finished outside the top 10. Last May, Ferrucci’s third-place result was AJ Foyt Racing’s best Indy 500 finish since 2000. With AJ Foyt Racing’s alliance with Team Penske this season, Ferrucci notes that one of the two cars (winner Josef Newgarden) to finish ahead of him a year ago is aligned with him now. He expects to use that to his advantage to improve upon a strong Month of May last year. The buzz is high in the Ferrucci and AJ Foyt Racing camp.

Paul Kelly: Curt may not think it’s quite Marcus Armstrong’s time this season, and that’s fair. But I do. Armstrong has shown bursts of pure pace since his debut last season only on road and street courses, but I think running the full schedule this season will help him blossom and become an even more well-rounded NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver. Now, I don’t think the Kiwi will earn his breakthrough win on an oval. There are just too many experienced circle-track killers to topple, especially Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Armstrong’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. But I see the most likely scenario to be similar to what fellow FIA Formula 2 graduate Christian Lundgaard pulled off last July in Toronto for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, earning his first win from the pole. One of these road or street course weekends this year, everything is going to come together for Armstrong, and he will rule all in a tour de force. He’s too talented and too quick for it not to happen. I’ll pick WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca or Toronto as the site of Armstrong’s debut win.