Marcus Armstrong made quite the impression last week at the NTT INDYCAR SERIES open test at The Thermal Club.
Driving the No. 11 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, the 22-year-old New Zealander was fifth-quickest out out of 27 entrants at 1 minute, 38.8409 seconds (111.707 mph) in the two days of testing on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The only teammate to outpace Armstrong was reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who ended up claiming the overall top spot. Armstrong was also one of only seven drivers to hit the century mark, turning 101 laps (tied with Scott Dixon for most on the team).
Dario Franchitti, a four-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner who now serves an advisory and coaching role at CGR, expressed his excitement in Armstrong’s quick acclimation.
“Yeah, he's made a lot of progress over the last two days, understanding an Indy car,” Franchitti said. “He showed up as not a complete package, but he's smart. He understands everything that's going on as far as the dynamics of the car. His feedback is great. All those types of things. He's very methodical in the way he works through things, and he's bloody fast.
“So, yeah, it's really good to have him in the car. We're just trying to educate him a bit in the intricacies of an Indy car as opposed to the Formula 2 car that he's used to.”
Armstrong, a former member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, spent the past three seasons in Formula 2, where he won four races, including three last year. He will run a partial schedule in 2023, contesting the road and street events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar.
Franchitti has offered advice and mentorship to aid Armstrong’s development, which has already seen vast progress despite minimal experience.
“I mean, we're talking details,” Franchitti said. “It's all little details, really; that's every time he comes in. We're just talking about particulars at one corner and one thing that he's doing in the car that's maybe not helping him. So, any of these situations when you get a guy of his ability, lack of experience but great ability, you're just working on small details.”
Overall, the addition of Armstrong to the Ganassi lineup with full-timers Dixon, Ericsson and Alex Palou has delivered only good things.
“Very positive, really,” Franchitti said. “We're very happy. The whole team is really happy with him, and he's fitting in really well with other three drivers. So yeah, it's good.”
The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season starts Sunday, March 5 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Live coverage on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network starts at noon ET.