Note: This is part of a series of NTT INDYCAR SERIES team previews for the 2023 season.
Starting Lineup: Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda), Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27 AutoNation Honda), Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda), Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 EVTEC Honda), Marco Andretti (No. 98 KULR/Curb Honda for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge).
2022 in Review: Herta and Alexander Rossi won races for Michael Andretti’s organization, both on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Herta won the GMR Grand Prix, Rossi the Gallagher Grand Prix. Herta led 17 or more laps in four races, including 50 in his race win. He also led 28 laps in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of two races where he won the NTT P1 Award. Grosjean had seven top-10 finishes in his first season with the team, led by a second-place finish at Long Beach. He finished fourth in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR, where Rossi won the pole. DeFrancesco had his best event of the season in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway, qualifying ninth and finishing 12th. He also scored a top-10 finish at Long Beach. Kirkwood spent his rookie season at AJ Foyt Racing, finishing 10th at Long Beach. Marco Andretti’s only race of the year was the “500” for the second time. He finished 22nd.
New for ’23: Kirkwood returns to the organization that helped him capture the INDY NXT by Firestone championship in 2021 with 10 race wins. He will drive the No. 27 Honda that has been steered by Rossi the past seven seasons. His program will be led by engineer Jeremy Milless, who has worked in recent years with Josef Newgarden and Rossi, and Scott Harner, who has become the organization’s team manager, will be his strategist. Ron Barnhorst will engineer DeFrancesco’s car.
Keep an Eye on This: Marco Andretti returns to the “500” for another chance to add the family’s name to the Borg-Warner Trophy. His grandfather, Mario, won in 1969. Marco’s participation will push the Andretti’s record number of event starts to 78, five more than the Unsers. How’s this for longevity: This will be Marco’s 18th start, pulling him with one of the total posted each by Bobby Unser and Al Unser Jr. Marco, who finished second as a rookie in 2006 and won the pole for the 2020 race, already has two more “500” starts than his father, Michael.
Little-Known Fact: This will be Herta’s fifth full season in the sport, and he doesn’t turn 23 years old until March 30, but he is more veteran than seems possible. In addition to having the most series starts on his team – one more than Grosjean, Kirkwood and DeFrancesco combined – only eight current full-time drivers have more. That’s Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Will Power, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly. Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato would be others, but they are only scheduled to compete in the oval events this season, and fellow veterans Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti are Indy 500-only drivers in 2022.