Note: This is part of a series of NTT INDYCAR SERIES team previews for the 2023 season.
Starting Lineup: Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet), Felix Rosenqvist (No. 6 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet), Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet), Tony Kanaan (No. 66 SmartStop Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge).
2022 in Review: O’Ward upped his career series win total to four with victories in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300, the second race of the doubleheader at Iowa Speedway. He also was in control of the Honda Indy 200 Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – he was the pole sitter and led 28 laps – when his car’s fuel system forced a retirement. He also finished a career-best second in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Rosenqvist stood 16th in points after four races, but he finished strong thereafter, earning 10 top-10 finishes in the final 13 races, keyed by a fourth-place finish in the “500” and a third-place finish in the Honda Indy Toronto. He also won the pole for the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished eighth in the standings, one spot behind O’Ward. Juan Pablo Montoya drove the team’s third entry in the “500,” finishing 11th. At Andretti Autosport, Rossi ended a three-year, 49-race winless streak by capturing the Gallagher Grand Prix. He finished his seventh season with Michael Andretti’s organization ninth in the standings, with a pole in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. Kanaan completed his second stint with Chip Ganassi Racing, finishing third in the “500” in his only series start of the season.
New for ’23: No other INDYCAR SERIES team has added as much since the end of last season as this team, with a staffing increase of about 40 people across the three cars. Rossi’s program is the centerpiece to the new additions, which includes his race strategist, Brian Barnhart, joining as general manager to assist Gavin Ward, the former Team Penske engineer who is now Arrow McLaren’s racing director. There could be even more additions in the buildup to the “500,” where Kanaan, the 2013 winner, completes the standout lineup in what will be his final chance to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Keep an Eye on This: A case can be made for Arrow McLaren being one of the two favorites to win the “500.” O’Ward finished second last year for the team with Rosenqvist fourth, and team boss Zak Brown also signed the third- and fifth-place finishers in Kanaan (then with Chip Ganassi Racing) and Rossi (with Andretti Autosport). Of course, Kanaan (2013) and Rossi (2016) already have their likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy, and O’Ward, in particular, looks like a future winner after finishing sixth, fourth and second in the past three races. A win would be McLaren’s fourth overall and first since Johnny Rutherford in 1976.
Little-Known Fact: O’Ward’s first three “500” starts compare favorably with some of the best drivers who have competed in at least three IMS oval races. O’Ward has an average finish of 3.0, equally Rossi’s average in the same number of races. Rossi then finished second in 2019, giving him a four-year run of first, seventh, fourth and second. Montoya averaged 2.3 (finishes of first, fifth and first) with Helio Castroneves the all-time record holder with finishes of first, first and second in his first three starts. Other early standouts in event history: Jules Goux (first, fourth, third), Albert Guyot (fourth, third, fourth), Harry Hartz (second, second, fourth), Louis Meyer (first, second, fourth), Ted Horn (second, third, fourth) and Roberto Guerrero (second, third, fourth). Horn had the most incredible string of finishes despite never winning the race. After finishing 16th as an IMS rookie, he posted an average finish of 3.3 over his next nine starts.