Today’s topic: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong became the latest winner of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ Rookie of the Year Award, and he did so despite not competing in the five oval races in the 2023 season. Today’s Writers Roundtable focuses on what was most impressive about Armstrong’s first year in the series.
Curt Cavin: What caught my attention isn’t necessarily what Armstrong did this season, it’s what he didn’t do. He was involved in race contact only twice, and he was a victim of circumstance in the first as teammate Alex Palou created a four-wide situation approaching Turn 7 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May. Their contact turned Armstrong around in the middle of the corner, and the car of a trailing Josef Newgarden landed on his nose cone. Coincidentally, Armstrong’s other contact also was with a teammate: He and Marcus Ericsson came together late in last week’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in what proved to be a troublesome Turn 11. Otherwise, Armstrong finished the season with largely unscathed equipment, which is impressive. It’s also worth noting that of the 20 penalties issued to cars of series rookies this season, only two went to Armstrong’s car and both were out of his control: an unsafe release from the pit box at Road America and taking full service in a closed pit in the second IMS road race. Armstrong finished with seven top-11 finishes in 12 races, completing all but four of his laps. His best finish was a seventh in Toronto, where he avoided trouble as he did most of the season. Add it up: Solid driving with very few mistakes, making him a worthy honoree.
Paul Kelly: Marcus Armstrong’s consistency impressed me the most. Not so much the finishing positions, which varied a bit, but the fact he was running at the finish in all 12 of his starts. To be fair, Armstrong didn’t compete in any of the five oval races, where race-ending trouble lurks in all four corners. But give full credit: He also didn’t create or get collected in any massive incidents that eliminated him from a race before the checkered flag. That’s something that a few drivers who finished ahead of Armstrong in the standings couldn’t say this season, including race winners Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Kyle Kirkwood and Josef Newgarden. Armstrong needs to iron out some of the inconsistency from this season, as his five top-10 finishes were bookended by three finishes of 19th or lower. But he has pure speed and will only improve during a second year of familiarity with the tracks, the car and the inner workings of Chip Ganassi Racing. Armstrong has the makings of a driver who could spend a decade or more in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and win races.