Today’s question: What is your quick take on the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: I love the question, and my first take is, Alex Palou is really good. OK, so that doesn’t take much of a thought, but if we didn’t know it before, we learned what incredible combination of speed, savviness and smarts he is. Think about this: Scott Dixon, the six-time series champion who drives with the same resources, finished in the top seven of 16 of the 17 races and won three of the final four but wasn’t within a sniff of Palou, finishing nearly two races behind him in points. There are so many examples of the excellence Palou showed this season, and I start with that recovery from pit road contact in the Indianapolis 500. It was Lap 98 and he was 28th in the order, but he didn’t panic. Instead, he spent the second half of the race surgically moving back into contention, finishing fourth. Go through the season and there are several examples of his masterful drives. Barring changes in the offseason, Palou should be the heavy favorite to repeat as champion. The other take: One of the finest seasons of Chip Ganassi Racing. One-two in the point standings for only its second time – the other in 2009 – and fielding the top rookie. Kudos to Chip Ganassi, Mike Hull and the gang.
Paul Kelly: My quick take on 2023 is simple: It’s damn hard to win a race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES these days. There are a slew of drivers who seven months ago I would have predicted would have taken a checkered flag at least once this season, and it never happened. That list starts with Team Penske’s Will Power, who was winless for the first time since 2006. I didn’t have that on my bingo card. But equally as surprising was the 0-for-2023 performance of Arrow McLaren. I would have made a healthy bet in early March that either Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi or Felix Rosenqvist would win at least once this season. Same goes for Colton Herta at Andretti Autosport, winless since May 2022. I also thought Romain Grosjean might grab his elusive first win for Andretti Autosport. Facts are facts, but I don’t want to demean Power, the Arrow McLaren trio or Herta and Grosjean – they’re all excellent race drivers. But the driver pool is as deep today as it ever has been in the INDYCAR SERIES. History always is viewed with rose-colored glasses, but look at this year’s lineup. You have a Mount Rushmore driver in Scott Dixon, first-ballot Hall of Famers in Power, Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou and Helio Castroneves, and more young stars than you can count. Seriously, when a winning driver as talented as Graham Rahal finishes 15th in the final standings, you know this is a golden age for driving depth in the series. Any mistake or miscalculation during a race weekend has dire, time sheet-tumbling circumstances. It sounds like PR spin, but it’s true: This series is a beast right now.