Tight racing

Note: The Penske Entertainment editorial staff is looking back at the 10 biggest moments of 2023 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

For a series that’s been around for more than 100 years, it becomes increasingly harder and harder for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to break new barriers. Nevertheless, the 2023 season was another stat-stuffing campaign led by a historic 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Josef Newgarden passing Marcus Ericsson on the final lap of an instant classic was just the third time that the Indianapolis 500 was decided on a last-lap pass. That pass also marked the 52nd and final lead change of the 200-lap race, the third-highest total in Indianapolis 500 history.

Newgarden crossed the Yard of Bricks just .0974 of a second ahead of Ericsson to mark the fourth-closest finish in the 107-year history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Both were two of 14 different drivers to lead at least one lap in the race, the second-highest total in Indianapolis 500 history.

Qualifying to set the field for the “500” this year also was a record-breaking event. Among the records set were the fastest pole-winning average (234.217 mph, Alex Palou), the fastest front row (234.180 mph) and fastest field (232.184 mph) in history.

That was just the start. Other milestones included 84 attempts on the opening day of qualifications, a record set in 2019, and the tightest gap between the polesitter and No. 2 qualifier (.0040 of a second) in Indy 500 history, a mark that stood for 53 years.

Palou also became the first Spaniard to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500. Rookie Agustin Canapino became the first Argentine to qualify for the race since Raul Riganti in 1940. Katherine Legge became the fastest female ever over one lap at IMS (231.596 mph) and produced the fastest qualifying four-lap average for a female driver (231.070 mph).

Benjamin Pedersen broke rookie records for a one-lap speed (233.297 mph) and four-lap qualifying average (232.739 mph).

The records weren’t exclusive to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either.

There were 27 starters at each race outside of the “500” for the first time in INDYCAR SERIES history.

Once on track, these drivers delivered. There were 7,753 on-track passes, 1,872 more than in 2022 (31.83% increase). INDYCAR SERIES on-track passing records were broken at six racetracks – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Portland International Raceway, World Wide Technology Raceway, Iowa Speedway and Road America – in 2023.

The 2023 season also featured the most INDYCAR SERIES combined laps turned by its field in the last 12 years, with the total of 103,309 laps up 5.26% over the 2022 season.

The Gallagher Grand Prix produced the closest INDYCAR SERIES finish ever on the IMS road course. The Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix featured an INDYCAR SERIES-record 26 cars finishing on the lead lap. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach had sold-out grandstands and 192,000 fans over the course of the three-day weekend, the most since the INDYCAR merger in 2008.