Marcus Armstrong

Today’s question: Which NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver is poised for a breakthrough this season?

Curt Cavin: This is a difficult one because I think there are several drivers who fit the category, and I think one of them will be a Swede – take your pick. But I think the best answer is Kyle Kirkwood, who is entering his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Let’s start with the fact Kirkwood has been slower to get rolling in his decorated career than the results might indicate, and I get the sense he is really due to make waves at this level as he did in dominating the junior categories. Kirkwood, now 25, already has two race wins – Long Beach and Nashville last year – and I could see him putting together three or four this year. Also keep in mind that he was better on the ovals last year than meets the eye. He had one of the fastest cars and was running in the top 10 late in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge when he came upon the helpless car of Felix Rosenqvist at the entrance of Turn 2. That ended his race. He also finished in the top 11 in both races at Iowa Speedway. Figure that the arrival of Marcus Ericsson to Andretti Global will help the organization on ovals, and I see Kirkwood benefiting. I think he’ll end the year in the top seven or eight.

Eric Smith: Marcus Armstrong. I feel like he’s the most overlooked driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing camp. Alex Palou and Scott Dixon should rightfully garner most of the attention since they’ve combined to win eight NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships, including three of the last four, and just went 1-2 in points a year ago. Rookie teammate Linus Lundqvist is getting his due, as well. However, what about the reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year? Armstrong had five top-10 finishes in 12 starts a season ago but most importantly was running at the finish in all 12 races, completing 99.6 percent (1,046 of 1,050) of his laps. He also showed signs of breaking out last season by leading five laps at Road America and having a top-11 finish in four of his first five races. His blueprint is exactly what a pair of sophomore drivers in Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Lundgaard did in 2023, breaking out and reaching victory lane three combined times, twice for Kirkwood and once for Lundgaard. Armstrong is back with the same team with great experience and should follow suit. Chip Ganassi likes winners. Armstrong will deliver.

Paul Kelly: Christian Lundgaard. The Dane already enjoyed a bit of a breakthrough with his first career victory last season at Toronto, and he established himself as the unofficial leader of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing by finishing as the highest-placing driver in the standings from the team. In fact, Lundgaard was the top finisher in points in 2023 among drivers not employed by Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske or Arrow McLaren. But this is the year I think he leaps from being very good on certain tracks to becoming a threat to win on nearly every track. RLL must improve its oval racing program for Lundgaard to achieve that goal. His top circle-track finish of 2023, 13th at Iowa, was the best oval result of the season for RLL. Gulp. But if RLL can improve its oval package the way it did its road- and street course setups during the second half of last season, look out. Lundgaard could win multiple races and finish in the top five of the standings. A championship challenge also isn’t out of the question. The dude is good, seriously good.