Felix Rosenqvist

Today’s question: What caught your eye the most Feb. 26-27 at the test at Sebring International Raceway?

Curt Cavin: I try hard to not get wrapped up in time sheets. Oh, I know they're important for a lot of reasons, but until every team is under the same circumstances – say on the clock in qualifying – one never knows what the team's objective for the day. For example, it was clear this week represented a first-day-of-school session for Dale Coyne Racing, and the two cars operated not only with a new set of drivers – Jack Harvey and Colin Braun – but without its full complement of engineers. But two things did catch my eye about the two-day Sebring test. One was the quick-out-of-the-box performance of Alex Palou, who without one major legal misstep could be the champion of the past three seasons. The other was Tuesday's effort of Felix Rosenqvist. The Swede was fourth on the chart in Meyer Shank Racing's No. 60 Honda. Again, we're still a long way from qualifying – and racing – in St. Petersburg, but that speed had to give team members an emotional boost. Last year was a tough one for MSR, and there are a lot of us hoping for a big rebound in 2024.

Eric Smith: It’s a test session, so it’s tricky to differentiate between what programs teams are working on. While speed charts aren’t the end-all, be-all for a test, I’m also not inclined to think that these 26 drivers were holding anything back during the NTT INDYCAR SERIES version of “Spring Training.” That’s why my takeaway is winless drivers from 2023 shining during the two-day test. Among the 2,115 laps circled around the 1.67-mile Sebring International Raceway, four of the top five times were among winless drivers a season ago. Will Power was second overall but quickest among the drivers who didn’t reach victory lane last season. Power’s drought sits at 27 races with him becoming the first reigning champion to be shutout of victory lane since Scott Dixon’s 2004 season. Pato O’Ward, riding a 22 race-drought after being victorious twice in both 2021 and 2022, was third quickest overall. Felix Rosenqvist (58-race skid) and Graham Rahal (107-race drought) rounded out the top five in the test, chiming in fourth and fifth, respectively. Even test leader Marcus Ericsson, the lone driver among the top five at Sebring to win a race last season, has gone 51 weeks without a win since he captured the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Seven different drivers won the 17 races during the 2023 season and the 14 events in 2020. Nine different drivers found victory lane in both 2021 and 2022. If this test is any indication, expect 2024 to rival those.

Paul Kelly: I already wrote about this, but Kyffin Simpson grabbed me by my collar and said, “Yo, dude, look at me,” with his performance at Sebring. Let’s face it: Simpson showed some promise in two seasons of INDY NXT by Firestone but never won a race. He earned just two podium finishes in 27 starts in INDYCAR’s development series. I wasn’t quite sure if this guy had the speed for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Well, proving why I write and edit and Chip Ganassi picks race drivers, the time sheets at Sebring showed I was wrong. Simpson was the quickest rookie at the test, ninth overall out of 26 drivers. He outpaced his more heralded new teammate, 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Linus Lundqvist. His best time was just .2165 of a second behind 2023 race winner and 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Marcus Ericsson, who led the test. There’s no doubt Simpson will ride the roller coaster of results of nearly every rookie, but his Sebring performance proved to me – and I’m sure many others – that the Cayman Islands resident has the raw speed to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and be a solid, contributing member of the five-driver CGR stable.