Josef Newgarden

Note: This is a new feature series in which Eric Smith of compiles a power rankings after each NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, a list of who he thinks are the top-10 drivers at that point of the season.

The first power rankings of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season are based on how the 2023 season ended combined with what we witnessed during Sunday’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

10. Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet)

The fifth-year Dutch driver had a strong season-debut at the 14-turn, 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit. VeeKay was fifth and sixth, respectively, in the pair of pre-qualifying practice sessions, qualified seventh Saturday afternoon and finished 10th Sunday. That comes in the wake of VeeKay having three top-11 results in the final four races of 2023.

9. Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet)

Fitting to start Rossi where he’s finished in the points standings in three of the last four NTT INDYCAR SERIES seasons. The 32-year-old driver, winless a year ago, did score six top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 17 starts in 2023. He also ended last season with three top-seven finishes over the final four events and began 2024 by finishing eighth in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

8. Felix Rosenqvist (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda)

Racing for a new team, coming to Meyer Shank Racing in 2024 after spending the past three years with Arrow McLaren, Rosenqvist was fourth in the preseason test a couple weeks ago at Sebring International Raceway. The Swedish driver backed that up by being quickest in the opening NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session of the season Friday afternoon in St. Petersburg. A day later, he broke the track record in the second round of the three-round knockout qualifying format and qualified on the front row in second place. For the 100-lap race, Rosenqvist finished seventh.

7. Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda)

Dixon had a quiet season-opening weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg. He was 12th and ninth, respectively, in the pre-qualifying practice sessions, qualified 11th and finished the race in ninth. However, he can’t be moved too low. He’s Scott Dixon, after all – a six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion who had 16 top-seven finishes in 17 starts a season ago, including three wins over the final four races. His average finishing spot over the final 11 races in 2023 was an eye-popping 3.36.

6. Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda)

Herta led the charge for the entire Honda camp in St. Petersburg, eighth-quickest and quickest in the pair of pre-qualifying practice sessions. He also qualified fourth in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global. He was the top Honda finisher in Sunday’s 100-lap race, in fifth.

5. Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet)

Power said he’s relishing the start of the 2024 season. “Life’s too short,” he said Sunday after the race in St. Petersburg. Power admitted his focus was split during his title defense in 2023 as he cared for his wife while she battled a serious health issue, Liz Power is feeling better and was in St. Petersburg last weekend to watch her husband start the year. Will Power was fourth and third, respectively, in the pre-qualifying practice sessions, qualified eighth and finished fourth.

4. Alex Palou (No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda)

Not many circumstances would force the reigning champion from the top of a power rankings list this soon. Palou returns to the same team, in the same car and with the same crew. But with Chevrolet’s strength in St. Petersburg, sweeping the top four finishing spots, Palou slides a bit. While he started 13th after lacking confidence in the car through NTT P1 Award qualifying, Palou said he found his swagger during the race and charged through the field to finish sixth. If not for what he said was an ill-timed caution, being well inside the top five wasn’t out of the question. Sunday’s result was his 19th consecutive top-eight finish, including six wins and 11 podiums.

3. Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet)

O’Ward was four points shy of being the top Chevrolet points scorer in 2023. He ended the season with 10 consecutive top-10 finishes and begins 2024 with another. O’Ward showed strength all race weekend in St. Petersburg. He was second and fourth in practice, third in qualifying and finished runner-up for the second consecutive year. He was also third quickest in the two-day preseason test at Sebring International Raceway.

2. Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet)

Scotty Mac was the top Chevrolet points scorer from 2023. McLaughlin boasted 14 top-10 finishes in 17 starts, including 11 straight to the season finish line. The New Zealand native improved six positions in Sunday’s 100-lap race, going from ninth to third, for his fourth podium result in the last eight races, dating back to last season.

1. Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet)

Newgarden was not a preseason pick to top this list after St. Petersburg. After all, three of his final four finishes in 2023 were 21st or worse. But it’s a new season, and Newgarden scored the NTT P1 Pole Award on Saturday, led 92 of 100 laps Sunday and stomped the field to the finish line by 7.9121 seconds. He earns the top ranking heading into the next race Sunday, March 24 at The Thermal Club for the $1 Million Challenge (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) in a made-for-TV exhibition event that pays $1 million to the winner.