The first NTT IndyCar Series race of 2023 was action-packed. Big accidents, championship contenders colliding, and a close battle for the win saw Marcus Ericsson go to victory lane.
Plenty to talk about, so let’s get into it. Five takeaways from the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
1. Ericsson survives again
Whenever Marcus Ericsson wins in IndyCar, he capitalizes on rival mistakes. At the Detroit Grand Prix in 2021, the Swedish driver capitalized when Will Power’s car couldn’t restart after a late race red flag. At Nashville the same year, the former F1 driver survived a collision early on. Only to gain the lead of the race after a late caution reshuffled matters. Last year during the Indy 500 he capitalized on Scott Dixon speeding in pit lane to win the race. Last Sunday, he saw multiple potential race winners crash out and at the end, Pato O’Ward’s technical glitch allowed him through to the lead. It’s remarkable and a quality to be there to pick up the scraps. Who knows, maybe a few more of these wins, and he can win the IndyCar Series Championship.
2. Andretti’s Agony
Andretti Autosport have not had the greatest of times in recent years. The start of this IndyCar season seemed promising in qualifying. Three of the four cars, Romain Grosjean, Colton Herta, and Kyle Kirkwood made it to the Fast Six, with Grosjean and Herta on the front row. During the race, however, things took a turn. All four cars were involved in accidents out of their control. Devlin DeFrancesco was involved in the massive pile-up at the start, and Kirkwood flew over the top of Rinus Veekay and Jack Harvey. Grosjean and Herta’s accidents must have especially been infuriating for Michael Andretti. The two contenders were unceremoniously punted by Penske rivals Scott McLaughlin and Will Power. Hopefully, the pace the Andretti’s showed all weekend isn’t a one-off. Because we’d be in for one hell of a season if Andretti Autosport can mount a title challenge.
3. Messy Penske
Team Penske had a tough time in the streets of St. Petersburg. Throughout the entire weekend, things were messy. Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden touched the wall on multiple occasions during practice and qualifying. Making matters worse, Newgarden got eliminated in round 1 of qualifying, Will Power in round 2, and McLaughlin in the Fast Six spun spectacularly after contact with the wall. McLaughlin certainly had the pace to win the race, but the defending IndyCar Champion’s uncharacteristic crash with Grosjean took him out for the win. Power got sent to the back for his collision with Herta and Newgarden’s car caught flame late in the race. In the end, Power’s 7th place was the best result for Team Penske.
4. Juncos Great Result
Surviving the chaos is one thing, however, starting from 22nd and finishing 5th is outright phenomenal. Especially for a small team like Juncos Hollinger Racing. Callum Ilott amazed IndyCar fans last year and started out on the right foot again in 2023. Sure there were a lot of DNFs, but staying ahead of drivers like Graham Rahal, Will Power, and Alex Palou is very impressive. His teammate, 33-year-old rookie Agustín Canapino, did well as well this weekend. While his race pace wasn’t great, the Argentinian driver stayed out of major trouble and finished as the last driver on the lead lap in 12th. We could see a lot more of this from the duo going forward.
5. New Year, Same Dixon
Every year, the question gets asked, how much longer can Scott Dixon stay on an elite level in IndyCar? If the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is anything to go by, the six-time IndyCar Series champion is not done yet. Admittedly, the start of his weekend was messy with a crash in practice. During the race, his collision with Felix Rosenqvist set off the chain reaction which caused that huge pile-up. After this, however, Dixon did his usual Dixon thing. Mostly under the radar, but at the end of the race, he was right there with O’Ward and Ericsson to fight for the win. He stayed out of trouble, and you could even argue the Ganassi driver was unlucky with the timing of a caution. At the end of the day at 42 years of age, the New Zealander is still as quick as he’s ever been.
- Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) – 51
- Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren) – 41
- Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) – 36
- Alexander Rossi (Arrow McLaren) – 32
- Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) – 30
The start of the 2023 IndyCar Series is behind us. Unfortunately, the next time we see these cars in competition is quite some time away. It is four weeks until the IndyCar Series’ first oval race of the season on the calendar. The PPG 375 at the Texas Motor Speedway on April 2nd, 2023. It’s a shame IndyCar can’t capitalize on the momentum after the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, as there is a month between the two races. Nonetheless, this IndyCar season has all hallmarks needed to be one for the ages.