The Obligatory 2023 IndyCar Season Predictions

On the eve of another season for the NTT IndyCar Series, protocol says that we should all have predictions on what this new season has in store for us. Unless I have a crystal ball (I don’t), it’s really a pointless exercise.

Did anyone really see Will Power winning the championship last season with only one win, while Josef Newgarden won five races? Who had Marcus Ericsson winning the Indianapolis 500? For the record, I picked Josef Newgarden to win last year’s championship, while Scott Dixon was my choice for the Indianapolis 500. Had Newgarden not crashed at Iowa while leading Race Two and Dixon had slowed down enough on his pits stop – I might have been right. But those things did happen, so I was wrong on both counts.

I will make a championship pick at the end, only because that’s what everyone does – but it’s going to be nothing more than an educated guess. No one really knows, because there are way too many variables. What I think is a little more insightful is to predict which teams and drivers will be successful in 2023, which ones will have a break-out year and who will end up with a massively disappointing season.

It’s pretty easy to say which teams will have a strong season. It’ll be pretty much the usual suspects each and every year – Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Arrow McLaren and Andretti Autosport, although not necessarily in that order. Within each of those teams some drivers will obviously be more successful than others. I think it’s not going out on a limb to say that the champion will come from one of those teams. Within IndyCar you have to go back to 2002 when Sam Hornish won for Panther Racing, to find a championship outside of those teams. In Champ Car, it was 2007 with Newman/Hass and Sébastien Bourdais. It would be an upset of epic proportions to see the 2023 champion come from a team other than those four.

Who will be the breakout drivers of 2023? I was extremely impressed with what David Malukas did at Dale Coyne Racing last season. He lost Takuma Sato as a teammate for this season, and gets a rookie teammate in Sting Ray Robb – but I think Malukas is going to have a phenomenal second season at Coyne, before being snatched away for next year by one of the bigger teams. Dale Coyne has developed a strong reputation for developing young drivers recently on a very small budget. I think Malukas will win a race this season, with two not being out of the question.

I also think Kyle Kirkwood will rebound from his terrible season at Foyt. I think he was trying too hard to make something out of nothing last season. Now that he has a car and a team to match his potential, I think he will open a lot of eyes in 2023.

Callum Ilott will be solid again this season, but his Juncos Hollinger Racing team will hold him back. They do well for what they have, but they are simply too small and too new. I also think he will be hurt by the team expanding to two cars this season.

Then there are those teams that I think will find tough sledding in 2023. Although they have an intriguing driver in their primary car, I’m no longer buying the annual pre-season hype at AJ Foyt Enterprises. I think Santino Ferrucci will get as much as he possibly can out of the No. 14 car, but it won’t be enough. I foresee that team bringing up the rear in the standings at the end of the season.

I also think that Ed Carpenter Racing will not spend a whole lot of time in the front of the grid. I think until Ed Carpenter hangs up his helmet for good, they will always be less of what they can be on the ovals. As far as the other two cars go, Conor Daly has shown us he can make a slow car fast, but he sometimes struggles when he is supposed to be good. I think I’ve seen enough of Rinus VeeKay to decide that he is not the real deal. He is the opposite of Daly. When he has a slow car, he gets frustrated and has a bad day. When he gets a fast car, he has brain fades and stuffs it into the wall. Until he matures a lot more than what he has shown, I think he will end up being one of those drivers whose results never matched his potential.

Unfortunately, I think Meyer Shank Racing will be about where they were last season. They have the same drivers in Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, which was good enough for fifteenth and eighteenth in the championship respectively. I’m not sure you’ll see much improvement this season.

I’m perplexed whenever I look at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. On paper, they should be doing much better than they do. Graham Rahal is a likeable and capable driver. Yet he barely outperformed his rookie teammate Christian Lundgaard last season. Lundgaard was really the lone bright spot for the team last year. By earning five Top-Ten finishes last season (with one being a second-place), he was rewarded with the Hy-Vee Sponsorship that Jack Harvey was tabbed for. Harvey is in desperate need of a turnaround season, or he may not even be in that car by the time the series gets to Laguna Seca.

Getting back to the top teams, not every driver in that group will be a championship contender. At Andretti, I think you can immediately eliminate Devlin DeFrancesco from the conversation. Although he’ll be fun to watch, you can probably count out Kyle Kirkwood. That leaves Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta. Grosjean had a disappointing year last season as he went from Coyne to Andretti. His popularity with fans dropped immensely in that transition as well. I am expecting a bounce-back season from Grosjean, and I expect him to be in the mix all season. Colton Herta certainly has a ton of potential. We’ve all witnessed it. But we’ve also seen a ton of inconsistency from him also. He still needs to grow up some, before I’ll be convinced he is a legitimate threat to win the championship.

At Ganassi, one of their cars will have two drivers, as Sato and Marcus Armstrong will spend time in the No. 11 car. Marcus Ericsson won the Indianapolis 500 last year, but otherwise had a so-so season. Double points at Indianapolis bolstered him to a sixth place finish in the standings, but he would’ve been even further down this season – now that double-points are mercifully a thing of the past. He really tapered off in the last third of the season. He wilted when the championship was heating up. I am not counting on Ericsson being a factor in this year’s championship. Alex Palou will be a lame-duck the entire season. Last year, he seemed to block out all of the noise from his legal hassles when his own team sued him. I’m not so sure he can successfully compartmentalize everything throughout the entire season this year. I think it will eventually take its toll and Palou will fade down the stretch. That leaves Scott Dixon, who you can never count out.

Arrow McLaren is the wildcard here. They have new faces on the pit stand and a new face in a new car. Alexander Rossi joins the team who has annoyed other teams as they raid the paddock for talent. While I’m sure Rossi sees this as a new beginning, I think there will be a lot of growing pains for him and McLaren this season. Felix Rosenqvist is an almost certain lame duck, as he will essentially be auditioning for other teams all season. He will be solid, but won’t be in the championship conversation. Pato O’Ward will be McLaren’s best shot.

Team Penske is the only team from those Top-Four teams with an unchanged driver lineup. Will Power won the championship last season, while Josef Newgarden was a close second. Scott McLaughlin won three races in his breakout season last year and finished fourth. Team Penske accounted for nine wins out of the seventeen races. Some are saying McLaughlin could win the championship this season, but I think he still needs one more year of seasoning.

Out of the Top-Four teams, I’ve identified Romain Grosjean, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward, Will Power and Josef Newgarden as the only real legitimate championship contenders. That’s five drivers. The math says Newgarden, since he won more races than anyone last year. I think he will come close, possible second – but he won’t win it. Will Power will have a solid year, but that’s what he had last season. You usually need more than that, and it won’t be enough this year. O’Ward and McLaren are getting closer and they’ll win it all one year – just not this year. It won’t be Grosjean either. He had a disappointing season last year and he’s just trying to keep his job.

So, if I’ve got to make a prediction, here it is. Experience will rule this season as Scott Dixon will win his seventh championship. Before you say he’s too old, look at what he did last season. He made one careless mistake at Indianapolis, that knocked him from what looked like a fairly certain win, to a twenty-first place finish. With double points, that hurt him more than it should have. Still he rebounded and had two wins after that debacle. He was absolutely crushed after the 500. A lesser driver would have folded after that speeding violation, but he picked up two wins after that. In fact, he only had one finish out of the Top-Ten (a twelfth) after that bitter disappointment at Indianapolis.

While it seems like Scott Dixon has been racing in IndyCar for over thirty years, he is only 42. That’s nothing. Tom Brady won two Super Bowls past the age of 42. AJ Foyt won his fourth Indianapolis 500 at age 42 and Helio Castroneves was 46, when he won his fourth. Until Scott Dixon’s talent and desire visibly drops off, you can never count him out. He wants that seventh title and I think he gets it in 2023. We’ll see.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “The Obligatory 2023 IndyCar Season Predictions”

  1. I was leaning toward Juncos as my longshot team to wager on during the season and talked myself out of it a couple of times. Not now! I have found the concrete prediction I was looking for that validates Juncos Racing as my money team in 2023.>(Callum Ilott will be solid again this season, but his Juncos Hollinger Racing team will hold him back. They do well for what they have, but they are simply too small and too new. I also think he will be hurt by the team expanding to two cars this season.)< Thank you, George.

  2. I agree with everything you said except the part about Alex Palou. I would argue it will be far easier for him and the team to compartmentalize the situation this year. Last year there was great uncertainty and active litigation. It’s all settled now. Sure, I suppose there are feelings to consider, but if all parties involved act like professionals there should be no other distractions. Everyone involved knows the deal now. It’s a one-off season for an immensely talented driver racing for a championship caliber team. Chip may not be happy losing Alex or the NTT Data sponsorship his future team already poached, but I predict he’ll enjoy the championship Palou earns for him in the 2023 IndyCar season.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I see little reason to think Grosjean will outperform Herta this season. I expect Herta will be better, but how much better will probably depend on the level that the team is performing at. He won’t contend for the championship unless he figures out how to stay up front on the ovals. The same could be said about Grosjean too, it is just that Herta can find raw speed that Grosjean doesn’t quite have.

    Ericsson would still have finished 6th last year even without double points, which I think he is capable of doing again this year. He’s proven to be a consistent finisher, just one who is usually in the “Graham Rahal zone” (5th to 9th) rather than a regular visitor to the podium.

    Whether the issue is him or Ganassi’s cars I don’t know, but Dixon was not one of the series’ fastest few drivers last season (he had his worst average starting position since his miserable 2005 season). That doesn’t mean he can be counted out of the championship, but his savvy racecraft can only take him so far if he is regularly starting mid pack.

    If Penske figures out Indy this year, I would be surprised if one of their drivers doesn’t win the championship. Newgarden has been their best at Indy the past 3 years and as good as Power and McLaughlin are, I think Newgarden is still the team’s fastest and raciest driver.

  4. I’m rolling with Palou and Scotty Mac as my top two with a close 3rd of Newgarden.

    • OliverW Says:


      Palou and McLaughlin. Then Joseph.

      Good article however completely ignores engineering changes for the drivers which are a major factor. Malukas guy going to CGR for example.

      What I do know is that we are in for another fantastic season.

      Let’s get 6 months and 17 races out to 8 and 20.

  5. I will take Will Power for a repeat of back-to-back Indycar Championships in 2023

  6. Yannick Says:

    Among the young drivers, both Lundgaard and Malukas are likely to impress.
    Alexander Rossi is a strong addition to the former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and the change of scenery will be good for him.
    Regarding the championship, the outcome is likely to be similar to the previous year, given how established these teams are with the current car.

  7. James T Suel Says:

    I guess Dixon is a solid bet. But iam going with Newgarden, I think he’s the best ! If that car had not failed in the 2nd race in Iowa he would be the 22 champ. He needs to get his act together at the Indianapolis 500. NEWGARDEN!!

  8. I don’t see how Palou, Rossi, and O’Ward can’t win races and distinguish themselves in this season.
    Palou has the confidence of a recent champion and won last year in ‘lame duck’ status.
    Veterans Dixon and Newgarden will be strong again.
    And McLaughlin will be strong again. He took to IndyCar racing like a duck takes to water.

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