With the pre-season test at Thermal Club now done and dusted, the NTT Indycar Series is closing in on the 2023 season.
Team Penske’s Will Power is the man with the target on his back after he prevailed in a titanic title battle in 2022 to double his championship tally.
The Australian headlines an unchanged Penske stable with Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin but there are a swarm of drivers hoping to topple the series’ staple team.
Here are five drivers to look out for ahead of what could be a defining year for them on track.
1. Alexander Rossi
After finishing second and third respectively in 2018 and 2019, Rossi has endured a difficult run of results, winning just one race in three seasons with Andretti Autosport.
A best championship finish of ninth (2020 and 2022) since COVID-19 struck has finally seen the camel’s back broken and the Californian has jumped ship to Arrow McLaren.
A bolstered three-car lineup is set to make this McLaren’s biggest year yet since their return to Indycar and the capture of 2016 Indy 500 winner Rossi might be the catalyst for both him and the team to reach new heights.
2. Simon Pagenaud
While Rossi took the headline act in 2016, Pagenaud was the man who claimed the overall title with Penske but things haven’t gone swimmingly since then.
The Frenchman left the Captain’s enterprise at the end of 2021 to join Meyer Shank Racing where he scored one podium last season.
It may have been an underwhelming inaugural season with MSR but they have proven before that they can mix it with the bets of Indycar and Pagenaud has all the tools to take them to a famous victory in 2023.
3. Jack Harvey
The Brit’s results in Indycar don’t represent his true pace as he regularly found himself in the top five on pace during his time at Meyer Shank Racing.
Harvey has now moved ship to Rahal Letterman Lanigan but he could not match the standout performances of rookie teammate Christian Lundgaard last season.
The Dane’s emergence as the quickest driver in the RLL stable and Graham Rahal’s consistency puts pressure on Harvey to find his best form again and he will be a driver full of determination when the green flag drops at St Petersburg.
4. Callum Ilott
Juncos Hollinger Racing are perhaps Indycar’s smallest team in terms of size but that didn’t stop them and British youngster Callum Ilott ruffling some feathers in 2022.
In a one-car entry, they scored two top ten finishes last season and Ilott proved his raw pace by running right near the front on more than one occasion.
He now has Agustin Canapino as a teammate to take some of the setup workload off his shoulders and that could allow the 24-year-old to make more headway across the pond.
5. Kyle Kirkwood
With Rossi’s exit from Andretti Autosport, Kirkwood has finally been rewarded with the race seat many expected him to have in 2022.
Andretti opted to sign Devlin DeFrancesco instead leaving the young American to race with A.J. Foyt Enterprises in 2022 where he was unable to show off his true talents.
Taking Rossi’s seat brings with it a wave of expectation for one of the most talented American drivers to emerge in years and results have to come quickly and consistently for a team on the decline over recent years.