With one month-plus til St. Petersburg, still plenty on outside looking in


The Verizon IndyCar Series silly season is down to, in all likelihood, four full-time remaining seats left to fill. Those four are the fourth car at Andretti Autosport, the second car at KV Racing Technology and the two cars at Dale Coyne Racing.

But there are still plenty of drivers on the outside looking in, or with their plans yet to be confirmed, for IndyCar and the rest of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder before the March 29 St. Petersburg opener. Here’s a look at who’s left standing, beyond what we wrote last winter:

  • Justin Wilson: Widely linked to Andretti’s fourth seat, but still in a waiting game on budget. The later the offseason gets, and the closer the St. Petersburg opener approaches, it becomes more dangerous as to whether the driver known as “Bad ass” will be back for a 12th season in IndyCar.
  • Ryan Briscoe: Unlikely to land a full-time opportunity, Briscoe’s best odds may be for an Indianapolis 500-only seat alongside his Corvette Racing commitments at Sebring and Le Mans.
  • Carlos Huertas, Sebastian Saavedra: The pair of Colombians finalized late deals last offseason, and would need to be in a position to do likewise if they are to return for their second and fourth full-time seasons, respectively.
  • Simona de Silvestro: Reportedly making waves about an IndyCar comeback, and has IndyCar photos linked to her social media pages, but thus far not publicly confirmed to one of the remaining seats.
  • Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand: Two former teammates but not on the brink of anytime full-time. Outside of 2010, Servia’s been on an IndyCar grid every year since 2000. Hildebrand’s best shot was at CFH Racing, but that road/street course slot went to Luca Filippi.
  • Conor Daly, Alexander Rossi: Daly was the “people’s pick” for the SPM second car that has now gone to James Jakes, but now in an utter predicament, career-wise. Focused on IndyCar after parts of four years in Europe, but it might be too late on either side of the pond for anything decent full-time, now. Rossi is in a similar predicament; he was shown to have a seat fitting at Dale Coyne Racing toward the end of 2014, but hasn’t had additional news follow.
  • The rest of the testers: Right now Stefano Coletti, Davide Valsecchi, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Rocky Moran Jr. and Daniel Abt all have one thing in common: they’ve all tested at least once this offseason and could well be in the frame for the remaining seats. Coletti and Gonzalez appear closer to seats than the other three at the moment.
  • Zach Veach, A.N. Other: Veach is another of several linked to the vacant Andretti seat. Every year there always seems to be at least one surprise driver nominated who shows up late in the game, usually in the second Dale Coyne Racing car, so it would be weird to expect anything different this year.

Also of note, talented young drivers Sage Karam and Scott Hargrove are only confirmed for St. Petersburg in their respective No. 8 cars in both IndyCar and Indy Lights. Karam will make his Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar debut (second overall start), while Hargrove will be behind the wheel of 8Star Motorsports’ chassis for both the driver and team’s Indy Lights debut.

Talented prospect and past Pro Mazda/USF2000 champion Matthew Brabham, who raced in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport last year, also is yet to have his program finalized for this season.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)