The 100th Indy 500 rookie class boasts five fascinating stories

Rossi on yard of bricks. Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – This year’s rookie class for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is a nice average of the classes from the last four years since the introduction of the Dallara DW12 chassis in 2012, and comprises five distinct talents all with something of note to prove.

In Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi, there’s two Formula 1 refugees who’ve found a home in IndyCar, who’ve both punched above their weight thus far in a full season and are starting to come into their own in meshing with their teams.

Meanwhile in Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham, there’s a pair who have spent the last four years since 2012 battling between themselves in the Mazda Road to Indy. Both have two championships (Pigot 2015 Indy Lights, 2014 Pro Mazda; Brabham 2013 Pro Mazda, 2012 USF2000) but are only just at the beginning of their IndyCar careers.

And in Stefan Wilson, there’s the undoubted emotional favorite of the five drivers. While Wilson’s ’500 debut is in large part a tribute run to the memory of his late older brother Justin, it’s still an incredible comeback story for Stefan on his own – he hasn’t been in an IndyCar since 2013, and hasn’t run a full season in anything in five years.

Any of the five would be a worthy Sunoco Rookie of the Year award winner for this year’s Indianapolis 500, the 100th running of the sport’s most prestigious race.

And while the race itself may be fought among the traditional two big teams – Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams – it’s fair to say the ROTY honors for the year are incredibly wide open.

“It is a great rookie class with five of us out there this year,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “And all established drivers and all on good teams. So whoever wins rookie of the year is going to deserve it.”

Added Chilton to NBC Sports, “It is a strong year. I don’t think there’s this many years to have this many rookies. In the season obviously Spencer’s not doing the full year, nor is Brabham.

“But in this race there’s five of us. It’s a good size of the grid. And they’re all proven. They’ve won championships or on ovals before. No one can predict it until the last 10 laps, and even then you don’t know.”

Rossi at the yard of Bricks. Photo: IndyCar
Alexander Rossi at the yard of Bricks. Photo: IndyCar

Chilton and Rossi have been perhaps inextricably linked this year, probably because both have entered into IndyCar under similar circumstances.

Both sought the F1 path, got there, found the sledding tougher at the team formerly known as Marussia and have since come back Stateside. Chilton spent 2015 in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires learning the ropes while Rossi returned to America after a long European bow, easily becoming the best American abroad and the only one to obtain an F1 Superlicense.

While they were perhaps judged for lack of understanding the nature of what they were getting themselves into in IndyCar – and admittedly, I was an early critic – their adaptation and greater appreciation for the series itself and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is obvious.

It’s apparent that by looking at them, the Chilton and Rossi of three months ago have evolved into drivers fully engrossed, fully capable of performing and fully locked into a great battle not just for rookie-of-the-year honors but greater outright results in the series.

Rossi, in particular, has not only accepted the challenge of IMS, but also embraced it. He’s been the strongest rookie thus far this month and was unlucky to get bounced from the Fast Nine Shootout right at the gun on Saturday. But he’s been clean, consistent and fast thus far.

“It felt fast. It was definitely eye-opening in terms of not having any kind of prior comparison to a place like this,” Rossi said after Monday’s first post-practice press conference.

“I was glad we got through ROP without any issues.”

After qualifying 11th, best of the rookies, Rossi added, “Eleventh was one away from what we could’ve hoped for after yesterday, so we’ll take it.”

Chilton at speed. Photo: IndyCar
Chilton at speed. Photo: IndyCar

Chilton added, after stepping up from Indy Lights, “You have to drive it completely different because the speeds are greater, the rate and turn-in points are different. I’m really glad I did that last year because I wouldn’t have had that baseline I did previous.

“You’ve gotta learn to appreciate this place, but not be afraid of it.”

He said that earlier in the week, but found out how hard this place bites in pre-qualifying practice Saturday morning. A heavy crash in Turn 2 forced his team to a backup car, but Chilton got it in the field on Sunday and will start 22nd.

Brabham's funny face. Photo: IndyCar
Brabham’s funny face. Photo: IndyCar

Brabham and Pigot are in tougher part-time situations this month. Both had the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis as a tune-up, and Pigot also ran the season opener at St. Petersburg.

Beyond the Indianapolis 500 though, they don’t have any further starts guaranteed, althought the possibility exists you could see Pigot for further races at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Four years following their epic scrap at the USF2000 race at Lucas Oil Raceway for the win – Pigot ultimately prevailing over Brabham – they’re now vying for the same title this year.

“We had a crazy year in USF2000,” Brabham told NBC Sports about Pigot during INDYCAR Media Day back in February.

“We’d always been rivals. It didn’t matter the year or series. We were close. We had similar paths, fighting out in Mazda Road to Indy.

“It’s pretty ironic that, now you mentioned that, from that IRP oval race (in 2012) and then the next year, in Pro Mazda, it was me and him again. Now for rookie-of-the-year, I didn’t foresee it, but it’s cool. We joked at Cape (Motorsports) we’d be racing together the whole way, and now we are.”

Brabham is the embodiment of the spirit of the Brett “Crusher” Murray-led PIRTEK Team Murray, which shares a KV Racing Technology technical alliance. The Australian team’s brought a lot of fun to the Speedway this month and is also racing for a good cause, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.

Pigot, meanwhile, feels more prepared now having had a couple weekends under his belt – and he’s already fit in well with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

“Coming into this weekend I felt a lot more confident and comfortable,” Pigot told NBC Sports after finishing 11th in the Grand Prix. “I didn’t have question marks about what it feels like to do the whole race, or what it’s like in the long run. I knew more things, and it showed a bit in the race.”

Pigot recovered from this crash. Photo: IndyCar
Pigot recovered from this crash. Photo: IndyCar

His month on the oval got off to a rough start with a heavy crash on Wednesday, May 18, which forced the team to a backup car after his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing primary chassis was tubbed. But he made it back out after a great buildup job by the crew of a new one.

“I feel fine physically. Just feel bad for the guys,” he said. “I’m not really sure what happened there. Before I knew it, I was facing backwards.”

Brabham qualified 27th, Pigot 29th, for the race.


Where Wilson differs is in his recent experience by contrast to the others.

Chilton, Rossi, Pigot and Brabham have all raced regularly each of the last several years.

By contrast, Wilson’s first appearance in an Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America race earlier this month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca driving with GMG Racing marked his first time in a racecar in more than a year.

He hasn’t raced a full-time season since Indy Lights in 2011 – then in the series’ old car. His last Indy Lights oval start came at Fontana in 2012.

“Last year I didn’t drive a single car. There were times when I’ve been like, ‘What am I doing here? Am I past my welcome? Am I going to get a shot?” Wilson pondered.

“Am I ever going to get this shot, or should I be doing something else with my life?’

“I didn’t want that to be the case, but when you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for as long as I’ve been it’s easy to get those questions in your mind. It’s good to get this opportunity and see.”

Wilson, in the third KVRT entry, will start 30th.

Hopefully, the path for this year’s top rookie ends better than the either of the last seven top rookies.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was the 2008 top rookie (but wasn’t really a rookie in North American open-wheel racing), is the last Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year to have gone on and win a race in IndyCar. Of course, “RHR” has also bagged the 2012 series title and 2014 ‘500 race win, so he’s the recent gold standard for freshmen going onto bigger or better things.

Since 2009, top rookies have been Alex Tagliani, Simona de Silvestro, JR Hildebrand, Rubens Barrichello, Carlos Munoz, Kurt Busch and Gabby Chaves.

Of that lot, only Munoz still has a full-time ride since, although several other rookies have debuted in the interim and maintain their presence in IndyCar (Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe were in the 2011 ’500 to name a couple). Chaves is also working towards continuing beyond the month of May with Dale Coyne Racing. Tagliani and Hildebrand have become regular Indy-only additions to the field of 33.

With only Chilton and Rossi confirmed for the rest of this year, the other three will be looking to secure a rookie of the year title they can hang their hat on for the future.

Meanwhile either Chilton or Rossi could take the first step in matching Chaves’ feat achieved last year, top rookie in the Indianapolis 500 and the series, in the same season.

Motocross 2023: Results and points after SuperMotocross Round 18 at Hangtown


For the second consecutive week, Jett Lawrence had perfect results in the Pro Motocross round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California with a pair of moto wins and the overall victory, only this time he didn’t have Chase Sexton, who sat out the round with a concussion, to keep him honest in the second race.

Jett Lawrence’s performance in the first two Motocross rounds has him thinking of a rookie championship. – Align Media

Lawrence led all 16 laps of both races after taking the holeshot in the second moto and grabbing the lead from Dylan Ferrandis in Turn 2 of Moto 1. Lawrence claimed a four-second lead in Moto 1 and five seconds in Moto 2, but as dominant as it seems on paper, there were some exciting moments during the weekend. In the second race, Lawrence wanted to build an advantage that would allow him to maintain his pace and he nearly high-sided a couple of times in heavy ruts.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

In his second race back from a concussion, Ferrandis finished in the runner-up spot with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. While his finish of second overall goes into the record books, Pro Motocross points are rewarded for each individual race and that meant Ferrandis lost eight points in championship battle to Lawrence. With Sexton failing to mount up for the race, Ferrandis advanced to second in the standings with an 18-point gap to Lawrence. Equally important, Ferrandis gained ground in the SuperMotocross World Championship (WSX) points and now has a gap of 44 over 21st-place Justin Starling.

Cooper Webb is also in his second round since returning from a Supercross injury suffered in Nashville at the end of their season. Claiming results of fourth and second in the two races, Webb earned 40 SuperMotocross points at Hangtown and closed in on Sexton in the WSX battle. Sexton entered Hangtown with a large enough lead that he could not be overtaken, but he is now only 38 points up and could face a difficult decision next week at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado if he wants to hold onto his lead.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger had an adventurous weekend in which he seemed to close on Lawrence in his second race before crashing and dropping to fourth. Coupled with a fifth-place finish in Moto 1, he earned 35 points and was credited with fourth overall.

Cashing in on confidence he gained in the final rounds of the Supercross season, Adam Cianciarulo earned his first top-five of the Pro Motocross championship after narrowly missing out last week with a sixth. He earned the distinction with consistent results of fifth in Moto 1 and fourth in Moto 2.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Hunter Lawrence showed his back to the competition at Hangtown, just as he did the week prior at Fox Raceway. – Align Media

The Lawrence brothers made history last week as the first siblings to win in two Pro Motocross divisions on the same day. Fans should get accustomed to seeing this happen with some regularity as Hunter Lawrence posted identical results in Hangtown to those he had at Fox Raceway in the season opener.

In both races, Lawrence got off to a slow start in Moto 1 and had to claw his way back to the podium. He dominated Moto 2 in both rounds to earn the overall victories.

Justin Cooper did not allow Lawrence to gain much of an advantage in the Motocross points’ standings, however. Finishing second in both motos, the earned only one point less than Lawrence. His modest showing in Round 1 of the outdoor season has him 12 points out of first in the championship standings.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Haiden Deegan scored his first moto win in just his fourth start in the series. In the first race of the day, he had to withstand constant pressure from Cooper, but when his teammate closed in on him, Deegan reached down and found a little more speed. Now that he’s won one of these races, he has his sight set on challenging Lawrence for the title. Deegan is second in the Pro Motocross championship standings with a 10-point deficit to the leader.

Haiden Deegan scored podiums in both Motocross rounds of 2023. – Align Media

Tom Vialle tied his career-best finish of fourth overall with a seventh-place finish in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. Vialle was fourth last week in overall ranking and has one fourth-place finish in the Supercross series that came in the Triple Crown format at Arlington.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

RJ Hampshire rounded out the top five with a pair of fifth-place results and 32 points for the round. Even though the deficit is a whopping 61 points, Hampshire climbed to second in the SuperMotocross championship standings now that Jett Lawrence has moved to the big bikes.

Jalek Swoll struggled last week and finished 21st overall at Fox Raceway. This week, he finished on the cusp of 10th in both races with a ninth in Moto 1 and 11th in Moto 2. In the SuperMotocross standings, he has a lot of ground to make up. He currently sits 49th on the chart with a 70-point gap to Chance Hymas, who is on the bubble to earn a guaranteed position in the SMX Mains for the three playoff races that will be held on September.

2023 Motocross Results

Round 1: Jett Lawrence, Hunter Lawrence win

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 18: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top
Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s