IndyCar 2019 preview: Say hello to ROY contenders


Editor’s Note: Over the last two days, MotorsportsTalk has been previewing all full-time entries competing in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series. Our fourth preview features the full-season drivers competing for rookie of the year in 2019.

This week’s previews so far:

The Champions

The Veterans

The Young Stars

The 2019 season begins on March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app. Additional coverage can be found on NBC Sports Gold.

Colton Herta – #88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda


Second-generation racer Colton Herta enters his first full NTT IndyCar Series season after a successful Indy Lights career that included six wins, nine poles, and a runner-up finish in last year’s championship. At age 18, the son of ex-driver and current team owner Bryan Herta will be the youngest racer on the circuit, but he’s already had an impressive 2019 so far. In January, he helped BMW & Rahal Letterman Lanigan win the GTLM class in his first start in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and last month in IndyCar testing at Ciruit of the Americas, he topped the speed charts in three of the four sessions. It’s raised expectations a bit for his rookie season, but while Herta and the entire #88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing team are hoping to hit a home run, a few singles to start would be nice.


Felix Rosenqvist – #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Malcolm Griffiths/FIA Formula E via Getty Images

Rosenqvist will be the third driver to pilot the #10 NTT Honda in three years, but there likely won’t be a fourth driver next season as the Swedish has been a driver that team owner Chip Ganassi has had an eye on for a long time. The Formula E veteran first tested for Ganassi at Mid-Ohio in 2016 and has already proven to be fast in preseason testing, finishing sixth quickest overall at COTA, ahead of teammate Scott Dixon. Driving for an established team like Ganassi, Rosenqvist is expected to perform well this year. Ganassi’s #10 car hasn’t reached victory lane since Tony Kanaan won at Fontana in 2014. Rosenqvist enters the 2019 season with an excellent opportunity to end that drought.


Marcus Ericsson – #7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Fellow Swede Marcus Ericsson finds himself in a new home for 2019. The former Formula One pilot will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut Sunday, driving the #7 Honda for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Ericsson finds himself in unfamiliar territory in his inaugural IndyCar season, but while he has never competed on an oval before, his F1 experience will surely help him on the road and street circuits. And after five years at the back of the F1 grid, 2019 is a golden opportunity for Ericsson to show what he’s truly made of. It’s too early to predict whether or not he’ll win this year, but he should be fairly competitive from the start.


Santino Ferrucci – #19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda


Santino Ferrucci enters 2019 returning to Dale Coyne Racing, where he ran four races last season with a best finish of 11th at Sonoma. Like Ericsson, Ferrucci – who spent nearly seven years in Europe trying to make it to Formula One – will learn to race on ovals for the first time in his career, starting with the biggest race of them all, the Indianapolis 500. His road and street course prospects look more promising for now, and he was a respectable 10th overall over the combined test sessions last month at COTA. Once heralded by GQ as “America’s most promising young driver”, Ferrucci is also seeking validation from fans and peers. Last year in Formula 2 at Silverstone, he had a public meltdown in which he purposely crashed into a teammate during the race. The subsequent backlash damaged his reputation, and Ferrucci has acknowledged his mistakes. If he can find speed and, just as importantly, avoid controversy, it’ll be a good start to earning the respect of IndyCar fans and making sure his decision to return Stateside was the right move.

Roger Penske discusses flying tire at Indy 500 with Dallara executives: ‘We’ve got to fix that’


INDIANAPOLIS – Roger Penske spoke with Dallara executives Monday morning about the loose tire that went flying over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway catchfence and into a Turn 2 parking lot.

The left-rear wheel from Kyle Kirkwood’s No. 27 Dallara-Honda was sheared off in a collision at speed as Kirkwood tried to avoid the skidding No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 183 of the 107th Indianapolis 500.

No one seriously was hurt in the incident (including Kirkwood, whose car went upside down and slid for several hundred feet), though an Indianapolis woman’s Chevy Cruze was struck by the tire. The Indy Star reported a fan was seen and released from the care center after sustaining minor injuries from flying debris in the crash.

During a photo shoot Monday morning with Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden at the IMS Yard of Bricks, Penske met with Dallara founder and owner Gian Paolo Dallara and Dallara USA CEO Stefano dePonti. The Italian company has been the exclusive supplier of the current DW12 chassis to the NTT IndyCar series for 11 years.

“The good news is we didn’t have real trouble with that tire going out (of the track),” Penske, who bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020, told a few reporters shortly afterward. “I saw it hit. When it went out, I saw we were OK. I talked to the Dallara guys today. We’re going to look at that, but I guess the shear (force) from when (Rosenqvist’s) car was sitting, (Kirkwood’s car) went over and just that shear force tore that tether. Because we have tethers on there, and I’ve never seen a wheel come off.

“That to me was probably the scariest thing. We’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to fix that so that doesn’t happen again.”

Asked by NBC Sports if IndyCar would be able to address it before Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix or before the next oval race at Iowa Speedway, Penske said, “The technical guys should look at it. I think the speed here, a couple of hundred (mph) when you hit it vs. 80 or 90 or whatever it might be, but that was a pinch point on the race.”

In a statement released Monday to WTHR and other media outlets, IndyCar said that it was “in possession of the tire in Sunday’s incident and found that the tether did not fail. This is an isolated incident, and the series is reviewing to make sure it does not happen again. IndyCar takes the safety of the drivers and fans very seriously. We are pleased and thankful that no one was hurt.”

IndyCar provided no further explanation for how the wheel was separated from the car without the tether failing.

IndyCar began mandating wheel suspension tethers using high-performance Zylon material after a flying tire killed three fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a May 1, 1999 race. Three fans also were struck and killed by a tire at Michigan International Speedway during a July 26, 1998 race.

The IndyCar tethers can withstand a force of more than 22,000 pounds, and the rear wheel tethers were strengthened before the 2023 season.