IndyCar 2019 preview: Six young guns to watch

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Editor’s Note: Over the last two days, MotorsportsTalk has been previewing all full-time entries competing in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series. Our third preview features six young drivers hopeful for a success this season.

Read our first feature on champion drivers by clicking here and our second feature on seasoned veterans by clicking here.

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.

Alexander Rossi – #27 Andretti Autosport Honda

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Entering his fourth full NTT IndyCar Series season, Alexander Rossi has firmly established himself as the face of IndyCar’s future. Finishing runner-up to Scott Dixon in the points standings, Rossi had breakout year in 2018, winning at Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Pocono. The pride of Nevada City, CA also won three poles, finished on the podium eight times and led 415 laps. Not too shabby for a driver who entered the series on a whim a few seasons ago after attempting to make a name for himself in Formula One.

Rossi has since found a home in IndyCar, and is a clear favorite to win races and compete for the championship once again this year. Finishing second overall during preseason testing at Circuit of the Americas last month, Rossi seems to have not lost any speed over the offseason. Having already won the sport’s two biggest races in the Indianapolis 500 and Grand Prix of Long Beach in his relatively young career, Rossi’s main goal this year will surely be to win his first championship.


Ed Jones – #20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet

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Ed Jones enters 2019 driving for his third team in as many seasons. Driving for Dale Coyne Racing in 2017 and powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing last season, Jones makes the move to Ed Carpenter Racing, where he will drive the #20 Chevrolet-powered entry on the road and street courses while boss Ed Carpenter takes the wheel on the ovals. Jones will also attempt to qualify for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 (May 26 on NBC) driving car #64 for the team.

The 2017 rookie of the year might have not made much noise last season, but the 24-year-old still has time to establish himself as a driver. Jones had a best finish of third twice last season at Long Beach and the second round in Detroit, and though at the bottom of the timesheet for the majority of preseason testing, Jones and his team will certainly look to outperform expectations this year. The team could benefit from being in the spotlight, as as it has yet to announce a new partner to replace longtime primary sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka, who left the team at the conclusion of last year.


Spencer Pigot – #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

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The 25-year-old Spencer Pigot enters his fourth NTT IndyCar Series season this year and returns to Ed Carpenter Racing, where he ran a respectable campaign season, finishing fourth at Portland and second at Iowa. With team owner Ed Carpenter giving Pigot another season to mature, and even comparing him to former ECR driver Josef Newgarden, Pigot can rest assured that he has the trust and confidence of his team owner.

Time will only tell how Pigot’s 2019 campaign prevails, but this season could certainly be a breakout year for the Floridian, who begins the season racing at his home track of St. Petersburg. Pigot may be the driver who gives Ed Carpenter Racing their first victory since Josef Newgarden at Iowa in 2016, so keep an eye on the #21 car.


Zach Veach – #26 Andretti Autosport Honda

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Alexander Rossi may be the poster boy for Andretti Autosport right now, but Zach Veach will likely challenge for that title soon. At only 24 years of age, the Ohio native enters his second year in a three-year contract with Andretti, having finished his rookie season with five top 10 finishes, including a hard fought fifth at Gateway, which he considers his best drive so far.

That will likely change this year, as Veach is expected to improve in his sophomore season.  Veach will likely score his first podium and possibly even his first win now that he has a full-season behind his back this year. With new sponsor Gainbridge on the sidepod, Veach has extra incentive to win the biggest race of the year, as the online financial services company who sponsors Veach’s #26 is also the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 – a race Veach has wanted to win since he was a child.


Matheus Leist – #4 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet

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One of the youngest drivers on the paddock, Matheus Leist is still learning the ins and outs of NTT IndyCar Series competition. Lesit finished 18th in the points standings last season, with only one other full-time competitor finishing behind him. Thus, Leist is essentially guaranteed to fare better this year. But one would be foolish to believe that after only one season, Leist has proven he isn’t winning material.

The Brazilian driver is still young -only 20 – and he did not make the transition from karts to cars until four years ago. In his lone Indy Lights season in 2017, Leist won three races, so he’s proven he has what it takes to reach victory lane. With testing for the season complete, and fellow countryman and former series champion Tony Kanaan as a mentor, Leist has the opportunity to build upon lessons learned. He probably won’t be competing for victories just yet, but he could someday, so Leist’s progression will be interesting to watch.


Max Chilton – #59 Carlin Chevrolet

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Chilton enters his fourth season in IndyCar and second with Carlin this year, a team he is no stranger to, having raced for the team on and off throughout his racing career, including in Indy Lights in 2015. Moving from Ganassi to Carlin in their inaugural NTT IndyCar Series season last year, Chilton was unsurprisingly a non-factor for the majority of the season, with a best finish of 11th in Belle Ise’s second race. With the growing pains of 2018 out of the way, however, Chilton should fare much better this season, having gone fastest out of 21 cars in a rain-shortened test held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month. Chilton has proven he can finish in the top 10 in the past, and finishing in the upper half of the pack should be a realistic goal for him this season.

Adam Cianciarulo sweeps to second straight Pro Motocross 450 win

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Adam Cianciarulo (450) and Dylan Ferrandis (250) swept both motos of their divisions Saturday in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship event at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minnesota, significantly impacting the points standings.

After scoring his first career victory Sept. 8 at RedBud, Cianciarulo made it two consecutive victories on his Monster Energy Kawasaki. He won the first moto by 1.7 seconds over Blake Baggett and the second moto by 2.7 seconds over Baggett.

“Man, what a dream come true,” Cianciarulo said. “I really wanted to go 1-1 last round at RedBud and had that silly mistake. Today, we got the job done and made it happen. Two consecutive victories in the 450 Class just feels really good. I just want to keep the ball rolling.”

With three rounds remaining, Cianciarulo is ranked second in the standings at a 15-point deficit to Zach Osborne, who won three of the first five rounds.

In the 250 standings, Dylan Ferrandis jumped ahead of Jeremy Martin (who won three consecutive events earlier in the season) by three points (257-254).

Dylan Ferrandis swept both motos for his second win of the season in the 250 class (Align Media).

Ferrandis beat third-ranked RJ Hampshire in the first moto and nipping Martin by 0.4 seconds in the second.

“That was a difficult race in the second moto and the pressure was on,” Ferrandis said. “It was really good for me to have that battle and come out on top in the second moto. The championship is really close and I think that we were able to put on a good show for everyone today. Jeremy [Martin] and I have a good relationship I think and we congratulated each other and talked about the battle after the race.”

NEXT: The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will hold its seventh round Sept. 26 with the Geico Motorcycle WW Ranch National at Jacksonville, Florida.


Thor Spring Creek National (Spring Creek MX Park, Millville, Minnesota)

450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)

  1. Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki (1-1)
  2. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM (2-2)
  3. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha (5-4)
  4. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (8-3)
  5. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (6-5)
  6. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (3-10)
  7. Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Honda (7-6)
  8. Joey Savatgy, , Suzuki (9-7)
  9. Max Anstie, United Kingdom, Suzuki (10-8)
  10. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna (4-16)

450 Class Championship Standings

  1. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna – 235
  2. Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki – 220
  3. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM – 215
  4. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 196
  5. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha – 194
  6. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM – 190
  7. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 173
  8. Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Honda – 141
  9. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Yamaha – 134
  10. Joey Savatgy, Tallahassee, Fla., Suzuki – 122

250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)

  1. Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha (1-1)
  2. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda (5-2)
  3. Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Suzuki (4-4)
  4. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (3-6)
  5. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (9-3)
  6. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (2-11)
  7. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (7-5)
  8. Jo Shimoda, Japan, Honda (12-8)
  9. Mitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Kawasaki (11-9)
  10. Derek Drake, San Luis Obispo, Calif., KTM (8-12)

250 Class Championship Standings

  1. Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha – 257
  2. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda – 254
  3. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 202
  4. Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Suzuki – 194
  5. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Yamaha – 186
  6. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 164
  7. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 162
  8. Cameron McAdoo, Sioux City, Iowa, Kawasaki – 140
  9. Mitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Kawasaki – 123
  10. Brandon Hartranft, Brick, N.J., KTM – 114
Adam Cianciarulo won the holeshot in both motos at Spring Creek (Align Media).