IndyCar 2019 preview: Six young guns to watch


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

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top


As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage