For as much hype as there is about the highly competitive NTT IndyCar Series, determining the preseason power rankings essentially boils down to two teams — just like every championship for the past decade.
Since Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2012 championship for Andretti Autosport, the past 10 titles have been won by either Chip Ganassi Racing or team Penske drivers. Between Ganassi’s Scott Dixon (2013, ’15, ’18, ’20) and Penske’s Will Power (2022, ’14) and Josef Newgarden (2017, ’19), three drivers have combined for eight championships.
Ganassi and Penske drivers naturally occupy six of the seven top spots in NBC Sports’ preseason IndyCar power rankings, but there are signs that a new team finally could break the stranglehold.
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It starts with Arrow McLaren, which has added 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to its 1-2 combo of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Andretti is expecting to bounce back with Colton Herta, and 2022 Rookie of the Year Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing seems destined to be the next first-time winner.
Here’s the first edition of NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers in IndyCar entering Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener:
NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings
1. Josef Newgarden (second in 2022 points standings) – The runner-up in the championship the past three years led the circuit in victories last season, and he’s motivated to win a third title and his first Indy 500 this year.
2. Will Power (first in 2022) – He turns 42 this week, and the Team Penske driver just seems to keep getting better, especially after he won his second championship with a new level of consistency.
3. Scott Dixon (third in 2022) – You never can count IndyCar’s Six-Time out, but the Chip Ganassi Racing superstar and No. 9 team will need to solve their qualifying woes to get a seventh championship.
4. Alex Palou (tied fourth in 2022) – With last year’s contract mess behind him, the 2021 champion should head into his likely final season at Chip Ganassi Racing with a clear mind and fast car.
5. Pato O’Ward (seventh in 2022) – This will be a critical season for the Arrow McLaren star as his team adds a third car and tries to rediscover the magic of the 2021 season.
6. Scott McLaughlin (tied fourth in 2022) – He had a major breakthrough with three wins in his second IndyCar season, but he still is competing internally against two tough Penske teammates.
7. Marcus Ericsson (sixth in 2022) – The 2022 Indy 500 winner was in the championship hunt through last year’s finale as he leveled up on ovals. The studious Swede still has gains to make this year.
8. Colton Herta (10th in 2022) – Burned by some brutal mistakes and an off-year for Andretti Autosport, Herta wants to prove that he remains one of the fastest drivers in IndyCar.
9. Christian Lundgaard (14th in 2022) – He made huge strides as last year’s rookie of the year and consistently was among the fastest in preseason spring testing. A win is coming soon for Rahal Letterman Lanigan.
10. Alexander Rossi (eighth in 2022) – The most intriguing new driver-team combination, Rossi starts a new chapter with Arrow McLaren after ending a three-year winless skid last year.
Just missed: Felix Rosenqvist (still winless since 2020 but did well to finish ninth last year and will be driving for his future — again — this year); Graham Rahal (already has said he feels much better entering this season than 2022, which started with dismal results); Rinus VeeKay (let a win slip away at Barber Motorsports Park and seems motivated after a disappointing season).
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— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) February 27, 2023