until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Winners and losers from IndyCar's 2024 St Petersburg opener

by Jack Benyon
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The 2024 IndyCar season got under way in St Petersburg with ridiculously fine margins in qualifying and a slightly dull race set off against the backdrop of increasing pressure on the series to course-correct its future.

Josef Newgarden was what felt like a runaway winner, but he was just one of the storylines; two drivers who made massive off-season moves had their races end in tears and another who's been criticised for being a pay driver delivered one of the best performances of the race - which also included an under-the-radar drive from the reigning champion and a big development in the battle between Chevrolet and Honda.

With so much going on amid a record attendance at the 20th anniversary of the St Petersburg race, we've divided the field up into the biggest winners and losers.


Josef Newgarden

The last time he won this race, Newgarden went on to win the 2019 championship. His third St Pete win and Penske’s 12th looked as comfortable as any race possibly could; even dropping back to fourth in the first pitstop window was short-lived as Newgarden walked past the opposition back to the pointy end.

It’s a worrying performance for his rivals, as Newgarden also ended his wait for a pole position - one that stretched back to June 2022. He says he'd begun to not enjoy his racing after becoming consumed by a desire to win every race, but has found solace by refocusing his enjoyment on working with the team.

Newgarden’s won a lot of races over the past few years though, so the real test of his 2024 credentials will be being more consistent.

Penske has won the World Endurance Championship, IMSA SportsCar Championship and IndyCar season openers now, had all three of its cars in the top four in St Pete with circuit specialist Scott McLaughlin third and Will Power fourth, and boosted by Chevrolet's gains it looks really strong - and, crucially, ahead of Arrow McLaren.


In a meeting in the off-season, Chevrolet went all the way to McLaren’s Formula 1 home, the McLaren Technology Centre, to meet with the team and drill down into its weaknesses in 2023. There were around 25 people around the table. It did something similar with Penske, too.

Of course, both Honda and Chevy analyse their performances and have off-season meetings with the teams. But it feels like Chevrolet was even more determined and rigorous in helping its teams over the winter after falling behind Honda slightly last year.

The result was a 1-2-3-4 to start the season and a heap of praise from its drivers, who say it’s not one thing that’s improved but a step forward across the board.

Felix Rosenqvist

You might question defining a seventh place as a win but, after only one top 10 in what was a nightmare 2023 season, this finish will be gratefully received by Meyer Shank.

Rosenqvist looked totally at ease in his new team, setting the track record in qualifying and then starting second. It was only really the last pitstop - almost three seconds slower than his first - that cost him a chance at a top five or six.

Still, it’s good points to start the year, especially for a driver who had the most DNFs last year. Rosenqvist did not crack under intense pressure.

Shank has been brilliant on street courses before so it’s too soon to declare this team a regular top-10 force again just yet. But it's shown what’s possible when and if it gets its execution right.

While many others around him moved up from lowly starting positions, rookie Tom Blomqvist could only convert his 17th-place start into 17th at the finish. But he did at least bring the car home with good points for the championship battle at that end of the grid.

Kyffin Simpson

All The Race heard this off-season about Simpson was doubts over a) whether he was ready to step into IndyCar and b) that he was only at Ganassi because he brought a big sponsorship budget.

On Sunday, he showed everyone he has the mentality to get better and deliver strong results in this series. While seasoned veterans fell away around him, he delivered a really solid and sensible drive with no mistakes, which is exactly what his team asked of him. He’d started 23rd, so he made up nine positions in a congested and hotly contested midfield.

He also set the second-fastest lap, behind Newgarden.

As for the other Ganassi drivers, Alex Palou ruined Christian Lundgaard’s race by giving him a puncture at Turn 1, was outside the top 10 for most of the race but jumped to seventh at the last pitstops by staying out longer, and then passed Rosenqvist for sixth. It was the kind of drive that makes you a champion.

Scott Dixon was ninth, having been ahead of Palou all race until that last stop. We’ll get onto the other two drivers later...

Alexander Rossi

When your team-mate qualifies third (and goes on to finish second), qualifying 15th is not ideal. But Rossi was able to fight back to eighth. If that’s the kind of result he achieves on a poor weekend, there’s hope he can be closer to Pato O’Ward in his second season with McLaren on the good ones.

It wasn’t the O’Ward-equalling weekend many will be expecting from Rossi now he has a year at the team under his belt, but it was a good comeback and lays the foundations for the potential of what’s to come.

AJ Foyt Racing

OK, you might not want to celebrate 11th place, but Santino Ferrucci and in turn AJ Foyt delivered the team’s best result outside of the Indy 500 since March 2022.

The podium at the 2023 Indy 500 was the result of ace engineer Mike Cannon coming in as technical director and spearheading its programme, but he didn’t have enough time to work on the other tracks with the team. Now he has a year under his belt and this car would've been a top-10 contender if the team’s pitstops had been better.

That’s quite the achievement, and Ferrucci matched the speed of the car and bounced back from a sub-par first pitstop phase to stay cool and deliver. It was a very encouraging start for a much-maligned team.

That being said, Ferrucci’s team-mate Sting Ray Robb didn't appear to be close to Ferrucci pace-wise, even before a mechanical issue forced him to retire. So not having someone of Ferrucci's calibre in the second car means this year will be tough at times for Foyt.


Romain Grosjean

On his good days, Grosjean is quick enough to win IndyCar races. On his bad days, he makes mistakes that cost his team points.

After qualifying a quite brilliant fifth, Grosjean dropped to the back end of the top 10 (which you might expect of Juncos given the level of competition up there) before he punted Linus Lundqvist at Turn 10 - a move where he sort of half went for the overtake but passed the point of no return without committing and couldn’t bail out. He received a drivethrough for that, while a gearbox issue later ended his race.

It was a great start for Juncos Hollinger to have a car capable of qualifying fifth, even if its pitstop issues from previous years don’t appear to have been fully solved.

The saddest part is, it only scored three top 10s last year and one of those was at St Pete. It should have been in contention for another were it not for a silly mistake.

The whole weekend reflected the highs and lows of racing with Romain Grosjean. The gearbox issue might have ended his race anyway, but that misses the point.

Marcus Ericsson

Marcus Ericsson surprised himself with sixth in qualifying after some tough practice sessions and expecting it to take longer to gel with Andretti and settle in.

Ericsson’s car ingested some sort material from the track, which caused his car to lose power. The Race understands the engine was not lost as a result of this.

He was seventh when he retired, so he arguably would have fought around the top five - which would have been an ideal debut with the team.

The loss of points is a big blow, but the performance up to that point has to be very encouraging.

Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong

Marcus Armstrong was running just outside the top 10 and ahead of Dixon when he crashed at Turn 10, 27 laps into the race. It was disappointing given the cars were fuel saving heavily at that point.

Armstrong did not raise any mechanical issue to blame, but TV pictures did show Dixon nearly losing the car at that corner later in the race, so you wonder if this was a set-up issue for Ganassi.

The Race understands all five Ganassi cars were suffering from rear-brake locking and that was being analysed after the race.

But regardless, this was not the ideal way to start the season for Armstrong after his rookie of the year title last year and what will be a lot of expectation as he occupies one of the best seats in IndyCar.

Turn 10 was also where Lundqvist's race came to an end after the Grosjean punt. He likely would have fought for the positions around the top 10 at the end of the race, which would have been an ideal Ganassi debut from a tough qualifying in 19th.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Sometimes this team does not catch a break. After qualifying 12th, Lundgaard was given a puncture at the first corner by Palou and finished 20th. Graham Rahal suffered with a downshift issue all weekend that couldn’t be fixed and took 16th, with full-season rookie Pietro Fittipaldi one spot ahead in 15th - which probably isn’t a bad start.

It was clear after qualifying that Lundgaard was disappointed the team hasn’t made much progress at a track it struggled at last year, and Rahal can’t afford too many of those kinds of performances if it wants to hold on to the young Dane for 2025.


After an off-season of controversy and criticism, Mark Miles hoped a return to on-track action would quiet some of the noise around IndyCar.

But although attendance was up in the race’s 20th year, and merchandise sales were too, the on-track product was a dull, fuel-saving affair to the point where some would argue that 12 years of the same chassis has brought the field too close together now. The harder tyres introduced in anticipation of hybrid tech only further added to the lack of excitement we are used to on track.

Off-track, Michael Andretti made headlines by criticising the direction of the Roger Penske owned series, and it appears that many stakeholders have had enough and want to see more drastic change - not only to protect the series but to see it thrive.

It’s not all bad for IndyCar, but it certainly could be better, and the sheer number of significant stakeholders speaking out in public about its issues shows they don’t feel enough is being done behind the scenes to appease them.

It’s never easy being a series trying to decide how to roadmap your ideology well into the future and make it appealing to manufacturers and sponsors. There’s much more progress that needs to be made.

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