until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Our predictions for the 2024 IndyCar season

by Jack Benyon
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

With the 2024 IndyCar season starting this weekend in St Petersburg, we've posed some big questions to our resident IndyCar writers and the aficionados among our contributors.

From who will be champion to Chevrolet versus Honda, we've taken ourselves off the fence and delivered some answers.

Have a read and let us know your predictions in the comments.

Who will be champion?

There’s no need to waste any time discussing the majority winner here.

Alex Palou delivered one of the most dominant seasons you could imagine happening in IndyCar last year: in 17 races he recorded a worst finish of eighth. Ridiculous! Palou is back with the same team this year and there's no reason to doubt his talent.

Let’s focus on the outliers then. The Race’s COO Andrew van de Burgt has gone with Scott Dixon because of his consistency.

"The depth of quality in the field is such that making those judgement calls - where Dixon is a master - is going to be even more valuable than ever," says van de Burgt.

Our IndyCar Correspondent Jack Benyon has gone somewhat left field by choosing new Andretti signing Marcus Ericsson.

"Admittedly, all of the numbers and your gut say to go for Palou, but I have a sneaky feeling about Ericsson this year," Benyon says. 

"He’s turned into arguably one of the best Indy 500 drivers and with an Andretti car that is phenomenal in qualifying at times, he has all the ingredients to make his first year at Andretti a success. 

"But also…Palou!"

The last line sums up the mood among our writers well.

Who will win the Indy 500?

It'll come as little surprise that predicting the Indianapolis 500 winner proved difficult for those surveyed.

McLaren's Pato O’Ward got two votes, from Deputy F1 Editor Josh Suttill and Social Media Assistant Charley Williams.

Suttill says "McLaren's come close to victory a few times at the Indy 500 in recent years" but has backed O’Ward to end that run, while Williams - admittedly a McLaren fan - adds: "O'Ward's come so close, yet so far over the past few years, and It’s a dream of Pato’s to give McLaren an Indy 500 win. I’m here for it."

Our Formula E Correspondent Sam Smith went for Kyle Kirkwood, saying: “Indy has a funny knack of providing zero-to-hero stories and after his dramatic exit from last year’s 500, I think Kyle Kirkwood can end Andretti’s seven-year wait for milk at the end of May."

Benyon picked Kirkwood’s new team-mate Ericsson again, adding that Kirkwood showed the team was ready to contend for the win and might have been running at the front in practice and qualifying quicker if it had an experienced Indy 500 driver in its line-up, which Ericsson provides.

The 2020 winner Takuma Sato makes an interesting switch back to the team he won that edition with, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and the combo is too much for long-time IndyCar follower Matt Beer to ignore.

“Heart over head prediction,” explains Beer. “It's just too tempting a story given the arc of his Rahal return and the team's 2023 Indy 500 misery. And he's an exceptional racer at the Speedway.”

That leaves van de Burgt - backing Josef Newgarden to defend his title - and Indy 500 runner-up turned The Race IndyCar Podcast co-host JR Hildebrand.

He’s chosen Scott Dixon, who has gone over 15 years since his last win despite taking four poles in the time since.

Who will win rookie of the year?

Like the vote for champion, there’s a clear winner here and that’s Linus Lundqvist.

The 2022 Indy Lights champion went from having no seat in 2023 to having one of the best in the series at Ganassi for 2024 in less than a month by September, and it was well deserved.

He used a trio of outings at Meyer Shank to show up the driver two others have voted for in this list, Tom Blomqvist, to get the ride - although Lundqvist did have more recent IndyCar and single-seater experience compared to Blomqvist.

Most of our writers favoured Lundqvist regardless of any Blomqvist comparisons, because Lundqvist is in one of the series' best cars and Blomqvist’s team struggled to net a top 10 last year.

Blomqvist had plenty of adversity in his three races including a wet debut with no time in the car before Toronto, and a crash at Laguna Seca didn’t help matters. But his team has high hopes for him.

Smith, who has the most experience of seeing Blomqvist in action across The Race's staff, says: “I’ve seen Blomqvist race in F3, Formula E, IMSA and WEC. In everything, perhaps discounting Formula E where he never got a fair crack of the whip, he’s been mighty. With respect to others, I think he’ll be both 500 and championship rookie, easy.”

Some of our writers did also choose an Indy 500 rookie of the year and with the exception of Smith picking Blomqvist, they all went for NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson - who is making a cameo appearance with Arrow McLaren.

How many drivers will win a race?

Seven different drivers won in IndyCar last year but hopes are high among our panel of even more names gracing the top step of the podium in 2024 - with three votes for eight winners, two for nine, one for 10 and another for 12.

“Another Ganassi car only increases the chance of a win there, McLaren went winless last year and that won’t happen again, plus Will Power, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta all went winless despite being in the top 10 in the championship,” says Benyon, who chose eight different winners.

Williams, after choosing 12, adds: “There are some stacked team line-ups that I just can’t imagine finishing the season winless.”

Suttill also went with eight reckoning only one Andretti will win in addition to Palou, Dixon, the three Penske drivers, O’Ward and Christian Lundgaard - so a similar cross-section to last year with a win added for Power.

Despite being a series that has “at least 10 possible race winners”, Beer is cautious of the drivers in the midfield joining the fun.

“It’s not that many years ago that even the sketchiest of minnow teams had race-win-calibre drivers on board and that's not the case now,” he adds.

But van de Burgt disagrees! "There are the random factors like Grosjean at Juncos or Rosenqvist at Meyer Shank," he says. "It's beautifully strong in depth."

Chevrolet vs Honda: who wins?

Chevrolet ended a four-year spell of Honda dominance in the IndyCar manufacturers’ championship in 2022 and backed that up again in 2023. That victory owed much to superior reliability rather than greater speed, with Honda winning 12 of the 17 races.

Hildebrand has put his faith in the Andretti team boosting its performance and helping Honda overcome Chevy, despite Hildebrand being almost intrinsically linked to the Bowtie.

Suttill has gone the other way, and adds “Palou produced that good a title-winning season last year and Chevrolet still won, so I'm going Chevrolet for 2024 too”.

All in all the vote is even at 3-3, which shows how tight this one is. Honda appeared to have its edge in the Indy 500 diminished last year too, so it’s a mouth-watering prospect of a battle.

With the hybrid element set to be introduced mid-season, and the rules of the manufacturers' championship making any car ineligible after it has used more than the allocated four engines in a season - something many cars did last year - this fight “could get very tricky to predict and rely much more on who has the best team/driver combo in the midfield to the back in the last couple of races, which is a fun prospect,” in Benyon's view.

Biggest surprise

We gave the writers free rein with this one and they did not disappoint.

Hildebrand has gone for two - which we’re allowing because he’s JR Hildebrand. He's predicted a Callum Ilott pole in St Petersburg this weekend - as the Brit stands in for the injured David Malukas at McLaren - and that an Andretti car will be in the championship battle with two races still to go.

Suttill didn’t quite plump for an Ilott pole, but says Ilott “will drive the wheels off the McLaren in St Pete and that won't be his last appearance of the season by any stretch”.

Nashville cropped up in this question, with Williams saying the oval race “will lead to disappointment from fans” despite van de Burgt picking it as his prediction for best race of the year! More on that shortly.

Van de Burgt picked Larson at the Indy 500 for his surprise, adding “he's got a great team behind him, and we saw how well Jimmie Johnson went on the big ovals, this is going to be mega”.

Smith has gone for a positive with Rosenqvist - who had the most DNFs in IndyCar last year - someone he covered in Formula E.

“I think he will find consistency and become everyone’s favourite underdog with some scintillating podiums and front rows,” he says.

While Lundgaard won a race in 2023, Benyon reckons he could go further in the 2024 season as a championship contender - providing Rahal’s oval form improves.

“With Texas not happening before the Indy 500 this year, Lundgaard has a better chance at momentum before the 500 and in the road course races that follow, with the oval races coming at the end of the year,” he adds. “For that reason, a title push will be too much but I think he can be in the conversation.”

Best race of the year

Despite Williams raising doubts over Nashville moving from street to oval, van de Burgt loves the idea. “Nashville - end of season Superspeedway! Need I say more?”

No, you needn’t!

Both Suttill and Hildebrand (if there’s fewer cautions) have backed this weekend’s St Pete opener as the most exciting. Suttill says: “There's often a surprise underdog podium or victory charge, think Robert Wickens in 2018 or Sebastien Bourdais's shock double, and I'm hoping the 2024 edition will return us to those days. Shock Jack Harvey/Coyne podium comeback, anyone?”

Benyon has gone for Laguna Seca - “It was the wildest last year, no reason it won’t be again!” - and Williams has backed the Indy 500 because “its unpredictability means you can’t take your eyes away even for a second; it’s easily the best race of the season for me”.

Smith has voted for Road America as IndyCar is due a very exciting race there, maybe with some rain, but adds the non-championship Thermal Club heat races with $1million on the line will be attracting attention.

“The dash for cash at Thermal should be fun and will be an interesting project to see if such events can become the norm again in a similar vein to the Marlboro Challenge at Laguna Seca in the 1980s and early 1990s,” he says.

“Should it become an old/new phenomenon, then other international series will surely have to take a look at such events.”

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