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Rating the very best IndyCar race drives of 2023

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The 2023 IndyCar Collection season was dominated by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, however the Spaniard did not have a monopoly on top-drawer performances on his method to sealing a second title.

Perception: The factors that fuelled Palou’s 2023 IndyCar domination

It was Palou who topped our rating of the yr’s 10 finest performers, which you can read here, however for this listing, we have collated the very best particular person drives from the season.

Our consultants Charles Bradley and Joey Barnes select their favourites from a crowded discipline – and the identical famous person scooped positions one and two…

10. Graham Rahal hosed solely by Dixon on the IMS Highway Course for Brickyard Weekend

Photograph by: Gavin Baker

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Rahal was on excellent type on the Indy street course, however was denied victory by an on-form Dixon

With regards to the very best runner-up drive of the season, Graham Rahal on the Indianapolis Highway Course is a robust contender. The man began from pole place, barely put a foot fallacious, and but received hosed for victory by Scott Dixon’s jaw-dropping, alternate-strategy comeback drive.

The opening lap was wild, as Devlin DeFrancesco pulled the outbraking transfer of the season to guide at Flip 1 from fifth on the grid. Polewinner Rahal did the correct factor and let him go.

Beneath warning moments later, after a multi-car opening lap pileup that he received caught up in, Dixon escaped from his spin swiftly and led a pack of vehicles into the pitlane on lap 5, dropping a pair extra spots as Ganassi swapped his main tyres for alternates and brimmed his gas tank. He was twentieth when the race restarted on lap eight (a delayed restart completely serving to his gas mileage) however the silver lining to his cloud was having recent alternates accessible after he’d didn’t progress from Q1 in qualifying.

Rahal shortly repassed DeFrancesco to take the lead a lap after the restart and was chasing his personal redemption arc after a traumatic Indy 500 in Could, main by 1.2s from Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi and 25s away from Dixon – who would have one much less pitstop to make ought to the race run inexperienced from right here with over three-quarters of it remaining.

No extra cautions occurred, so Rahal discovered himself in a flat-out dash in opposition to an enemy he couldn’t see on the observe. After his first cease, Rahal rejoined 12s behind the off-sequence Dixon, with the Kiwi producing his fuel-saving magic whereas nonetheless driving at a fast tempo.

Rahal’s process was hampered by dropping a set of alternate tyres after a blister was found after qualifying. That consigned him to 2 main stints, whereas Dixon loved his copious alternates – which he revealed had been a compound that ran as primaries at Barber in 2019, so he knew they’d final.

Rahal introduced the hole all the way down to 8s earlier than Dixon’s penultimate cease and led him (once more) by 25s at half distance. After his personal penultimate cease, Rahal trailed Dixon by 6s, and when the six-time champion made his final pit go to with 26 laps to go he rejoined on spanking-new alternates.

Rahal made his third cease and took scrubbed alternates for the run to the end, Dixon blasting previous to guide by 6s with 20 to go. However Dixon had leant arduous on his tyres, which allowed Rahal to carve into his lead within the sprint to the end. In an exciting finale, Rahal chased him down however Dixon’s fuel-saving technique sarcastically meant he had loads of push-to-pass left to defend. Though Rahal spent the ultimate three laps glued to Dixon’s gearbox, he agonisingly couldn’t discover a well past. CB

9. Palou terrorises his championship rivals at Mid-Ohio

After a robust move on Kirkwood, Palou overcut Herta and pulled away in devastating fashion

Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

After a strong transfer on Kirkwood, Palou overcut Herta and pulled away in devastating trend

Alex Palou’s title cost was personified by his efficiency at Mid-Ohio, a race that appeared to actually crush his opposition. He solely began fourth on the grid, after failing to match Colton Herta’s tempo on the identical primary-tyred technique in Quick Six qualifying. However that simply made his drive extra glowing.

He battled his well past Lengthy Seashore GP winner Kyle Kirkwood simply earlier than one-quarter distance, Kirkwood spinning as Palou didn’t give him an inch on the apex of Flip 4, in a transfer that reveals he will be ruthless in addition to charming. He knew that Herta was escaping out entrance and needed to maintain him in attain of the overcut he was planning.

Palou – who began on the tougher main tyres in comparison with his rivals – reeled in race chief Herta and Graham Rahal, who was additionally sturdy that weekend. Palou well switched to fuel-saving mode of their wake, to not solely run longer than them earlier than making his first pitstop but additionally require much less gasoline when he pitted.

Due to that short-fill, Palou assumed his accustomed lead after the pitstop cycle, and now on the softer alternate rubber, he tore away from Herta to an 8.4s benefit – completely demoralising his pursuer. Palou’s solely hindrance from right here was AJ Foyt’s rookie driver Benjamin Pedersen, who not solely refused to be lapped however appeared prepared to take Palou to the margins to maintain him behind. Palou lastly needed to bundle his well past across the exterior of Flip 5 and power the difficulty at Flip 6, however his lead was slashed by 5s.

As soon as launched, he completely flew in clear air, extending his benefit over Herta to eight.5s earlier than making his closing cease on lap 54. That’s when Herta’s race got here undone, as he was caught rushing within the pitlane, and that allowed Palou to cruise dwelling.

A shout-out right here too for Pato O’Ward, who bounced again from a disastrous qualifying with a barnstorming cost from final to eighth on a three-stop technique for Arrow McLaren. CB

8. O’Ward’s dominant efficiency ends with bittersweet runner-up at Texas

O'Ward was brilliant at Texas, but was unfortunate to come away second

Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

O’Ward was sensible at Texas, however was unlucky to return away second

Think about a race the place the motive force laps nearly all of the sector into the highest 5 however fails to win the race. That was the twist within the story that might summarise Pato O’Ward’s 2023 season.

The Mexican began fifth and was the one actual menace to a dominant Josef Newgarden. After discovering the lead on lap 109 of 250, O’Ward’s #5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet regarded poised for victory. By lap 160, he had lapped the complete 28-car discipline aside from Newgarden, who was practically six seconds behind in second.

Nonetheless, cautions negated a pleasing drive, essentially the most damning of which got here after team-mate Felix Rosenqvist crashed in Flip 4 on lap 179. The incident allowed six vehicles that had been one lap all the way down to take the wave-around and return to the lead lap as soon as O’Ward and Newgarden pitted with 68 laps remaining.

Then, it was game-on in wild side-by-side motion after the restart on lap 193, which featured 14 lead adjustments between 5 drivers. O’Ward and Newgarden swapped the lead 5 instances within the final eight laps earlier than Romain Grosjean’s accident in Flip 1 put a untimely halt on a probable memorable end, which noticed Newgarden out entrance moments earlier than on lap 249.

The race featured 26 lead adjustments, which was essentially the most in Texas since 2001. There have been additionally 439 passes for place, essentially the most in six years on the 1.5-mile oval. O’Ward made 93 on-track passes, essentially the most of any driver within the race. JB

7. Newgarden underlines his oval dominance at Iowa

Newgarden won both races at Iowa in brilliant fashion, though had to work harder for his second one

Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

Newgarden received each races at Iowa in sensible trend, although needed to work tougher for his second one

Selecting between Josef Newgarden’s performances on the Iowa double-header is a tricky selection, as he prolonged his superb streak of oval victories to 5, including this pair to his 2023 Texas and Indy 500 wins and Gateway final yr (he additionally received the primary race at Iowa 12 months in the past, however crashed out of the second with suspension failure whereas main).

Newgarden led 341 laps throughout the 2 250-lap races, regardless of solely qualifying third and seventh on the grids respectively. His primary opposition got here from team-mates Will Energy and Scott McLaughlin. Energy aced qualifying with two enormous laps of over 181mph on the bumpy quick observe. However come the races, Newgarden was nearly untouchable.

After a set-up tweak at his first pitstop in Race 1, he handed McLaughlin on lap 95 and Energy on lap 121. From there, he vanished into the gap – regardless of late points with some backmarkers who had been racing him “prefer it was actually to the loss of life on the finish of the Indy 500”.

Newgarden had extra work to do from seventh on the grid in Sunday’s second race. After settling an early duel with O’Ward, he made metronomic progress within the opening stint – his hardest move being Marcus Ericsson, with whom he banged wheels off Flip 2. As Energy and McLaughlin battled up entrance, Newgarden cruised as much as them and pulled off a ridiculously easy-looking move on each – staying low off Flip 2 as they each slid up the observe on lap 31.

An actual scare got here when Sting Ray Robb’s automotive was inexplicably allowed to go away the pits with no wheelnut connected to its right-rear nook. The wheel got here off at Flip 3 and rolled onto the observe throughout the apex, forcing Newgarden into evasive motion. Late yellows put Arrow McLaren’s Rosenqvist briefly within the hunt, however no person had a solution for Newgarden that weekend. CB

6. Palou hangs on by a nostril in Toronto

Despite a distinctly wobbly nose, Palou was not to be denied a superb second place behind Lundgaard in Toronto

Photograph by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

Regardless of a distinctly wobbly nostril, Palou was to not be denied an excellent second place behind Lundgaard in Toronto

Ganassi’s Spanish main man had a number of dominant performances en path to claiming his second IndyCar Collection championship. Nonetheless, nothing showcased Palou’s need and perseverance fairly like his resounding runner-up outcome on the streets of Toronto.

He entered the weekend having received 4 of the earlier 5 rounds, together with the final three on the trot, which had catapulted Palou right into a 110-point lead within the total standings. Regardless of qualifying a season-worst fifteenth, Palou battled by the sector to seventh by lap 20 of 85. He discovered the highest 5 a number of laps previous to pitting on lap 44 and was set to restart sixteenth till chaos struck the midfield and delayed the inexperienced flag.

The incident occurred when Kirkwood, on the same technique to Palou, rear-ended Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and despatched him right into a spin. Palou clipped the skin wall whereas shifting previous Castroneves, which cracked the nostril and left the entrance wing dangling on Palou’s machine.

As a substitute of pitting for a entrance wing change, Palou stayed out and cycled as much as second as nearly all of the sector pitted. Only the vinyl wrap preserved the front wing’s ability to remain in place regardless of each bump of the 11-turn, 1.786-mile non permanent avenue circuit threatening to dislodge it.

Ultimately, Palou managed to seize his sixth podium end of the yr and end second to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard, who scored his first IndyCar win by 11.7893s. JB

5. McLaughlin snips previous Romain Grosjean in Barber thriller

McLaughlin only won once in 2023, but did so in fighting style after defeating Grosjean

Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

McLaughlin solely received as soon as in 2023, however did so in preventing fashion after defeating Grosjean

This proved to be Scott McLaughlin’s solely win, regardless of his extremely sturdy finish to the season, and it centred on a renewed battle together with his St Petersburg nemesis Romain Grosjean, a duel for victory that had very a lot resulted in tears there. It was additionally a traditional strategic situation of McLaughlin’s three-stopper versus Grosjean on a two-stop.

Grosjean began from pole, with McLaughlin fourth. Having began on the tougher main tyres, McLaughlin misplaced a spot nearly instantly, as Dixon drove across the exterior of him at Flip 2. Then he was undercut by team-mate Newgarden in the course of the first spherical of pitstops – thus far, so unhealthy!

However McLaughlin repassed Newgarden on lap 37, simply earlier than Newgarden pitted once more. He escaped a scare when Robb triggered a warning, McLaughlin simply entering into the lane earlier than the yellow got here out.

On the restart simply earlier than half distance, Grosjean led McLaughlin – every with a closing pitstop remaining. Grosjean made his closing pit go to with one-third of the race to go and McLaughlin stopped 4 laps later. McLaughlin used to overcut to rejoin forward, however as he was on chilly tyres, Grosjean barged his well past on the closing nook of his out lap.

Alas for Grosjean, he’d run out of push to move with 21 laps to go. Two laps later, he made a tiny error and ran huge at Flip 5, and was thus defenceless in opposition to McLaughlin, who powered previous and pulled away to a cushty win. CB

4. Kirkwood’s breakthrough win at Lengthy Seashore

The breakthrough win for Kirkwood underlined his potential as a future star

Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The breakthrough win for Kirkwood underlined his potential as a future star

“He’s the actual deal.” These had been the phrases spoken by Andretti International crew proprietor Michael Andretti after Kyle Kirkwood scored a breakthrough maiden IndyCar victory within the Grand Prix of Lengthy Seashore on 16 April.

A day after incomes his first-ever pole, Kirkwood went on to guide 53 of 85 laps across the sun-splashed 11-turn, 1.968-mile non permanent avenue circuit to say victory in solely his twentieth begin. Much more impressively, he was compelled to fend off team-mate and ex-Method 1 driver Grosjean, who utilized relentless stress within the closing laps earlier than accepting defeat and ending 0.9907s in arrears.

Perception: The key lessons for Kirkwood in his breakthrough IndyCar campaign

After 2022 Lengthy Seashore winner Newgarden pitted from the lead on lap 52, he was adopted in by Grosjean on lap 53. A surging in-lap mixed with a slight lavatory by rivals allowed Kirkwood, who pitted on lap 54, to inherit the highest spot which he held to the top.

It was the primary 1-2 end for Andretti since Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay swept the rostrum within the second race at Mid-Ohio Sports activities Automotive Course in September 2020. And for Kirkwood, it was the realisation of the promise he’d proven all through his junior components profession, the place he grew to become the primary driver ever to say titles in USF 2000, USF Professional 2000 and Indy NXT – previously recognised because the Highway to Indy – and accomplish that in successive seasons. JB

3. Ericsson’s heartbreaking runner-up within the Indianapolis 500

Ericsson thought he had the Indy 500 won for a second time until race control elected to restart with one lap to go

Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Ericsson thought he had the Indy 500 received for a second time till race management elected to restart with one lap to go

There wasn’t one other runner-up outcome tougher to endure in the course of the 2023 season than what Marcus Ericsson skilled within the Indianapolis 500 on Could 28. The Swede got here in because the defending winner of “The Best Spectacle in Racing” and by all accounts, surpassed that efficiency with one which was worthy of a repeat journey to Victory Lane. Nonetheless, that’s not the way it went down.

After Ericsson’s #8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda took the lead from Newgarden on the next-to-last restart, the warning got here out for a crash on the entrance straightaway with 4 laps to go. As a substitute of ending beneath warning with so few laps remaining, Race Management opted for a crimson flag that was adopted by an unprecedented one-lap shootout with vehicles rolling from pit lane to take the inexperienced flag.

Ericsson was a sitting duck as Newgarden’s #2 Workforce Penske Chevrolet charged to the lead getting into Flip 3 and completed 0.974s forward for the fourth-closest end in Indy 500 historical past.

“I really feel like we did every thing proper,” mentioned Ericsson, who led 30 laps. “I really feel like we received that race, after which it form of received taken away from us.” JB

2. Scott Dixon’s three stops of heaven in St Louis

Pitting only three times was the key to Dixon's win at the former Gateway track

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Pitting solely 3 times was the important thing to Dixon’s win on the former Gateway observe

Between IndyCar’s two engine producers, Honda has the sting on Chevrolet by way of gas mileage. However to unlock that, you want a driver with persistence and a cool head that may overrule his coronary heart fee. Step ahead, IndyCar’s very personal ‘Iceman’.

Scott Dixon unleashed his monastic fuel-saving expertise at St Louis with a mind-blowing comeback drive from a nine-place grid penalty on the 1.25-mile oval. His strategist noticed the chance, however it relied on Dixon maintaining the tempo whereas making the tyres final. From sixteenth on the grid, he dedicated to an alternate technique from the primary wave of the inexperienced flag.

A prolonged yellow, after Ed Carpenter fired Benjamin Pedersen into the wall on the first nook, helped Dixon lengthen his first stint till lap 65, which was solely matched by Workforce Penske’s Will Energy. As rivals shot for a four-stop technique, which was favoured given the first-time use of a softer, alternate tyre compound from Firestone that had for use by all drivers, Dixon’s dedication to a three-stopper was confirmed when he made the red-walled rubber final till the race’s second warning on lap 125, as his Ganassi team-mate Takuma Sato shunted at Flip 2.

That cycled him to the race lead correct and it was the purpose of the race the place his rivals might’ve aped his technique. However they didn’t, which cemented Dixon’s rivals into making 5 or 6 stops; he managed it in simply three!

The one driver who didn’t fairly wave the white flag in Dixon’s course was Energy. The outgoing champion pushed Dixon arduous within the closing levels in what gave the impression to be an try to power the Kiwi to show up his engine and make an additional cease. However Dixon wasn’t for turning, and Energy was compelled to pit with 13 to go – which was further galling as he’d bailed out on matching Dixon’s technique throughout his second stint.

Dixon led 123 laps and cruised to victory by over 22s, with solely Arrow McLaren’s O’Ward and Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas on the lead lap. CB

1. Dixon does Dixon issues on the IMS Highway Course for Brickyard Weekend

Dixon didn't appear to have much of a chance after being embroiled in a first lap incident, but produced a miraculous recovery drive to beat Rahal

Photograph by: Jake Galstad

Dixon did not seem to have a lot of an opportunity after being embroiled in a primary lap incident, however produced a miraculous restoration drive to beat Rahal

When speaking a few drive of pure brilliance, simply roll the tape of Scott Dixon on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway street course in the course of the Brickyard weekend.

He rallied from being collected in a gap lap accident and turned the playing cards on the sector with pit technique and vaulted to the entrance. This “spin to win” didn’t have the identical excessive stakes as Danny Sullivan’s well-known manoeuvre within the 1985 Indianapolis 500, however had its personal share of obstacles to beat.

The opening lap incident occurred when Palou made contact together with his rookie Ganassi team-mate Marcus Armstrong in Flip 7, which spun the latter and created mayhem that additionally triggered Grosjean to collide and spin Dixon. Newgarden additionally ended up within the combine with entrance wing injury after climbing over the nostril of Armstrong’s automotive.

Regardless of the incident, Dixon was in a position to proceed on and pitted on lap 5 to arrange the alternate technique that aided the win. Pole-sitter Rahal, who delivered a stout efficiency of his personal that on another day would have led to victory, was left with the runner-up spot, 0.4779s behind Dixon.

His triumph on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit prolonged Dixon’s report streak to 19 consecutive seasons with not less than one victory in IndyCar, on the identical day he additionally set the sequence report together with his 319th consecutive begin. JB

Our experts ranked Dixon's victory at the Indy road course as the finest drive of 2023

Photograph by: IndyCar Collection

Our consultants ranked Dixon’s victory on the Indy street course because the most interesting drive of 2023

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