IndyCar: Rookie of the year favorite might not be who you think

Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)
Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images) /

While Agustin Canapino generated a lot of hype after the 2023 IndyCar season’s first two races, another rookie is positioned to be the year’s top newcomer.

There are 26 drivers competing full-time in the 2023 IndyCar season, including three rookies who had never competed in any races prior to this year’s opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino led that group in the opener, finishing in 12th place after avoiding the chaos which ultimately knocked out fellow rookies Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing and Benjamin Pederson of A.J. Foyt Enteprises.

Robb crashed out of the following race at Texas Motor Speedway, while Pederson finished in 15th place. Once again, Canapino led the way, finishing in 12th in his oval debut.

But three IndyCar races are in the books, and none of these three drivers lead the Rookie of the Year standings.

Marcus Armstrong competes part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing, driving the No. 11 Honda in the road and street course races. Takuma Sato is the car’s oval driver.

Armstrong has only competed in two of the season’s three races, but he has been the top rookie driver in both. He finished in 11th place in the season opener, and he finished in eighth on the streets of Long Beach, California.

He sits one point ahead of Canapino, who finished that race in 25th place, in the rookie standings, with Robb sitting a further 10 points back after an 18th place finish. Pederson sits six points behind Robb after a 24th place effort.

Winning the Rookie of the Year Award as a part-time driver over three full-time drivers would be quite an achievement. Romain Grosjean nearly pulled it off in 2021 when he competed for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, finishing just one spot behind Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin.

But Armstrong has established himself as the clear favorite.

While he isn’t set to compete in the Indy 500, this race doesn’t matter as much in terms of the point standings as it has in previous years. The Indy 500 is no longer a double points race like it was every year from 2014 to 2022.

Additionally, Armstrong could become a full-time driver after the Indy 500. Sato’s cleverly worded contract reportedly only runs through the Indy 500, meaning that Armstrong could potentially compete in the two oval races at Iowa Speedway and the other one at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway later in the season.

There are 10 full-time drivers below Armstrong in the standings through three races. His points per race average of 21.5 ranks 11th overall, and his average finish of 9.5 ranks fifth.

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The fourth race on the 2023 IndyCar schedule, the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 30, and it is set to be broadcast live from Barber Motorsports Park beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Watch free with a trial of FuboTV!