The incoming IndyCar rookie who once beat Max Verstappen

Tom Blomqvist may have struggled in his first few IndyCar starts, but he has proven he has what it takes to match up against the best. Can it translate in 2024?

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, IndyCar
Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, IndyCar / Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Meyer Shank Racing had their eye on making Tom Blomqvist one of their full-time IndyCar drivers for the 2024 season even before he got the unexpected opportunity to fill in for the injured Simon Pagenaud three times during the back half of the 2023 season.

It was a struggle for the 30-year-old Briton, but the 2023 season was a struggle for Meyer Shank Racing as a whole. Throw in the whole element of a new driver in a new series in a car not specifically tailored to his strengths, and it was no surprise to see him qualify no better than 20th place and record just a single finish of 24th.

You don't just walk into IndyCar and have immediate success these days, and if you do, it's because you're probably Alex Palou.

But Meyer Shank Racing, the team for which he has competed in the IMSA SportsCar Championship since 2022, solidified their confidence in Blomqvist's abilities by naming him one of their two full-time drivers for 2024, alongside former Arrow McLaren driver Felix Rosenqvist, as they look to usher in a new era following an abysmal 2023 campaign.

Whether or not Meyer Shank Racing can get off the bottom of the pile and return to what we saw out of them in the late 2010s and early 2020s remains to be seen.

If they do, don't let Blomqvist's three 2023 starts fool you into thinking he can't become a factor for many IndyCar seasons to come.

Think about this: he is the only active driver who can claim that he has beaten Max Verstappen head-to-head over an entire season, having done so in the 2014 FIA Formula 3 European Championship.

Verstappen won more races (10, including six in a row at one point), but Blomqvist's six-win, 15-podium season was enough to position him one spot and just a handful of points higher in the final standings, behind only Esteban Ocon.

Rosenqvist competed in the series that year as well and placed eighth with one win.

Yes, Verstappen was 16 years old at the time, and his track record -- and his many records in general -- since then certainly speak for themselves.

But Blomqvist has made quite a name for himself since then also. He won the 2022 IMSA SportsCar Championship with Meyer Shank Racing, and he won both the 2022 and 2023 24 Hours of Daytona with the team as well.

In both 2022 and 2023, two of his three Daytona teammates were Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing's two full-time IndyCar drivers -- both former Indy 500 winners -- during those seasons.

Of course, success in one series doesn't always translate to success in another, not just because of the differences between the series and cars themselves, but because of the differences between the various competitors, including but not limited to their racing backgrounds, strengths, and levels of experience.

It's almost like how beating an NFL team that beat another team doesn't guarantee you'll have that same success against the other team. And IndyCar is as deep and as competitive of a series as there is in the world, so it certainly won't be easy for Blomqvist.

But he certainly has the talent and the know-how behind the wheel of a race car to make things happen if Meyer Shank Racing can find the success and the pace they have been lacking. Having a teammate in Rosenqvist who, like Meyer Shank Racing themselves, is looking to rejuvenate his own career should only help speed up the process.

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The 2024 IndyCar season is scheduled to get underway this Sunday, March 10. NBC is set to provide live coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now if you have not already done so!