The ever-green Scott Dixon secured his fifth IndyCar Series championship last year and should again be considered amongst the favorites to do so in the 2019 season.
Dixon, 38, beat out a strong challenge from Alexander Rossi to claim his third championship in the last six years and move into second in the all-time rankings of open-wheel series champions. Only A. J. Foyt, who won seven titles in the 1960s and ’70s, is now ahead of him.
Over the last five years, the Chip Ganassi team have won a couple less races than Andretti and 22 less than the dominant Penske team, but Dixon’s cool and consistent driving has been enough to see them secure two titles, to Penske’s three, in that time.
Since the merger with Champ Car to form a solitary, top-line, single-seater series in the United States in 2008, only those three teams have provided drivers’ champions. They have also collectively won over 70% of the races over the last five years, and 80% over the last three. They have locked out the championship top three in each of the last five years.
When looking at potential champions for 2019, it therefore makes sense to focus on the drivers of those three teams.
Dixon will be joined at Chip Ganassi by rookie Felix Rosenqvist. The Swede has driven in many different series across the world and won three times in his 10 races in the feeder Indy Lights series back in 2016. He could well be capable of a surprise or two.
Penske will field an unchanged lineup. Will Power has finished in the championship top three in seven of the nine years since his full-time move to the team in 2010 and can again be expected to be there or thereabouts this time around. The same goes for Josef Newgarden, the 2017 champion. Simon Pagenaud will hope for a better year after going winless in 2018.
Andretti have also stuck with the four full-time drivers they entered last year. After a couple of less successful seasons, they benefited from the introduction of the new aero package to take five victories in 2018. Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay shared those triumphs and can again be expected to outperform teammates Marco Andretti and Zach Veach. Rossi, in particular, has a good shot at the championship.
As in 2017, the only other teams to win races last year were Rahal Letterman, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing.
Sebastian Bourdais dominated the Champ Car series in the mid-2000s, winning four championships. While he is now fast approaching 40, he was the top finisher from outside the top three teams last year, coming home seventh with one race victory. If his Dale Coyne Racing team can improve their performance on street courses, he might just be a decent outside bet to claim a fifth championship.
The same could possibly have been said of last year’s Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver claimed four podium finishes (the most for a rookie since Pagenaud in 2012) in his debut campaign, only to suffer a horrific accident at Pocono that left him paraplegic. He is now fighting a much more profound battle to regain the use of his legs.
In his absence, the team’s lineup consists of James Hinchcliffe, a race winner in three of the last four years, and former Sauber Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson, a prime candidate to contest rookie-of-the-year honors with his compatriot Rosenqvist.
There are also a trio of young rookies hoping to shine: 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward, runner up Colton Herta, son of former IndyCar driver Bryan, and Santino Ferrucci, a driver more notable for his indiscretions than his pace during his career to date.
The 17-race season gets underway in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 10th and ends at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey on September 22nd. That race returns for the first time since 2004 and is one of two changes to the calendar alongside the introduction of a race at the Circuit of the Americas, host of the country’s Formula One Grand Prix.
The showpiece event remains the Indianapolis 500 on May 26th, which will this year include Fernando Alonso among its guest participants, driving a Chevrolet-powered McLaren Racing entry.
Our Preview’s IndyCar Series Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Alexander Rossi continued his run of improving championship finishes by coming home second in the standings last year. There is only place to go from there to keep that streak going: a maiden championship. The USA offshore oddsmakers have yet to put their collective heads over the parapet and issue betting lines but when they do, bet on Alexander Rossi to win the 2019 IndyCar Series championship.