Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Meet the INDYCAR Rookie Class of 2024

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

All the talk and preparation is over as the 2024 INDYCAR season kicks off at the popular St. Petersburg Street Circuit in Florida. Several headlines will be made throughout the 18 sanctioned events, highlighted by the million-dollar exhibition race at Thermal Club, and the return of both Milwaukee and Nashville Superspeedway.

The stories range from veterans moving onto new teams to others looking to reclaim their reputation as racers.

As always, you’ll have a new breed of competitors ranging from Indy NXT grads to a former NASCAR winner. For some, they’re apart of INDYCAR’s elite organizations while others look to get the program in the right direction.

When it comes down to it, there are three full-time rookies on the grid with an additional three running a limited schedule. Out of the part-time trio, two of them are in a waiting game as to how many more races they’ll compete in after the first third of the year is over.

Without further ado, here are the six men that fans will look to become acclimated of throughout 2024.

Tom Blomqvist — No. 66 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Age: 30

Nation: England

2023 INDYCAR Starts: 3 (Best Finish: 25th at Toronto)

Accomplishments: 2x Rolex 24 at Daytona winner (2022 & 2023) and 2022 IMSA SportsCar Champion (DPi class)

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

An accomplished sports car racer, Blomqvist will continue to prove his worth at Meyer Shank Racing as he’ll look to play a key role into the team’s turnaround in 2024.

No secret, MSR struggled immensely last season, highlighted by Simon Pagenaud’s season-ending crash during practice at Mid-Ohio. Blomqvist was given an opportunity to compete in three races and while he endured rough outings, it was much-needed valuable experience.

Moreover, to get himself acclimated into something different where the challenge is visible.

Blomqvist will be teammates with series veteran Felix Rosenqvist, who came from Arrow McLaren and is aware of the challenges that lies ahead. Among those challenges include getting back into open wheel racing after nearly a decade away from his days in junior formula where he ended up runner-up in European F3 before diving into touring and sports car competition.

“This is the first time in a while where I’ve got this sort of, this anxious energy about getting started because it’s so new,” said Blomqvist in January. “Obviously I’ve been doing something so familiar to myself for the past eight, nine years, and jumping across to the NTT INDYCAR Series is so different but I’m really excited to get going, to be honest.

“I’m really excited to just kind of get rolling again, and to be honest, it’ll be nice to get out in a car,” Blomqvist continued.

“I’m just really keen to get out on track the end of the month, which is going to be good, going to be fun.

“There’s going to be a lot going on behind the scenes, and definitely opened my eyes the back end of last year getting those events under my belt and seeing the areas that I personally need to work on. I’ve got a whole season to work at it, so I’m keen to get things going.”

Linus Lundqvist — No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Age: 24

Nation: Sweden

2023 INDYCAR Starts: 3 (Best Finish: 12th at Indianapolis Road Course II)

Accomplishments: 2022 Indy NXT Champion and 2020 Formula Regional Americas Champion

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

For a period of time, Lundqvist’s dream of being in INDYCAR was fading away after a deal with Dale Coyne Racing didn’t pan out and endangered of being the first reigning Indy NXT champion to not make a single start since 2010.

Like Blomqvist, that all changed when Lundqvist was given a chance to fill in for Pagenaud on three occasions. The Swede fared better in Meyer Shank’s equipment with solid qualifying runs and a top-15 finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August.

Leading up to Portland last September, Lundqvist was confirmed to ultimately replace Marcus Ericsson, who’s now driving for Andretti Global, in the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Right away, he had the people who are no strangers of winning races and championships, including six-time INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon, and two-time champ Alex Palou as his teammates.

Although specific targets aren’t on his radar, the former Indy NXT champion hopes to live up to Ganassi’s mantra of liking winners and continue the team’s legacy for years to come.

“I don’t have like a specific target, saying I want to win X-amount of races or finish in this position, but I want to maximize my own performance,” said Lundqvist. “I know at the end of the day, this team and this car is going to be capable of winning the Indianapolis 500 and winning the championship.

“If I do my part correctly, that’s where we should be. We’re here to fight for wins and podiums. That’s going to be the target. But I don’t have to set myself a target saying I have to win X-amount of races.”

Christian Rasmussen — No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Age: 23

Nation: Denmark

Accomplishments: 2023 Indy NXT Champion, 2021 Indy Pro 2000 Champion, and 2020 USF2000 Champion

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

It’s back to the old formula for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2024. Rather than having two-full time drivers like they’ve attempted since 2022, it’s back to one for ECR.

Rinus VeeKay is the sole full-time driver whereas the No. 20 Chevrolet will be split up between Ed Carpenter and the Indy NXT champion.

Rasmussen will exclusively run the road and street course races, leaving Carpenter taking care of business on the ovals. A third car will be entered in the 108th Indianapolis 500 for Rasmussen in what’s slated to be his lone oval appearance, but an opportunity to make the 33-car field in May.

In his championship campaign, Rasmussen racked up five wins with all but one of his triumphs coming from pole position. Outside of those wins, the Danish racer scored an additional three podium finishers which were strong enough to beat Hunter McElrea by a convincing 65 points.

Accomplishing everything there was in the American Open Wheel Racing junior category, Rasmussen looks to make most out of his opportunity at ECR with the goal of stealing Rookie of the Year honors from the full-time competitors.

Similar to what last year’s top rookie Marcus Armstrong did as he only drove the road and street courses.

“The goal is always to run an entire season, but I’m very thankful for the opportunity to run the road and street circuits,” said Rasmussen. “I think there is a lot to learn when you step up into INDYCAR, so having to only focus on road and street circuits might be a good thing.

“I feel pretty strong on the ovals, so I think I could do some good stuff. But that’s also the plan, to continue through a full season in 2025. “For now, I’ll focus on the cards that I have been dealt and see where that takes me.”

Kyffin Simpson — No. 4 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Age: 19

Nation: Cayman Islands

Accomplishments: 2023 European Le Mans Champion (LMP2 class) and 2021 Formula Regional Americas Champion

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

The youngest full-time rookie on the grid is also among the surprise offseason stories when Chip Ganassi took a chance on his developmental driver and thrusted him into INDYCAR.

While the accolades aren’t strong compared to the other rookies, Simpson looks to steal everyone’s thunder and showcase what he brings to the table. Like Lundqvist, the teenager has all the sources to excel as CGR expanded to five cars with three of them having a combined total of 15 INDYCAR starts.

Simpson will carry the No. 4 on his car, a number that’s no stranger to success for CGR as both Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya won CART titles in the late 1990s with that number.

Perhaps, history could repeat itself for the Caymanian in the foreseeable future starting with his bid of bringing CGR back-to-back Rookie of the Year honors.

“Chip and Mike (Hull) have expressed their faith in me for being able to make the jump. I think that I’ve got a lot of great teammates and great engineers, as well, that will help me through it,” Simpson on driving for Ganassi in INDYCAR.

“I’m not too worried about it. I also have quite a lot of experience in sports car stuff over the last couple of years, as well, so I think that’ll all help. I think it’ll get easier as we get into it.”

Nolan Siegel — No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Age: 19

Nation: United States

Accomplishments: Two-time Indy NXT winner in 2023 (Detroit and Road America)

Photo: Matt Fraver/Penske Entertainment

Earlier this week, Dale Coyne Racing was the last team who’ve yet confirmed their driver lineup for not just 2024, but for this Sunday’s season opener at St. Petersburg.

DCR confirmed Tuesday that the 19-year-old will get a grand opportunity to compete in Thermal Club later this month, Long Beach, the 108th Indy 500, and Toronto.

As of this time, Siegel will co-share the No. 18 Honda with series veteran Jack Harvey, who’ll run the St. Pete opener this Sunday.

In the meantime, the Californian will look to begin his bid for an Indy NXT championship with major goals at stake.

A year ago, Siegel was the series top rookie where he scored two wins and three runner-up finishes. All of those outings highlight a campaign where he finished third in the final standings. Now he’ll hope to beat the rest of the competition, including a staggering nine of his HMD Motorsports teammates, and join Lundqvist and Rasmussen as Indy NXT champions.

“I’m super excited to be joining Dale Coyne Racing for Thermal, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500 and Toronto in the 18 car this season,” said Siegel in a press release. “It’s a lifelong dream come true for me to be racing in INDYCAR.

“I can’t wait to make the most of this opportunity. Huge thank you to Dale (Coyne), everyone at the team and everyone that has been a part of my career up until now that’s helped get me here. Thermal is right around the corner. We’re going to get to work, and I can’t wait to get back in the car.”

Colin Braun — No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing Honda

Age: 35

Nation: United States

Accomplishments: 3x IMSA SportsCar Champion (2014, 2015, 2022), 3x Rolex 24 class winner (overall in 2023), 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 Pro-Am class winner, and former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner (2009)

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Over the past several years, Braun was regularly rumored of competing in INDYCAR, but to no avail. Not this time around as the 35-year-old Texan will finally be a part of the grid, beginning in St. Petersburg.

Since his young teenager days, Braun has been a cornerstone in sports car racing where he’s won championships and sports car racing’s crown jewels. Even when he wasn’t competing in sports cars, Braun spent a few years in NASCAR, driving for Jack Roush where he scored a Truck Series win at Michigan in 2009.

After a brief career in the Xfinity Series, Braun returned to his roots where he’s been thriving ever since. Before being confirmed as the driver of the No. 51 Honda, Braun partook in the INDYCAR test in Sebring where it was all smiles.

More importantly, trying something new in the world of motorsports where he hopes more races come his way throughout the season.

“I’m so pumped about doing my first two races at St. Petersburg and Thermal Club with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR,” said Baun. “I want to give a huge thank you to Dale. What an opportunity he gave me last week to get a taste of the Indy car in Sebring. It was so fun to drive.

“The folks at Honda and HRC also made me feel right at home. I can’t wait to get going in St. Pete. It’s a place I haven’t been to in a little bit so we’re definitely jumping off into the deep end.

“I’m looking forward to getting going on the street course, continuing to work with the team, a great group of people there, and I couldn’t be more excited and ready to get going on this challenge. It’s going to be a blast.”

Let the Madness Begin

Five out the six classified rookies will compete in the season opener at St. Petersburg representing four race teams. As their championship trail will face its learning curves and hope to shine in a sport where any ounce of struggle could spell immense trouble.

Live coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins Sunday at Noon ET on NBC. Marcus Ericsson is the defending race winner.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.