Armstrong: “There’s a step to be made to be inside the top three” in IndyCar

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Marcus Armstrong is leading the rookie championship in IndyCar but is wary of the leaps he needs to make to challenge his Chip Ganassi team mates.

The New Zealander scored a best result of P7 at his last outing in Toronto as he continues his impressive start to life in the United States.

The 23-year-old said that the sharp end of the IndyCar field is highly competitive and there’s still work to be done to match his team mates Alex Palou, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson.

“Being top 10s, in INDYCAR is one thing. Being top three is another. There’s still a big step to be made to be consistently with Alex and Scott, the other Marcus.

“There’s a step to be made to being inside the top three. I think you can’t understate how high the level is right at the very pointy end of INDYCAR.”

Armstrong also spoke of results in IndyCar being more of a reflection of true pace than in Formula 2.

“I feel like getting a result in INDYCAR, it is directly — your performance directly correlates to your results in INDYCAR.

“Many times in F2 I’ve had races where I felt like I was the fastest on track, and I’d end up finishing P12 just because of some massive tyre deg in the last 10 laps or something like that.”

The Chip Ganassi driver has been very consistent on the track and hasn’t made many mistakes on circuits he hadn’t driven on before 2023.

Despite a fairly impressive weekend in Toronto last time out, Armstrong wasn’t overly happy with his driving, although he is pleased with his lack of errors over the year.

“Toronto was fairly uneventful on my side really (smiling). I mean, I was slightly disappointed really with my own performance leading up to the race. I knew that we had good pace, so we would make it towards the end during the race despite starting I think 10th.

“I thought there were no real mistakes. Certainly, we are building some momentum, like you said, just due to the fact that we haven’t really been making mistakes as a group, as the No. 11 team.

“I don’t feel like I’ve made any errors. It’s just been sort of learning and trying to get as many laps under my belt in order to be in a better position towards the end of the season.”

Armstrong will tackle the Nashville Street Circuit for the first time this weekend, a track Chip Ganassi has enjoyed superb success, winning both races there so far.

Multiple cars racing on the streets of Nashville
Photo credit: Music City GP

The Kiwi is anticipating Nashville to provide an opportunity to learn from his mistakes made in Toronto.

“Nashville is clearly I used the word ‘eventful’ before, but this one is certainly that just due to the nature of the circuit. So many variables involved.

“Nashville provides an opportunity to try to learn from the things I did wrong at Toronto, which was a similar layout. Like I said, the continuity of street course racing is I think quite useful for me.”

Armstrong says his coach, four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti, has provided admirable advice but the Scot needs to underline his drivers mistakes with more authority.

“Dario has been really, really great. I think I’ve probably been on the phone to him about five times over the course of the last five days, so he’s great in every aspect really.

“He certainly points me in the right direction. I often say that he needs to be more harsh with me, like tell me what I’m doing wrong, because clearly I need to improve on stuff.

“But he seems to be very positive all the time about what we have been doing as a group and what I’ve been doing and how I’m progressing.

“We’re always trying to find things to improve, whether that be driving or whether that be managing the people around me. I feel like it’s a huge advantage having him.”