Scott McLaughlin is facing some tough and seasoned competition for rookie of the year honours as the Indycar season gets underway.
Three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin has qualified 12th fastest for the season-opening Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday (Monday AEST).
Mexico's Pato O'Ward claimed the second pole of his career on Saturday while Australia's 2018 Indy 500 winner and 2014 series champion Will Power will start fourth.
In the battle for rookie of the year honours, 27-year-old McLaughlin is up against Jimmie Johnson, who shares the record for most NASCAR Cup Series titles with seven and Frenchman Romain Grosjean, a veteran of 179 Formula One starts.
Grosjean was the top-qualifying rookie on Saturday claiming seventh spot on his 35th birthday while Johnson will start well back from 21st.
"It's really hard to know where to start with the rookie class - a seven-time champion, a three-time champion, and a 10-year F1 veteran," said IndyCar president Jay Frye. "To me this is kind of a generational thing.
"This might be a once in a lifetime thing that we see something like this.
"It's going to be amazing to watch their progress over the course of the year. Really excited to have them.
"The depth of the field is spectacular."
McLaughlin is certainly giving away a lot in experience and miles under the belt to the field overall.
The Indycar grid is packed with 40-somethings, starting with fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon, the 40-year-old defending six-time series champion.
Also in that age bracket are Indianapolis 500 winners Tony Kanaan (46), Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves (both 45), Takuma Sato (44), plus Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay (both 40).
Throw in four-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais (42) and Indy 500 pole sitter Ed Carpenter (40) and there is an old-school motif running through the field.
No team will have more experience than Chip Ganassi Racing which will roll out a four car lineup that includes Dixon, Johnson and Kanaan, who have a combined age of 131.
History beckons this season for New Zealander Dixon.
Dixon, the fifth fastest qualifier, will try to match A.J. Foyt as the series' only seven-times champion.
"The will of wanting to try and win and then keep that winning situation, it tugs at you pretty hard," said Dixon. "I don't think you can ever really put a time scale on it or an age or anything like that."