We didn’t have to wait long for IndyCar as we prepare for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
This 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course will play host to the eleventh round of the championship. Since its inception, the road course has always been seen as the ‘warm-up’ act on the lead-up to Indianapolis 500, traditionally on a Saturday two weeks prior. However, the 2021 calendar included a *second* Indy GP to replace the cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inaugural Nashville Music City Grand Prix gave us an IndyCar spectacular like no other. Nine cautions and two red flags were enough to make any keen viewer dumbfounded as the chequered flag dropped.
Ericsson and Chip Ganassi Resurgence?
Nevertheless, Marcus Ericsson left Nashville a two-time IndyCar race winner and added a fascinating twist to the title fight. Who would have thought that before the start of the season?
In fact, he was unfortunate not to win at Mid-Ohio as he chased down Josef Newgarden to the line. Since his first win in Detroit Ericsson has been a revelation, justifying Chip Ganassi’s decision to sign him and perhaps unleashing a level of performance that has always been there.
Importantly, he has finished ahead of his six-time champion teammate Scott Dixon 4 out of the last 6 times of asking and in doing so has thrown himself into championship contention.
Alex Palou sits comfortably in the lead on 410 points with his next closest competitor Scott Dixon trailing by 42 points. Patricio O’Ward is a further 6 behind. However, Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson are only a couple of wins away from leapfrogging many of their aforementioned rivals, both on 335 and 331 respectively.
Three out of the top five in the championship are Chip Ganassi Racing, which underlines the impressive level of performance and consistency they have reached. However, it remains to be seen how the team will be able to manage the driver battles as we draw closer to the business end of the season.
Christian Lundgaard Makes His Debut With Rahal Letterman
Rahal Letterman Lanigan announced on Monday that the team will enter FIA Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard into the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. The 20-year-old Danish driver recently tested with the team at Barber Motorsports Park and is a member of the Alpine Driver Academy, a program originally known as the Renault F1 Academy set up in 2002 to nurture and develop young drivers through their careers.
The news comes as RLL prepares to evaluate drivers in anticipation of expanding to a third entry.
Son of European Rally champion Henrik Lundgaard, Christian is no short of success, having claimed the SMP F4 Championship and F4 Spanish Championship. The following year he was the runner-up in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
Lundgaard is currently in his second full season of Formula 2 with two race wins and a pole position to his name.
McLaren Acquires Majority Stake in IndyCar Team
In a surprise announcement earlier this week, the McLaren Racing Group announced that it would be acquiring a majority stake in the Arrow McLaren SP team.
The partnership, which saw McLaren partner with the former Arrow Schmidt Peterson team has seen remarkable success in their short time together. They were able to build on their five podiums in only their first season to achieve two wins in 2021 while sitting third in the drivers’ championship.
It is believed that they will acquire a 75% majority stake in the team which would give them complete control over drivers and whether to expand to a third car entry, something they are widely expected to do.
As part of the agreement, the Arrow McLaren team will be headed by a new management structure which will be comprised of, team founder Sam Schmidt, co-owner Ric Peterson, McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown and Taylor Kiel, the president of Arrow McLaren.
Who To Watch Out For?
Colton Herta was unfortunate not to win at Nashville, having dominated the whole weekend and being within touching distance of victory.
Having found himself in fourth after the penultimate caution, he made light work of James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon before hunting down Marcus Ericsson. However, his race ended with five laps to go as he locked up and went straight into the wall at Turn 9.
A victory at Nashville would have propelled Herta into the championship fight and will be looking to bounce back in spectacular fashion. He is no stranger to success at the IMS, finishing twice in the Top Five at the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix.
Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS after usurping pole-sitter Romain Grosjean in the closing stages. Could they be a factor again this weekend?