Josef Newgarden breakthrough with important win for Penske at Mid Ohio

Josef Newgarden dominated from pole position to take both his and Penske’s first win of the 2021 IndyCar season at Mid Ohio to kickstart his championship campaign,

The American who came within reaching distance of wins at both Detroit and Road America was in incredible form and was able to hold off a late-charging Marcus Ericsson, who was able to close the gap to within a second with two laps to go.

The two-time champion made a great start on the alternative sticker red tyres holding off the pack behind: Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson, and Will Power.

However, the first caution of the day was soon to follow; Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was among those at the back of the field checked up. This led to James Hinchcliffe running into the back of the Andretti driver while Felix Rosenqvist was collected in the accident.

On the restart, Scott Dixon overtook Will Power for fourth at The Keyhole. Power took it back going into Turn Four, then lost it, again. He touched Dixon in Turn Five, spun, and got hit by Ed Jones, promptly bringing out the second caution of the day.

Josef Newgarden led the field to green again on Lap Nine and eventually pitted for the lead on Lap 31 for the primary black compound tyres. There was a bit of a shake-up in the order behind as Colton Herta had a fuel hose problem and dropped from second to seventh, his attempts to try and overcut the leader ending miserably. Newgarden led from Ericsson and Dixon with one more round of pitstops to go.

But after letting two opportunities escape this year, Newgarden was not about to let that happen again. He pitted for the final time on Lap 56 for another set of primary black tyres, and led to the finish line to take his second win at the famous circuit at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, 50 years and one day after Team Penske’s first IndyCar victory, scored by Mark Donohue at Pocono in 1971.

It was a trio of Chip Ganassi’s that filled the rest of the Top Four positions. Marcus Ericsson drove an incredibly calm and calculated race to finish as the highest placed driver of the team. After coming off a career-best third in qualifying, all the pressure was on the Swede to deliver.

A magnificent final stint saw the Swede close the gap to just 0.6s with two laps in what was an incredible crescendo to the race. Ericsson had more ‘Push-to-Pass’ than Newgarden and used it all to his advantage with only a few corners to go, but would come home to take his second podium of the year.

Alex Palou drove an incredibly impressive race utilising a magnificent overcut to jump both Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi to round out the podium positions, and importantly ahead of his closest championship competitor. The Spaniard leaves Mid Ohio with both the championship lead and his sixth podium of the season.

Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi rounded out the Top Five, with the American driver attempting the only alternative strategy out of anyone in the Top Nine starting on the alternative sticker reds. Dixon’s battle with Will Power was the most notable moment of his race

Graham Rahal was in his ever strong and consistent form, to take an impressive sixth place for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team’s home race. He benefitted from the misfortune ahead of the likes of Will Power and Colton Herta, as well as an incredible (5.7s) pit stop.

Romain Grosjean finished in an impressive seventh, the ex-Formula 1 driver was able to manage a difficult start to the race, in which he tagged Felix Rosenqvist.

Grosjean was able to fight his way back up, despite a wide moment on the second restart into The Keyhole after being blocked by Sebastien Bourdais.

Pato O’Ward was passed by Herta and Grosjean late on and was forced to settle with eighth, having been chased to the finish line by Rahal Letterman Lanigan part-timer Santino Ferrucci. The Mexican made up twelve positions on race day, and still leaves this weekend second in the championship.

Ferrucci’s teammate Takuma Sato completed the Top 10 after Colton Herta’s late stop, a second ahead of Bourdais.

The IndyCar paddock now goes on a small hiatus before we are graced by the first-ever running of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville

 

Palou in Control: The Honda Indy 200 Grand Prix of Ohio Preview

IndyCar returns this weekend for the tenth round of the season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course just outside of Lexington, Ohio. This is, of course, the Honda Indy 200 Grand Prix.

This iconic 203.22-mile race will host the 44th running of the Grand Prix which has seen iconic winners such as Emerson Fittipaldi,  Brian Redman, Al Unser Jr, and Helio Castroneves, to name but a few.

Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon has the most success with six wins to his name, the Kiwi winning in Lexington for the sixth time in 2019 when he held off former teammate Felix Rosenqvist.

That being said, Dixon’s current teammate Alex Palou, enters the weekend with a 28-point-lead over closest rival Patricio O’Ward. Defending champion Dixon, is a further 25 points behind Pato in third.

Furthermore, it is not Dixon who has the momentum going into this race, that privilege firmly sits with Alex Palou who has claimed two wins this season at both Alabama and Road America.

The battle between Palou and O’Ward has been the story of the season, with both drivers trading championship blows every other race. O’Ward also has two wins this season at both Texas, and Detroit and will be looking to deliver a good old-fashioned serving of revenge this weekend.

However, that may be easier said than done with both Chip Ganassi (13 wins) and Honda  (15 wins) with a significant history of success at this track. This year, Chevrolet has the edge over Honda in qualifying trim, so we expect Penske and Arrow McLaren to be a factor in the Fast Six Shootout, but do not be surprised if they begin to slip down the order on race day.

PENSKE STUCK IN NEUTRAL?

Will Power sits 11th in the IndyCar championship with two podiums, but no wins. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

On Penske, if they did not have bad luck, they would not have any luck at all. In the past three consecutive occasions, both Will Power and Josef Newgarden have been denied wins on the final few laps of the race.

Power’s race win at Detroit was all but assured with three laps to go, that was until an overheated ECU promptly ended the Australian’s chances. An unfortunate strategy call and a late-gearbox issue caused the demise of Newgarden’s races at both Detroit, and Road America. The latter may well have been going into this race in contention for the championship lead in what will be a bitter blow to the two-time champion.

Their problems were highlighted during the Indianapolis 500 when Power, one of the greatest qualifiers in IndyCar history, failed to seal his spot in the 33-car field on Saturday’s first day of qualifications. He would later, secure his spot on ‘Bump Day’, but it was a close call for a team that should be comfortably competing at the front.

This situation may be given even further context with Penske failing to win either the championship or Indianapolis 500 in 2020. This may not seem like such a big thing given the competitiveness of the IndyCar Series. But when you’ve won over 20 titles and 18 Indy 500s like Team Penske has, and win neither in a season for the first time since 2013, it starts to feel like the walls are caving in.

You get the feeling Josef Newgarden’s 2021 breakthrough is yet to happen. But the question on everyone’s lips is, when?

HOME SWEET HOME FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN 

Graham Rahal, Road America. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will return to what is considered their home track at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The team, based 60 miles from the circuit in Hilliard, Ohio has finished inside the Top Ten every year since 2013.

Graham Rahal has sweet memories of this circuit, himself taking victory in 2015 after an incident-filled race with four cautions. Scott Dixon led from the pole that day.

Is it beyond the realms of possibilities for a similar result? No. Unlikely? Yes.

But Rahal has flown under-the-radar this season finishing in the Top-Five on five occasions, the only drivers to better that are both Alex Palou and Patricio O’Ward.

He even led the Indianapolis 500 only to be denied a brilliant result after pitting on Lap 118, but was released without his rear left tyre properly secured.

Graham Rahal has arguably been one of the most consistent performers in the IndyCar field this year, and I would not be surprised if he was to achieve a great result at the team’s home race.

DEBUT AND DRIVER CHANGES

Ryan Norman makes his IndyCar debut for Dayle Coyne Racing. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens

Former Indy Lights driver Ryan Norman is to make his IndyCar debut this weekend at the Honda Indy 200 with Dayle Coyne Racing.

Four other drivers have already made their IndyCar debuts this year: Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Magnussen, and Cody Ware.

Norman is the 2016 Atlantic Championship champion and previously raced for Andretti Autosport in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Indy Lights championship.

He finished in a career-high fourth place in the championship standings in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons and earned one win each year. He won at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in 2018 before winning at Road America in 2019.

He has also picked up two podiums in Indy Lights at Mid-Ohio, one of which, in 2018, where he split two notable Indy Lights champions, Colton Herta and Patricio O’Ward.

It is still unclear as to whether Rinus VeeKay will make a return for Ed Carpenter Racing, but some early reports in the media suggest his recovery may have gone much faster than previously anticipated. Last week, Oliver Askew stood in for the Dutchman and would be expected to do so again if called upon.

Felix Rosenqvist also missed Road America following his heavy crash at the Detroit Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen stood in for the Swede, but it is also unclear as to Felix’s recovery. He is understood to be aiming to return to the series as soon as possible.

But it may well be a long wait as we saw with Oliver Askew in 2020, who suffered a concussion during the Indianapolis 500. After hiding his symptoms for two race weekends he eventually missed the penultimate race at the Harvest Grand Prix and only returned for the St Petersburg finale in October, almost two months after the accident.

Cody Ware is expected to relinquish his Dayle Coyne Racing with Rick Ware entry after his solid debut performance last week at Road America.

The Honda Indy 200 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will take place across Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd, and Sunday 4th July. Qualifying will get underway on Saturday at 7:30pm (BST) while the race will take place at approximately 9:00pm (BST).

You can follow the race in the UK on Sky Sports F1, while ThePitCrewOnline will be reporting live on events across Twitter.

Alex Palou takes last-gasp victory at Road America as Josef Newgarden suffers late mechanical issue

For the second time in seven days, Penske driver Josef Newgarden missed out on his first IndyCar win of 2021, which looked all-but-certain with two laps to go.

Having led 53 out of 55 laps from pole position, it was a cruel turn of fate that would see his Penske tumble down out of contention with a technical problem on the final restart.

Alex Palou, who chased down Newgarden the entire race, was rewarded with his second win of the season with an audacious move around the outside of Turn One. As a result, Palou takes the overall lead in the drivers’ championship from rival O’Ward.

Josef Newgarden at Road America. Photo Courtesy of James Black.

The start of the race began with Newgarden leading into Turn One. Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey made an incredible start to take second place from the second row on the grid. It seemed, for a brief moment, that Harvey would take the lead with a look around the outside of Newgarden at Turn One, but backed out.

The first round of pit stops took place around laps 11-15, with Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon, who started 13th, staying out the longest. At the front, it was normal service resumed as Newgarden continued to lead.

That was, until lap 23 when Marcus Ericsson spun out of the race at Turn Three, bringing out the first caution. Almost the entire field took the opportunity to make their second routine stop under yellows.

Only two drivers chose not to pit, IndyCar debutant Kevin Magnussen, who replaced Felix Rosenqvist at Arrow McLaren SP this weekend. The other driver who chose not to pit was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Takuma Sato. Both drivers started 21st and 20th respectively.

On the second restart, Magnussen cycled to the front of the field and led an IndyCar field for the first time in his career. The Dane spent a few laps in front until Sato took the lead down at Turn Five. Shortly afterward, Magnussen headed for the pits but would eventually see his race end in dissapointment. The Arrow McLaren pulled off the track at Turn Seven with a reported loss of power.

This triggered the next phase under cautions. Five drivers initially stayed out (Chilton, Sato, Askew, Harvey, and Daly), but were forced to refuel transferring the lead back to Newgarden. With three laps to go, a spin by Ed Jones brought out the final caution at Turn 12.

On the final restart, Newgarden accelerated confidently towards Turn One with Alex Palou giving chase. However, the American driver suddenly lost drive, leaving him helpless against the fast-charging Spaniard.

Colton Herta finished second, battling with an unruly Andretti car with high tyre degradation. He reported vibrations for large parts of the race but managed to finish ahead of Will Power, who was in imperious form all day.

Scott Dixon had an excellent day to finish in fourth. He started 13th and made some brilliant on-track moves before undercutting the field on the final pitstop cycle.

Grosjean and Ware. Photo Courtesy of James Black.

Dayle Coyne Racing’s Romain Grosjean was the other standout performer, finishing in the top five for the second time in his IndyCar career. He pulled off some magnificent overtakes, and would have finished on the podium had he not been disadvantaged by the first cautionary period. His moves on both Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal into Turn Five was incredibly impressive, and further underlines his competitiveness in the series.

Marcus Ericsson finished in sixth, doing extremely well to recover from a caution-causing spin to ensure Ganassi had three cars in the top six.

Alexander Rossi had a solid race to finish seventh ahead of Takuma Sato, who made some big late-race moves after a bold strategy call gave him much fresher tyres for the final stint.

Patricio O’Ward came into this race championship leader but leaves with a 28-point deficit to Palou. He struggled with fuel-saving and could not match the pace of those on similar strategies. After starting on hard tyres, he stopped with the soft tyre runners early on. He would be eventually overtaken by Sato on the final lap to finish ninth.

Max Chilton rounded out the top ten to give Carlin their best result for a long time, benefitting from the same bold strategy as Sato.

Oliver Askew stood in for Rinus VeeKay in the Ed Carpenter Racing outfit. He would eventually finish 12th after being one of those who had to refuel under green with thee laps to go.

NASCAR regular Cody Ware delivered an impressive debut performance to finish 19th, just behind sixth-place starter Simon Pagenaud.

We now have a two-week break before IndyCar returns to Mid-Ohio on July 4th.

Palou vs O’Ward: The IndyCar REV Group Grand Prix of Road America Preview

IndyCar returns this weekend for the ninth round of the season at Road America, Wisconsin for the REV Group Grand Prix.

Last year, as the series was forced to alter its schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, Road America stepped up, switching dates, and hosted a doubleheader. This year, the track is back to one race.

It is a circuit where Penske and Andretti showed real promise last year in qualifying but failed to capitalise on their promising grid positions. Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta in particular will be looking for redemption at the famous road course situated in Wisconsin.

Chip Ganassi Honda took two out of two wins with both Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon. However, only one of those drivers returns to the famous circuit adjacent to Lake Elkhart following the incident plagued race in Detroit.

Keen fans will remember the incredibly entertaining duel in Race Two between Rosenqvist and Patricio O’Ward that would go down to the wire. Rosenqvist came out on top, arguably one of his best race-day performances to date. O’Ward would have to wait for his first win but came away from the race having declared himself as a future star in the making.

Fast-forward a year and O’Ward has firmly delivered on the promise he showed that day. He has taken two wins at both Texas and Detroit, two pole positions, and comes into the weekend as the championship leader.

DRIVER CHANGES

Felix Rosenqvist sits out for this weekend. Photo Courtesy of Chris Jones.

Felix Rosenqvist sits out for this weekend following his incident at Detroit, where he crashed head-on into a barrier, reportedly due to a stuck throttle. His seat will be taken by none other than ex-Haas Formula One driver Kevin Magnussen, who follows former teammate Romain Grosjean to make his IndyCar debut.

The Danish driver reunites with McLaren, the team who facilitated his progression into Formula One, and where he spent two full seasons through 2014 and 2015. He comes off the back of a win in IMSA with Chip Ganassi and will be looking to make an impression on teams throughout the paddock for a potential full-time seat in 2022. What he can realistically achieve is another matter, as he comes in having never tested an IndyCar before.

Meanwhile, Rinus VeeKay made the headline this week as news of a bicycle accident was widely reported. Later it became clear that he suffered a broken clavicle and may miss out on this weekend’s race. After undergoing successful surgery, the Ed Carpenter Team put out a release confirming VeeKay’s absence, replaced by Arrow McLaren’s reserve driver Oliver Askew.

This will be Askew’s second outing after substituting for Felix Rosenqvist at Race Two in Detroit. Hopefully, that would have been valuable experience heading into a race where he failed to finish higher than 15th in 2020.

The final addition comes in the form of Cody Ware who will make his IndyCar debut alongside Dayle Coyne Racing with RWR.

Ware, who drives full time in NASCAR got his first taste of an IndyCar earlier this year during a test day with the team at Sebring International Raceway. He also had a run-out at Road America two weeks ago as part of a rookie test day.

PALOU VS O’WARD

Palou and O’Ward, Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

This will be arguably the most interesting and fiercely competitive rivalry on the grid. Alex Palou has a win and a podium in the first two road courses this season and has been consistently quick everywhere he has been. As Chip Ganassi won both races last year despite not qualifying in the Top Five, you know they have race pace and strategy figured out.

He managed a podium and a subsequent Top Ten finish with Dayle Coyne Racing in his maiden outing at Road America, so you would expect him to be do something doubly impressive in what is considered the top team in IndyCar

O’Ward continues to impress. His ferocious race-craft alongside his quirky and endearing personality has charmed race fans across the world, earning him a spot as one of the hottest properties in the sport. A podium and a Top Ten in 2020 mimicks Palou’s result and they both sit at the top of the drivers’ championship, separated by just *one* point.

I expect O’Ward to impress in qualifying but to be challenged relentlessly by Palou in the race.

WHAT IS GOING WRONG AT PENSKE?

Newgarden. Detroit. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

Nine races and for Penske to be winless is staggering.

They have a combined four world championships between Power, Newgarden, and Pagenaud. Yet the team have been let down by poor qualifying performances and unfortunate strategy decisions.

They most certainly should have won both races at Detroit. Will Power took the lead in Race one after Rosenqvist’s red flag cycled him to the front on fresher tyres. However, with five laps to go, Grosjean brought out the final red flag which would spell doom for the Australian.

Having pitted under red flags, the Penske’s ECU overheated and failed to take the restart. A painful end to what was an incredible performance by the 2014 champion.

Likewise, Newgarden led 67 out of 70 laps in Race Two, but failed at the final hurdle after having to stretch his final stint on the softer ‘red’ tyres beyond their capabilities. O’Ward would eventually take the win as Newgarden struggled to hold on to the rears.

Newgarden is the most likely out of the cohort to achieve Penske’s first win of 2021, with three podiums and a pole position.  For their sake, they will hope they will not have to wait long for it.

The REV Group Grand Prix of Road America gets underway on Friday 18th June. Qualifying will take place on Saturday 19th at 19:30 (BST) while the race is set to get underway on Sunday 20th at 17:00 (BST).

IndyCar Detroit Race 2: O’Ward stuns with late charge on Josef Newgarden to take second career victory

Patricio O’Ward took advantage of a late cautionary period to claim victory over Josef Newgarden at the second race in Detroit.

With 12 laps remaining, Romain Grosjean stopped on track following a brake fire. The Mexican driver had started the race in 15th and had slowly but surely moved his way up the field to fifth, the most memorable of which was a move on Scott Dixon during a prior cautionary restart caused by Jimmie Johnson.

When the green flag fell, the Arrow McLaren was able to make some incredible moves on  Graham Rahal and Alex Palou and Colton Herta would shortly follow, owed in part to getting heat into the harder primary ‘black’ tyres quickly and efficiently.

Josef Newgarden, Detroit Race 2. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski

With three laps remaining, Newgarden’s soft ‘red’ tyres began to lose performance and handed O’Ward an opportunity at Turn Seven. The Penske driver’s rear tyres were done as he struggled to get traction out of the corner.

The Mexican driver out-dragged Newgarden down the straight and lightly touched in the process. But it was O’Ward that braked the latest and seized the lead of the race with the end in sight. He would eventually take victory with a five-second advantage over the rest of his competitors.

O’Ward becomes the first repeat winner of the season and moves ahead of Alex Palou in the drivers’ standings – albeit by a single point. This also marks his second career victory after his success at Texas and caps off a magnificent weekend with a pole position and a podium in Race One.

It was heartbreak for Newgarden who had led 67 laps out of 70 from pole position, undone by the teams’ unfortunate contra strategy. He started on the primary ‘black’ compound tyres, while all of his closest competitors started the race on the alternate ‘red’ tyres. After the first caution, which came out on the opening lap when Max Chilton ran into James Hinchcliffe, Newgarden began to pull away from the field. By the time the two-time champion made his first pit stop on Lap 20 his lead over second-place Colton Herta was 13.5 seconds.

During his second stint, he replicated his earlier pace going to lap 46 on another set of primary ‘blacks’. However, Herta was able to close in on Newgarden during this period and had the advantage going into the final stint. Newgarden had to run his final stint on used ‘red’ tyres which are notable for high degradation while the likes of O’Ward, Herta, Palou, and Rahal chased him down on fresher primary ‘blacks’.

Herta would eventually relinquish third to Alex Palou, who rescues what could have been a disastrous weekend.

Graham Rahal sized fifth ahead of a resurgent Will Power who was able to make his way through the field from 20th on the grid, a consolation after losing the win in Race One due to an overheating ECU.

Dixon, Detroit Race 2. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski

Six-time champion Scott Dixon could not make many inroads after a lap one collision with Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi. After starting on the primary ‘black’ tyres, he could not make the final stint on the alternative ‘reds’ work.

Simon Pagenaud crossed the line in eighth ahead of Race One winner Marcus Ericsson with the Swede able to keep his car in the race after a clash with Rinus Veekay with the wall on Lap 15.

Santino Ferrucci was able to keep calm under pressure to finish 10th after his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team spent were forced to ready a backup car thanks to a heavy crash in qualifying. That is now three consecutive top-ten finishes after making his 2021 debut at the Indianapolis 500.

Oliver Askew retired from the race after replacing Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist in what was a bittersweet weekend for the team. Many were still referencing the passing of McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh who played a significant part under Ron Dennis’s regime.

It will now be a quick turnaround as IndyCar returns to Road America in a weeks time.

Marcus Ericsson claims first career IndyCar victory in Detroit after Will Power restart misfortune

Marcus Ericsson claimed his first career IndyCar victory amidst an incident plagued race in Detroit. His last win came during GP2, almost a decade ago. However, his victory came to the detriment of Will Power, who had led approximately half the race with six laps to go.

Power, who happened to be on the right strategy during the earlier red flag incident involving Felix Rosenqvist, effectively led the majority of the race immediately after. With 20 laps to go, Ericsson was unable to make the pass around him. That was until Romain Grosjean hit the wall with six laps to bringing out the final red flag of the race.

Cars were stranded in the pits for ten minutes, but when the field prepared to head back out, Power’s car would not start. Within a few moments, the Australian had gone from assured victory to abject despair. The race was effectively over.

Ericsson inherited the lead and was able to hold off a late-charging Rinus VeeKay and Patricio O’Ward to take his first win since the 2013 GP2 Series. The win came in his 37th career start and it marks just his second career podium in the series. His previous best, second, came at this track in his rookie season.

Rinus VeeKay and Patricio O’Ward rounded out the podium, two results that went from good to great when the vast majority of other championship contenders failed to finish in the top ten. Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon finished a respectable fifth and eighth, respectively, but every other driver in the top nine in standings finished tenth or worse.

Detroit GP. O’Ward leads the field to green. Courtesy of Joe Skibinski

Both O’Ward and Rossi had led off the start followed closely by Romain Grosjean but were hampered due to starting on the high degradation red tyres. An interesting strategy battle would ensue between Scott Dixon, who started on sticker blacks, and the rest.

That was, until Lap 27. A terrifying crash involving Felix Rosenqvist sent his Arrow McLaren SP into the barriers at Turn 6. The collision was strong enough to dislodge the concrete barrier and brought out the red flag.

There has been no exact diagnosis for Rosenqvist, but an IndyCar medical group representative indicated that his team saw no signs of significant injury while evaluating him. With the most serious concerns seemingly alleviated, he was taken to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.

O’Ward had to do carry out some brave overtaking as late pitstop onto sticker blacks sent him tumbling down the order. Meanwhile, VeeKay had started in 12th, and benefitted by pitting early onto sticker blacks, jumping the likes of Romain Grosjean who had started third.

Takuma Sato finished in fourth, an almost perfect display but dampened by losing positions off the final restart and after being penalised in the pits after a dangerous maneuver on Rinus VeeKay.

Santino Ferrucci and Alexander Rossi finished in sixth and seventh while Ed Jones and Josef Newgarden rounded out the Top Ten. Jones had to settle for ninth after losing places on the final restart while Newgarden did so after losing his rear-left wheel following his first pitstop. He then put in a valiant drive to recover from the back.

In what is already an incredible IndyCar season, we have had seven different race winners in seven races. All of those are also from different nationalities. This is certainly one of the most entertaining and competitive field of drivers we have had in years.

Alex Palou still leads the championship with a 15 point lead over Patricio O’Ward. VeeKay now edges closer to Scott Dixon in third, only 11 points behind.

We now wait in anticipation for Race 2 at Detroit on Sunday which we hope delivers a similar level of entertainment as today.

IndyCar Descends on Motor City: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Preview

It’s been less than two weeks since Helio Castroneves joined the exclusive club only a few drivers share, that being a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. But the 2021 IndyCar season continues on as the series graces the famous Belle Isle street circuit for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

This *double-header* weekend will be the seventh and eighth race of the year, and with six different winners from as many races, we may see another driver step up to the mark alongside those who have already triumphed this season.  Can Will Power rescue what has been a torrid season? Will Josef Newgarden take his first win of the season to stamp his authority on the championship? Anything seems possible after some incredibly tumultuous and unpredictable races.

After the double points on offer at the 500′, IndyCar sophomore Alex Palou comes into this weekend as championship leader, thanks to a well-fought second-place.  He has a comfortable 36 point lead over teammate Scott Dixon, who is separated by one point over third-place McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward.

Unfortunately for Palou, he will receive a six-place grid penalty for the first of the two races over the double-header due to an unregulated engine change that occurred prior to the Indianapolis 500. The highest Palou can start on Saturday is seventh.

Last time-out winner, Helio Castroneves, will not be taking part in this weekend’s action as the Meyer Shank Racing outfit returns to just the single entry with Britain’s Jack Harvey who will be hoping for an end to his recent run of bad luck.

The races at Belle Isle Park are generally considered unpredictable. Several winners have found their way to Victory Lane, even during the years Formula 1 raced at the circuit. Michele Alboreto managed to snatch victory in his largely uncompetitive Tyrrell Ford in 1983.

Detroit Grand Prix 1987 Poster. Courtesy of Indycar

The first Formula 1 race was held in 1982 but eventually moved on before 1989. The consequential gap was filled by what was known then as CART (later known as Champ Car/IndyCar). Despite a gap between ’02-’06, 09-’11, and ’20, the streets of Detroit have seen 30 races take place.

Both Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves hold the record for most wins at the Detroit Circuit (3) with Graham Rahal, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais tied in second (2).

Charlie Kimball and Juan Pablo Montoya, who both raced at the Indianapolis 500 will not be in action at all this weekend, and probably for the rest of the year. Santino Ferrucci gets a return to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team after an impressive sixth place last time out.

Moreover, Tony Kanaan takes a step back from Chip Ganassi relinquishing his drive back to Jimmie Johnson. Romain Grosjean also returns in the Dayle Coyne with Rick Ware Racing entry, replacing Pietro Fittipaldi.

Conor Daly will, of course, take over from Ed Carpenter in the Ed Carpenter Racing outfit while Sage Karam and his Indianapolis 500 *only* entry, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing team, also miss out. It is quite strange that many of the drivers who did well at the famous 500-mile race will not be present at the following event.

All the usual suspects are hotly tipped to give a strong account of themselves this weekend. The young superstars: Palou, VeeKay, Herta, and O’Ward all seem to be delivering week-in, week-out. The Dutchman, in particular, will be disappointed to miss out on a stronger result at the 500′ and will be one to watch out for.

Can Grosjean replicate his stunning performance earlier this year at the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis? The Swiss-Frenchman seems to have taken extremely well to the street courses qualifying consistently well across the season.  In fact, the Formula 1 veteran has expressed interest in competing at ovals in the not-too-distant future, an indicator that we may well see him competing in IndyCar for a number of years.

Simon Pagenaud sits in fourth in the driver standings and the highest-ranked Penske. He has flown largely under-the-radar with his numerous and consistent top-ten finishes. He has experience at the top step of the podium in Detroit and could continue his impressive form. 

However, Scott Dixon will be a man-on-a-mission after a disappointing showing at Indy. The man has three Detroit wins and usually bounces back strongly after such a setback. Interestingly, Chevrolet got the better of Honda at the last street circuit, but narrowly trail Honda in the manufacturer’s championship.

It’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top this weekend!

You can watch IndyCar live this weekend on Sky Sports F1 – with ad-breaks filled with UK commentary from Tom Gaynor.  The schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday 12th June, Race 1, Qualifying: 4:00pm (BST), Race: 7:00pm (BST)
  • Sunday 13th June, Race 2. Qualifying: 2:00pm (BST), Race: 5:00pm (BST)

Helio Castroneves takes record-equalling fourth Indianapolis 500 victory

Helio Castroneves stormed to an incredible, record-equalling. fourth victory at the Indianapolis 500 with Meyer Shank Racing. By doing so, he cements his legacy as one of the most illustrious drivers in top-tier American motorsport, joining Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt, and Al Unser as the most successful drivers at the 500′ mile race.

Castroneves, 46, returned as a guest driver in what was his first appearance since the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But after showing glimpses of speed in practice, he managed to break into the ‘Fast Nine’, lining up on the grid in eighth place.

What followed was a dramatic three-way battle between Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou and Arrow McLaren SP Racing’s Patricio O’Ward after a cautionary period brought on by Graham Rahal.

Rahal brought out the yellow flags after colliding with the wall, a result of his rear left tyre coming loose during their pitstop. The American’s tyre was sent flying across the track, bouncing off the front of Conor Daly. He was the last of those to stop and was due to emerge into the lead, a gut-wrenching result.

With O’Ward chasing the leading pair following the final two pitstops, Castroneves and Palou traded places throughout the final 20 laps. But the Brazilian, who previously won at The Brickyard in 2001-02 and ’09, took the lead from Palou for the final time with two laps remaining in his No. 06 Dallara-Honda.

For Meyer Shank Racing, this marks not only their first Indianapolis 500 victory but also their first *IndyCar* victory in their 5 seasons of racing. A deserving win after some incredible near-misses this season with fellow Meyer Shank driver Jack Harvey.

Alex Palou took second place, his third podium of the season, and with it the lead of the driver’s championship. The difference between Palou’s two Indy 500s could not have been greater. Last year he qualified seventh but crashed and failed to finish on Lap 121.

Simon Pagenaud Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Doug Matthews.

O’Ward lost out on the final podium position to Penske’s Simon Pagenaud on the final lap of the race. The Frenchman drove imperiously all day, fighting through the field in what can only be described as a miracle drive after starting down in 26th.

Scott Dixon led from pole position but was quickly hunted down by both Ed Carpenter’s Rinus VeeKay and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta. They spent the majority of the first half of the race saving fuel, extending their first stints as far as possible.

This portion of the race was dropped on its head following a pitlane crash involving Justin Wilson, who locked up under braking and veered into the pit wall. The following caution kept the pitlane closed and extended many drivers’ stints when they were crucially low on fuel. Both Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi suffered, running out of fuel coming into the pits.

Both drivers lost significant time, as their teams tried to refire their cars and then make an extra stop to fully refuel. In all, the disaster put both cars one lap down. Without another caution called in the rest of the first half of the race, it destroyed any realistic hope either had of aiming for an epic comeback.

After the pitstops, Ed Carpenter teammates Rinus VeeKay and  Indianapolis local Conor Daly emerged as the leaders, with Daly pulling off an incredibly popular overtake on the restart.

As for the rest of the top ten, Ed Carpenter finished fifth – a great recovery after stalling during the first pit stops. He finishes the race as the lead Ed Carpenter Racing driver.

Santino Ferrucci had arguably one of the most impressive results in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry. After starting in 23rd he carved his way through the field and conducting a short final pitstop on the 180th lap. This cycled him ahead of others who had pitted earlier, finishing in sixth place and taking the fastest lap to top it off.

Sage Karam went from the last row of the grid to seventh place, his career-best finish in the Indy 500. This marks the best result for the Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Team since Oriol Servia’s fourth place in 2011.

VeeKay alongside Herta and Dixon. Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Doug Matthews.

After leading much of the first stint, Veekay just couldn’t save enough fuel to stay competitive, but he was able to come home with an eighth-place finish. Behind him in ninth was two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in the Arrow McLaren SP.

Rounding out the top ten was Tony Kanaan in the final Chip Ganassi entry. He had been amongst the frontrunners but was forced to concede some positions after a pitlane infraction

Eleventh place Marcus Ericsson beat the Penske of Josef Newgarden, who fought incredibly well from 21st.

Defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, could not repeat the feat this year. The Japanese driver had to perform a splash-and-dash at the end and finished 14th, ahead of 2011 runner-up JR Hildebrand – the highest-placed AJ Foyt driver.

Is the Indianapolis 500 *ACTUALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ ?

The Indianapolis 500 has become one of the most famous racing events over the past century, combining scintillating speed and unmitigated bravery that is quite unparalleled in motorsport.

With speeds topping over 220mph, drivers are at full throttle for approximately 3 hours, experiencing forces of (4G) across an incredible 200-lap distance.

But with speed comes danger, and hero can turn to zero in a heartbeat. The sport is recognised as one of the most dangerous with over 40 deaths occurring at The Brickyard.

Fox and Cheever 1995 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

While there has not been a death at the Indy 500 in almost a decade, serious injuries are still a reality for many. During practice for the Indy 500 in 2015, James Hinchcliffe famously flipped his No.5 Honda after touching the barriers, resulting in a burning inferno and a piece of the car’s suspension piercing his left thigh as he hit the wall. The Canadian driver would survive this incident but missed the rest of the IndyCar season as a result.

The Indianapolis 500 is a race like no other, with incredible technology and deep traditions which make it an event like no other.

But is it *REALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’?

WHAT IS THE COMPETITION?

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours can be considered its closest competitors. To win all three is what is known as the ‘Triple Crown’ – suggesting they all share qualities as the toughest races in the world. All of these races present unique challenges, and with that, different audiences.

Monaco is widely seen as the jewel in the crown of motorsport. Since its inception in 1929, the most richest and famous grace the presence of ‘The Principality’ for a week of festivities, boat parties, and galas. If there’s anything that epitomises the socioeconomic legacy of Formula 1 – its Monaco.

No other race can compare to Monaco in terms of the beauty of its surroundings. Wedged between the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps, the Circuit de Monaco winds through the tight streets of the principality.

The race presents its own challenges. Like the Indy 500, one mistake can mean the end of your race.  The tight, windy streets produce one of the most exciting qualifying sessions in motorsport. It tests every inch of a driver’s concentration and skill to perfect, which is why only the very best see repeated success.

However, they also make it very difficult to overtake which detracts from the overall entertainment of the event. Many people comment on the “dullness” of Monaco and the lack of racing that occurs.

Likewise, you could make a case for the Le Mans 24 Hours, staged at the semi-permanent race course: The Circuit de la Sarthe since the very first race in 1923.

The 38-turn, 8.5-mile track takes around 3min 25sec to complete for LMP1 cars. It’s unbelievably quick and challenging, with tricky corners like the Porsche Curves and plenty of long straights.

Each team is pushed to its technological and physical limits to race through the day and into the night. Machine and humans alike withstand incredible attrition and exhaustion if they want to win this star-studded race.

Moreover, the vast number of cars on track make it an incredible spectacle to watch with: Hypercars, LMP2 Prototypes, and GT cars racing side by side. The sheer variety of teams, drivers, nationalities, and races on show is unmatched.

Now, throw in the likes of the Isle of Man TT and The Dakar Rally – Indy has some stiff competition.

COMPETITIVENESS 

While it is a misnomer that IndyCar is a ‘spec-series’, it certainly would fool you to think it was.

It is common for drivers to fight through the field from lowly positions, sometimes even fighting for the win.

Not only did Louis Meyer charge through the pack in the 1936 Indy 500, moving from a starting position of 28th to a final position of first, but he also led 96 laps while capturing his third Indy 500 win.

Moreover, three out of the last six races have seen some of the closest finishes in racing, 15′, 17′, and 19′ all with winning margins of less than 0.25s.

Anything can happen at the 500′ as can be seen this year with Penske’s Will Power nearly failing to qualify, a fate that was all-too-real for two-time Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso in 2019.

This unpredictability adds to the entertainment of the event and speaks volumes of the challenges facing teams who are all competing at a very similar level.

TRADITIONS

The first Indianapolis 500 race took place in 1911 (Older than *both* the Monaco GP and 24 Hours Le Mans). Since then, numerous traditions have been created.  For many fans, these traditions are an important part of the race experience that they look forward to every year.

Harroun wins the first ever 1911 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

But perhaps one of the strangest traditions of the race is the winner chugging a bottle of chilled milk in victory lane.

It’s a unique tradition that has appeared in every race since 1956 and has become a snapshot moment defining the elation of victory after winning one of the world’s most iconic races.

Likewise, the presenting of the Indy 500 rings is a special moment for all drivers who compete, a momento that only a few can say they have received

There are many traditions that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the event, but they only add an endearing quality to it. You can tell how much this race means to drivers, teams, and fans alike by the way they celebrate and look forward to these moments. It adds richness, built upon years of hard work, achievement, failure, and redemption. This history is personified in these moments which make it hard to resist.

VIEWERSHIP/MARKETS/TV

While comparisons are difficult to make, there is certainly a gulf in global viewership between its nearest competitors.

While a 2018 report by NBC shows figures of around 5 to 6 million average viewers for its domestic audience, this puts it well short of other US events such as the Super Bowl. In other words, that is around 1.6% – 1.8% of the US population.

How does that stack up against other domestic sports events? Well, if you compare this to 3.5 million UK viewers who tuned in for the British Grand Prix – that is approximately 5% of the UK population!

Moreover, according to a report by Nielson Sports in 2017, the Monaco Grand Prix reported saw a 10% rise to 110 million viewers.

While they are no solid sources estimating the worldwide ratings for the Indianapolis 500, they all fall short of the Monaco Grand Prix’s global reach.

It is without question that the reach of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ dwarfs that of Formula 1. There really is no competition.

GET INVOLVED

But what do *YOU* think?

We want to know whether you think the Indianapolis 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. And if so, why?

Let us know in the comments section below or interact with us on Twitter!

 

 

 

Scott Dixon Snatches Indianapolis 500 Pole from Colton Herta. Will Power and de Silvestro Narrowly Qualify.

Scott Dixon keeps his remarkable momentum going with a fourth pole position at the Indianapolis 500. His four-lap average of 231.685 mph topped the Fast Nine Shootout and will start on the front-row alongside Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Colton Herta initially set a blistering four-lap average of 231.655 mph to take provisional pole, but Dixon had other ideas. Dixon was the last to run, and when he landed a 232.757 on his opening lap it was clear that Ganassi’s six-time IndyCar champion had the potential to earn his fourth pole. His drop-off was around 1.1mph across the four laps, so his final margin over Herta was only 0.03mph – after 10 miles of flat-out driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but the job was done.

The next closest threat came from Rinus VeeKay, one of two drivers for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Fast Nine Shootout in what was a remarkable day for the team. Despite a small wiggle coming out of Turn 1 on his fourth lap, the Dutchman’s 231.511 was enough to start ahead of teammate Ed Carpenter (231.504 mph). They made up the only Chevrolet cars in an afternoon that was dominated by Honda.

Tony Kanaan (231.032 mph) starts ahead of his Spanish teammate Alex Palou (231.032 mph) to round out the second-row. For the Brazilian to out-qualify two of his full-time counterparts is nothing short of sensational.

The third-row will be shared between Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.499 mph), Helio Castroneves (230.355 mph), and Marcus Ericsson (230.318 mph). Meyer Shank Racing will be incredibly happy with Castroneves’s performance to pip the final Chip Ganassi driver in the session.

This afternoon also saw the final-row shootout for those who failed to make the Top 30 in yesterday’s qualifying. Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and RC Enerson were all at risk of not qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

de Silvestro qualifies for the Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

It was Karam, Power, and de Silvestro who eventually qualified for the final-row in what was a significant milestone in the history of The Brickyard. de Silvestro and Paretta Autosport become the first female driver and all female-led team to qualify for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport’.

Team Owner Beth Paretta was full of elation and had this to say on their achievement: “This is just the beginning!”

Consequentially, that means both Kimball and Enerson fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Some other shock performances in Saturday qualifying came from Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden made multiple qualifying attempts but was forced to settle with a 230.071 mph four-lap average, good enough only for 21st. Likewise, Simon Pagenaud closed the day in 26th after setting an average of 229.778 mph in what was a difficult day for Chevrolet-powered teams.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will start from 15th. The last to win the 500′ after starting outside the Top 10 was Alexander Rossi in 2016. Incidentally, Rossi just missed out on the Fast Nine Shootout and starts 10th.

With the grid now set, teams have two more practice sessions before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place next Sunday 30 May at  17:00 (BST.)

FULL CLASSIFICATION:

  1. Dixon
  2. Herta
  3. VeeKay
  4. Carpenter
  5. Kanaan
  6. Palou
  7. Hunter-reay
  8. Castroneves
  9. Ericsson
  10. Rossi
  11. Jones
  12. O’Ward
  13. Fittipaldi
  14. Rosenqvist
  15. Sato
  16. Hinchcliffe
  17. McLaughlin
  18. Rahal
  19. Daly
  20. Harvey
  21. Newgarden
  22. Hildebrand
  23. Ferrucci
  24. Montoya
  25. Andretti
  26. Pagenayd
  27. Bourdais
  28.  Wilson
  29. Chilton
  30. Kellet
  31. Karam
  32. Power
  33. de Silvestro