IndyCar Finale Firestone Grand Prix

26TH OCTOBER 2020 BY ADAM WHEELER

Dixon crowned six-time champion to outshine Newgarden victory

Josef Newgarden’s last gasp attempt to be crowned IndyCar champion could only be accomplished with a win. Anything short of victory on the streets of St Petersburg would leave almost no path to deny Scott Dixon his sixth world championship.

Image courtesy of IndyCar

Newgarden, who started in eight, carved his way through the grid culminating with a spectacular two-car pass to take the lead and indeed the win. However, this wasn’t enough as Dixon was able to follow through from eleventh to finish in third place and thus the title.

“Six is good. Seven sounds better, that’s the goal,” Dixon said.

Scott Dixon’s sixth championship title takes him into IndyCar folklore, residing amongst the very best in history. He now is only one championship off the most successful IndyCar champion of all-time, A.J Foyt (7).

With victory at St Petersburg Newgarden achieved his series-best fourth win of the season. The Tennessee born two-time defending champion now loses his title but was remarkably magnanimous in defeat.

Newgarden went to victory lane to congratulate his rival.

“We weren’t good enough,”Newgarden said. “We’ll reset, we’ll hit them harder next year and I promise you, we will be in the fight.”

It is indeed incredible that it was nearly seven months ago that the 2020 season was abruptly abandoned. St Petersburg was originally scheduled to take place in March but was postponed to the last race of the season. A sold-out crowd of 20,000 spectators was the largest crowd of the whole season, which lost races in seven cities, had just one street course event with Sunday’s finale, and still managed to complete a 14-race year.

It was a finale to remember which was plagued with error-prone ending mistakes which saw three different Andretti race leaders crash out and Newgarden there to capitalise.

The start of the race was dominated by Alexander Rossi who took the lead of the race from pole sitter Will Power with an apparent down-shift issue. Power who was in a tight race for third in the final standings, then made an uncharacteristic mistake crashing into the barrier and promptly retiring from the race thereafter. The Australian threw his gloves in anger and admitted to driver error.

“I just lost it. Had a moment,”he said. “I was definitely frustrated there, making a mistake and hitting the wall. It’s my bad. It put us out of the race and that’s a bad situation.”

What followed were three cautions over 10 laps, the third on the restart of lap 47 brought out by Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin who spun on his debut. The debutant collected into Rinus VeeKay, who clinched the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title on the same day his contract was renewed for a second season with Ed Carpenter Racing.

Despite the crash and ultimately finishing in 22nd, McLaughlin hailed his experience in IndyCar as an exciting one:

“Awesome. Far out. The best day of my life, besides my wedding,”

After the first round of pit stops, it seemed Alexander Rossi was in control of the race followed by his two Andretti teammates Colton Herta and James Hinchliffe. However, Rossi went into a spin on lap 70 collecting both the 

Rossi had been determined to extend a streak of at least one win a season that dates to 2006 when was Skip Barber’s youngest champion at 14-year-old.

His long and frustrating season ended with a 21st-place finish for the Andretti Autosport driver.

“Just lost it. It sucks, this is the first time I’ve crashed while leading,” Rossi said.

Chaos continued when Marco Andretti, who had magnificently fought his way from near the back to seventh, spun while racing for the final spot in IndyCar’s bonus programme which would have gifted an extra $1 billion to the Andretti team.

Moreover, there was a spin for Andretti’s James Hinchliffe who had been running in the top three for most of the race.

In a bizarre turn of events, the pace car which had been used for an unusually high number of caution laps reported it was on low fuel. Quickly after that, Andretti’s Colton Herta, who had inherited the lead from both Rossi and Hinchliffe spun making it a day to forget for the Andretti Autosport team.

Newgarden took control soon after, but soon had the McLaren SP driver of Pato O’Ward on his tail. Unfortunately, the Mexican could not gain on the American who stretched his lead to nearly 5 seconds by the chequered flag. O’Ward eventually settled for second.

All the earlier attrition helped Dixon slip through the field to third. There was nothing Newgarden could do, even on a day he did everything he had to, to deny Dixon a sixth championship.

Dixon, a 40-year-old considered the best of his generation, ranks third on IndyCar’s all-time wins list behind A.J. Foyt. His first title was in 2003, his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing, and his latest championship comes as the team has welcomed NASCAR’s seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson to the organization.

Colton Herta was able to finish the season in third in front of Pato O’Ward, who in his first full IndyCar season, finished fourth in the standings.

Race Classification

1. Josef Newgarden
2. Pato O’Ward
3. Scott Dixon
4. Sebastien Bourdais
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. Simon Pagenaud
7. Marcus Ericsson
8. Charlie Kimball
9. Graham Rahal
10. Takuma Sato
11. Colton Herta
12. Max Chilton
13. Alex Palou
14. James Hinchcliffe
15. Rinus VeeKay
16. Oliver Askew
17. Conor Daly
18. Felix Rosenqvist
19. Jack Harvey
20. Marco Andretti
21. Alexander Rossi
22. Scott McLaughlin
23. Santino Ferrucci
24. Will Power

IndyCar Firestone GP Qualifying: Will Power takes pole after timing chaos.

image courtesy of IndyCar

Will Power took his ninth pole position on the streets of St Petersburg in the final qualifying of the season. Today’s achievement takes him to 62 career poles, now five behind Mario Andretti’s all-time record of 67.

A hectic session ensued in which multiple drivers had their times deleted due to various infringements, including Chip Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist who was relegated to 22nd for blocking Alex Palou. This caused a massive delay to the ‘Fast 12’ while IndyCar figured out the official classification.

Four Honda drivers, associated with Andretti finished inside the top five. Andretti Autosports’ Alexander Rossi lines up alongside Will Power in second place while Andretti Harding Steinbrenner driver Colton Herta continues his brilliant run of form starting in third.

Andretti Autosports’ James Hinchliffe will start in fourth in front of Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey in fifth who had one of their best qualifying performances of the season.

Of the six who made it through to the final Firestone Fast Six, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward was the slowest.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises’ Sebastien Bourdais qualified in seventh place ahead of only realistic championship contender remaining, Penske’s Josef Newgarden in eighth. The two-time champion must win the race tomorrow to stand any chance of snatching the championship from Scott Dixon.

Originally qualifying in ninth place, he was bumped up to eighth after teammate Simon Pagenaud was dropped from eighth to 12th due to a penalty.

image courtesy of IndyCar

Rookies Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing and Oliver Askew of Arrow McLaren SP are set to round out the top ten in ninth and tenth place respectively. VeeKay is certain to win the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title by starting the race tomorrow.

Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon starts in eleventh for tomorrow’s race and is assured his sixth championship title if he finishes in the same position. If Dixon finishes the race in eleventh, Newgarden can not mathematically win the title even if he wins the race.

image courtesy of IndyCar

IndyCar also welcomed Australian Supercar Champion Scott McLaughlin for his debut with team Penske. However, the Kiwi had some trouble getting used to the car and missed out on advancing to the second stage of qualifying, making contact with a wall in the process.

Here is the full starting lineup for the 2020 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, with all penalties factored in.

Starting Lineup
1st – Will Power
2nd – Alexander Rossi
3rd – Colton Herta
4th – James Hinchcliffe
5th – Jack Harvey
6th – Pato O’Ward
7th – Sebastien Bourdais
8th – Josef Newgarden
9th – Rinus VeeKay
10th – Oliver Askew
11th – Scott Dixon
12th – Simon Pagenaud
13th – Takuma Sato
14th – Conor Daly
15th – Marcus Ericsson
16th – Alex Palou
17th – Graham Rahal
18th – Santino Ferrucci
19th – Ryan Hunter-Reay
20th – Charlie Kimball
21st – Scott McLaughlin
22nd – Felix Rosenqvist
23rd – Marco Andretti
24th – Max Chilton

IndyCar Finale: St Petersburg Preview

image courtesy of IndyCar

After seven months we have finally reached the culmination of a full season of IndyCar racing. We head into the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, after COVID-19 risked the suspension of the series in its entirety, with an enthralling championship decider, and some wonderful races along the way.

With the cooperation of the Florida city’s governing leaders, they have fortunately been able to construct the airport / street layout in time for this weekend’s fall event. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon leads Penske’s Josef Newgarden as the two battle for the NTT IndyCar Series crown in a year dominated by postponements, cancellations, and rescheduling, but will finish with 14 races instead of the intended 17. Dixon has never won here but has been a runner-up four times while Newgarden had one “top-of-the podium” St. Pete finish a year ago.

This weekend’s running of the Firestone Grand Prix is the 17th event at St Petersburg since 2003, will run for 100 laps/180 miles; ten laps shorter than in 2019 when Josef Newgarden won there for the first time. Team Penske will be confident having won here nine times while Will Power and Sebastien Bourdais have each won twice among the active series drivers. Will Power also has an incredible eight pole positions to his name so don’t overlook the Australian this weekend.

 

LAST TIME OUT

In March 2019, Josef Newgarden took his first St Petersburg win, kickstarting his championship winning campaign. Power took the start from pole position, surging to an early lead until the first round of pit stops. Opting for an alternative strategy, Newgarden waited five extra laps before stopping, building an extensive lead out front before changing to the softer tyre. The margin he built on his competitors meant he was able to win by 2.899 seconds over Scott Dixon who has never won there despite being a five-time series champion

 

DRIVER NEWS

St Petersburg sees the debut of Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin who features for Penske this weekend,

There has been some seismic driver news for 2021 over the past few weeks, notably the change at Arrow McLaren SP. It seems that Oliver Askew following a season placated by a variety of issues will be leaving the team at the end of the season.

To take his place is Chip Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist, who has one IndyCar victory to his name. The lineup alongside Pato O’Ward will undoubtedly excite all fans as one of the best young driver pairings on the grid.

Unfortunately for Askew, it seems that his luck ran out. What started with a promising podium at Iowa came crashing down, with the American featuring inside the top ten once since then. Lately, Askew was forced to miss the Harvest GP after is was revealed that he was suffering with ‘concussion-esque’ symptoms after his crash at the Indy 500. Helio Castroneves filled in for Askew at the Harvest GP, however he has been cleared fit to race for this weekend and will feature one final time for McLaren.

The final question will be who takes the vacant Chip Ganassi seat? With incoming NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson set to feature in a few races, it seems only logical that Ganassi will share that car between Johnson and an IndyCar veteran. Rumours have been that Tony Kanaan or Helio Castroneves could fill in.

And significantly Formula E champion Antonio Felix Da Costa will take part in a pre-season test with Rahal Letterman Racing. It is unclear whether this is with a view for a 2021 IndyCar seat but would undoubtedly replace Conor Daly to line up alongside Dutch superstar Rinus VeeKay.

CHAMPIONSHIP OUTLOOK

The good news for Josef Newgarden is that there are nearly 200 scenarios in which he can clinch the IndyCar championship Sunday at St. Petersburg, Florida.

The bad news is there are nearly 19,700 ways in which rival Scott Dixon will win the championship.

Entering the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a 32-point lead, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who has led the standings since opening the season with three consecutive victories, is a heavy favourite for his sixth championship. He will clinch the title with a ninth-place or better, regardless of where Newgarden finishes.

 

WHO ELSE TO WATCH OUT FOR

Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay have all had successes at St Petersburg in their lower formula experiences. All three has taken victory here in either IndyLights or the Pro Mazda championship.

Colton Herta has been in magnificent form with an amazing qualifying record, a win at Mid-Ohio and a podium at the Harvest GP. He is currently third in the standings and will be looking to finish his campaign in similar style.

Rinus VeeKay is almost certain to win the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title. His nearest challenger his Alex Palou who is 54 points behind. Palou would have to take pole, win, and lead the most laps in the race to tie level. Simply put, an impossible task.

Finally, Alexander Rossi has put his gremlins behind him. A season plagued with issues has effectively written off the American’s year. However, with four consecutive podiums since Mid-Ohio Rossi will be looking to send a statement to everyone heading into 2021.

 

WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?

 

SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER

10:55 EST / 14:55 GMT – Practice

15:05 EST / 18:05 GMT – Qualifying

 

SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER

14:30 EST / 19:30 GMT – Race

 

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE RACE?

Coverage in the UK for the races will be on Sky Sports F1. However, you can also read our session reports right here, on ThePitCrewOnline.

IndyCar Harvest GP: Newgarden victory keeps title fight alive. Maiden podium for Rinus VeeKay.

image courtesy of IndyCar & Chris Owens

Josef Newgarden landed a crushing blow to Scott Dixon’s championship lead, gaining his 20th career IndyCar victory at the IMS, his 3rd this season. The New Zealander would eventually finish down in ninth after a late and costly mistake.

Dutchman Rinus VeeKay led from pole position from Colton Herta, and managed to pull a healthy gap on the rest of the field after starting on the faster sticker red tyres.

However, Herta started on the sticker blacks, going further on his first stint, looking to make up the time with the faster tyre on the second stint. This tactic proved to be successful, passing the Dutchman after the first pit stop with an audacious dummy move down the inside of turn 7.

Josef Newgarden also chose to start on the sticker blacks. Managing to go 10 laps longer than his rivals, he was able to come out ahead of Colton Herta after the pit stops into the lead of the race.

But came back fighting did Herta. Using up all his push to pash to catch Newgarden, diving to the inside of Turn 1 to take the race lead back from the two-time champion.

Following the second pit stop all of the top three chose to go onto the sticker reds, emerging with Herta in front, followed by Newgarden and VeeKay. Herta would unfortunately struggle with his rear tyres, prompting a lock up on lap 60, gifting the lead back to Newgarden before putting again.

Newgarden would follow, both opting for the sticker blacks. However, the two time champion was able to magnificently pull away from the rest of the field, enough to seal his first career win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This win cuts the championship gap to 40 points with 108 remaining over the next two races, one of which comes tomorrow with the second of the doubleheader weekend. What was seemingly an unassailable championship fight going into Mid-Ohio in September, now seems like a mouth-watering prospect as Newgarden chases his third and what would be his most incredible championship.

Colton Herta on the other hand, would fall under the pressure of a charging Felix Rosenqvist, who had dropped as low as 10th before fighting back to the podium. Although, an unsuccessful pass on Herta would drop him into the clutches of Alexander Rossi who would steamroll through both Rosenqvist and Herta for a second-place finish. Rossi was visibly irritated following the race due to a penalty brought on by exceeding track limits. It marks another string of penalties at the IMS for Rossi who is starting to make something of a habit of it at this circuit.

Image courtesy of IndyCar by Doug Matthews

Rinus VeeKay, who had done so well to put that Ed Carpenter Racing car on pole position, had to make up for lost ground during the pit stops, but saved the majority of his push to pass to overtake both Herta in fourth and Roseqnvist in fifth to take his first IndyCar podium in style.

Behind them, a titanic battle ensued with Will Power who suffered due to a stuck front-right wheel during his first pit stop as well as experiencing a huge slide going into turn 1 that could have easily ended his race. Behind him was Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey who were able to capitalise on a unusual late mistake from Scott Dixon who ran wide onto the grass, to finish in a disappointing ninth. Rounded out the top ten was Marcus Ericsson marking a solid day for Chip Ganassi who featured every car in the top ten.

The race ran without a caution period but Marco Andretti was forced to retire with a handful of laps remaining after the rear caught fire. Andretti was able to bring the car back to the pits for his pit crew to put it out.

RACE CLASSIFICATION

1 Josef Newgarden
2 Alexander Rossi
3 Rinus VeeKay (R)
4 Colton Herta
5 Felix Rosenqvist
6 Will Power
7 Graham Rahal
8 Jack Harvey
9 Scott Dixon
10 Marcus Ericsson
11 Max Chilton
12 Conor Daly
13 Charlie Kimball
14 James Hinchcliffe
15 Santino Ferrucci
16 Simon Pagenaud
17 Alex Palou (R)
18 Takuma Sato
19 Ryan Hunter-Reay
20 Helio Castroneves
21 Sebastien Bourdais
22 Pato O’Ward
23 Sage Karam
24 Dalton Kellett (R)
25 Marco Andretti

IndyCar Harvest GP Preview

image courtesy of IndyCar

The first Indy Harvest Classic was held way back in 1916, so here we are in 2020, about to witness the next running, now called the Indy Harvest GP, to be run in two parts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course Friday and Saturday, October 2-3. Races 12/13 of the NTT IndyCar Series were a somewhat late addition to the often-altered season schedule and will precede Sunday’s 8-Hour GT World Challenge America endurance race.

The previous IMS road course race (the GMR GP) was held during July’s Brickyard weekend after its traditional May running was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda ran away with the race after a full-course caution shuffled the field on lap 36/80. Dixon had stopped three laps earlier while the leaders at the time pitted under caution after Oliver Askew’s crash. Following the green flag, Dixon chased down then leader Graham Rahal on Lap 48 and cruised to a 19.9-second victory after leading 26 laps; his first GMR win after three runner-up finishes. Rahal was second with Jack Harvey taking his first podium finish in third.

This event will mark the eighth and ninth times that the IMS road course has hosted an IndyCar race. So far, only Simon Pagenaud (three times), Will Power (also three times) and Scott Dixon have won here. Power has started from pole position here four times, with the other three poles going to Sebastian Saavedra, Pagenaud and Felix Rosenqvist.

Seven drivers are still mathematically eligible for the 2020 IndyCar championship. Dixon on 456 points, Josef Newgarden -72, Pato O’Ward -118, Colton Herta -129, Will Power -150, Graham Rahal -155 and Takuma Sato -156. There will be no double-points available at the St. Petersburg finale, however. So with a maximum of 54 points available from any race (50 for the win, 1 for pole, 2 for leading most laps, 1 for leading a lap), drivers emerging from Friday’s race more than 108 points behind Dixon will be out of the title running. Dixon will clinch his sixth championship a race early if he is more than 54 points ahead of his nearest pursuer come Saturday evening.

 

DRIVER CHANGES

Helio Castroneves will be temporarily replacing Oliver Askew in the Arrow McLaren SP after he was deemed not medically fit to race. It marks the third time in three years that the Indianapolis 500 winner has taken part in the Indy Road Course since his retirement from full-time racing.

Sebastien Bourdais returns this weekend taking the third A.J Foyt Racing entry, joining with Charlie Kimball and Dalton Kellett for the final three races.

Conor Daly is back with Ed Carpenter for his usual road course duties while Dryer & Reinbold will extend its schedule, entering Sage Karam for the weekend.

Finally, Zach Veach has permanently stepped out of the Andretti Autosport No. 26, making way for James Hinchcliffe for the remaining races and perhaps next season. Hinchliffe had driven for Andretti up until the 2015 season when he moved to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

 

OUTLOOK FOR THE WIN

In my opinion you cannot overlook the Penske drivers for this race, who have won a staggering five out of the last six iterations of this race. Will Power has won here three out of six in that time and will be looking to improve on his race winning performance at Mid-Ohio.

Remember it was Power who led from pole position this time back in July when a poorly timed caution cycled him back into the pack. He will have the ‘bit between his teeth’ to right that wrong and push for a top three championship position.

 

OTHERS TO LOOK OUT FOR

As we go into this race Rinus VeeKay still leads the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title 39 points ahead of his nearest challenger Alex Palou. With Askew withdrawn, there is very little competition going this weekend. Rinus has been consistent and has pulled off some staggering overtakes this year. I expect him to carry on in a similar fashion this weekend.

Also, I fully expect Colton Herta to do what he has been doing all season. In his sophomore season, he is currently fourth in the standings with both a win and a pole position to his name. His win last weekend was a just-reward for his performances lately, and I expect, with a few improvements here and there, that he will be a fully fledged title contender in the years to come.

 

WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?

There are two!

THURSDAY 01 OCTOBER

14:15 EST / 19:15 GMT – Practice

18:20 EST / 23:20 GMT – Qualifying

 

FRIDAY 02 OCTOBER

15:30 EST / 20:30 GMT – Race 1

 

SATURDAY 03 OCTOBER

10:20 EST / 15:20 GMT – Qualifying

14:30 EST / 19:30 GMT – Race 2

 

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE RACE?

Coverage in the UK for the races will be on Sky Sports F1. However, you can also read our session reports right here, on ThePitCrewOnline.

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Race 2: Colton Herta and Andretti Autosport sweep podium.

image courtesy of IndyCar

It has been a fifteen year wait for the Andretti Autosport team but they have finally achieved a team sweep of the podium at Mid-Ohio, ending the double-header in style. The race was dominated by young superstar Colton Herta getting his third IndyCar career win, his first of the 2020 season.

Following a magnificent pole position start, his fourth of his career, the son of Bryan Herta led from start to finish, untroubled by second place teammate Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 27 Honda finished 1.3826 seconds back for his second podium of the weekend and third of the year. Just over one second back came veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay, giving Andretti Autosport three podium finishes on Sunday alone and four on the weekend after just one in the previous nine races.

“I’m so happy. We’ve been knocking on the door almost every week, and we’ve had the pace, but just some reason or another, this or that, things have gone wrong,”

 Herta said on the post-race broadcast after leading 57 of the 75 laps Sunday:

“We just need to be finishing on the podium more, maybe every other weekend. It seems like only when we win, we get up here, so if we could fill in some of those spots, we’d be good.”

This win moves Herta into fourth place in the series championship, eclipsing both yesterdays winner Will Power and Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato. A worthy prize for a young racer who has been one of the standout drivers this season with eight top ten finishes in ten starts before Sunday.

“That’s so huge, so huge. Thank god we came here to Mid-Ohio,” said team owner Michael Andretti post-race on the broadcast. “I was a little worried we weren’t gonna be able to get here, but those guys at Green Savoree Racing Promotions did a good job getting this race on. After the way things have gone this year, this is huge for the team.”

Added Rossi:

“I’m so happy for Andretti Autosport. It’s been a terrible year for us, and to do this, that’s just huge. Hats off to Colton and the No. 88 team, but to sweep the podium, that’s very cool. We’re just focused on race wins and building a good foundation for next year, and we’re doing that with this now.”

However, it could have been very different for the team as Herta narrowly missed what could have been a race ending incident on lap one when Santino Ferrucci ran off-track at turn 4 only to re-join and collide with teammate Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi’s Felix Roseqnvist. Both of their races ended they’re with Santino being sent to the back of the grid for avoidable contact.

Following a period of caution the field pitted on lap sixteen that saw Alexander Rossi cycle up from tenth to fourth, Hunter-Reay from eight to third, Power from seventeenth to tenth and O’Ward from twenty first to fourteenth.

During this time Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti stayed out attempting to go long into the race and attempt a strong overcut which proved effective in yesterdays race. Unfortunately, their efforts would be in vain after Marco lost the car into the gravel not soon after, and after Sato failed to make much ground, finishing outside the top ten.

Another memorable moment came on lap 22 when championship leader Scott Dixon, who had been following Herta and Rossi, came out of shape and spun into the grass. A rare mistake from the five time champion that sent him right to the back of the pack. He would eventually spend the rest of the race fighting back through the pack with some audacious moves on the likes of Jack Harvey and Rinus VeeKay, eventually finishing in tenth, just two spots behind runner up in the championship Josef Newgarden.

An ‘off weekend’ for the Kiwi which saw his lead in the championship cut by twenty four points.

“I got a little too aggressive there and hit the overtake on the exit, and it was just too much power,” Dixon said. “I spun the tires and the car. It was a stupid mistake I shouldn’t have made. It should have been an easy points day.”

Following Hunter-Reay’s season-best third, Graham Rahal finished fourth for the second time this weekend, with Marcus Ericsson climbing from a 15th-place start to end fifth.

Graham Rahal interestingly now sits sixth in the championship standings alongside his Rahal Letterman teammate Takuma Sato in seventh. Separated by one point.

It was a Penske trio finishing sixth, seventh and eighth with Simon Pagenaud, Power, and Newgarden. A slow pit-stop by Josef Newgarden caused himself and teammate Will Power to have a drag race out the pits in which Power came out victorious. The status-quo remained the same for most of the race.

Patricio O’Ward, third place in the championship, started in eleventh on the grid and held his own from a late-charging Scott Dixon to round out the top ten.

Other notable results were highest placed rookie, Rinus VeeKay who extended his lead in the ‘Rookie of the season’ standings, while beating his Ed Carpenter Racing teammate Conor Daly.

IndyCar now has a two to three week break until we return to the Indianapolis Road Course for the Harvest GP on October 2nd and 3rd.

Official Classification:

  1. (1) Colton Herta
  2. (10) Alexander Rossi
  3. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay
  4. (12) Graham Rahal
  5. (15) Marcus Ericsson
  6. (6) Simon Pagenaud
  7. (17) Will Power
  8. (9) Josef Newgarden
  9. (21) Pato O’Ward
  10. (3) Scott Dixon
  11. (11) Rinus VeeKay
  12. (19) Jack Harvey
  13. (18) Max Chilton
  14. (2) Santino Ferrucci
  15. (14) Oliver Askew
  16. (16) Conor Daly
  17. (13) Zach Veach
  18. (22) Takuma Sato
  19. (23) Charlie Kimball
  20. (7) Marco Andretti
  21. (20) Dalton Kellett
  22. (5) Felix Rosenqvist
  23. (4) Alex Palou

IndyCar Mid-Ohio: Will Power dominates to take first win of 2020

image courtesy of IndyCar

Will Power dominates at Mid-Ohio to take his first win of the 2020 IndyCar season and his maiden win at Mid-Ohio. The Australian was barely troubled leading from lights out to chequered flag at a circuit that he has finished in the top five in eight out of his previous eleven outings.

Following the race, Power was elated saying:

“That’s probably the first race in 10 years that I’ve just gone hard. I just said, ‘Screw this, let’s just go hard and use my raw pace and see what happens.’ We won the race, it was a great strategy. … It’s great to tick off Mid-Ohio.”

This will be a welcome positive in a season that has been blighted with unreliability, bad pit stops and other calamities which have made this a season to forget for the one time series champion. Additionally, it was a great day for Penske who finished both first and second with Josef Newgarden.

Rain threatened the race with five laps to go, but in typical motorsport fashion stayed clear until after the chequered flag.

Newgarden’s second place is important in terms of the championship, cutting the deficit to Scott Dixon to 75 points. Certainly not an insurmountable target with just under five races to go.

Someone who enjoyed a fantastic day was Andretti’s Alexander Rossi was able to hold off Rahal Letterman’s Graham Rahal in the closing stages. Earlier in the race, the ex-Formula One driver decided to try the overcut-on competitors Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal. Rossi was putting in some blistering in laps using his ‘push to pass’ off the corners to gain as much lap time as possible. When he eventually came into the pits, he was released back out behind Ryan Hunter-Reay, albeit much closer than before.

Following a close fight between both teammates Rossi got on the radio to get Hunter-Reay to move aside as the likes of Felix Rosenqvist closed in. The team eventually caved in and allowed Rossi to eventually overtake Rahal to claim third position. The last ten laps were a tense fight between Rahal and Rossi in which the latter came out victorious.

Ryan Hunter-Reay would eventually finish in fifth, ahead of Chip Ganassi driver Felix Rosenqvist who found much more pace on a road course which he is used to. Felix was the highest placed Ganassi car at Mid-Ohio, a magnificent achievement for the young-super star.

Jack Harvey continued a super run of form finishing in seventh position, his fourth top ten of the season. The British driver pitted early, attempting the undercut on many of his fellow competitors to claim my self-prescribed title of: ‘best of the rest’

Colton Herta had a dramatic race of epic proportions finishing in eight place. Starting outside the top ten, the young-gun opted to start on sticker black tyres, attempting to go longer into the race. However, it wasn’t as simple as it turned out. A battle ensued with the likes of Santino Ferrucci, Rinus VeeKay and Marco Andretti. Herta made his way past VeeKay in the hunt for fellow countryman, Santino. After a slow pit stop, caused after Colton had to put on the brakes during Alexander Rossi’s stop, the time lost put him out into a scrap with championship leader Scott Dixon. The next stage of the race involved a titanic fight between these two which Herta won with a gutsy move down the inside. Pitting late on the final pit stop cycle would hand him his fully deserved final classification.

Ed Carpenter Racing duo Rinus VeeKay and Conor Daly rounded out the top ten in magnificent style. Perhaps the greatest moment of the race was VeeKay’s audacious move on Dalton Kellet and Colton Herta, the Dutchman caught them both napping and passed them with an exhilarating move around the outside. Rinus was once again the highest place rookie, extending his position in the standings as ‘Rookie of the Year’.

Outside the top ten it was a miserable day for championship contenders Scott Dixon and Patricio O’Ward who bravely fought their way back to eleventh and twelfth respectively. Both enjoyed some incredible wheel to wheel battles, trying to claw back some of the advantage Newgarden had gained. O’Ward will be disappointed not to capitalise on Dixon’s poor qualifying, now 79 points behind. Even more worrying will be his deficit to second place Josef Newgarden (33 points).

Further ramifications for the championship include Will Power moving up into fourth position in the standings on 76 points, three behind the McLaren SP driver.

To our delight, IndyCar goes again for the second race of the double-header tomorrow.

Official Classification
1st – Will Power
2nd – Josef Newgarden
3rd – Alexander Rossi
4th – Graham Rahal
5th – Ryan Hunter-Reay
6th – Felix Rosenqvist
7th – Jack Harvey
8th – Rinus VeeKay
9th – Colton Herta
10th – Scott Dixon
11th – Pato O’Ward
12th – Alex Palou
13th – Conor Daly
14th – Santino Ferrucci
15th – Marcus Ericsson
16th – Max Chilton
17th – Takuma Sato
18th – Simon Pagenaud
19th – Oliver Askew
20th – Zach Veach
21st – Charlie Kimball
22nd – Dalton Kellett
23rd – Marco Andretti

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

Josef Newgarden wins at Gateway race 2 to keep championship hopes alive.

image courtesy of IndyCar

Defending series champion Josef Newgarden closed the points gap to Scott Dixon in the championship with a victory at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway. His second at the famous ‘egg-shaped’ circuit

The Penske driver had been firmly in the hunt behind both pole sitter Takuma Sato and Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward. However, the American seized first position after the final pit stop window with 43 laps remaining after teammate Will Power was caught in traffic while entering the pits.

Josef and Pato both came into the pits on lap 151, the Mexican narrowly ahead. However, a slick pit stop by the Penske crew allowed the two time series champion to beat the Mexican to the pit lane exit. It was smooth sailing from there, leading rhe rest of the way to the chequered flag.

O’Ward eventually settled for second after finishing third yesterday in race one. Missing out on race victories is becoming something of a trademark for the young driver in his sophomore year. It seems like a matter of not if, but when O’Ward will experience the top step of the podium this season as he consolidates third in the championship.

This win will be Josef Newgarden’s 16th in his career and second this season. His first since at the Iowa Speedway and his first at Gateway since 2017.

Pole sitter Takuma Sato was running well until a failed overcut pit stop denied him a top five position. Sato was caught in traffic while trying to overtake backmarkers which inevitable slowed him down on his in lap, allowing the likes of Power, O’Ward and Newgarden through. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there for the two-time Indy 500 winner, bringing out the caution with less than five laps to go by running into the wall. An unfortunate end for what looked set to be magnificent weekend for the Japanese driver.

Dutch rookie Rinus VeeKay had an incredible race from 18th to fourth. He pitted earlier than the rest of the top ten and was able to slice his way through the field. Scott Dixon would round up the top five.

Some honourable mentions include Colton Herta who finished in a solid sixth position and Conor Daly in eight. Herta, who finished in an incredible fourth in yesterdays race starting in tenth for today’s running. It was a masterful drive and even saved a massive ‘tank slapper’ at half distance which could have easily ended the young American’s day.  Daly likewise put on an overtaking masterclass from his starting position of fifteenth. Both drivers have enjoyed a lot of success at this circuit in recent years and it was no exception this weekend.

However, more poignantly, as the racing drew to a close, so too did a certain Brazilians time in the sport. Sadly, today was Tony Kanaan’s last scheduled race in the IndyCar series. Though he finished in 19th position, it will be his 2004 series championship, his 2013 Indy 500 win, his 16 other career wins and 15 pole positions that he will be remembered for. Liked by the entire paddock it is a sad day to see a great close a chapter in a remarkable career that has spanned over twenty years.

We look forward to seeing Tony Kanaan again in a potential future Indy 500 guest appearance. But until then, we at the PitCrew Online wish ‘TK’ a happy retirement.

Alongside Kanaan the IndyCar circuits will take a five week break before we return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for another double header weekend.

Scott Dixon defends from Sato to win at Gateway

image courtesy of IndyCar

Scott Dixon continued where he left off during the closing stages of the Indianapolis 500, defending from a late charging Takuma Sato to take his 50th career IndyCar win at the World Wide Technology Speedway – his fourth win this season.

Patricio O’Ward had led over 100 laps of the Gateway, only to be beaten out of the pits by a quick and efficient stop by Dixon and the number nine Chip Ganassi crew. The five-time world champion had played the long game, sufficiently saving fuel behind the Mexican McLaren driver meaning that he only required a short refuel to get him out across the pit exit line comfortably ahead.

Further drama ensued when two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato had a slow right rear tyre change, which may well have cost him the net lead of the race. Instead, he was shifted out just behind Patricio O’Ward and firmly in the hunt for the race win.

On fresh rubber, the Japanese driver was able to make quick work of O’Ward with an ‘Evel Knieval’ inspired move around the outside. O’Ward nearly lost control of the car as Sato swept across the front of the Arrow McLaren SP but was able to stabilise the car to finish in third. It will be a bitter pill to swallow as it is the third time the Mexican has had a race win snatched from him in the closing stages following Road America and Iowa.

Sato was then able to set out to close the gap to Dixon. It would eventually come down to as much as two tenths of a second, however Dixon was able to just hang on to achieve the third most wins in IndyCar history behind A.J Foyt and Mario Andretti. He had never before won at the Gateway and has now won at 23 different tracks.

It was certainly a memorable race that began in spectacular fashion. As the race got underway, Alex Palou had to pull out to the left of the rolling start to avoid the car in front. Those behind took this to be a signal for the start of the race. Unfortunately, this resulted in a massive pileup involving Simon Pagenaud, Oliver Askew, Zack Veach and Alexander Rossi among others.

Colton Herta finished in a magnificent fourth position, continuing his strong run of form this season. After being benefited by a late caution, Colton was able to  jump the Husky Chcolcoate Chip Ganassi of Marcus Ericsson who finished in a strong P5.

Rinus VeeKay was affected by the early collision and decided to pit only a few laps in. He continued to undercut the entire field making plenty of positions after every pit window. From a starting position of 14th he finished in a magnificent P6. A deserved result for a rookie that has been plagued by pit stop issues and bad luck.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Felix Rosenqvist finished in P7 and P8 respectively. The Swede benefited massively after a late caution brought on by bad weather meant that those who pitted would lose out massively. By staying out longer he was able to shuffle further up the order and was potentially looking at a top five finish. Unfortunately, he almost lost the rear of the car on the restart and plummeted down to ninth were he stayed for the remainder of the race.

Rounding out the top ten was Tony Kanaan and a magnificent performance from Conor Daly. The American put in an incredible display to make it into the top ten during the first half of the race. However, after pitting early the late caution disadvantaged him sending him tumbling down the order to P13. To regain lost ground the way Conor did shows skills, composure and determination.

Scott Dixon’s win now moves him to 386 points in the championship, now 117 clear of Josef Newgarden who bagged just 18 with his 12 place finish.

IndyCar now moves on to a second race at Gateway on Sunday where Takuma Sato will be looking for redemption starting on pole position.