Daniel Suárez becomes first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup race

After running inside the top five for the first two stages, Daniel Suárez controlled the race at the front for the final stage, holding off challenges from Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick for the final 40 laps before pulling a four second lead heading to the chequered flag to get his first NASCAR Cup Series victory by winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway road course on Sunday.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This was Suárez’s 195th career start in the Cup Series and his sixth season since joining the top division in 2017. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Suárez becomes the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup race and joins the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 2007 Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in his rookie year, in being the fifth foreign driver to win a Cup race.

Daniel Suárez celebrates with a Mexican flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Suárez also joins Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe in becoming the fourth first-time winner in the Cup Series in 2022.

Daniel Suárez celebrates by drinking wine in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Speaking to FOX’s Jamie Little Suárez said: “A lot of people in Mexico, my family, they never gave up on me, a lot of people did but they didn’t. This is the first one of many.” Suárez was Trackhouse Racing’s first driver in the Cup Series when they entered in 2021 after buying Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR operation.

For Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick, both had opportunities in the final stage to take the lead away but were unable to find a way past the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Buescher, who was unable to race last week at WWT Raceway due to testing positive for Covid, had initially led the start of stage three but went wide at both turns four and seven and would drop back to fourth, handing the lead to Suárez.

Harvick moved up to second and was pressuring Suárez in what was a three-car battle for the lead for two laps before Buescher dived down the inside of Harvick in turn 11 to retake second.

On a restart with 23 laps to go, Suárez got a great launch over Buescher, but four laps later had to go defensive into turn 11 to cover Buescher off. With Buescher appearing unwilling to use the bumper with over 15 laps to go, Buescher would then proceed to slip back reporting he had weak forward drive and with five laps to go, Suárez had built a five second lead over him.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, leads Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talking to FOX, Buescher said: “I’m just disappointed with myself, didn’t get the job done there when it counted.” Both Buescher and Harvick were looking for their first win of the season.

Suárez smashed a taco piñata in celebration.

Suárez was not looking to be the race favourite as that went to Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, as Larson and Elliott have dominated the road courses in recent years, but due to poor execution on pit road resulting in penalties, Larson would only manage 15th while Elliott finished eighth.

Kyle Larson was the reigning race winner and led the field to green before leading all 25 laps of stage one. Larson chose to go for the stage win instead of pitting for tyres and fuel prior to the end of stage one and would consequently start 24th. In the 2021 race, Larson was able to work his way to the front in stage two, but was only up to 14th when he and everyone pitted again.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, leads the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

On the final pit stop with 28 laps to go, Larson’s crew would fail to get the front right tyre secured and instead Larson’s tyre came off the car in turn two after exiting the pits bringing out the caution and ending any hopes of a race win. His crew chief Cliff Daniels, and two crew members were all given a four-race suspension for the incident.

Elliott had ran inside the top three in stage one, only getting overtaken by Buescher for second with four laps to go in the stage before giving up stage points and pitting in exchange for a good starting spot for stage two. Elliott led most of stage two with Buescher following him and at one point had an eight second lead over then third place Suárez.

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, nears the wall exiting Turn 4A and heads down the short chute to turn 7 with Buescher, Chastain and Suarez behind (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Digital Media)

In Elliott’s pit stop sequence at the end of stage two, disaster struck when Elliott was called back to the pit box by crew chief Alan Gustafson for having a loose left rear wheel but failed to get his car fully inside the box and instead the team serviced his car resulting in a costly penalty that saw Elliott start from the rear of the field for the final stage.

Elliott however was successful in delivering Hendrick Motorsports its 100,000 mile in leading Cup races during stage two. They are the first organization to reach the milestone.

Road course veteran Michael McDowell would finish third in the end after qualifying fourth and moving up to third in the opening laps before fighting amongst the top ten for the majority of the race.

Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, racing in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 with Chris Buescher, Daniel Suárez and Tyler Reddick behind (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Apart from Larson’s loose wheel, the only other cause for caution came on lap 10 when Bubba Wallace’s engine let go.

After already spinning out in stage one, Erik Jones during stage two spun out trying to pass on the inside entering turn seven. Suárez’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain then performed a carbon copy of it a few laps trying to pass Suárez and fell back from fourth to seventh. Chastain had ran ahead of Suárez in third earlier in the stage.

Daniel Suárez (front) paces Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain (behind), driver of the No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Joey Logano, after concluding they didn’t have a race winning car, decided to stay out at the end of stage two to bag a stage win and a playoff point. Logano fired off 24th at the start of stage three and finished 17th.

AJ Allmendinger had an incredible afternoon as despite having lost power steering early on in the race, he broke into the top 10 inside of 20 laps to go. Allmendinger risked bringing out the caution with two laps to go when he went off in turn three, the sight visible to “Daniel’s Amigos” who had been cheering Suárez on every lap, but Allmendinger got going, and the race stayed green until Suárez took the chequered flag.

FOX’s Mike Joy said: “You’ve got to love it when nice guys finish first.”

The FOX Deportes broadcast team enjoyed the win too!

The NASCAR Cup Series returns in two weeks time when they race at Nashville Superspeedway in the Ally 400.

Full race results: 1st Daniel Suárez, 2nd Chris Buescher, 3rd Michael McDowell, 4th Kevin Harvick, 5th Austin Cindric, 6th Ryan Blaney, 7th Ross Chastain, 8th Chase Elliott, 9th William Byron, 10th Brad Keselowski, 11th Austin Dillon, 12th Justin Haley, 13th Chase Briscoe, 14th Aric Almirola, 15th Kyle Larson, 16th Alex Bowman, 17th Joey Logano, 18th Kurt Busch, 19th AJ Allmendinger, 20th Joey Hand, 21st Cole Custer, 22nd Erik Jones, 23rd Ty Dillon, 24th Todd Gilliland, 25th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 26th Martin Truex Jr., 27th Christopher Bell, 28th Harrison Burton, 29th Josh Bilicki, 30th Kyle Busch, 31st Denny Hamlin, 32nd Cody Ware, 33rd Scott Heckert, 34th Corey Lajoie, 35th Tyler Reddick, 36th Bubba Wallace

Stage 1 results: 1st Kyle Larson, 2nd Joey Logano, 3rd Kyle Busch, 4th Justin Haley, 5th Aric Almirola, 6th Harrison Burton, 7th Josh Bilicki, 8th Kurt Busch, 9th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10th Cody Ware.

Stage 2 results: 1st Joey Logano, 2nd Aric Almirola, 3rd Chris Buescher, 4th Daniel Suárez, 5th Kevin Harvick, 6th Todd Gilliland, 7th Harrison Burton, 8th Michael McDowell, 9th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10th Ryan Blaney.

Featured Image: Daniel Suárez , driver of the #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 12, 2022 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Newgarden wins one million dollars by capturing Road America victory

Josef Newgarden got ahead of polesitter Alexander Rossi in the first pit exchange on lap 16, partly due to Rossi getting held up by Newgarden’s teammate Scott McLaughlin as he came into his pit box as Rossi was attempting to leave. Newgarden then led the rest of the 55 lap race to win the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America for the second time but and win the one million dollar PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge bonus, half of which would be going to Newgarden’s charities of choice.

It was not an assured victory though, as Rossi kept Newgarden honest throughout the stints until a five second gap had been made before pitting in what was a three-stop race for both drivers. In the final stint however Rossi had closed the gap to 2.8 seconds with eight to go.

Newgarden then had to manage two late race restarts after O’Ward’s engine failure and Castroneves’ 360 spin-and-stall brought out full course yellows. Newgarden’s last restart saw him get a big launch over Rossi and comfortably took the chequered flag for his third victory of the season.

The No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet of Josef Newgarden racing in the Sonsio Grand Prix (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Speaking to NBC’s Marty Snider in victory lane Newgarden said: “For me it’s just the best series in the world. I just love IndyCar.”

When Newgarden was asked about whether he feared he would lose the race on a late race restart like he did in 2017 and 2021 when Scott Dixon and Álex Palou won, Newgarden said he was focused on the road ahead and getting a good launch.

In just the first eight races in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Newgarden has completed the PeopleReady Force for Good challenge by winning on each type of race track. To win the one million dollars, a driver had to win on a street course, an oval and a road course within the season.

Josef Newgarden celebrates with one millon dollar cheque (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Half of the money is being split between Newgarden’s two nominated charities, the SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks Nashville.

Alexander Rossi would end up finishing third as on the final restart, Rossi would not get as good a launch as he had previously and Marcus Ericsson, the 2022 Indy 500 winner, would charge by him on the front straightaway and clear him going into turn one with three laps to go. Ericsson was unable to chase Newgarden down for the win.

Alexander Rossi leading at the start of the race (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Ericsson had got ahead of Rossi briefly on lap 17 after jumping him in the pit cycle before Rossi got back of ahead of him for second after he dipped wheels on the grass in the turn seven to eight straight.

Ericsson retakes over the championship lead from Will Power after finishing second with a total of 293 points. The runner up position did not come without drama though for Ericsson, as on a lap four restart, Ericsson made contact with Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou in turn three. As he went to the inside and turned in, he made contact with Palou’s left front tyre, braking the toe link, forcing the defending race winner out of the race.

Álex Palou stuck in the turn three sand after his toe link broke after contact with teammate Marcus Ericsson (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Speaking with NBC’s Kevin Lee, Ericsson said he was really sorry to Palou but it was a “nice racing move” and that “it was a really good race, p2, great day for the championship.”

Marcus Ericsson running second behind Josef Newgarden (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Colton Herta would finish fifth, after running inside the top ten for nearly all of the race and coming through the field from 11th to 6th in the opening stint. With just over a lap to go, Herta had been all over the back of Rossi for third but slipped up in the final corners, allowing Romain Grosjean to get the run on him to take over fourth instead.

Colton Herta (left) and Romain Grosjean (right) battling side by side (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Will Power had a truly challenging race that began with Devlin DeFrancesco slamming into the back of him on lap eight as they headed towards turn three, spinning Power out and ended up losing his front wing as he hit the wall. Power was able to continue, and DeFrancesco received a stop-and-go penalty for the incident.

Power found himself at the back of the pack, and was only able to work his way up to a best of 18th before VeeKay shoved Power off in turn four with two laps to go, relegating him to 20th. Power came home 19th but only dropped one place in the championship, now 27 points behind Ericsson. Power maintained his more composed and mild-mannered approach to the 2022 season when NBC’s Marty Snider asked Power about DeFrancesco with Power saying: “he’s a young man.”

Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist would finish an impressive sixth after completing an alternative fuel-saving two stop strategy. Rosenqvist chose to pit early under the second caution of the day that came out on lap nine for Power’s crash, and then stretched his stint until pitting on lap 26 with Graham Rahal also doing the same. With caution laps at the ending stage of the race, and 91 seconds of push to pass, Rosenqvist was able to hold sixth to the checkered flag. Rahal would finish eighth.

Felix Rosenqvist racing in the Sonsio Grand Prix (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Christian Lundgaard was the highest finishing rookie of the race in what proved to be a strong day for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan organization, with Rahal and Jack Harvey finishing 13th. The first half of the race saw Lundgaard gain several positions with good pace after starting 13th.

The start of the race like the end of the race saw multiple cautions, with Jimmie Johnson bringing out the first on the opening lap after Tatiana Calderón squeezed out Johnson on the run down to turn two as she came up behind her A.J. Foyt Racing teammate Dalton Kellett with Johnson spinning off into the grass. He was able to continue and finished 24th.

Jimmie Johnson going off in the sand (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

The Sonsio Grand Prix was the first IndyCar race since 2015 to have two female drivers in the field. Alongside Tatiana Calderón , was veteran IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro, who was doing her first of three races for this season. De Silvestro finished 21st and Calderón finished 25th.

Simona De Silvestro racing in the Sonsio Grand Prix (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The IndyCar series now takes leave for its summer break before returning on July 3rd for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Full race results: 1st Josef Newgarden, 2nd Marcus Ericsson, 3rd Alexander Rossi, 4th Romain Grosjean, 5th Colton Herta, 6th Felix Rosenqvist, 7th Scott McLaughlin, 8th Graham Rahal, 9th Scott Dixon, 10th Christian Lundgaard, 11th Callum Ilott, 12th Simon Pagenaud, 13th Jack Harvey, 14th Conor Daly, 15th Takuma Sato, 16th David Malukas, 17th Rinus VeeKay, 18th Devlin DeFrancesco, 19th Will Power, 20th Kyle Kirkwood, 21st Simona De Silvestro, 22nd Hélio Castroneves, 23rd Dalton Kellett, 24th Jimmie Johnson, 25th Tatiana Calderón, 26th Pato O’Ward, 27th Álex Palou.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Marcus Ericsson (293), 2nd Will Power (266), 3rd Josef Newgarden (261), 4th Pato O’Ward (248), 5th Álex Palou (246), 6th Scott Dixon (224), 7th Alexander Rossi (218), 8th Felix Rosenqvist (203), 9th Scott McLaughlin (199), 10th Simon Pagenaud (197).

Featured Image: Josef Newgarden celebrates his 2nd Road America win and for winning the one million dollar People Ready Force for Good Challenge (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment) 

How Charlotte’s 600 escalated into Talladega chaos

From Ryan Blaney causing The Big One, to Chris Buescher barrel-rolling down the infield grass, NASACR’s Coca-Cola 600 last weekend was far from the usually more tame and methodical 600 mile race and instead was one of the most dramatic and longest stock car races in recent history. 

This year’s “longest night in stock car racing” didn’t even start off like a typical Coca-Cola 600 as by the end of stage one there had been four cautions not including the stage ending caution for Chase Elliott’s stage one win.

Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In recent editions of the race, the first half or more has been comprised of long green flag runs and a strung out field but this race was not like the others. One large contributor to more spins in the race such as Kyle Busch spinning out as Daniel Suárez ran him tight in turns one and two in stage one, is that the new NASCAR Cup cars are much harder to save once the car steps out and begins spinning compared to the old 6th gen NASCAR. With little practice time before the races and spec parts that teams are not allowed to modify, not to mention the absence of in-car adjustments for drivers during the race, the challenge is only heightened.

Late on in stage two, Ryan Blaney spun out in front of the pack in turns one and two causing The Big One that is usually only seen at Daytona and Talladega. Over ten cars were caught up in the pile up.

Aside from the several spin-outs by drivers in the first two stages, there had been thrilling side by side action with many drivers fighting over positions throughout the field including for the lead with Suárez who would go on to take the stage two win after fending off Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain and Erik Jones.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet, and Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 1 Advent Health Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The NASCAR drivers were racing in honour of fallen veterans as the Coca-Cola 600 runs on Memorial Day Weekend. During the stage two break, for the second year running, NASCAR brought the cars down pit road and parked them and paused the race to take a moment to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Drivers and  pit crews pause for a moment of remembrance in the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The second half of the race proved only to be more wild as the 16th caution of the night came out halfway in stage four when Chris Buescher, after piling into a spinning Daniel Suárez , was sent skidding across the infield grass before the car got hooked causing it to flip over wildly several times before coming to a stop upside down . Buescher’s car was righted by the AMR safety team. He was ok.

With two laps to go in the race Kyle Larson was holding off Chase Briscoe for the lead. Larson’s night had been a rollercoaster ride in itself. After qualifying 36th and making his way through to the top half of the field, Larson would get two pit equipment interference penalties in quick succession that sent him to the rear each time. His car also caught fire forcing him to take two emergency trips down pit road. He then spun out on old tyres in turn four in stage two after having led the race on the previous restart. With plenty of laps left and plenty of cautions to bunch up the field, Larson was able to finish third in stage three and get by Chastain, the stage three winner, in turn three to take the lead with 46 laps to go.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, spins after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Larson’s amazing comeback would be halted when Briscoe spun out on his own in turns one and two with two laps to go as he sent it into turn one in an attempt to pass Larson.

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The first overtime restart saw Laron’s chance of another Coca-Cola 600 win come to an end as Austin Dillon had got alongside him in turns three and four before washing up and slowing them down before Hamlin and Chastain joined them to make it four wide coming off turn four heading to get the white flag. They would only see yellow as Dillon drifted up slightly and would get turned around off of Larson’s front bumper causing another multi-car crash down the front straightaway with Larson caught in it.

Instead it would come down to Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch for the 600 win on the next overtime restart. Polesitter Hamlin would race side by side with Busch for the first lap but would clear Busch in turns one and two on the final lap to finally win his first Coca-Cola 600.

Hamlin said: It’s so special. It’s the last big one that’s not on my resume. It meant so much.”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Red White and Blue Toyota, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was NASCAR’s longest Cup race in history in terms of distance with the drivers having raced for 619.5 miles (413 laps) before taking the checkered flag and was the third longest Coca-Cola 600 ever after having raced for five hoursthirteen minutes, and eight seconds. It was only 34 seconds shy of being longer than the second longest Coca-Cola 600 race in 2005. The first Coca-Cola 600 in 1960 had been the longest being five hours and thirty four minutes long.

The 2022 edition of the Coca-Cola 600 had been one of the most competitive and action packed thrillers in years and delivered a race on a weekend where the world was watching after the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500 earlier that day, making it an unforgettable day in racing.

Full race results: 1st Denny Hamlin, 2nd Kyle Busch, 3rd Kevin Harvick, 4th Chase Briscoe, 5th Christopher Bell, 6th Tyler Reddick, 7th Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 8th Michael McDowell, 9th Kyle Larson, 10th Alex Bowman, 11th Harrison Burton, 12th Martin Truex Jr., 13th Ty Dillon, 14th Erik Jones, 15th Ross Chastain, 16th Todd Gilliland, 17th Aric Almirola, 18th Cody Ware, 19th BJ McLeod, 20th Joey Logano, 21st Cole Custer, 22nd Austin Dillon, 23rd Kaz Grala, 24th Noah Gragson, 25th Daniel Suárez, 26th Chris Buescher, 27th Justin Haley, 28th Bubba Wallace, 29th Ryan Blaney, 30th Brad Keselowski, 31st Kurt Busch, 32nd William Byron, 33rd Chase Elliott, 34th Austin Cindric, 35th Corey Lajoie, 36th Josh Bilicki, 37th Ryan Preece.

Featured Image: Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, flips into the infield grass after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

 

Newgarden bags pole in Chevy’s backyard

Hondas outnumbered Chevrolets in the Firestone fast six four to two, but Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden with the clock having run out, beat Takuma Sato’s time by one tenth of a second to take his 16th IndyCar Series career pole and earn back to back poles at Belle Isle Park in Detroit with a lap time of 1.15.2153.

Speaking to NBC’s Marty Snider, Newgarden said: “I was about hitting the wall every lap, or every corner I should say. That was a good pole.”

Josef Newgarden celebrating the pole with his team (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Newgarden was the sole Penske driver to make the Firestone fast six and becomes the seventh different pole winner in seven races so far in this year’s championship. Newgarden said the bigger challenge for them is to convert the pole into a win on Sunday, something they have yet to do at Belle Isle although he did win the first of two 2019 races after starting second.

The fast six was all about the smaller teams as all four of the Daly Coyne Racing and Meyer Shank Racing cars made the fast six. Rookie David Malukas continued his strong performance for Dale Coyne Racing from practice to top the opening session of qualifying in group two and topped the charts again halfway through the fast 12 session with a time that put in him in the fast six for the very first time.

David Malukas qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

In the fast six, Malukas on a flying lap lost the back end in turn five and had to back out but still set a fast lap later to qualify sixth being only three tenth off fifth place Pato O’Ward. Speaking to NBC, Malukas said: “What an amazing car.”

His Dale Coyne Racing teammate Takuma Sato qualified second after an impressive run when he went to the top with a 1.15.3 with just over a minute to go in the fast six before Newgarden went faster in the final moments.

DCR with RWR’s Takuma Sato qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

The two Meyer Shank racing cars will make up the second row with Simon Pagenaud qualifying third and Hélio Castroneves qualifying fourth.

Round one of qualifying did not go so well for Newgarden’s teammate Will Power who missed out on the fast 12 by three tenths, qualifying 16th . On one of his flying laps, he was unintentionally disrupted by the wake of Álex Palou’s car. Palou also failed to make it out of the opening session, only qualifying 18th. Power, known as the pole master, said to NBC he has still yet to figure out a way to get it done in qualifying at Belle Isle but is optimistic about his chances of getting to the front in the race once again like last year.

Álex Palou (right) racing down to turn two in qualifying at Belle Isle (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The disappointment continues for McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist at Belle Isle as he blocked Jimmie Johnson coming out of the pits when Johnson was on a flying lap and was consequently penalized by being parked and had his time disallowed. He will now start 26th.

Felix Rosenqvist racing down to turn 12 in qualifying at Belle Isle (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

The fast 12 saw drivers experimenting between the primary and alternate tires as rubber was getting laid down fast and with grip lasting only for three laps on the alternate red tyres, it was uncertain which tyre compound was better to qualify with. Pagenaud topped the chart midway through the session on the primary black tyre with a 1.15.4 before Newgarden went second on sticker reds, only one tenth of Pagenaud’s time.

Qualifying had been going well for Andretti Autosport with three of their four cars making the fast 12, with Devlin DeFrancesco just missing out, but things suddenly went downhill for them. With less than five minutes to go, Alexander Rossi, who topped second practice, was 12th in the session while Colton Herta was seventh.

Colton Herta qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

The bottom six including Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were all on faster flying laps than the leaders as the track became increasingly rubbered in but then Romain Grosjean slapped the wall coming out of turn 12, and broke a toe link that caused his car to veer to the right before violently spinning around into the concrete wall in the final turn bringing out the red flag and ending the session, and consequently stopping his Andretti teammates from being able to progress into the fast six. A frustrated Grosjean said afterwards: “We sucked.”

During the fast 12, Dixon said he had to back up into Ericsson after having to slow down for Rossi and Pagenaud ahead that ultimately cost Ericsson and Dixon any chance of making the fast six.

Full qualifying results: 1st Josef Newgarden, 2nd Takuma Sato, 3rd Simon Pagenaud, 4th Hélio Castroneves, 5th Pato O’Ward, 6th David Malukas, 7th Colton Herta, 8th Marcus Ericsson, 9th Scott Dixon, 10th Scott McLaughlin, 11th Alexander Rossi, 12th Romain Grosjean, 13th Conor Daly, 14th Rinus VeeKay, 15th Kyle Kirkwood, 16th Will Power, 17th Santino Ferrucci, 18th Álex Palou, 19th Christian Lundgaard, 20th Jack Harvey, 21st Devlin DeFrancesco, 22nd Jimmie Johnson, 23rd Graham Rahal, 24th Tatiana Calderón, 25th Dalton Kellett, 26th Felix Rosenqvist.

Josef Newgarden and Takuma Sato will lead the field to green for the final Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle tomorrow at 3:45pm ET.

Featured Image: Josef Newgarden qualifying around Belle Isle (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

IndyCar Weekend Preview: The final IndyCar race at Belle Isle Park

This weekend sees the NTT IndyCar Series tackle the twisty and bumpy streets of Belle Isle Park island in Detroit for what will be the 30th and final running of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the island.

The raceway at Belle Isle Park is a 14-turn temporary street course and is 2.35 miles in length. The IndyCar drivers will race for 70 laps around Belle Isle Park in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (164.5 miles).

Belle Isle is the seventh round of the season with five different race winners in the first six rounds of this year’s championship. Just one week after the Indy 500, race winner Marcus Ericsson comes into the weekend as the points leader.

Belle Isle Park is the perfect way for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver to maintain momentum as Ericsson earned his first IndyCar career win at Belle Isle Park in 2021 in the first of two races.

Marcus Ericsson celebrating his first NTT IndyCar Series win at Belle Isle Park next to the fountain (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Fellow Swede Felix Rosenqvist had a scary crash in last year’s race one at Belle Isle when his throttle stuck heading into turn six, accelerating him hard into the tyre wall. He was hospitalized overnight.

Team Penske’s Will Power had led the most laps of the race but while in the lead, he was not able to get his car refired on pit road after the end of a red flag period late on in the race.

Will Power stuck on pit road (Photo by Matt Fraver/IndyCar Media)

Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, last weekend’s Indy 500 runner up, won the second Belle Isle race in 2021. A.J. Foyt Enterprises’s rookie Kyle Kirkwood won both of last year’s Indy Lights races at Belle Isle with Andretti Autosport. 

Pato O’Ward (front) racing in the 2021 Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 (Photo by Matt Fraver/IndyCar Media)

Santino Ferrucci, after having a strong Indy 500 run and finishing 10th, stands in for Callum Ilott this weekend at Juncos Hollinger Racing, as Ilott was injured in a crash in last weekend’s Indy 500 when he hit the turn two wall.

Rookie Tatiana Calderón returns in her road course and street course only race schedule with A.J. Foyt Enterprises after not partaking in the Indy 500. Calderón’s teammate Dalton Kellett has received a six-position starting grid penalty for Sunday’s race after an unapproved engine change before the start of last weekend’s Indy 500.

Active race winners include three-time winners Hélio Castroneves, who last won in the second race in 2014, and Scott Dixon who last won in the second race in 2019. Castroneves is also the active driver with the most poles with three, with the last coming for the first of two 2014 races.

The weekend comes as Alexander Rossi announced earlier this week that he will join Arrow McLaren SP in 2023 as Kyle Kirkwood returns to Andretti Autosport next season but now at the top level of IndyCar racing.

Alexander Rossi racing in the 2021 Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 (Photo by Matt Fraver/IndyCar Media)

The NTT IndyCar Series will have a single 45 minute practice session on Friday at 3:30pm ET before an early second 45 practice session on Saturday starting at 8:30am ET. The three round knockout qualifying session returns on Saturday starting at 12:35pm ET.

Sunday will see the 30 minute warm up session starting at 10:15am ET. The green flag for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear flies at 3:45pm ET.

You can watch any of the sessions through your TV network provider or through IndyCar’s own free streaming service IndyCar Live for sessions that are not provided by your TV network. (https://www.indycar.com/ways-to-watch/stream)

Featured Image: Pato O’Ward leading the 2021 Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Marcus Ericsson wins Indy 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing

Marcus Ericsson won this Sunday’s Indy 500, capping off Ganassi’s dominant display throughout the Month of May. Ericsson held off Pato O’Ward in a two-lap shootout to win his first Indy 500 and Chip Ganassi’s first Indy 500 win in 10 years on Sunday. He had a three second lead over O’Ward with less than 10 laps to go but Ericsson’s teammate Jimmie Johnson crashed in turn two with six laps to go, bringing out the caution before IndyCar red flagged the race.

In the two-lap shootout that followed, Ericsson snaked around the track before O’Ward dived to the outside of him in turn one on the final lap but was unable to make the pass as Ericsson powered on before the race ended under caution came as Sage Karam crashed as Ericsson entered turn three, securing Ericsson the win.

Marcus Ericsson taking the checkered flag to win the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 (Photo by John Cote/Penske Entertainment)

In victory lane Ericsson said: “I knew the Huski Chocolate car was fast enough, but it was still hard. I had to do everything there at the end to keep him behind. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”

Marcus Ericsson celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

Polesitter and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon had controlled much of the race leading for 95 laps, and seemed set to challenge for his second Indy 500 win at the end but a speeding penalty on his final pit stop devastatingly cost him the chance. Dixon said: “It’s heartbreaking to be honest.”

This was Ericsson’s third IndyCar career win and his first oval win. it moves him from eighth to first in the points standings after the double points that was on offer. It was only the second time in history that a Swedish driver has won the Indy 500, the first being Kenny Brack in 1999.

Ericsson, nicknamed “The Sneaky Swede”, was under the radar for many but during practice, Ericsson’s car looked very strong and was hooked up to the race track. Ericsson said he was very confident with the car he had and believed he could indeed win this year’s Indy 500.

Marcus Ericsson running in the Indy 500 with Pato O’Ward (left) and Felix Rosenqvist (right) in the background (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner, ran inside the top five in the latter stages of the race and held onto his third place in the two-lap shootout splitting O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist who finished second and fourth in what was a fantastic showing by the Arrow McLaren SP drivers.

The race was tough as it was a hot race track and was windy throughout the race, making it tricky for the drivers. Turn two proved to be hazardous as usual with many cars crashing into the turn two wall after getting loose and spinning out. Three and four-wide action in the midfield on restarts was common but two wide through any turns closer to the front was rare. Out front, it was the likes of Dixon, Álex Palou, Conor Daly, O’Ward and Rosenqvist who were dictating the pace and managing their fuel consumption to set themselves up for the final stint of the race.

On the opening lap Palou took the lead away from Dixon down the back straightaway and the two Chip Ganassi drivers would swap places in the opening 10 laps in an effort to preserve fuel.

Scott Dixon leading the pack in turn one on lap one (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

Rinus VeeKay, who arguably had one of the strongest cars in the race, was battling back and forth for second in the opening stint and came out right behind Dixon and Palou after the first round of green flag pit stops on lap 33. VeeKay had got by Dixon on lap 35 for second going into turn three but the leading ECR driver’s race would end early when on lap 38 he got loose in turn two and smashed into the wall before coming to a stop in the grass.

On the lap 47 restart as Palou and Dixon led the field back to green, Takuma Sato, Santino Ferrucci, Rosenqvist and Kanaan went four-wide down the front straightaway with Sato going right around the outside to take sixth place. Dixon took the lead again on the following lap.

Scott Dixon (left) and Álex Palou (right) racing down the front straightaway (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

During the second round of pit stops on lap 69, the yellow flag came out for rookie Callum Ilott spinning out and crashing in turn two as Palou was making his way to the pits and was forced to drive down pit road despite pit road closing before he had reached the commitment line. Two laps later he had to take emergency service due to running out of fuel and would serve a penalty and go to the rear of the field.

Dixon, Daly and O’Ward would lead the field back to green on lap 78 and on lap 81, Daly, the hometown kid, would take the lead away from Dixon for a lap only for Dixon to take it back a lap later. Ericsson by this point had made his way up to fourth after starting the race in fifth.

Conor Daly running in the Indy 500 (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

Romain Grosjean was the next to fall victim to the turn two wall on lap 106, mirroring VeeKay’s race ending crash. Grosjean had been in the top 20 for the first half of the race.

On the restart O’Ward took the lead off Dixon by passing him on the outside into turn one while Ferrucci went boldly two-wide with Dixon all the way through turn one but backed out before turn two. Dixon would quickly take the lead back.

Scott Dixon (left) leading over Pato O’Ward (right) (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The next pit stop sequence saw O’Ward jump ahead of Dixon for the lead coming out of the pits with just over 50 laps to go with Arrow McLaren SP teammate Rosenqvist, running as high as fourth in the previous stint, now behind Dixon.

On lap 152, Scott McLaughlin brought out the yellow after smacking into the turn three wall before heading uncontrollably across the track into the turn four wall, nearly colliding with Ed Carpenter in the process.

The next 10 laps saw Dixon and O’Ward duel for the lead, swapping positions several times as they tried to control the race before making their final pit stop. Dixon had pitted from the lead on lap 175 but entered the pits hot and locked up his tyres. His speeding penalty took him out of contention for the win and saw Rosenqvist go from third to what would be the lead of the race when the pit cycle was compete, with Ericsson going from fifth to third and O’Ward holding second.

Ericsson soared past O’Ward with 20 laps to go and with 18 to go, there was Swede on Swede action as Ericsson got by Rosenqvist. A lap later, he had already pulled a three second gap as he flew by the lap traffic.

Pato O’Ward (front) with Marcus Ericsson (behind) chasing him down (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

With 11 to go, Johnson made his final pit stop, officially handing over the lead to Ericsson who had a 3.4 second lead now over second place O’Ward but with six to go on fresh tyres, Johnson spun around in turn two and crashed head on into the wall, the last thing the race leader and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate wanted to see.

The race is red flagged with five to go due to Jimmie Johnson’s crash (Photo by Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment)

IndyCar red flagged the race in the interest of completing the race under racing conditions. Ericsson was not phased by the situation and in the two-lap shootout held the lead despite O’Ward’s best efforts, to win his first Indy 500.

Marcus Ericsson (front) leading Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Tony Kanaan on the restart (Photo by Paul Hurley/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon would make his way through the field after his penalty to finish 21st while Palou would recover further from his earlier pit penalty to finish 9th. Kanaan worked his way up to the top five in the latter stages and finished an impressive third. Johnson while having started 12th, gradually slipped back through the field as the race went on and was towards the back when he crashed out.

Colton Herta had a race he would want to forget, after going to a backup car on Friday after a scary crash in practice where his car got airborne and ended up upside down, the race proved to be a disaster. His car was extremely loose and on lap 54 nearly went into the wall in the short chute in turns three and four. After going a lap down on lap 104 he would shortly have to retire from the race after experiencing a throttle sensor issue.

It would be Alexander Rossi who would lead the Andretti charge finishing fifth after making three-wide moves to come up through the field from 20th.

Alexander Rossi racing in the Indy 500 (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

Hélio Castroneves may have not have won his fifth Indy 500 but he did patiently work his way up through the field with teammate Simon Pagenaud to finish seventh. Juan Pablo Montoya and his Arrow McLaren SP car proved strong in the race and the two-time Indy 500 winner methodically worked his way up from 30th to finish 11th. Prior to McLaughlin’s crash, Ferrucci had aggressively got up to fifth but would have to settle for 10th.

The next race is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on June 5th starting at 3pm ET.

Full race results: 1st. Marcus Ericsson, 2nd. Pato O’Ward, 3rd. Tony Kanaan, 4th. Felix Rosenqvist, 5th. Alexander Rossi, 6th. Conor Daly, 7th. Hélio Castroneves, 8th. Simon Pagenaud, 9th. Álex Palou, 10th. Santino Ferrucci, 11th. Juan Pablo Montoya, 12th. JR Hildebrand, 13th. Josef Newgarden, 14th. Graham Rahal, 15th. Will Power, 16th. David Malukas, 17th. Kyle Kirkwood, 18th. Christian Lundgaard, 19th. Ed Carpenter, 20th. Devlin DeFrancesco, 21st. Scott Dixon, 22nd. Marco Andretti, 23rd. Sage Karam, 24th. Jack Harvey, 25th. Takuma Sato, 26th. Stefan Wilson, 27th. Dalton Kellett, 28th. Jimmie Johnson, 29th. Scott McLaughlin, 30th. Colton Herta, 31st. Romain Grosjean, 32nd. Callum Ilott, 33rd. Rinus VeeKay.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st. Marcus Ericsson (226), 2nd. Pato O’Ward (213), 3rd. Álex Palou (212), 4th. Will Power (202), 5th. Josef Newgarden (174), 6th. Scott Dixon (166), 7th. Scott McLaughlin (162), 8th. Simon Pagenaud (157), 9th. Felix Rosenqvist (154), 10th. Colton Herta (142).

Featured Image: Marcus Ericsson (left) and team owner Chip Ganassi celebrate together in victory lane (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Indy 500 Race Preview

This Sunday the IndyCar Series will compete in what many say is the biggest race on the planet, the Indianapolis 500. Thirty-three drivers are set to go racing over 240mph around the 2.5 mile oval to try to be a winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

With just nine degrees of banking in each corner and insane speeds, the track demands great respect from the drivers. One small off-line mistake or one move too late could see a driver’s race over in a flash.

The 106th running of the event will see the 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon lead the field to green after producing the fastest pole speed in Indy 500 history with a four-lap average of 234.046mph. He is accompanied by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Álex Palou and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay on the front row, who collectively make it the fastest qualified front row in Indy 500 history.

Scott Dixon (right) will start the Indy 500 1st, Álex Palou (middle) will start 2nd, and Rinus Veekay (left) will start third (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

The drivers will race around the oval for 200 laps, being 500 miles in length, with a minimum of five pit stops. The weather forecast for the Indy 500 is for it to be sunny with a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit making it a slick racetrack, and with light to moderate winds, making it no easy challenge for the drivers to overcome.

The green flag for the 106th running of the Indy 500 will be at 12:45pm ET. The full race day schedule is as follows.

10:30am ET – Cars to the grid

11:47am ET – Driver introductions

12:18pm ET – Indy 500 pre-race ceremonies

12:29pm ET – “Drivers to your cars”

12:38pm ET – Command to Start Engines

12:45pm ET – The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500

Hélio Castroneves, who is starting from 27th, will be the first driver in the history of the race to be going for a fifth Indy 500 win to be the winningest Indy 500 driver in history after winning the 2021 Indy 500.

There are seven Indy 500 rookies in the field including Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson and Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean. Both drivers have been impressive throughout the Month of May and made last Sunday’s fast 12 qualifying session. Grosjean will start 9th and Johnson will start 12th.

Carb Day on Friday was the final practice session for the Indy 500 and just like qualifying, the Chip Ganassi Racing squad were at the top of the charts with 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan with the fastest time, followed by Marcus Ericsson in second and Scott Dixon in fourth. Dale Coyne Racing’s with RWR’s Takuma Sato, the two-time Indy 500 winner, went third fastest.

Tony Kanaan practicing on Carb Day (Photo by Matt Fraver/Penske Entertainment)

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta has had to go to a backup car after crashing in turn one and getting airborne and landing upside down before making secondary contact with the turn two wall in the session. The driver has been cleared to race and will start 25th.

With a highly competitive and diverse field, the race is set to one of the best in years. You do not want to miss this edition of the Indy 500.

Featured Image: Scott Dixon leads the field to green in the 2021 Indy 500 (Photo by Karl Zemlin/IndyCar Media)

Kimi Raikkonen to race in NASCAR again!

Kimi Raikkonen will drive the No. 91 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International this August in his NASCAR Cup Series debut.

He last competed in NASCAR in the 2011 Truck and Xfinity races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 87 Perky Jerky Toyota, and Michael Annett, driver of the No. 62 Pilot Travel Centers/Flying J Toyota, race in turn four during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion is to be the first driver to race as part of Trackhouse Racing’s PROJECT91 program, the program they announced on Tuesday that aims to expand their international reach by fielding the No. 91 car for various international superstar racing car drivers from other motorsport disciplines.

Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks said: “Kimi Raikkonen is the driver I first had in mind when we created PROJECT91. Kimi is a world-renowned driver with a tremendous amount of talent and fan following.”

Raikkonen, nicknamed The Iceman, said: “I wasn’t looking to race again, but Justin came to my home in Switzerland and convinced me how serious he was about putting together a top-notch program. This will be fun, but it’s something I will take very seriously. I know how competitive the NASCAR Cup Series is and it will be a big challenge.”

This will be Raikkonen’s first NASCAR road course race, as back in 2011 he competed on the 1.5 mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval for Kyle Busch Motorsports where he finished a very respectable 15th place in the Truck race, and also drove for NEMCO Motorsports, who KBM partnered with, in the Xfinity race finishing 27th.

Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota, races Jason White, driver of the No. 23 GunBroker.com Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20, 2011. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Co-team owner Justin Marks said: “I truly believe the Next Gen car represents an opportunity for NASCAR to enter the global professional motorsport conversation. We now have a race vehicle with international technological relevance where world-class drivers from other disciplines can compete at NASCAR’s highest level without the steep learning curve that the previous generation cars required.”

Darian Grubb, winner of 23 Cup races and the 2011 champion crew chief, will captain Raikkonen’s No. 91 team for the Watkins Glen Cup Race. Trackhouse Racing plan to bring Raikkonen to the race shop in Concord, North Carolina for preparations.

The Watkins Glen Cup Race is the only race Trackhouse’s PROJECT91 program plans to enter in 2022. Marks expects more races in 2023 with more drivers taking part.

Featured Image: Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20th, 2011. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dixon breaks pole speed record and earns fifth Indy 500 pole

Scott Dixon set a sensational four-lap average of 234.046mph in the fast six to take his fifth Indy 500 pole, braking the Indy 500 pole speed record held by Scott Brayton’s 1996 233.718mph run. Dixon’s time was the second fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history, only coming behind Arie Luyendyk 1996’s bump day qualifying run of 236.986mph.

Scott Dixon qualifying (Photo by Lisa Hurley/Penske Entertainment)

Dixon was the last car to go out in the fast six and had teammate Alex Palou’s four-lap average of 233.499mph to beat for the pole. Dixon not only managed a 234mph plus average on his first lap but also his second with averages of 234.437mph and 234.162. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver earned back to back poles on Sunday, and is now second for all-time Indy 500 poles, only behind Rick Mears’s six.

Talking to NBC’s Marty Snider, the 2008 Indy 500 winner said: “This is what this place is about, it’s so amazing.”

Scott Dixon celebrating with the Indy 500 pole award (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Instead of the usual fast nine qualifying format, pole day was decided by two qualifying sessions that is used during the rest of the IndyCar season, the fast 12 followed by the fast six, for the first time.

In the fast 12, Jimmie Johnson, in turn one on lap one, understeered before getting a snap of oversteer and was mere inches from hitting the wall before evasively driving away from the wall in the short shoot. Johnson’s first lap was a 229.911 but by pedalling the throttle, came back to earn a four-lap average of 231.264mph, qualifying 12th. Johnson said to NBC that he had wanted to run full throttle for the entire first lap but the “tricky conditions” and “inexperience” caught him out.

Jimmie Johnson getting into his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on pit road (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Will Power, the sole Team Penske driver to make the fast 12, qualified 11th with a 231.534mph average but nearly hit the turn one wall twice on laps one and three. Sato qualified 10th with a consistent run of 231.670mph.

Romain Grosjean nearly smacked the turn one wall on lap two and appeared to be running light on downforce. The Indy 500 rookie managed to qualify 9th with a 231.999mph average. Talking to NBC afterwards he said “that was scary.”

The fight for making the fast six was very much on for the Arrow McLaren SP drivers of Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward. Rosenqvist’s tricky handling Chevrolet managed a 232.182mph that initially put him sixth but O’Ward went faster with a 232.705mph average. Neither would end up making the fast six as Rinus VeeKay, the last driver to go out after setting the quickest four-lap average on Saturday, would go second overall after setting a four-lap average of 233.249mph including a first lap of 234.099mph.

Rinus VeeKay qualifying (Photo by Aaron Skillman/Penske Entertainment)

The top six from the fast 12 would be made up of four Chip Ganassi Racing and two Ed Carpenter Racing cars. All of their times in the fast 12 had been in the 233mph plus average range. Tony Kanaan on a very consistent run did a 233.022mph average putting him sixth. Indiana native Ed Carpenter went fifth with a 233.073mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.244.

Marcus Ericsson went fourth with a 233.166mph four lap average, Palou went third with a smooth run of 233.347mph and Dixon to nobody’s surprise went to the top with a 233.510mph four-lap average in what had been a very consistent run.

The fast six qualifying session was a battle between the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda’s of Dixon, Palou, Ericsson and Kanaan, and the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet’s of VeeKay and Carpenter.

Despite the cooling conditions, and the increase in cloud cover, both Ericsson and Kanaan would go slower on their fast six runs, only managing a 232.764mph and a 232.372mph four-lap average respectively, qualifying fifth and sixth although Ericsson did have a super smooth run, making him a car to watch out for in Sunday’s race.

Carpenter would be incredibly consistent compared with his fast 12 time by completing a four-lap average of 233.080mph, putting him fourth overall.

Ed Carpenter qualifying (Photo by Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment)

The top three from the fast six would be VeeKay, Palou and Dixon. VeeKay was racing to be the youngest Indy 500 pole sitter in history but would have to settle with a third best average of 233.385mph. Palou went out and did a 233.499mph four-lap average including a first lap of 234.048mph, only to get beaten by Dixon’s recording breaking 234.046mph four-lap average.

From left to right: Álex Palou, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Tony Kanaan and Marcus Ericsson (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Dixon, Palou and VeeKay will make up the front row for this weekend’s Indy 500, making it the fastest front row in Indy 500 history.

The next on track session for the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be on Friday for Carb Day and the Pit Stop Competition, ahead of Sunday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The full qualifying results are as follows.

Fast 12: 1st Scott Dixon (233.510), 2nd Rinus VeeKay (233.429), 3rd Álex Palou (233.347), 4th Marcus Ericsson (233.166), 5th Ed Carpenter (233.073), 6th Tony Kanaan (233.022), 7th Pato O’Ward (232.705), 8th Felix Rosenqvist (232.182), 9th Romain Grosjean (231.999), 10th Takuma Sato (231.670), 11th Will Power (231.534), 12th Jimmie Johnson.

Fast six: 1st Scott Dixon (234.046), 2nd Álex Palou (233.499), 3rd Rinus VeeKay (233.385), 4th Ed Carpenter (233.080), 5th Marcus Ericsson (232.764), 6th Tony Kanaan (232.372).

Featured Image: Scott Dixon celebrates capturing his fifth Indy 500 pole and breaking the record for the fastest pole speed in Indy 500 history (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Indy 500 qualifying day one: VeeKay tops chart, Sato wall slaps his way into fast 12

Rinus VeeKay set the third fastest qualifying run in Indy 500 history with a 233.655mph average in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet at the start of the day going fastest, while Takuma Sato, after having his time deleted for track interference with Marco Andretti, saw him whack the turn two wall but stayed in the throttle and went 12th fastest, securing the final spot for Sunday’s fast 12 qualifying session.

While there would be no bump day as part of this year’s Indy 500, due to only having 33 entries for the 106th running of the Indy 500, day one of qualifying set positions 13 to 33 and decided who would make Sunday’s fast 12 and have a chance at making the fast six and the Indy 500 pole. Multiple attempts to qualify were cut short due to storms with drivers Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden taking to lane one in an attempt to make the fast 12 in time but failed to do so.

A weather advisory warning during the session (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay was the second car to go out for his first qualifying run in favourable conditions as the track was cool and the air thin. He set a blistering first lap of his four-lap qualifying run with a 234.7mph average. Talking to NBC, VeeKay said the car was “very comfortable to drive.”

Sato had his first lap deleted that had put him in the fast 12, after failing to stay off the racing line on his cooldown lap as Marco Andretti came round to begin his run. On the second attempt on lap two, the two-time Indy 500 winner banged square on into the turn two wall but kept his foot in the throttle, barely losing any speed going 12th fastest with a 231.708mph average, knocking out rookie David Malukas from the fast 12. Sato said to NBC: “It’s qualifying, you just keep going.”

Takuma Sato on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

The Arrow McLaren SP’s of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist went second and third fastest, after going out first and fourth in the session.

The Chip Ganassi Racing camp showed impressive speed all around with all five cars making the fast 12. Álex Palou went fourth fastest with a 232.774mph average, despite increasing track temperatures. 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan went fifth fastest while four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson went sixth fastest with a 232.398mph average in his first ever Indy 500 qualifying session, continuing on from his IndyCar oval success at Texas Motor Speedway. Marcus Ericsson with a track temperature of 107 degrees, 21 degrees hotter than VeeKay’s qualifying run, still managed to go eighth fastest while 2021 pole winner Scott Dixon went 10th fastest.

Jimmie Johnson on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

Three-time Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter went seventh fastest despite the hotter track temperature but was forced to lift going into turn three on his final lap as he reached 241mph. Romain Grosjean, after having a difficult would be the surprise lone Andretti Autosport driver to make the fast 12 going ninth fastest in his first ever Indy 500 qualifying run, while 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power would be the only Team Penske driver to make the fast 12, going 11th fastest after using every inch of the track to do so.

Romain Grosjean on pit road (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

Overall though, it would prove to be not the best of days for Andretti Autosport and Team Penske. Colton Herta’s engine shut off on his first qualifying run, forcing the team to do a lengthy engine change before sending him back out later in the day where he only managed to qualify 25th. Alexander Rossi was not happy with his race car, describing it to NBC as “horrible”, and qualified 20th.  Marco Andretti qualified 23rd and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco qualified 24th.

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin withdrew his 15th qualifying position to take lane one for a second attempt but with less favourable conditions, the gamble did not pay off and instead qualified 26th. Josef Newgarden was lucky to keep his 14th qualifying position after lightning brought out the yellow flag on his second qualifying run after also using lane one, ending the session early. As a result, he was able to retain his position.

Scott McLaughlin going out for his second qualifying run (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, in contrast to his Arrow McLaren SP teammates, had a rough qualifying session. Montoya’s car failed pre-qualifying inspection and had to forfeit his first qualifying run. When he did attempt to qualify, he was not on pace saying on the radio the car was “horrible” and “hard to drive”, only qualifying 30th.

Four-time Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves, after qualifying eighth last year with Meyer Shank Racing before going on to win the Indy 500, could only manage 27th.

Stefan Wilson was unable to get out to qualify due to engine trouble and consequently will start last for next weekend’s Indy 500.

The full qualifying results are as follows.

Drivers to progress to fast 12: 1st Rinus VeeKay, 2nd Pato O’Ward, 3rd Felix Rosenqvist, 4th Álex Palou, 5th Tony Kanaan, 6th Jimmie Johnson, 7th Ed Carpenter, 8th Marcus Ericsson, 9th Romain Grosjean, 10th Scott Dixon, 11th Will Power, 12th Takuma Sato.

13th to 33rd: 13th David Malukas, 14th Josef Newgarden, 15th Santino Ferrucci, 16th Simon Pagenaud, 17th JR Hildebrand, 18th Conor Daly, 19th Callum Ilott, 20th Alexander Rossi, 21st Graham Rahal, 22nd Sage Karam, 23rd Marco Andretti, 24th Devlin DeFrancesco, 25th Colton Herta, 26th Scott McLaughlin, 27th Hélio Castroneves, 28th Kyle Kirkwood, 29th Dalton Kellett, 30th Juan Pablo Montoya, 31st Christian Lundgaard, 32nd Jack Harvey, 33rd Stefan Wilson.

Featured Image: Rinus VeeKay in his ECR Bitcoin Chevrolet (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

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