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)

Colton Herta wins wild rain-soaked Indy Grand Prix

Colton Herta thundered to the front from 14th place after pitting early for slick tyres on a drying race track, to go on to lead the majority of the race in changing weather conditions to win his first Indy Grand Prix. Herta had to keep the likes of Pato O’Ward and Simon Pagenaud behind and fight to stay on the soaked race track in the final laps as the heavens opened once again.

Colton Herta (left) and Pato O’Ward (right) racing in the Indy Grand Prix (Photo by Lisa Hurley/IndyCar Media)

The race saw numerous crashes and spins including under the safety car as the track began to get wetter with only 13 of 27 cars on the lead lap at one point in the race.

Herta started off his race by power-drifting round turn eight in an unbelievable save as he attempted to warm up his alternate Firestone red tyres on a damp race track and close down Pato O’Ward for what would be the race lead. Herta would get past O’Ward on the next lap before taking the overall lead of the race before 10 laps were complete.

O’Ward would keep Herta honest for the next 20 laps before they dived for the pits once again for Firestone reds but more rain was reported to be less than 15 minutes away. Herta would go wheel to wheel with O’Ward’s McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist but Rosenqvist being on cold tyres would lose out to taking the lead away from Herta.

Colton Herta ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Due to several full course yellows, the race became a timed event. With less than 20 minutes to go, after multiple pit stops and strategy calls including Herta being the first of the drivers on the wet tyres in fourth a few laps earlier, he would get by O’Ward who was still on the dry tyre, again in turn one on a restart to retake the lead for the final time.

On a late race restart with the track getting soaked by arrival of the rain, Herta would now pull a six second gap over now second place Simon Pagenaud. This would be halved after Herta went wide at turn 12 and took to the grass to make the corner but would then maintain a healthy gap over Pagenaud until a full course yellow came out with less than two laps to go to end the race.

Simon Pagenaud racing in the wet (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Over the team radio Herta said that this was his favourite win yet and did a burnout in the rain to celebrate.

Talking to NBC’s Marty Snider in victory lane, Herta said: “That was the hardest race I have ever done.”

Colton Herta celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

A dramatic turning point was over 50 laps into the race, with the belief that the race might end early due to a severe weather threat, for the next few laps, the race strategies went wild with the entire field flip flopping on their tyre choice due to the changing weather.

The worsening weather conditions on the front straightaway (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

After Jimmie Johnson brought out a full course yellow after spinning and stalling in turns nine and 10 due to the tricky weather conditions, nearly everyone dived for the pits but only to take another set of the dry Firestone alternate tyres due to the belief that the track was not wet enough despite it continuing to rain. Scott McLaughlin, who had been running second on the track at this point won the race off pit road beating Herta.

It then began to rain harder under caution, causing Rinus VeeKay to spin out. Dixon, who had just taken the wave around was the first along with Rossi to dive for the pits for a set of wet tyres. The following lap saw the majority of the pack do the same including Herta.

McLaughlin, O’Ward and Romain Grosjean were now the top three, all deciding not to pit and stay out on the alternate tyre. Grosjean then spun under caution in turn two and fell to sixth.

More chaos ensued as race leader McLaughlin spun around just before coming back to green in turn 10 forcing IndyCar to halt the restart.

Scott McLaughlin (front) racing in the Indy Grand Prix (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

With O’Ward being the only one left at the front on the dry alternate tyre, he would get overtaken immediately on the restart by Herta into turn one. McLaughlin would bring out the next full course yellow after spinning again on the alternate tyre.

O’Ward would fall to fourth under that caution after spinning before bringing the car down pit road for a set of wet tyres as Herta brought the field back to green. O’Ward would finish 19th one lap down.

The opening 50 laps of the race were also highly entertaining. With all drivers starting the race on the wet tyre, it would be five time Indy GP winner Will Power who would take the green flag but on the backstretch on lap one, Álex Palou would come sailing past before O’Ward would do the same to Palou entering turn 12. Rosenqvist would make it a Arrow McLaren SP one-two again, just like in Friday’s Firestone fast six after completing their banker laps, by getting past Palou. Power would remain in the top 10 for most of the race and had a strong final stint in the wet to come home third.

Will Power leads the field into turn one at the start of the race (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Palou’s day would turn into a disaster after pitting for the alternate tyre a few laps in, as he would spin and stall his car in turn 11 after having gone off in the grass and would go a lap down. Palou would finish 18th.

A few laps later, 2022 two-time winner Josef Newgarden’s race would turn into an even worse disaster after he spun wildly across the track in turn 11 after being sandwiched between Alexander Rossi and Jack Harvey, who were fighting over sixth place. Harvey failed to make an evasive manoeuvre when Rossi pulled down the race track slightly and instead clipped Newgarden’s left rear tyre sending him around.

Newgarden would pull up on the track with two flat rear tyres and significant damage that saw him go straight to the garage. Later on, IndyCar allowed him to rejoin the race but was now many laps down. He had joined in last place but due to crashes later on, he would finish 25th, 15 laps down.

The GMR Safety Team attending to Josef Newgarden following the wild spin (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

On lap 20, Devlin DeFrancesco was unable to avoid a spinning VeeKay who had just re-entered the track after getting knocked off by rookie Callum Ilott in turn two, bringing out another full course yellow.

After 30 laps, Takuma Sato had powered his way up to fourth place while Power had fallen down to fifth. Sato would finish the race in seventh.

Takuma Sato racing in the Indy Grand Prix (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

On the second round of pit stops, Scott Dixon would limp to pit road after uncharacteristically running out of fuel, but would be able to get refuelled and continue, only losing a lap to the leaders.

On lap 34, Dalton Kellett would bring out the fourth full course yellow and end his day on the back straightaway after going off in the grass after coming out of the turn six chicane and parking next to the barrier.

Marcus Ericsson and Kyle Kirkwood would now run one-two under yellow due to not having pitted for a second time. Kirkwood had spun off in turn 10 earlier in the race and had found himself at the back of the pack as a result. Unfortunately, Kirkwood would have more incidents and would finish 26th after retiring.

On the next restart, the two Arrow McLaren SP teammates of O’Ward and Rosenqvist would crash into each other in turn one after O’Ward had spun around on his own leaving Rosenqvist behind nowhere to go and would drive into a backwards facing O’Ward, braking his front wing and bringing out the yellow. Rosenqvist would recover in the second half of the race to finish sixth.

Felix Rosenqvist missing his front wing after crashing into Pato O’Ward (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)

Rossi was also the first to take wet tyres before the heavy rain came but did so when the track was still too dry and burned up his tyres forcing him to pit for dry tyres again laps later.

On the lap 46 restart, Ericsson would lead the pack back to green on much older tyres before both Dixon who put himself back on the lead lap, and Herta would get by him in turn four. A few laps later Dixon would be put back down a lap by now race leader Herta. Ericsson would plummet down the order to 12th but would make a late race charge on the wet tyres to finish an impressive fourth place while Dixon would finish 10th on the lead lap.

Marcus Ericsson (right) ahead of Colton Herta (left) in turn two (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

A few laps into the run saw Harvey take out Grosjean in turn seven by knocking him off into the grass before scrambling back onto the track in 12th position.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly had started the race in fifth but in the first stint would drop back to 15th on a fuel saving strategy. Once it was clear the race would not end early, the strategy was scrapped and Daly would return to finish the race in fifth.

At the end of the race, Arrow McLaren SP’s Juan Pablo Montoya would bring out the race ending full course yellow after receiving heavy damage after losing control in turn 11. He had been running 7th after starting the race in 24th. This was some warm up for the Colombian’s Month of May and his third Indy 500 win attempt.

Juan Pablo Montoya (left) battling with Felix Rosenqvist (right) in the rain (Photo by Karl Zemlin)

Fellow Colombian Tatiana Calderón would finish in a record 15th place in what appeared to be a quiet race for the AJ Foyt Enterprises’s rookie.

The rookies of Ilott and Christian Lundgaard finished eighth and ninth but Lundgaard, on the soaking wet race track, managed to crash his race car after the race was over on the front straightaway.

Tatiana Calderón (left) battling with Christian Lundgaard (right) into turn one (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

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

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Will Power (170), 2nd Álex Palou (156), 3rd Scott McLaughlin (152), 4th Josef Newgarden (140), 5th Scott Dixon (133), 6th Colton Herta (132), 7th Pato O’Ward (126), 8th Marcus Ericsson (117), Romain Grosjean (114), 10th Rinus VeeKay (113).

Featured Image: Colton Herta takes the checkered flag under yellow to win the 2022 Indy Grand Prix (Photo by Travis Hinkle/IndyCar Media)

O’Ward has final say in Barber and wins the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Pato O’Ward on his out lap from his final pit stop, lap 62 of 90, sent it down the outside of leader Rinus VeeKay going into the turn four hairpin, who had led the entire race so far, and drove around the outside of him coming out of the hairpin to go on to win the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

O’Ward sending it down the outside to take lead away from VeeKay (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay had led the first two thirds of the race, with O’Ward following closely behind the entire way and closed up to VeeKay on their final in-lap on lap 61, to bring the gap down to under a second entering the pits. O’Ward had the final say of the weekend, as while VeeKay had took the pole away from O’Ward in qualifying on Saturday, a fast final pit stop allowed O’Ward to close up to VeeKay on track and use push to pass on him going into turn five and get past on the inside. O’Ward would lead the rest of the race.

Álex Palou sneaked into second place via the final pit stop cycle and would hang onto O’Ward for the remainder of the race, only being less than two seconds behind, but would never close up to O’Ward. VeeKay would fall off the leaders pace falling back to 11 seconds but would hold off Will Power to claim the final podium stop.

Pato O’Ward running 1st, Álex Palou running 2nd, Rinus VeeKay running 3rd (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

O’Ward talking in victory lane about his move on Palou said: “I knew if I had the opportunity, it would have been right then and there. Once we did that, it was cruise to Victory Lane.” O’Ward is also trying to negotiate a better contract deal with Arrow McLaren SP. The race victory is sure to help O’Ward in doing so.

The 5 team celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Will Power had a remarkable recovery of a race after qualifying 19th to bring the Verizon Chevy home in fourth place. Power had been playing the long game and had taken good care of his tyres, allowing him to methodically work his way through the field. Scott Dixon as expected, quietly worked his from 13th all the way to fifth place by the end of the race.

Will Power racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

The race like previous editions, was a battle between the two stop and the three stop strategies. Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson were the front runners trying to make the three stop strategy work, pitting as early as lap 11 compared to the race leaders on the two stop strategy pitting around lap 30.

The viability of the three stop strategy would end on lap 33 however when Callum Ilott, battling with Helio Castroneves for 13th place, on the outside overshot turn seven and went for a spin, ending up stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the full course yellow.

Callum Ilott racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

The three stoppers were forced to pit under the caution to stay competitive with the two stoppers and would have to come from the back to try to gain as many positions as possible by the end. Herta and Newgarden were the fast chargers for the first few laps until Herta would leave Newgarden behind who was getting stuck in traffic while Herta would work his way inside the top 10. The final pit stop cycle saw Herta find a new gear. While Newgarden stagnated in the midfield in 14th place, Herta made a hard charge all the way up to 7th, often by divebombing down the inside of cars in turn 16.

Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta on a charge both getting past Tatiana Calderón (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Being overly ambitious, Herta on lap 74, came from far back and sent it down the inside of McLaughlin in the turn four hairpin only to run out of space due to a turning McLaughlin, and ended up spinning out off McLaughlin’s left rear tyre and went for a full 360 degree spin before getting it going again. Herta would fall back to 10th place as a result.

On lap 40, Helio Castroneves took out Jimmie Johnson in turn nine, after getting way too hot into the sequence of corners and collected and spun out an unsuspecting Johnson. Castroneves was only told to give the place back by race control.

Romain Grosjean would get into a scrap with Graham Rahal in the closing laps. After reporting that Rahal was cutting him off in the turn four and five hairpin, he went down the inside of Rahal again, and side swiped Rahal aggressively twice coming out of turn five while failing to take the position.

Rahal immediately came on the radio and said “This guy is a punk. He hit me on purpose”. On the final lap, Rahal would begin running out of fuel, allowing Grosjean to slip past him for 7th place in turn five after all. Rahal would finish 8th.

Heading into turn four hairpin. Left hand side front Jimmie Johnson, behind Colton Herta, behind Simon Pagenaud, right hand side front Graham Rahal, behind Alexander Rossi (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

The race results see O’Ward move from ninth to fifth in the championship standings while Palou takes over the championship lead from Newgarden who dropped to third in the standings, with his Penske teammate McLaughlin holding down second.

The upcoming races sees the Month of May really get under way for the NTT IndyCar Series with the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the 14th May and the double-points paying 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 on the 29th May.

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

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Álex Palou (144), 2nd Scott McLaughlin (141), 3rd Josef Newgarden (135), 4th Will Power (134), 5th Pato O’Ward (114), 6th Scott Dixon (113), 7th Rinus VeeKay (106), 8th Romain Grosjean (101), 9th Marcus Ericsson (84), 10th Graham Rahal (84).

Featured Image: Pato O’Ward celebrating his first Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama win (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay outperforms O’Ward to score second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus Veekay followed up topping practice two by bagging his second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park out doing Arrow McLaren SP, Ganassi, Penske and Andretti. VeeKay’s blistering final lap of a 1:06.2507 prevented Pato O’Ward from going back to back for pole position. O’Ward qualified second with a 1:06.4003 but said to NBC that a mistake in one corner cost him pole.

Pato O’Ward out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay speaking to NBC about his feelings towards tomorrow’s race said his “confidence is high”. The last time VeeKay put his ECR Chevrolet on pole, was at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020, a race track he won at in 2021 after managing to pass Romain Grosjean, scoring his first IndyCar Series win.

Rinus VeeKay heading into turn nine (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Álex Palou and Scott McLaughlin qualified third and fourth respectively, both of whom were consistently the fastest drivers out of their respective team camps heading into qualifying after two practice sessions.

From a smashed up Andretti Honda in practice only three hours before after overcorrecting and colliding with the turn 17 guard rail, Alexander Rossi made the Firestone fast six and qualified an impressive fifth place. Rossi’s car had been pushed hurriedly out of the paddock with him already in the car to even make qualifying. Felix Rosenqvist qualified sixth making McLaren SP the only team to have more than one car in the fast six on a day where Andretti and Ganassi were expected to make up the majority of the field in the session.

Alexander Rossi out on track (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

What contributed to the shuffling up of drivers who made up the fast 12 and the fast six, was a series of red flags that ended the earlier qualifying sessions with time to spare, cancelling out any hot laps drivers were currently on. In round one, group two rookie David Malukas brought out the red flag with less than a minute to go after getting loose coming over the hill into turn 15 and instead went off the track and collided with the outside guard rail.

Even more unfortunate was when Marcus Ericsson got beached in the turn nine gravel trap at the very end of the fast 12 session, ending many driver’s flying laps. Colton Herta who had been at the top of the board for much of the session until late on, instead had to settle for 10th place after having gone out for his final hot lap later than he expected it. Talking to NBC, Herta said “Ericsson ruined it for us”. Ericsson was 9th before being relegated to 12th in the session for bringing out the red flag.

Colton Herta standing by his pit box (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Newgarden and Grosjean faced the same fate, instead qualifying seventh and eighth. Grosjean was expected to be making a run for pole for tomorrow’s race and had been hitting the top of the board throughout qualifying, while it was anticipated that Newgarden, the three-time Barber winner, would make the top five.

British rookie Callum Ilott and Juncos Hollinger Racing would have a breakout day qualifying 11th. Ilott had also been on a quicker lap when the red flag came out but said to NBC that he was very happy to have qualified as well as they had.

Callum Ilott out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

A major upset in round one, group one saw Scott Dixon only manage seventh in the session and Will Power, the four-time Barber pole sitter who was fighting understeer in the car, only manage an 11th place. Dixon and Power will start 13th and 19th for tomorrow’s race.

Meyer Shank Racing had a challenging qualifying session. Hélio Castroneves while not making it out of round one, group two, finishing in eighth place, would also go for a spin coming out of turn nine after lighting up the rears on a flying lap at the end of the session, and ended up facing backwards on the inside grass patch. Teammate Simon Pagenaud only managed 12th in the session. Castroneves and Pagenaud will start 16th and 24th respectively.

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

ECR’s Rinus Veekay and McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward will lead the field to green at 12:15 Central Time tomorrow for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. 

Featured Image: Rinus VeeKay celebrating with the NTT P1 Award (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media) 

2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies

This week, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship gets underway in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 2022 roster of drivers includes no less than six rookies, and 20 veteran full-time drivers in total, making it the largest full-time field of competitors in IndyCar for a decade.

IndyCar never fails to disappoint, with a diverse array of tracks from across the United States and drivers from all over the world, to a traditional points based system where all positions count, oh and not to mention it has one of the most welcoming fanbases you’ll find in motorsports; there’s every reason to watch IndyCar this season whether you’re a veteran or rookie yourself. Let’s get you up to speed with what’s new for IndyCar in 2022.

Continue reading “2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies”

UNI-Virtuosi sign Drugovich for 2021

UNI-Virtuosi have announced that Felipe Drugovich will join the team for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Drugovich made his F2 debut this season with MP Motorsport. He finished the year ninth in the standings with 121 points, having claimed three victories, as well as one pole position, fastest lap and third place.

UNI-Virtuosi already had one confirmed vacancy for 2021, after Callum Ilott announced he would not be returning to F2 after this season. It’s not yet known if Guanyu Zhou will remain for what would be a third year with the team.

“[I am] extremely happy that I will be racing next year with UNI-Virtuosi in F2,” Drugovich said. “I would like to thank the team for giving me this opportunity, that will give us big success!”

Team principal Andy Roche said: “UNI-Virtuosi is delighted to have Felipe Drugovich on board for the 2021 FIA Formula 2 season.

“Felipe had a fantastic maiden season in Formula 2 this year, with three victories. He has shown amazing pace and ability in only his first year in the championship.”

Drugovich will join the team for this week’s post-season F2 test in Bahrain. UNI-Virtuosi have also announced that he will be joined on the final day by Formula 3 driver Clement Novalak.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

F2 Sakhir: Daruvala wins as Schumacher crowned champion in tense finale

Jehan Daruvala led a Carlin 1–2 in the Sakhir sprint race for his first win in Formula 2, while Mick Schumacher clinched the 2020 championship in a dramatic final round of the year.

Daruvala initially lost out at the start, as an unsuccessful move for the lead on polesitter Dan Ticktum into Turn 1 shuffled him back to third, with Schumacher benefiting to take second.

But at Turn 4 Schumacher had a major lockup as he tried to take the lead from Ticktum, and Daruvala retook second place as Schumacher got his car back under control.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

The lockup left Schumacher with a big flat spot on his right front tyre, which put him under pressure from his championship rival Callum Ilott in fourth. Schumacher briefly relieved that pressure by setting the fastest lap to catch and pass Daruvala again with a daring move around the outside of Turn 6. But that only lasted until lap 8 when Daruvala got back ahead once again.

As he struggled with the vibrations from his tyre, Schumacher made several lockups trying to keep Ilott behind. His teammate Robert Shwartzman tried to get involved as a rear gunner by harrying Ilott from fifth, but ultimately neither Prema was able to stop Ilott from breezing past Schumacher on lap 19.

Once Ilott was ahead, Schumacher plummeted through the points positions. He was passed by Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou a few corners later, and spent the rest of the lap defending from Yuki Tsunoda before choosing to risk a pit stop for fresh softs.

With Schumacher coming back out in 20th, Ilott’s chances of winning the title rested on catching Ticktum and Daruvala to take the race win. But the laps spent trying to get past Schumacher had damaged Ilott’s tyres as well, and he wasn’t able to make any dent in his gap to the front.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Meanwhile, Tsunoda started moving through the pack with rapid pace. On lap 24 he took fifth from Shwartzman, then fourth from Zhou a lap later.

On lap 26, Tsunoda caught Ilott and passed him into Turn 1. Ilott then began to drop back as Schumacher had. His teammate Zhou overtook him for fourth through Turn 4, before he was eventually shuffled back through the order and out of the points by Shwartzman, Giuliano Alesi, Luca Ghiotto and Nikita Mazepin.

As Tsunoda was carving his way through the field towards the podium, his teammate Daruvala was hassling Ticktum for the race lead as Ticktum struggled with fading rear tyres.

Daruvala cut the lead down to three tenths as early as lap 13. But despite Daruvala going for an overtake nearly every time the pair went through Turns 1 and 4, Ticktum was able to hold the Carlin behind for another 12 laps.

His defence came undone however with a lock up out of the final corner on lap 25, which allowed Daruvala through before the DRS straight. Daruvala then pounced clear for the remaining 10 laps, while Ticktum eventually fell back into the clutches of Tsunoda and had to settle for third behind the two Carlins.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Zhou finished fourth ahead of Shwartzman, Alesi, Ghiotto and Felipe Drugovich. Schumacher could only improve to 18th by the chequered flag, but with Ilott unable to get back into the points his championship was assured.

Tsunoda clinched third place in the standings ahead of Shwartzman and Mazepin, securing enough points for his FIA Super Licence and earning him the Anthoine Hubert Award for the highest-placed rookie driver. Carlin also beat Hitech to third in the teams’ standings.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 15
2 Yuki Tsunoda (FL) Carlin 14
3 Dan Ticktum DAMS 10
4 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 8
5 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 6
6 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport 4
7 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 2
8 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 1
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix
10 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing
11 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
12 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
13 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Roy Nissany Trident
16 Marino Sato Trident
17 Sean Gelael DAMS
18 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing
19 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
20 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
21 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
Ret. Ralph Boschung Campos Racing

 

F2 Sakhir: Tsunoda wins as title goes to the final race

Yuki Tsunoda won the feature race on the Sakhir outer loop after a frantic battle at the front of the field, while Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher finished in the lower points to take the title fight to the final race tomorrow.

Tsunoda started from pole but lost the lead of the race into Turn 1, as he was passed by both Nikita Mazepin and Robert Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala slipped back off the line, promoting Felipe Drugovich to fourth.

Meanwhile, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher, both starting on the hard tyres, gained at the start, with the former reaching eighth and the latter moving from P18 to P16. Both drivers then set about making rapid progress past the cars on soft tyres around them throughout the opening laps.

As Zhou reeled in Ilott and Daruvala to move up to sixth, Schumacher picked his way through Louis Deletraz, Roy Nissany, Giuliano Alesi and Theo Pourchaire to get within touching distance of the points by the end of lap 7.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

At the front of the field, Tsunoda recovered from his drop at the first corner and retook second place from Shwartzman on lap 13. When Shwartzman and Mazepin then made their stops for hard tyres in the next few laps, Tsunoda stayed out to attempt the overcut and stopped at the end of lap 16.

The strategy seemed to work as Tsunoda emerged from the pits ahead of Mazepin, but his colder tyres meant he was soon passed by both Mazepin and Shwartzman on his out lap.

The overcut strategy was more successful for Drugovich, who stayed out until the end of lap 20 and managed to make up enough time to join Mazepin, Shwartzman and Tsunoda in the fight for the net lead.

With the frontrunners having stopped, the top three positions were assumed by Zhou, Dan Ticktum and Schumacher who were all running the alternative strategy having started on hards. Ticktum was the first of these to pit for softs at the end of lap 26, but Zhou and Schumacher both waited a few laps longer before making their own stops.

Once they were on softs, their pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards was plain to see. Schumacher rejoined the race in P12 but was very quickly up into the points with passes on Deletraz, Artem Markelov, Ticktum and Pedro Piquet, and set the fastest lap in the process.

Zhou meanwhile passed Daruvala and Ilott for the second time in the race to take fifth, and was closing rapidly on the leading quartet of Mazepin, Shwartzman, Tsunoda and Drugovich.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As Zhou got closer behind them, Tsunoda took second from Shwartzman on lap 36 and started chipping away at Mazepin’s 1.3 second lead. Tsunoda got Mazepin within DRS range on lap 43, and at the start of the following lap he swung to the inside down the pit straight to make the move. Mazepin ran Tsunoda close to the pit wall to defend, but Tsunoda was through into the lead by Turn 1.

Mazepin then ran wide at the final corner of the lap, allowing Drugovich through for second and putting Mazepin under DRS pressure from Zhou, who had got by Shwartzman for fourth. After repeating the same defence he tried on Tsunoda a lap earlier, Mazepin briefly held his position but lost out to Zhou a few corners later.

Drugovich ran wide on lap 45 and gifted Zhou and Mazepin a position as he dropped to fourth. But the Brazilian regrouped to attack Mazepin for third on the final lap. Mazepin again put up a questionable defence, edging Drugovich towards the pit wall first and then off the road a few corners later, and was able to keep his car ahead.

With Mazepin defending from Drugovich, Zhou was able to pull clear to secure second place behind Tsunoda. Mazepin held on to third ahead of Drugovich, with Shwartzman coming home in fifth.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ilott and Schumacher finished sixth and seventh. With Schumacher taking an extra two points for the fastest lap, the gap between them in the standings remains at 14 points with 17 available in the sprint race. Daruvala will start that sprint race from pole after finishing eighth ahead of Ticktum and Piquet.

Schumacher only has to finish sixth or higher tomorrow to guarantee the title, regardless of Ilott’s position. For Ilott to overhaul his rival he’ll have to either win the race with Schumacher eighth or lower, or take second place and the fastest lap with Schumacher failing to score.

Nevertheless, Schumacher’s points together with Shwartzman’s fifth place was enough for Prema to secure the teams’ championship ahead of UNI-Virtuosi.

UPDATE: Mazepin was given two five-second penalties as well as two penalty points on his licence for forcing Tsunoda onto the pit exit on lap 44 and blocking Drugovich on the pit straight on lap 48. Mazepin drops to ninth in the classification, which promotes Drugovich to the podium.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 25
2 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 18
3 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 15
4 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 12
5 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
6 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 10
7 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 6
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 4
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 2
10 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 1
11 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
12 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
13 Artem Markalov BWT HWA Racelab
14 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing
15 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
16 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
17 Marino Sato Trident
18 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
19 Sean Gelael DAMS
20 Roy Nissany Trident
21 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
22 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing

 

F2 Sakhir preview: title showdown on the outer loop

Formula 2 takes to the outer loop of the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend for the final round of the season, and the title showdown between Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott.

Last weekend’s racing on the traditional Bahrain circuit saw a mixed weekend for the two title protagonists. At first Ilott looked to be doing everything he needed to keep his championship hopes alive, by qualifying on pole and finishing second in the feature race. But in the sprint race a collision with Jehan Daruvala saw him finish outside the points.

However, Schumacher wasn’t able to take full advantage of Ilott’s crash and deal a crushing late blow to his rival’s hopes. While he put in a great damage limitation drive to fourth in the feature race, Schumacher struggled to keep his tyres alive on Sunday and slipped backwards, eventually taking home only two points for seventh.

As a result, the gap between Schumacher and Ilott has narrowed to just 14 points with 48 still available. The good news for Schumacher is that if he can still clinch the title on Saturday if he outscores Ilott by four points.

Winning the feature race would be enough regardless of where Ilott finishes, but if Ilott finds himself outside the points again then Schumacher can afford to finish as low as eighth and still be crowed champion before the sprint race.

As for Ilott, he just has to pick up as many points ahead of Schumacher as he can. Four points for another pole would be a great way to start, but he’ll have to convert that to a top three result at least—something Ilott has only managed twice from five pole starts so far this year.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

While Schumacher and Ilott fight it out for the F2 title, Yuki Tsunoda will be returning to Bahrain with a point to prove.

Last weekend he entered the event third in the drivers’ standings and with the pace throughout practice to be a definite contender. But a spin in qualifying that left him at the back of the grid for Saturday, then a puncture on the first lap of the sprint race, meant that potential went unrealised.

The Sakhir finale has now become a crucial event for Tsunoda’s hopes of graduating to F1 next year. He might be only five points adrift of Nikita Mazepin in third, but Tsunoda is also only eight points ahead of Christian Lundgaard in sixth, meaning another unlucky weekend could cost him the super licence points he needs.

It’s a different story, however, for Tsunoda’s Carlin teammate Daruvala. The Red Bull junior had a breakthrough weekend with his maiden podium in the feature race, followed by a strong performance in the sprint race before he was hit by Ilott.

After a difficult debut year that’s seen great qualifying pace often go unrewarded on race day, Daruvala will be aiming to build on this momentum and end his season on a high note.

Carlin will also be hoping Tsunoda and Daruvala return some strong results for the team as well as themselves. The British outfit is currently fourth in the teams’ standings with just seven points keeping them ahead of ART.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)
©2017 The Pitcrewonline