Will Power surges to second IndyCar championship; Palou wins Firestone GP in dominant display

Will Power ran an intelligent race allowing title rival and teammate Josef Newgarden past on lap 46, settling for third place in the race to ensure locking up the championship by 16 points while Álex Palou stormed out to a 30 second lead over Newgarden by the end to win the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.

Will Power managing his race (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Will Power led the opening 14 laps before a roulette of strategies began playing out on pit road. Palou took the lead away from Power on lap 27 while Newgarden squeezed past Power for second heading into the corkscrew on lap 46.

In the closing stages a train of cars threatened to undo Power’s championship hopes with Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist leading it but Power held on and created enough distance to ward off any threat and take the last spot on the podium and earn his second IndyCar championship.

Will Power (front) running 2nd trying to hold off Felix Rosenqvist, Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden in the corkscrew (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Power post-race said: “I just knew I had to absolutely get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions.”

The 41-year-old Australian won just one race this season, that being the final Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle compared with championship runner up Josef Newgarden’s five wins but his 12 top-five finishes, being three more than any other driver, bolstered him to his second NTT IndyCar Series championship, giving Team Penske their 17th IndyCar championship. 

Roger Penske (left) and Will Power (right) celebrating Team Penske’s 17th IndyCar Championship and Power’s 2nd (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Power speaking to NBC said: “I had to drive the thing today. It was on the edge, very loose. Man, what a relief. What a relief to get that done.”

Will Power won his first championship in 2014 also with Team Penske. 

Will Power celebrating his second NTT IndyCar Series Championship with the Astor Cup trophy (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Newgarden did nearly all he could to steal the championship away from Power on the final weekend but a crash in qualifying saw him start 25th compared to Power taking his 68th pole position, gaining a bonus championship point, and surpassing Mario Andretti’s record for all-time poles.

Newgarden started off aggressive gaining five positions on the opening lap before going long and switching to the softer red tyre that saw him move all the way up to seventh by lap 34. On pit strategy, Newgarden briefly took the lead for a few laps on lap 69 when Palou pitted but could not match Palou’s overall pace.

Post-race Newgarden said: “Even yesterday, with the heartache there, we came back, we fought, and we nearly got there. I’m proud of the effort. We’re going to come back stronger next year.”

Josef Newgarden racing in the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Palou had blistering pace all race long but narrowly escaped trouble when leaving his pit box on his second stop as he scraped the rear of Rosenqvist’s car as  he left his pit box.

IndyCar, despite it appearing to be an unsafe release, declared no action would be taken. This otherwise would have led to a penalty that could have unraveled Palou’s race. He had already overcome a six-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change that saw him start the race 11th.

Apart from making contact with Rosenqvist on pit road, Palou seem unfazed that he was still being sued by his own team owner, unsure where he will be racing next year.

Palou had a 20 second lead over Newgarden with 20 laps to go and led 67 of the 95 laps in total to earn his fourth career win and first win of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Álex Palou out front in the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment)

Palou said: “Today was awesome. Strategy was on point. It’s good to finish a season with a win. We had some power there and good fuel mileage.”

Álex Palou celebrating in victory lane with his team (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

Palou’s and Power’s teammates and remaining championship contenders did not appear to have anything for them and Newgarden.

Dixon and Ericsson struggled to keep from dropping out of the top 15 and attempted to work their way up the order by going off strategy but Dixon found himself down in 23rd after pitting while Ericsson came out 15th just past the 30 lap mark.

Scott Dixon racing in the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

The same can be said for Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin as he found himself in 20th after pitting on lap 53 while Dixon was 24th.

Their strategy and pace did come to some fruition as McLaughlin, Ericsson, and Dixon found themselves nose to tail by lap 63 with McLaughlin playing defence for his Penske teammates up front.

Scott McLaughlin (left) keeping Scott Dixon (right) at bay (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

By the end, McLaughlin impressively worked all his way up to finish sixth but not before having multiple scraps with Ericsson that saw the Swede take to the sand on multiple occasions. Ericsson also made an incredible save in the corkscrew after contact with Colton Herta. Ericsson finished ninth while Dixon finished 13th.

Dixon, McLaughlin, and Ericsson would finish third, fourth, and sixth respectively in the championship.

Dixon will have to wait to another year to attempt to become a seven-time IndyCar champion tying A.J. Foyt for the most championships, while McLaughlin has excelled in just his second season with three wins this year while Marcus Ericsson won this year’s Indianapolis 500, an outstanding achievement that has changed his life forever.

Scott McLaughlin travelling down the hill at the corkscrew (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

Away from the championship battle, it was a bittersweet day for British rookie Callum Ilott who had qualified second for the race and for the opening laps held his position. He was still running inside the top 10 after the first stint but as he was leaving the pit exit he a mechanical failure and stopped just past the Andretti hairpin, ending his day and brought out the only full course yellow of the race on lap 39.

Will Power (front) and Callum Ilott (left behind Power) lead the field to green for the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca

It would be Denmark’s Christian Lundgaard who would be the highest finishing rookie in fifth. Lundgaard also wins the Rookie Of The Year competition finishing on 323 points, beating David Malukas by 18 points who finished 13th in the race.

Christian Lundgaard entering the corkscrew during the Firestone Grand Prix (Photo by Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment)

Jimmie Johnson had a breakout day for his IndyCar road course programme being competitive all race-long, including making aggressive passes in the corkscrew and would finish 16th.

Jimmie Johnson racing in the Firestone Grand Prix at Laguna Seca (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

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

Top 10 in championship standings: 1st Will Power (560), 2nd Josef Newgarden (544), 3rd Scott Dixon (521), 4th Scott McLaughlin (510), 5th Álex Palou (510), 6th Marcus Ericsson (506), 7th Pato O’Ward (480), 8th Felix Rosenqvist (393), 9th Alexander Rossi (381), 10th Colton Herta (381).

Featured Image: Will Power and his No. 12 Team Penske celebrating the championship title with the Astor Cup trophy (Photo by Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

 

 

 

Will Power ties Mario Andretti for most all-time poles

Will Power put his Team Penske Verizon Chevrolet on pole in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, tying Mario Andretti for most all-time IndyCar poles with 67.

With a two-lap average of 182.727 he cleared his championship rivals and Team Penske teammates for the top spot for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway and secured his fourth pole of the season.

Will Power qualifying (Photo by Sean Birkle/Penske Entertainment)

Power received the complementary bonus point for securing pole, giving him a now seven point championship lead over Scott Dixon with just three race remaining.

Speaking to NBC Power said: “This is a big victory for me, to reach the 67 number and equal such a legend of the sport in Mario Andretti. I just can’t believe that I’m right there with Mario because there’s been no one like him.”

It could very well have been Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden who would have taken his second pole of the season but a mistake in turns three and four on lap one causing him to downshift, meant he had to settle for only third with a two-lap average of 181.629.

On the radio Newgarden said, “I goofed the first one” and later said to NBC “I wish I could have a redo.”

Josef Newgarden discussing qualifying with his team (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Joining Power on the front row is 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson who also broke the 182mph mark with a 182.070 two-lap average after using all of the race track to do it.

Marcus Ericsson out on track (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Power’s other teammate Scott McLaughlin qualified fourth. Ericsson’s teammates Palou and Dixon qualified fifth and sixth respectively.

It proved to be a frustrating qualifying for Arrow McLaren SP with Felix Rosenqvist spinning out on his qualifying attempt while Pato O’Ward felt he was too conservate on his.

Rosenqvist spun coming out of turn two on lap one in an effort to keep his car off the wall, and ended up tagging the inside tyre barrier before coming to a stop.

O’Ward qualified seventh with is first lap holding him back to a two-lap average of 180.303.

Takuma Sato impressively qualified eighth after the 2019 winner of the race, used up all of the race track saying he “had to pedal it” due to experiencing oversteer.

Takuma Sato qualifying (Photo by Sean Birkle/Penske Entertainment)

Romain Grosjean was the best of the Andretti Autosport cars qualifying ninth, continuing his good record at the track after a strong IndyCar oval debut at WWT Raceway last year.

Grosjean however has to take a nine-place grid penalty for Saturday’s race due to an unapproved engine change and will consequently start 18th.

A happy Romain Grosjean sat on the pit wall (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Andretti teammate Devlin DeFrancesco left off from where he did in practice and qualified 10th. Alexander Rossi qualified 11th. The last of the Andretti crew Colton Herta, had to contend with a wiggle in turns three and four on his qualifying run, resulting in a 12th starting spot.

The field of cars lined up on pit road readying to go out to qualify (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

The Ed Carpenter Racing cars were uncharacteristically slow, with Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay and Ed Carpenter qualifying 16th, 23rd and 25th respectively with Carpenter saying he was not happy with the setup of the car.

Jimmie Johnson only managed 21st after putting it down to needing more track time since he had not raced at the track since 2002 in the NASCAR Xfinity series, whereas at Texas and Iowa he had more experience and time to adjust to the track.

Jimmie Johnson out on track during practice (Photo by James Black/Penske Entertainment)

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

Will Power and Marcus Ericsson will  lead the field to green for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at WWT Raceway flies Saturday at 6pm ET. 

Featured Image: Will Power celebrates earning the P1 Pole Award with his crew (Photo by Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

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) 

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)

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)

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) 

IndyCar Race Weekend Preview: Barber Motorsports Park

After a three week break, the IndyCar series are back for the fourth round of the NTT IndyCar Series Championship, at the fast-flowing and twisty Barber Motorsports Park, the racing circuit located in Birmingham, Alabama.

The IndyCar series will race around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn circuit for 90 laps, a total of 207 miles. This will be the 12th edition of the event, with Chip Ganassi’s Álex Palou winning the 2021 race, his first career win on his debut for Chip Ganassi Racing which made it the perfect start to his 2021 championship-winning campaign.

Álex Palou racing in the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

This the final race before the month of May and the Indy Grand Prix (14th May) and the double points paying Indy 500 (29th May), but technically the Alabama race is being held on Sunday 1st May this time around.

The race weekend schedule is as follows. The first practice session of the weekend took place on Friday, which saw Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, top the charts with a lap time of 1:06.5149. Meanwhile, it appeared Josef Newgarden, a three-time winner of the race, had issues, managing only 18th in practice one.

Colton Herta in Friday’s practice session (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Saturday sees a 45-minute practice session at 9am Central Time (CT), followed by the traditional knockout qualifying session at 12pm CT. There will be a final 30-minute practice session at 4:20pm CT.

While IndyCar have provided the teams and drivers with a healthy amount of practice for the race, it may not be as useful as first thought, as the state of Alabama are due scattered rain showers and storms on Sunday which may reach the track during the race. This has the making for it to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season yet.

Sunday sees the 12th edition of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama go green at 12:15pm CT.

Going into the race weekend, Josef Newgarden leads the championship by five points, after winning his first Long Beach Grand Prix, over Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin. Despite winning three times at Barber, Josef Newgarden had a nightmarish 2021 race when he got loose coming over the hill after turn four, before getting onto the grass and spinning wildly across the track, ending his day and taking out Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the process.

First lap crash triggered by Newgarden in the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

If Josef Newgarden does win the race this weekend, he will claim the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge’s $1 million prize. This challenge tasks drivers to win on each type of track during the 2022 season; that being an oval, a street course and a road course/circuit. After consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Long Beach, Newgarden is just left with a circuit to tick off to win the grand prize. The win on a circuit such as Barber this weekend would earn him a $500,000 bonus and a matching $500,000 donation for his charities, Wags and Walks Nashville and SeriousFun Children’s Network.

Fifth place in the standings Scott Dixon, will be hoping to finally go one place higher on the podium and capture his first victory at Barber Motorsports Park, having been runner up in the race six times, and finishing third or better in nine of the last 11 races there, including third in 2021.

Scott Dixon celebrating with race winner and teammate Álex Palou on the podium after the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

In qualifying, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward will be looking to repeat last years feat of not only taking the pole position but beating the track record with a lap time of 1:05.5019. Four-time Barber pole sitter Will Power will be looking to make it five poles, last doing so in 2017.

Pato O’Ward taking the NTT P1 pole award for the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Twenty-six drivers are entered for the race weekend, the same roster of drivers from Long Beach, with all six rookies, Calderon, DeFrancesco, Ilott, who went eighth fastest in Friday’s practice session, Kirkwood, Lundgaard and Malukas who won the second Indy Light’s race at Barber last year, set to compete in their first Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Callum Ilott in Friday’s practice session (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Aside from three-time winner Josef Newgarden who won in 2018, 2017, and 2015, and reigning race winner Álex Palou, active race winners include two-time winner Will Power who won in 2011 and 2012, Takuma Sato in 2019, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Helio Castroneves in 2010.

Don’t miss the potentially rain-filled action thriller on Sunday. The green flag flies at 12:15pm CT.

Featured Image: The start of the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

 

Josef Newgarden outsmarts competitors to win his first Long Beach Grand Prix

Josef Newgarden, after leapfrogging the leaders during the final pit cycle, held off Romain Grosjean and Álex Palou for the final 15 laps to finally win his first Long Beach Grand Prix after two previous runner-up finishes.

A three car battle for the lead, Newgarden, Grosjean and Palou, inside 15 to go (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

On lap 59 Newgarden who had ran inside the top three all race long, came out of pit road squeezing just ahead of Palou, holding onto the lead after staying out an extra lap. Palou went side by side with Newgarden in turns four and five, but Newgarden prevailed on the inside.

Simon Pagenaud attempted some mid-race landscaping when he drove into the dolphin fountain garden and got stuck facing the wrong way, bringing out the caution inside of 25 to go 

Grosjean then joined the battle for the lead overtaking Palou inside of 20 laps to down the front straightaway. Newgarden had to fend off Grosjean again on another restart with five to go going two-wide on the inside into turn one. Newgarden led Grosjean single file into the fountain turn and despite Grosjean sticking with Newgarden on the softer red tyre, he would not find a way past running out of push to pass while Newgarden had four seconds to spare and would finish the race in first after a yellow ended the race early with half a lap to go due to Takuma Sato crashing into the turn eight tyre wall.

From left to right: Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden, and Alex Palou on the podium (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Talking to NBC in victory lane, Newgarden said “I’ve been trying to win here for 11 years so I’m so glad to finally get it done.”

From hometown hero to hometown horror, it was Colton Herta who should have been up at the front and had been leading the first half of the race comfortably over Newgarden and Palou.

Instead while pushing hard on what appeared to be his in-lap for his final pit stop, Herta bounced over the turn nine curb and under-steered into the wall breaking his front wing and suspension putting an immediate end to his quest for consecutive Long Beach Grand Prix wins.

The terminal damage to Colton Herta’s Andretti Honda (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Herta had led the first 30 laps or so controlling the pace of the race, maintaining a consistent two second gap over Newgarden and Palou, the three of which had checked out from the rest of the field. Palou did the overcut during the first cycle of pit stops, going from third to first after his Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew did a fast pit stop of 7.5 seconds compared with Herta’s 9.1 and Newgarden’s eight.

Colton Herta leading the field to green (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Palou came out with a 2.7 second lead over Newgarden who had successfully done the overcut on Herta. Herta’s crash at the end of his second stint, after a determined effort to gain time on his in-lap like Palou did over Newgarden, was reminiscent of his crash at last year’s Nashville race where he was trying to hunt down leader Marcus Ericsson in the closing laps, before carrying too much speed off the bridge and ended up slamming into the tyre wall.

Second place Romain Grosjean had a phenomenal race weekend and was laps away from potentially winning his first IndyCar race. Grosjean had been on course to take pole away from Andretti teammate Herta on Saturday before overdriving the car into the turn five tyre wall.

Starting from sixth on the grid, he had battled through the field and joined the leaders inside the final 20 lap but Jimmie Johnson’s crash with eight to go put a huge dent in his plans to overtake Newgarden and would instead only have five laps left to do so on worn softer tyres with no push to pass. Grosjean came to the checkered flag in Newgarden’s mirrors.

Romain Grosjean racing in the Long Beach Grand Prix (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Some early front runners faced issues that saw them end up around the bottom end of the top 10. Felix Rosenqvist started fourth but on lap 21 Alexander Rossi came steaming into turn one and hip checked Rosenqvist. Both appeared to have just gotten away with the collision but Rosenqvist’s fast pace would drop off following the coming together and would drop to as low to 14th place but ended up finishing 11th. Rossi would also quickly lose places to Marcus Ericsson and Grosjean and would finish eighth.

From right to left: Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean racing around the dolphin fountain (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Will Power along with Rosenqvist’s teammate Pato O’Ward while having no answer for the top three, would quietly make their way up the field to finish fourth and fifth due to a consistently fast race pace and staying out of trouble. Scott Dixon through the use of an aggressive undercut pit-stop strategy, would work his way to sixth after starting 16th. Dixon would be the first to pit on lap 22 as well as for his second stop, spending the most time in clean air during the race, and cycled to fifth after the first set of pit stops.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises’ cars would prove to have a very respectable race through consistency and staying out of trouble. Kyle Kirkwood would finish 10th, making him the highest finishing rookie, while Tatiana Calderón would finish an impressive 16th after starting 26th in just her second IndyCar start.

Tatiana Calderón racing in the Long Beach Grand Prix (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

For much of the field, the race proved to be a race of attrition, with spins and collisions on a track that had the largest marbles seen at an IndyCar race for years. This was believed to be down to the significantly softer tyre that Firestone had brought to the IndyCar series this year compared with previous seasons that the street course devoured as the laps went by.

Dalton Kellett would retire early from the race after ending up in the turn one tyre wall on lap six. On lap 34, championship points leader Scott McLaughlin would clip the inside wall of turn 11 with his sidepod but completed an amazing spin around in front of the blind corner. He continued on to finish 14th but consequently lost the points lead to Newgarden.

Scott McLaughlin racing in the Long Beach Grand Prix (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Devlin DeFrancesco would not be so fortunate as he too like Herta would drive into the turn nine wall but on his out-lap at the end of his second stint before spinning in turn 11 with terminal damage after attempting to get back to pit road. With 19 to go, Ericsson would collide with the turn four wall and spin across the track, getting collected by teammate Dixon who had nowhere to go. Ericsson would be forced to retire immediately while Dixon managed to keep going with no repairs needed.

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

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Josef Newgarden (118), 2nd Scott McLaughlin (113), 3rd Álex Palou (103), 4th Will Power (102), 5th Scott Dixon (83), 6th Romain Grosjean (75), 7th Rinus VeeKay (67), 8th Marcus Ericsson (66), 9th Pato O’Ward (63), 10th Graham Rahal (60).

Featured Image: Josef Newgarden celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

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