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)

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)

Dixon breaks pole speed record and earns fifth Indy 500 pole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full qualifying results are as follows.

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

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

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

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)

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 Mid-Ohio Preview

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

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

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

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

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

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

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

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

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

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

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

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

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

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

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

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

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

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

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

Ericsson considering IndyCar, Super Formula for 2019

Marcus Ericsson has said he is targeting a move to either IndyCar or Super Formula for 2019 following the loss of his Sauber Formula One race seat.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Ericsson will remain with Sauber next year as reserve driver and brand ambassador, but has said he is also looking to continue racing with a full-time drive in another single-seater category.

“I want to race at the highest level possible [next year] because I see myself coming back to Formula One in the future,” Ericsson said.

“To be able to come back to F1, I want to stay in single-seaters and fast cars. IndyCar is the best series to do that in.

“We’re talking to some teams there and I think it is a realistic target.”

Most of IndyCar’s 2019 drives have already been settled, although seats are still available at Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, Carlin and Juncos Racing.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Ericsson has also admitted Japan’s Super Formula is “also an option”, and that he would be interested in contesting the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But despite insisting on a single-seater programme for 2019 to keep him prepared for an F1 return, Ericsson said that Formula E is not high on his preferences:

“It is interesting in many aspects but to stay in F1-type of driving it’s maybe not the best one.

“FE is more of a career move. There are some other options that you can keep on the F1 radar [to] come back.”

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Force India continue their charge for Racing Points

Sergio Perez in the pits for new tyres. Image courtesy of Racing Point Force India

Following on from an impressive debut (if you can call it that) for Racing Point Force India at Spa, I held high hopes that the team would continue their climb up the points ladder this week in Monza. While the Pink Panthers had no problem at all in cruising past Williams in the (largely non-existent) points battle in Belgium, would passing Sauber for 8th in the standings prove more challenging?

The weekend got off to a great start, with the pink team again showing their wet weather prowess in FP1, with Perez and Ocon taking full advantage of the conditions to finish P1 and P3 respectively. Who knew panthers (albeit pink ones) were so fond of the rain? Things settled down a little once the rain clouds dissipated, but Perez and Ocon were still impressive in the dry FP2 and FP3 sessions, placing “best of the rest” or close to it.

Their competition in the standings for this weekend, Sauber, faced a more difficult time, most spectacularly for Marcus Ericsson in FP2, who became the unfortunate passenger of a car that jerked violently to the left before rolling repeatedly as a result of his DRS failing to close. Luckily he escaped unscathed, but it didn’t look pretty, and forced the team to break curfew to fix the car during the night.

Although the pace was still looking good for Force India in qualifying, they looked to have made a costly mistake in Q1, deciding not to send Perez out for another run at the end of the session. Unbelievably, he found himself a single thousandth of a second on the wrong side of Romain Grosjean’s time, pushing him down to 16th and out. Ocon made it comfortably through, meanwhile, eventually ending up a respectable eighth on the grid. It looked likely, at this point, that while Ocon might have a shot at the coveted best of the rest spot, Perez might struggle to even reach the points.

On Sunday though, Perez charged through the field like a man possessed, wrestling his way to where he probably should have been if not for Saturday’s strategy oversight. By lap 10 he was in the points, and his charge continued impressively from there on. Ocon arguably had an easier ride, having started further forward, but both impressed in the race, finishing 7th and 8th on the road (more on that later).

Sauber meanwhile, continued to struggle without the straight-line speed required to excel at Monza, with Leclerc putting in a valiant effort but ultimately coming up short, and Ericsson having a tough time towards the back of the field. So while Perez and Ocon finished comfortably in the points, Sauber failed to score.

It doesn’t take a genius to do the maths: going into the weekend with a mere one point advantage over Force India, Sauber were now very solidly on the back foot, with Force India sailing on through to rise up to P8 in the standings.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After the race, the floor on the Romain Grosjean’s Haas was found to be illegal, and he was promptly disqualified, pushing Ocon and Perez up to P6 and P7 in the race results. Although Haas may yet appeal, if the decision stands, Force India stand to gain – not just points, either, but yet another position in the standings! Yes, after just two races as a “new“ team, Force India really do sit seventh in the Constructors’ table.

So, what’s next on the horizon? Sixth no longer seems impossible. Fifth might involve just a bit too much wishful thinking. But if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that I wouldn’t want to bet against them.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline