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.

Outside contenders at the IndyCar Bommarito Automotive 500

Following the dramatic conclusion of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar relentlessly ploughs on with frightening momentum into a double header weekend at the World-Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois.

Now two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato brings massive confidence to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a race he won last year after holding off a late-charging Ed Carpenter in the closing stages to win by a narrow lead of 0.0339 seconds. It was the closest finish in IndyCar history.

He will get the opportunity not once, but twice to win at Gateway again. It is a sight we have almost become accustomed to, with doubleheaders at Iowa, Road America and of course over in Formula 1 with double-headers at Austria and Silverstone.

Looking at the championship standings it is a grim picture for anyone who is not Scott Dixon. The New Zealander holds a commanding lead of 84 points over his next closest rival, Josef Newgarden. It paints a clearer picture of how dominant the five-time world champion has been this season when noticing third placed Patricio O’Ward is a further 33 points behind Newgarden. Can anyone stop the brilliance of Scott Dixon?

Frankly, outside Newgarden, O’Ward and Sato, you may think the chances are slim.

But alas, there are many other drivers looking to prove themselves at the famous ‘egg-shaped’ circuit. Here are my surprise candidates to achieve a good result this weekend:

James Black / IndyCar Media

Santino Ferrucci

However infamous this young driver may be, you can’t argue with the results he has been putting in this season.

A pair of sixth place finishes in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America road course doubleheader was certainly a standout. More recently, a fantastic fourth at the Indianapolis 500 following a late charge which saw him finish three tenths behind leader Takuma Sato and within touching distance of podium finisher Graham Rahal.

In three out of the last five races he has finished in the top six. You could therefore argue that the young gun is finding his feet comfortably in IndyCar, vehemently charged to change his reputation in global motorsport.

While the likes of VeeKay, Palou, Askew and O’Ward may be stealing most of the headlines, Santino will be looking to upset the status-quo. You only have to look back a year when he finished fourth at Gateway after leading almost one hundred laps of the famous egg-shaped circuit.

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

Conor Daly

Weeks have elapsed since a hilarious prank war between Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi, where the Andretti driver awoke to find his golf cart dismantled and relieved of its wheels. Since then, you could say Daly would have gladly swapped that same golf cart in place of his actual IndyCar over the last few races.

He has not finished in the top ten since the first race at Iowa and will be looking to bounce back in spectacular fashion.

Luckily for Conor, it seems he has a knack at Gateway. In his two race starts at the Bommarito 500 he has never finished outside the top six, a statistic that may give him confidence going into the weekend.

Bouncing between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing this year certainly will not have helped to form any sort of consistency needed for a title challenge. However, out of all his teammates he is currently tied with the most points alongside hotshot rookie Rinus VeeKay. If you were looking for a dramatic teammate battle, this one would be the one to watch.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Colton Herta

The young American has had something of a roller-coaster of a season. While he is win-less this year, a seventh, fourth and a pair of fifths in the opening four rounds of the campaign proves he has consistency as well as raw speed. He comes radiating confidence after finishing a tremendous eight at the Brickyard.

What has been most impressive this year has been his qualifying form. Since the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway his qualifying results have been as follows: Indianapolis (3rd), Road America Race 1 (7th), Road America Race 2 (2nd), Iowa Speedway Race 1 (4th), Iowa Speedway Race 2 (5th). He only barely missed out on the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout at the Indy500. In such a competitive field, such consistent qualifying pace is a solid indicator that Colton has the speed to match anyone in the series. I expect a similar solid qualifying run to occur, and with that, a potential for a good result.

If you need any more evidence, the Californian has made two Indy Lights starts at Worldwide Technology Raceway leading 69 of 75 laps in 2018 before settling for second. Herta finished one spot lower in his first race at the 1.25-mile oval.

Rinus VeeKay: “We are ready for the 500”

Rinus VeeKay image courtesy of IndyCar

The first time I took notice of this young Dutchman, he was leading the F3 Asian Winter Series competing with the likes of Williams test driver Dan Ticktum and F3 heavy-hitters David Schumacher and Ye Yifea. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was mightily impressed with his performances ultimately dominating the championship twenty nine points ahead of his nearest rival.

Now, he is starting fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the highest placed rookie.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for Rinus VeeKay to say the least, a name he adopted after coming to compete in the US, his real name: Rinus Van Kalmthout. Since his incredible performance in the Indy Lights series he has been catapulted into motorsport stardom with the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the NTT IndyCar series for the 2020 season.

For the Netherlands, it is a seismic moment. The first Dutch driver in top tier American Open wheel racing since Robert Doornbos in 2009. Doornbos and only four other Dutchman have ever raced in IndyCar including two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyundyk Sr, his son Arie Luyundyk Jr, Cornelius Euser and Jan Lammers.

Having waited so long for another star in the IndyCar series, they were treated to a miraculous sight last Sunday, seeing Rinus blasting through turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clocking in at just over 240mph. One of the fastest unofficial speeds ever recorded at the Indy 500.

The previous day he knocked many big names out of the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout, including the likes of Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso to name but a few. This is no mean feat. However, rather than let the pressure get to him, he put in a fantastic four-lap average (230.704mph) during the ‘Fast Nine’ to start on the fourth row alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe.

I was fortunate to sit down with Rinus on Wednesday 19th August, four days before he is due to take the starting grid in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’. The aim: to get an insight into the nineteen-year-old Dutchman, to reflect on his fantastic performance so far.

Adam (Q):

Hi Rinus! How are you feeling? Are you OK?

Rinus VeeKay (R):

Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s been a crazy few days, but I’m very happy with the result and it’s been a crazy weekend, but it’s also been the best weekend.

 Q:

So Rinus, first of all, congratulations on such a magnificent performance at your first Indy 500. Through to the ‘Fast Nine’, starting fourth, the highest placed rookie. That is the highest starting position for a Dutchman in 21 years since the 1999 Indy 500, which was your mentor, Arie Luyendyk, who started on pole that day.

That must be something you are immensely proud of. How do you reflect on such a fantastic debut performance?

R:

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course, I did not really expect it. Of course, I knew we had a good car, but the Hondas were looking strong and I was really happy to make the ‘Fast Nine’. But then, yeah, having such a good qualifying run; that almost front row was possible was amazing.

Q:

Absolutely and you’re the only Chevrolet powered car through to the ‘Fast Nine’, which is incredible as well. Many have commented on the lack of speed by Chevy and that you guys were running a low downforce set up in order to negate the power of the Hondas. However, you hit 240 miles an hour going through into turn one.

My question has two parts here. One, what was it like running at such an incredible speed? Have you experienced anything like that ever in your career?

And secondly, would you be running a similar low downforce set up during the race? And what can you expect to get out of the race with that?

R:

Well, it was amazing touching 240 miles per hour, that’s kind of a dream come true. It’s amazing speed, of course, I had a bit of a tailwind. It was cool, turning in to turn one staying flat to 240 miles an hour. Never experienced that before, but this definitely is my land speed record.

For the race, you need more downforce to run in traffic in the race, and the tyres will not last if we keep it on that low downforce. So yeah, we will go for more downforce on a kind of race trim that everyone will be on. And yeah, we have a really strong race car. I know that. And we are ready for the 500.

Q:

Fantastic. You seem to have had quite a lot of success at the Motor Speedway. You came third here at the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights and you seem to done well at the road course in both Indy lights and IndyCar. What is there about the Motor Speedway you find so special?

R:

It’s super special, it’s like the racing mecca. The feeling driving here, if you just drive through the gates, it’s just like heaven.

It’s amazing and I really enjoy driving here. Of course, you need a bit of luck to be successful, but I love the speedway and of course, also the IMS road course has been amazing this year with my highest IndyCar finish so far.

Q:

Some of our readers may be hearing about you for the first time, but they will be eager to learn a little bit about your amazing journey into IndyCar. So, you know, I’ve got a list here of some of your accolades.

  • Second in US F2000 National Championship (2017),
  • Second in the BOSS GP series (2017),
  • Third in  the MRF Challenge Formula (2017),
  • First in the Pro Mazda Championship (2018),
  • First in the F3 Asian Winter Series (2019),
  • Second  in the Indy Lights Series (2019).

Some may be wanting to know why you chose to go round the US motorsport route rather than the European circuit and follow people such as Max Verstappen going to Formula One.

What was it that drew you to America? And I have heard that there are some perceptions that it’s more down to talent in the US. Is that a fair assumption?

R:

Yes, that’s quite fair to say. The Road to Indy is known for their scholarship program and I won the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship and because of that I had the funding to go to Indy Lights. Then it just all happened from there on. So actually that win in 2018, made possible, by The Road to Indy, just made it possible for me to drive in my car eventually.

it’s been tough to go this way. It’s not always been easy but it’s been a great few years and to make it to IndyCar in this rapid way is great.

 Q:

One question I had from one of our contributors was about your time in the BOSS GP Open series. He wanted to ask. It’s one of the more lesser known categories, one could say, but it hosts so many historical sports cars. It sounds like such an amazing series to be a part of. Did you learn anything in particular in your time in that series? And what benefits did you find in doing it?

R:

Yeah, my goal to do that was, I was 16 years old, when I did that. I did a few races there I didn’t do the full season. But to get experience at that young age with, well, I had 680 horsepower. Wow. That’s something very educational. And it’s something important to master when you’re younger. And I think that’s really helped me getting used to high power, high breaks, high downforce when I was only 16 years old.

Q:

Fantastic. Do the likes of people like Max Verstappen, Robin Frinjs in Formula E, Nick de Vries who is F2 Champion, and of course yourself. Does that give you hope that motorsport in the Netherlands is on the rise? It seems like Dutch motorsport is in a really good place right now.

R:

Yeah, it really is. We have some great drivers. Robin Frinjs who is a great driver in DTM and Formula E. Nyck De Vries who is a great driver in Formula E. Max Verstappen of course and then on the other side of the ocean, it’s me in IndyCar. It’s great to have so many drivers in the top categories of open wheel racing, and it’s just great to be part of it.

Q:


It’s like you said, you don’t get many Dutchmen in IndyCar. What is it like trying to get the attention of motorsport fans from the Netherlands to watch you in IndyCar? Do you think that you have a lot of attention right now from the Netherlands?

R:

Yeah, the attention is really getting better and better. Of course, it’s been a little tough because everyone was super ‘Formula One minded’. Now they’ve seen my qualifying performance and of course now with the internet, Twitter, everything, it rolls like a snowball. Everyone starts to get really excited. I think most of the country is going to watch the 500 next weekend, so it’s going to be really cool. I think especially the attention towards IndyCar is really on the rise now.

Q:

It certainly has been with my family we’ve been sat around the whole sofa watching it for the past few weeks. So you’ve provided some fantastic entertainment, especially during lockdown.

In the lower categories, you had a competitive rivalry with the likes of fellow rookie Oliver Askew. You two alongside Alex Palou and Dalton and Pato will be going for the Rookie of the Year title on Sunday. Do those sorts of things motivate you as a driver? And will competing well against the likes of Oliver be an extra bit of motivation for you come the race on Sunday?

R:

I’ve had a long rivalry with Oliver. He’s a great driver and he’s always been a benchmark whenever you go to the track. We have a lot of quick drivers in IndyCar now so Oliver is a quick rookie but also Alex, Patricio, Dalton Kellet, they are super quick here. We’ve got some really strong rookies this year and it feels good to be kind of the best rookie and so that gives me a huge amount of confidence.

Q:

How would you rate your IndyCar season so far? You’ve had a few unfortunate accidents here and there but on the whole your performances have been really positive and certainly the qualifying here at Indy 500 surely should give you confidence for the rest of the full IndyCar season. So how would you reflect on the season so far and your hopes for the future? 

R:

Yeah it’s been a weird season. Of course with COVID to start off with and then my first race at Texas was very immature, very rookie, but I really learned from that. It was one of my biggest lessons in my career. And then from then on, as a driver I made huge steps.

Of course after that we had Indy IMS Road Course where I had my first top five finish. That was great with a great strategy. And then at Road America we struggled a little, I also had some engine issues in the race so that was unfortunate. And in Iowa we were on our way possibly to a victory in race 1 until, well you know what happened with Colton. That was very unfortunate. In race 2 we had some pit lane issues so it’s not been the luckiest year. But, well let’s hope we can make a turnaround from here.

 Q:

For all your prospective fans out there as I am sure after this weekend you will have many. What can we expect from you come this Sunday?

R:

I’m gonna just give it my all. I know we have a great race car. Of course a lot of the race is about strategy, so that will be important, a lot of thinking. But I think we can make the people at home, make then sit at the top of their seats and enjoy the race. I really want to make sure that this year, when there are no fans, they still really enjoy it.

Q:

And that’s another good point that there will be no fans this year at the 500. Does that feel a little bit strange do you think that’s going to be weird come Sunday?

R:

It feels a little strange yeah. You are so used to having so many fans here at Indy. The fans make the event what it is and you miss that. You can feel that the atmosphere is not like that. Of course, it’s still the 500, you still have the speed and the sensation but yeah the fans are a gift when they are here.

Q:

I mean I’m sure that even though they are not going to be there there’s going to be thousands more at home tuning in watching at home live so don’t worry there’s going to be lots of people supporting you back at home.

I think that’s pretty much all we have time for that’s the fifteen minutes. So thank you so much Rinus it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for giving up some of your time to speak to us. We wish you so much luck for the race on Sunday and we really hope you have a good turnout and a good result come this Sunday?.

R:

Thank you very much. I’ll make sure everyone will enjoy the race, and me too and hopefully drink the bottle of milk at the end!

 

 

IndyCar cancels Portland and Laguna Seca, adds three doubleheaders

IndyCar has cancelled the 2020 running of the Grand Prix of Portland, due to Oregon state laws on public gatherings that will remain active throughout September. The race, originally scheduled for Sept. 11-13 is the seventh race to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on the official website of The Grand Prix of Portland they said: “We are extremely disappointed and will miss the incredible fans who have supported us […] The safety of our fans, participants, volunteers, staff, partners and media will always remain our top priority.”

In 2019, Portland returned to the IndyCar series after a ten year absence , won by Penske driver Will Power. Unfortunately he will not get a chance to defend his win a year on.

In addition, IndyCar has also cancelled the doubleheader at Laguna Seca in California, making it the eight cancellation on the calendar. IndyCar called the cancellations: “a mutual decision between the series and promoters following close consultation and monitoring of the local situation. The series looks forward to returning to both venues in 2021.”

The 2019 running was won by Colton Herta who dominated from pole position. It was the first year IndyCar had held a race at Laguna Seca for 15 years.

In their place, IndyCar have added doubleheaders to three events already scheduled:

Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, 8th-9th August,

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, 29th-30th August,

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2nd-3rd October,

It will be the third time that IndyCar will have travelled to Indianapolis this season having raced at the IMS earlier in July and later next month for the Indianapolis 500 on August 23rd.

“Our race fans have loved the exciting doubleheader action of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this year at Road America and Iowa Speedway,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said. “We look forward to giving them even more world-class entertainment this season at three of the most exciting racetracks on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar.”

IndyCar is still scheduled to run 14 races this season.

 

[Featured image – Chris Jones / IndyCar Media]

IndyCar Texas Preview

IndyCar’s race at Texas Motor Speedway will conclude the run of four races in three weekends in the most intense part of the season. Texas marks the second oval of the season and it is usually one of the more eventful weekends of the year, as well as being one of the most picturesque races as it is held under the floodlights.

The IndyCar paddock comes straight from the Dual in Detroit doubleheader where Josef Newgarden took the win in Race 1 before crashing out of Race 2. Scott Dixon was victorious in Race 2, having crashed in Race 1… they were certainly two of the more eventful races we’ve had so far this season!

The main takeaway from Detroit is that Dixon has finally got his first win of the season, something that he took until Texas to do last year. Another key point to note is that Newgarden heads into this round with a 15-point lead over Alexander Rossi, which is one of the smaller championship leads that he has enjoyed so far this season, thanks to his low score in Race 2 at Detroit.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Races at Texas Motor Speedway tend to be highly attritional with large multi-car wrecks a common feature under the lights. Last year, Dixon took his first win of the season here while Simon Pagenaud scored his first podium of 2018 – that shows how different the Frenchman’s situation is this year. Only nine cars finished on the lead lap with extreme tyre blistering playing a key factor in the race, as well as contributing to one or two of the crashes.

Texas is notoriously difficult for rookies with four newbies taking on the course this year. Felix Rosenqvist is in need of a good result, or just a finish, as any more bad results could start to put his future at Chip Ganassi Racing in jeopardy because Chip not a fan of crashers, to put it lightly!

Marcus Ericsson will be hoping to not end in the wall as his predecessor Robert Wickens did here last year, though that was one of Wickens’ more minor scrapes last year. The same goes for Santino Ferrucci and Colton Herta, with all four rookies just wanting to keep it out of the wall, though that is easier said than done!

A return to the ovals means a return to the normal oval qualifying format, which is notably different from that used at the Indy 500. Each driver will get a single run of two laps to set their qualifying time with them running in reverse championship order, meaning returner Charlie Kimball will go first while Newgarden will go last, and theoretically get the best of the track conditions.

There have been three driver changes since the last round and one of them, in particular, was pretty big news. Max Chilton, driver of the #59 Carlin, has made the decision not to compete in any of the four remaining ovals of the season with no precise reason stated in the press release, though the general speculation has been around safety worries due to the way the car was handling at Indianapolis.

Whatever the reason, it was Chilton’s personal decision and is one to be respected, with all the drivers knowing the danger that ovals, in particular, present. After his top ten finish at the 500, Conor Daly will be replacing Chilton at Texas, but it is yet to be announced who will drive the #59 at the remaining ovals of Iowa, Pocono and Gateway.

Conor Daly on the opening day of the Texas weekend. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

The other changes are more minor with Kimball in the #23 Carlin in place of Patricio O’Ward’s #31, though funding concerns for the young Mexican mean it’s not certain that we’ll see him back for Road America. Finally, Ed Carpenter is replacing Ed Jones in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing entry in their usual switch-around for ovals.

The first practice session took place overnight with Dixon continuing his Detroit form by topping the timing sheet, followed by the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal with Kimball in a surprising fourth. The rest of the timings for this weekend are as follows, with the race in the early hours of Sunday morning for UK viewers.

June 7

Practice 2 – 1:30pm (CDT) / 7:30pm (BST)
Qualifying – 5:45pm / 11:45pm

June 8/9

Race – 7:30pm / 1:30am

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
23 Charlie Kimball Carlin
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
59 Conor Daly Carlin
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

IndyCar Dual in Detroit Report: Newgarden and Dixon take turns to win it and bin it

The Detroit doubleheader saw two action-packed races with very different outcomes for the main title protagonists in each. Championship leader Josef Newgarden took the win in Race 1 before crashing out of Race 2 while reigning champion did the same thing, just the other way around – taking his first win of the season in Race 2.

Race 1 turned out to only be 43 laps long after it was cut to a 75-minute timed race following weather-induced delays. Race 2 ran to the scheduled 70 laps, but both were equally as dramatic.

Newgarden’s win in Race 1 was never a certainty but the decisive moment for him came under the second caution, caused by Ed Jones sliding out of the race. The #2 was in the pits as the caution came out, perfectly placing him in the lead of the race when it resumed. From there, all he had to do was fend off a sustained attack from Indy 500 runner-up Alexander Rossi… something that’s easier said than done! Even so, Newgarden held firm to take his second win of the season and his first on the streets of Detroit.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

If everything went Newgarden’s way in Race 1, the second race was to be a different story entirely. This time he qualified on pole but only led for one lap as the early caution that came out for the Turn 3 wreck meant all but six drivers pitted. After that, Newgarden was fighting with Rossi again, with the #27 playing a part in the end of the Penske driver’s race.

James Hinchcliffe exited the pits just ahead of Newgarden and Rossi with the trio fighting for what was effectively the net lead of the race. Three into one at Turn 3 was always going to end in tears, and indeed it did with Newgarden and Hinchcliffe ending in the wall while Rossi managed to continue relatively unscathed. Newgarden was frustrated but accepted his part in the accident, and his championship lead remains intact at 15 points over Rossi.

Dixon’s weekend was the reverse of Newgarden’s with an uncharacteristic mistake ending his first race. The #9 clipped the barriers and was sent into the wall midway through the first race, marking his first DNF since his Texas 2017 crash with Takuma Sato and shocking the paddock.

He recovered in Race 2 in the only way Dixon knows how… winning, in rather dominant fashion. Like Newgarden, the timing of the second caution, this time caused by Spencer Pigot, significantly helped his cause, with Dixon eventually cycling up to a lead he would not relinquish from there on.

Credit: James Black/IndyCar

Rossi’s weekend was more consistent than that of Newgarden or Dixon’s however, he missed out on the one thing he came to Detroit for: a win to make up for his Indy 500 disappointment. The Andretti driver came agonisingly close to the victory in Race 1 before again missing out in Race 2, finishing fifth, though he was lucky to finish at all after the Newgarden/Hinchcliffe incident.

Another lucky driver turned out to be Will Power, which is surprising after the season he’s had! Race 1 was the same old same old with Power’s race ruined by a pit stop error that saw him released with only three wheels on his wagon. Race 2 started in much the same vein with Power stopping on track during the first caution however, this time it was not a disaster and the #12 fought back to a rather miraculous third-place finish.

Holding off Power at the end of Race 2 was rookie Marcus Ericsson who, after an average Race 1, took his first IndyCar podium in the second race. He recovered what would’ve been a dreadful race for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team after Hinchcliffe’s elimination to take his first podium in over five and a half years!

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud was significantly less fortunate at Detroit with the Penske driver doing well in Race 1 but then having a pretty disastrous Race 2. He, along with six other drivers, was caught up in the Turn 3 wreck, initiated by contact between Patricio O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, which all but ended the Frenchman’s race.

Next up on the IndyCar calendar is Texas Motor Speedway in just a few days time to cap off the most intense section of the season.

Race 1 Results:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  6. Simon Pagenaud
  7. Graham Rahal
  8. Zach Veach
  9. James Hinchcliffe
  10. Spencer Pigot
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Colton Herta (R)
  13. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  14. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  15. Tony Kanaan
  16. Marco Andretti
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Will Power
  19. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  20. Ed Jones
  21. Matheus Leist
  22. Scott Dixon

Race 2 Results:

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  3. Will Power
  4. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. Marco Andretti
  7. Graham Rahal
  8. Zach Veach
  9. Sebastien Bourdais
  10. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  11. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  12. Colton Herta (R)
  13. Takuma Sato
  14. Ed Jones
  15. Max Chilton
  16. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  17. Simon Pagenaud
  18. James Hinchcliffe
  19. Josef Newgarden
  20. Matheus Leist
  21. Spencer Pigot
  22. Tony Kanaan

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Simon Pagenaud
  4. Scott Dixon
  5. Takuma Sato

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

IndyCar Dual in Detroit Preview

Fresh from the Indy 500, the IndyCar paddock heads to Detroit for the only doubleheader of the season, known as the ‘Dual in Detroit’. Some drivers are coming off the high of the 500 while others are looking to make amends after a poor performance at the Brickyard. Detroit always promises action with its tight, bumpy nature punishing mistakes very heavily.

Simon Pagenaud will be coming into Detroit on the highest of highs after winning his first Indy 500 from pole to top off an amazing Month of May. The Frenchman has won both of the last two races, however, since the Detroit doubleheader came into the series in 2012, Indy 500 champion has never won either of the races. Pagenaud will be looking to break that curse, though it’s not really something you’d put money on given the amount of media work he’s had to do in the last week and the fact that he hasn’t won around Detroit since 2013, but you never know…

Simon Pagenaud with his dog Norman in New York City during his victory tour after winning the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

One driver very much looking to make amends for the 500 is Alexander Rossi. He may have finished second last race but, as he said in his interview after, that’s probably one of the worst places to finish at the Brickyard because of how close you are to victory. At the Indy 500, second really is the first of the losers! Despite never winning at Detroit, his best finish came last year with a third place in Race 1, Rossi always manages to be a factor in the races here, whether that be in a good way or a bad!

Last year, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay shared the honours, after Graham Rahal dominated both races the year before. For Hunter-Reay, his win here last year ended a drought that stretched back to Pocono 2015; this year, he comes into the weekend with a winless streak of only six races, having won the last race of 2018. Dixon has actually got a longer winless streak at eleven, meaning he sits in fifth in the championship, 47 points off leader Pagenaud.

Ryan Hunter-Reay takes a cool dip in the James Scott Memorial Fountain at Belle Isle Park as the winner of Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

The championship is still young with the two races at Detroit marking races seven and eight. Currently, Indy 500 winner Pagenaud leads the championship, one point ahead of teammate Josef Newgarden with Rossi 22 points off the lead in third. Takuma Sato has rather snuck into the top five, equal with Dixon, 47 points adrift. The standings become slightly more spread out after that with Santino Ferrucci as top rookie in tenth, following his stellar performance at the 500.

Detroit is a return to the street courses after the first oval of the season, but, being a doubleheader, the format is slightly different to normal. The two races are run independently of one another with each having its own two-group qualifying to decide the order. There’s no top twelve group or Fast Six, just the two groups based on practice times. All this means a driver can fail to finish Race 1 but then go onto start well in Race 2, as they don’t decide each other’s grids.

This time it’s a mere 22-car affair, after the 36 strong entry list for the 500. Max Chilton and Patricio O’Ward are back in the field after failing to qualify last time out while Ed Jones switches back to the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing entry after the boss himself ran it at the 500. Other than that, it’s all the regulars in the pack, with Jack Harvey and Ben Hanley not around again until Road America.

Practice gets underway today with the first of the qualifying sessions and Race 1 taking place on Saturday, followed by a very similar schedule on Sunday. The timings for the weekend are as follows:

May 31

Practice 1 – 10:55am (ET) / 3:55pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 2:50pm / 7:50pm

June 1

Qualifying (R1) – 10:45am / 3:45pm
Race 1 – 3:30pm / 8:30pm

June 2

Qualifying (R2) – 10:45am / 3:45pm
Race 2 – 3:30pm / 8:30pm

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Jones Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
31 Patricio O’Ward (R) Carlin
59 Max Chilton Carlin
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Indy 500 Report: Pagenaud completes May treble with first 500 win

Simon Pagenaud stunned the field to win his first Indy 500, having already taken pole for the race and the Indianapolis GP win. He becomes the first driver to ever do that sweep of May, after Will Power came close last year. Pagenaud held off 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi in a thrilling duel during the last ten laps.

The Frenchman started from pole and dominated the race in a way that we are just not used to seeing at the Indy 500. He led 116 laps, nearly 100 more than anyone else, though it was not all plain sailing. All the Chevrolets were struggling with fuel mileage and none more so than Pagenaud, who had the added disadvantage of being out front in clean air with no one to work with.

If it wasn’t for the fourth and final caution which turned into a red flag, the end of the race could’ve been a very different story fuel-wise. If and buts aside, Pagenaud ran a near faultless race to win his first Indy 500 and Penske’s 18th, writing himself into the history books and taking the championship lead with it. Perhaps his only mistake of the day was stopping his car on the yard of bricks after the race, rather than the more traditional Victory Circle… but he didn’t seem to mind!

Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory with partner Hayley and dog Norman. Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Chasing Pagenaud all the way to the flag was Rossi, who was going after his second 500 win. Early on in the race the #27 had a small problem with the fuel in his pit stop but it only cost him a second or two, so no one thought much of it at the time. However, when it came to the penultimate stops, that problem became something more major with Rossi losing a significant amount of time, making him a very angry driver.

Once the race was restarted after the third caution, Rossi was on a mission passing whoever he liked, wherever he liked and soon caught up to the leaders. He pushed Pagenaud very hard in the final laps with the leading driver always heavily defending the inside line but, despite Rossi’s best efforts, Pagenaud squeezed pass on Lap 199 and held onto the lead for long enough to cross the line victorious. He was visibly disappointed by the result saying, “nothing else matters here but winning, today will suck for a while.”.

Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi. Credit: Tim Holle/IndyCar

In amongst all that drama, the third-place finisher was nearly forgotten, but 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato gave the other two a run for their money in the final laps, only dropping back slightly at the very end. The #30 briefly led at two points during the race, though never really had the pace of fellow Honda-runner Rossi. Still, a more than respectable result moves him up to fourth in the championship.

Sebastien Bourdais was one driver who had been comfortably within the lead group until his race came, quite literally, crashing down on Lap 176 when he came together with Graham Rahal and caused the biggest wreck of the day. In taking each other out, the pair created a secondary wreck where drivers behind crashed while reacting to what was going on ahead. Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach’s races were ended while Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam and Scott Dixon all managed to carry on.

Graham Rahal’s car is towed away after the wreck. Credit: Walt Kuhn/IndyCar

There were some remarkable near misses to come out of that wreck with rookie Ferrucci coming off best. The #19 dived onto the grass to avoid his teammate Bourdais and the others in the wreck and, where many drivers would’ve backed off, Ferrucci floored it and gained a handful of places. He eventually finished as top rookie in seventh-place, two places better than Robert Wickens managed in his debut Indy 500 last year.

Hinchcliffe also avoided disaster in that Lap 176 wreck, though that wasn’t the only time he avoided something that could’ve been a whole lot worse. After missing out on the race last year, Hinchcliffe’s nightmare nearly repeated itself again this year however, he scrapped into the race by qualifying 32nd. From there, he could only go forwards, threading the needle through that wreck and finishing in a very respectable 11th place.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Marcus Ericsson was less fortunate. He had been running as best rookie until he lost control on pit entry on Lap 138, causing a caution and putting himself two laps down. This year was always going to be a learning experience for the ex-F1 driver, and he proved just that.

That rounds out what was an action-packed Indy 500 with more going on than could ever possibly be mentioning all at once! IndyCar are back in action in just a few days for the Duel in Detroit double-header so watch out for that.

Full Race Results:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Will Power
  6. Ed Carpenter
  7. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  9. Tony Kanaan
  10. Conor Daly
  11. James Hinchcliffe
  12. James Davison
  13. Ed Jones
  14. Spencer Pigot
  15. Matheus Leist
  16. Pippa Mann
  17. Scott Dixon
  18. Helio Castroneves
  19. Sage Karam
  20. JR Hildebrand
  21. Jack Harvey
  22. Oriol Servia
  23. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  24. Jordan King (R)
  25. Charlie Kimball
  26. Marco Andretti

Non-finishers:

  1. Graham Rahal
  2. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  3. Zach Veach
  4. Sebastien Bourdais
  5. Kyle Kaiser (R)
  6. Ben Hanley (R)
  7. Colton Herta (R)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Scott Dixon

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

IndyCar reveals Red Bull designed Aeroscreen for 2020

Following the race debut of the Advanced Frontal Protection (AFP) device at the Indianapolis GP, IndyCar has announced their next step in cockpit safety which takes the shape of an ‘Aeroscreen’.

This latest development will be designed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies and bears resemblance to the aeroscreen that Red Bull tested in 2016 when F1 was assessing options before ultimately deciding to adopt the halo.

For IndyCar, the solution was always going to be slightly harder to find because their problem is more complicated. The biggest problem with a halo-type structure is the visibility issues that it would present on the ovals, which is where the protection is needed the most.

Also, the halo leaves sizeable areas that are unprotected from debris, meaning it isn’t that effective at protecting the driver from smaller pieces of debris, which tend to be more common in IndyCar.

The Aeroscreen will be introduced at the start of next season and will be a polycarbonate laminated screen with a titanium framework. In testing, the device has shown the same load-bearing capacity as F1’s halo but has the added benefit of complete frontal protection. There will also be an anti-reflective coating on the inside of the screen to aid driver visibility.

The idea of closed cockpits was never really on the table this time around as there are numerous hurdles to overcome, mainly regarding driver extraction, though it’s expected that’ll be the direction of all single-seater motorsport in the future.

On-track testing of the Aeroscreen is expected to start at the beginning of the summer with all teams expected to take delivery of the Aeroscreens by the autumn.

Credit: IndyCar

At a joint press conference announcing the Aeroscreen, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said: “Since the first prototypes were developed and demonstrated in 2016, the potential of Aeroscreen to improve the safety for drivers in the event of frontal impacts in the cockpit area of cars has been clear.”

“This new partnership with IndyCar gives us at Red Bull Advanced Technologies the go-ahead to fully explore that potential, and to deliver a protection system that will help prevent serious injuries and potentially save lives in the US premier single-seater series. Over the coming months we’ll be working closely with IndyCar and its drivers to refine and perfect Aeroscreen and we’re looking forward to seeing the results on the cars in 2020.”

IndyCar President Jay Frye said: “This collaborative effort on the Aeroscreen truly exhibits an unrelenting commitment and passion for enhancing driver safety. We would like to thank everyone at Red Bull Advanced Technologies for creating a design that will be significant in the evolution of motorsports safety not only for the NTT IndyCar Series but from a global perspective.”

Featured Image Credit: IndyCar

Indy 500 Drama: Alonso Fails To Qualify

In pursuit of the Triple Crown (Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500) Fernando Alonso and McLaren returned to American soil for the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday was the day where the top 30 qualifying took place, with the fast nine to qualify again on Sunday for pole position and the six drivers out of the top 30 would also qualify again on Sunday, but with a higher stake.

After the two-time F1 World Champion did not make the top 30 (he ended up in 31st) it was time for ‘Bump Day’, where the last six drivers fight for the last three positions on the starting grid. The three slowest would pack up and go home. James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser were all in the danger zone.

First to put a time on the table was James Hinchcliffe. With an average of 227.543 MPH, he was almost guaranteed of a spot on the grid for next week’s race, having missed out on the race last year. Next in line was Max Chilton, and just like Alonso, with a Carlin car. His pace was way off, with a mere 226.192 MPH meaning his chances would be very slim to qualify.

The third driver to make his run was Alonso. His first lap looked promising for a good result, and he ended up with an average of 227.353 MPH, putting him in (at that moment) second place.

Zak Brown and Fernando Alonso watch and wait after their qualifying attempt. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

With three drivers to go, it would take just two of them to be faster than Alonso for the Spaniard not to qualify for the legendary race. The fact that Fernando was signing some autographs rather than watching the timings showed everything about his nerves. He just didn’t want to look, knowing full well that it would be very close.

Sage Karam surprised with a pretty quick average of 227.740 MPH, putting him on the top of the table. He pushed Alonso back to third place, just enough to qualify. But with two drivers left, tensions were rising.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Red Bull F1 junior, also drove with a Carlin built car, which showed; an average of 227.092 MPH put him in fourth, meaning he was done for this year. The last one who could attempt to qualify was Kaiser.

His first lap was the same as Alonso, but his second and third lap were slightly quicker than the Spaniard’s. With only one lap to go, Alonso once again went to sign some items of fans, too afraid of looking at the timings.

In a very dramatic manner, Kaiser – with his very small Juncos Racing team – beat the great (but new) McLaren Indy team to the last spot on the grid: 227.372 MPH. Just 0.019MPH quicker than Fernando.

Juncos Racing celebrate qualifying for the Indy 500, despite numerous setbacks. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

In a reaction on social media, Alonso said: “A difficult week, no doubts. We tried our best, even today with a completely different set-up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph+, and want more speed… We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing a better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren sporting director, apologized to Alonso, the team and fans. “This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team”, he said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress.  So you know, this is in my 35 years of racing – actually a few more – the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Even though Alonso will not be there, the show still goes on. The only Carlin car to qualify for the Indy 500 was Charlie Kimball in 20th. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud took pole and got a cheque of $100,000, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot lining up next to him. There will still be a fantastic race and all fans of motorsport should definitely watch it.

Simon Pagenaud accepts his pole award for his first ever Indy 500 pole. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar)