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)

IndyCar Indy GP Report: Pagenaud masters the rain in hectic race

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud has ended his winless streak in the most exciting fashion possible, passing defending champion Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap to take his first win since 2017’s season finale at Sonoma. The Frenchman was certainly an unexpected winner, but Jack Harvey’s third was equally as remarkable.

Pagenaud started the race in eighth and was only making very steady progress until the rain started falling, and from there on in he excelled. With seventeen laps to go Pagenaud embarked on his charge, first passing the duelling Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones before moving onto the then third-placed Matheus Leist. The Brazilian was unable to fend off Pagenaud who then set his sights on Harvey in second, and race leader Dixon.

He dispensed with Harvey with relative ease, however in doing so he used up the last of his Push to Pass. It didn’t take long for the #22 to catch Dixon but, with no P2P, getting through on the #9 was always going to be tough. It didn’t look like he was going to be able to do it but, on the penultimate lap, Dixon made an uncharacteristic mistake, running wide and giving Pagenaud all the opportunity he needed to take the lead and with it his ‘sweetest win ever’, one which catapults him into fourth in the championship.

Dixon was the more consistent of the two over the race, leading the most laps of anyone at 39. The #9 took the lead from teammate Felix Rosenqvist after the first restart, passing both Harvey and Rosenqvist in one corner and forming a comfortable lead for there. Rosenqvist had no such luck and was unable to convert his first pole into anything meaningful.

Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and Patricio O’Ward all looked to be minorly threatening mid-race but their hopes on the alternate strategy were dashed by the increasing rain, causing the strategies to merge as they all pitted for rain tyres. Once the rain had set in, Dixon held firm in the lead, though was unable to match Pagenaud’s blistering pace, conceding the race lead but moving to within six points of Newgarden’s championship lead.

Credit: Doug Mathews/IndyCar

Newgarden himself had a troublesome race with any hopes of a good result ruined first by the rain and then by a penalty for an uncontrolled tyre when he was changing to the wets. That penalty dropped the championship leader to the back of the pack, and he was only able to recover to fifteenth from there, salvaging something out of what could’ve been a complete disaster.

Speaking of disasters, Alexander Rossi’s race was doomed from the get-go when he got hit from behind by O’Ward, sending the #27 into the inside wall on the main straight and damaging his right-rear suspension. O’Ward took a drive-thru penalty while Rossi went four laps down due to the repairs; the incident was partially a legacy of Rossi’s poor qualifying as starting down in the pack is always a risk, but that result couldn’t have been much worse for the American’s title challenge.

Away from the title contenders, part-timer Harvey finished third to take his first ever IndyCar podium, much to the delight of his Meyer Shank with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team. Harvey took second at the first turn having qualified third and looked set to finish there once the rain came but, like so many others, he could do nothing to stop Pagenaud’s charge, meaning he had to settle for third.

The podium (L-R) Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Harvey’s SPM teammates, however, both had days to forget. Marcus Ericsson caused the first caution by losing the rear of his car at Turn 14 and hitting the wall, breaking his right-rear suspension and bringing a premature end to his first race at Indianapolis.

Hinchcliffe’s race unravelled in the carnage that was the first restart; Colton Herta had already been spun around by Harvey when Hinchcliffe tagged Ryan Hunter-Reay, spinning the Andretti and landing the #5 with a drive-thru penalty.

Leist almost got a surprise podium but instead finished fourth, which was still by far the best result for A.J. Foyt for what seems like years. Teammate Tony Kanaan tried his luck by switching to the wets first, a call that proved to be just a bit too early meaning he finished well down the order.

Matheus Leist celebrating with his team after his fourth-place finish. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Next up for IndyCar is the big one, the 103rd Running of the Indy 500. The action starts with qualifying on the 18th and 19th May when we will find out who will make the race and who will get bumped.

Full Race Results:

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

DNF – Colton Herta (R) (collision), Marcus Ericsson (R) (crash)

Championship Top 5:

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

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

IndyCar Indianapolis GP Preview

After nearly a month off track, it’s finally time for another IndyCar race, this time at the most famous track on the calendar. The Indianapolis GP acts as a prelude to the rather more famous Indy 500, with the circuit race being the first major event of the Month of May.

It seems like a long time ago, but the winner last time out was Alexander Rossi who dominated Long Beach for the second year running to take Andretti Autosport’s 200th IndyCar win. His win never looked in danger with no one else even close to challenging him however, it is not Rossi who comes into this round leading the championship.

That honour goes to Long Beach runner-up Josef Newgarden, who has been the most consistent driver in the first four races of the season with one win and two podiums. Each of the first four races have been won by different drivers with Newgarden taking the glory at St Petersburg followed by Colton Herta at the Circuit of the Americas, Takuma Sato at Barber Motorsports Park and, most recently, Rossi at Long Beach.

2019 Long Beach podium (L-R) Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Coming into the Indy GP, Newgarden and Rossi are the ones who should be in with a good chance of becoming the first repeat winner of the season, but there are plenty of other drivers in the field who will be doing everything they can to stop that from happening.

Included in that is defending Indy GP winner Will Power, who would be delighted if he could have the same fortunes this May as he did last year. Penske were the ones getting their 200th win at the Indy GP in 2018 after Power broke a pretty awful run of form to take the win first at the GP and then at the 500.

Whoever finds themselves in Victory Lane this year will be hoping to emulate Power’s double-win, because there’s no race they want to win more than the Indy 500!

The form book does look to be swaying in Power’s favour; the Penske driver has won the Indy GP three times in the past four years while Penske themselves have won the race four years in a row. Power has also had a similarly dreadful start to the season as he did in 2018, however, there’s no saying that history will repeat itself and there are plenty of other contenders in the mix.

Defending champion Scott Dixon is in the hunt for his first win of the season while Penske’s third driver, Simon Pagenaud, is after his first podium since Toronto 2018, while his future at the team is being continually called into question.

Unlike in previous years, there is only one addition to the grid for this race. Helio Castroneves returns to IndyCar in the build-up to what could be his final attempt at the Indy 500 after it all ended in the barriers last season. He will be piloting the #3 Penske, bringing their total back up to four cars for the next two races.

The Indy GP if often an unpredictable one but the stakes are obviously higher than in most races as all the drivers know how important it is to get their Month of May off to the best possible start.

All three series of the Road to Indy are also back in action this weekend after around two months off track. One thing to note about this weekend is that it is a two-day event with the race held on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday. The timings for this weekend are as follows:

May 10

Practice 1 – 9:10am (EDT) / 2:10pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 12:30pm / 5:30pm
Qualifying – 4:35pm / 9:35pm

May 11

Final Warmup – 11:15am / 4:15pm
Race – 3:40pm / 8:40pm

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
3 Helio Castroneves 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
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

IndyCar Long Beach Report: Rossi delivers Andretti’s 200th win

Alexander Rossi dominated the race at Long Beach for a second year running, making him the first driver to win back to back races at the track since Sebastien Bourdais’ run of three wins from 2005 to 2007. Rossi’s win also marks the 200th race win for his Andretti Autosport team, prompting huge celebrations.

Rossi’s performance was even more dominant than it was last year, leading from the start and forming a five-second lead before the first stops. His lead only increased after that, hitting ten seconds after forty laps and then staying at around that mark for the rest of the race.

The only time Rossi’s win looked anything but certain was when he was having to deal with traffic after the second stops and got a bit too close for comfort to Marcus Ericsson. This proved to not be an issue and Rossi took his first win of the season, putting him into second in the championship, 28 points behind leader Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden extended his championship lead by one point after finishing in a comfortable second place. The #2 Penske’s race was made by the first stops where they took the risk of staying out later than all the other leaders, putting Newgarden at real risk of getting caught out by a caution.

This nearly came to fruition when Santino Ferrucci spun at Turn 1, but a caution was avoided and Newgarden dived into the pits the following lap, jumping Will Power and Scott Dixon in the process. After that, his second place was unchallenged and Newgarden took his third podium of the year.

Dixon finished in an unexpected third after Graham Rahal was penalised for a marginal block on the final lap. It looked like a third Long Beach podium would be out of reach for Dixon after he had a fuel probe issue during his second stop which meant he was stationary for nearly twenty seconds. After this, Dixon fought back and caught up to fourth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay with ten laps to go, passing him with just a handful of laps left. He then set about Rahal and probably would’ve passed him without the block from the RLL driver anyway.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

For Rahal’s part, the block was on the edge; he moved across to the right just as Dixon did. Race direction called him out for blocking, meaning he lost his third-place finish. Rahal had only got into a podium position through Dixon’s pit stop mishap, so fourth-place wasn’t too much of a disappointment for him – though he did want to make up for his lost podium at Barber.

Simon Pagenaud ran a fairly quiet race with the only minor incident in his race being a slight touch with Hunter-Reay on the first lap. Both drivers got away with it and Pagenaud went onto have a clean race, delivering his best result of the season so far in sixth. The other Penske of Power had a less clean race, spinning at Turn 1 while trying to fend off an overtake from Dixon. This dropped him down to eighth, and over the rest of the race, he only managed to gain one place, finishing seventh.

Last week’s race winner Takuma Sato didn’t have the best of races, finishing eighth after a fairly uneventful race buried in the midfield. COTA race winner Colton Herta had an even worse race; the #88 Harding driver got sideways at Turn 9 and hit the wall, breaking his front left suspension and front wing, putting him out of the race.

Credit: John Cote/IndyCar

Herta was the only non-finisher, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama elsewhere. Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach got together on the first lap, as did Jack Harvey and Ericsson. All drivers were restarted under the caution and continued in the race with Harvey losing three laps and Pigot and Ericsson losing one – though Ericsson also encountered a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. There were no clear replays of what happened, but Harvey ended up in the hedge below the iconic Long Beach fountain!

Next up on the IndyCar schedule is the IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11, which kicks off the Month of May for the series.

Full Race Results:

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

DNF – Colton Herta (crash)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay

Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar

IndyCar Long Beach Preview

Next up on the IndyCar calendar is the scenic street track of Long Beach, California, a track which no one has managed to dominate over the last few years. With just under 2 miles of streets and 12 turns, Long Beach has lots of overtaking opportunities, making the races here very interesting and often chaotic.

Takuma Sato and Rahal Letterman Lanigan will be heading into this weekend on a high after their win at Barber Motorsports Park. RLL will want a good result all round at Long Beach, rather than just on one side of the garage, as was the case last weekend. Graham Rahal suffered an issue with his Honda engine that left him stranded on the track. This amounted to the sixth Honda-related failure in just three races, compared to just one Chevrolet issue, meaning Honda has still got some reliability issues to see to.

Despite this, Honda has won two of the three races so far this season with Sato and Colton Herta both taking victories. Chevrolet holds the championship lead, though, with Josef Newgarden sitting 27 points clear at the top of the standings, having won at St Petersburg and finished second and fifth in the following rounds. Scott Dixon is second in the championship and Sato’s victory at Barber has elevated him to third, while COTA-winner Herta has dropped to fifth after suffering from reliability issues at Barber.

Barber itself was almost entirely dominated by Sato, who led for 74 of the 90 laps. He made a mistake towards the end of the race and ran off track, giving Dixon a chance at the win but the reigning champion could not capitalise on the mistake, settling for second for the sixth time at Barber.

2019 Barber podium (L-R) Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

This means Dixon is yet to win a race in 2019 but this is hardly anything to worry about given he didn’t take his first win in 2018 until the seventh race, and that didn’t exactly stop him going onto win the championship!

Unlike other tracks, Long Beach has not had any single driver or team dominating in recent years. Alexander Rossi won last year’s race from pole – the first driver to do so since 2007. The race was incident-filled with four caution periods, but Rossi held firm throughout the 85 laps and to take one of his most convincing wins to date.

The last four races at Long Beach have been split between Honda and Chevrolet, with neither manufacturer having a clear advantage – adding to the excitement of this track. This is the second street race of the season and will follow the same weekend format as all the races so far with the two-group qualifying eventually ending in the Fast Six.

The grid is back down to 23-cars for Round 4 as Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are not competing again until the Indy 500. Other than that, everything is the same as it was at Barber.

As Long Beach is back-to-back with Barber, it’s unlikely that Honda has found many solutions to the problems experienced last weekend, meaning Honda unreliability could again be a factor this weekend. Dixon, Rossi and Will Power are all after their first wins of the season, with Rossi coming in as the defending Long Beach champion. Rossi is, in fact, looking for his first podium of the season as the highest placed driver in the championship without one, something that he will want to set straight in the next few races, especially with the Indy 500 on the horizon.

2018 Long Beach podium, (L-R) Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

None of the Road to Indy programme are at Long Beach, as was the case in Barber, so it is just IndyCar again, though this time IMSA are also in town with a 100-minute shootout, taking place after IndyCar’s qualifying. The clash means none of the IndyCar drivers that normally compete in IMSA will be doing so this weekend, with each team made up of only two drivers, compared to the usual three or four. The timings for this weekend are as follows:

April 12

Practice 1 – 10:00am (PDT) / 6:00pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 2:00pm / 10:00pm

April 13

Practice 3 – 9:00am / 5:00pm
Qualifying – 12:10pm / 8:10pm
IMSA Race – 2:00pm / 10:00pm

April 14

Race – 1:30pm / 9:30pm

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
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

IndyCar Birmingham Report: Sato dominates proceedings at Barber

Takuma Sato converted a slightly unexpected pole position into a dominant win at Barber Motorsports Park, in a race that could’ve seen a one-two for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Sato ran an almost faultless race to take his first victory of the season and in turn the first of the season for RLL. His win only looked in danger once or twice during the race, with the first scare from Sebastien Bourdais’ two-stop strategy and the second from an off-track excursion from Sato with only five laps to go. Even so, Sato took the win with a two-second gap over second-place Scott Dixon to elevate him to third in the championship.

The only disappointment of the weekend for RLL was that Graham Rahal couldn’t convert his front row start to a decent finish. Rahal had the pace to stay with Sato and hold second, but his throttle started to stick on Lap 3, meaning he had to have a long pit stop to correct it. Just after halfway through the race, his car completely died, ending any hopes of a recovery drive and forming half of the reason for the race’s only caution.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

The other reason for the caution was an incident between Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton at pit entry that left the latter stranded in the wall, though he did manage to re-join the race, albeit two laps down.

Dixon seems to be making a habit of finishing second at Barber, with his second place this race taking his total up to six, all without a win at the track. He ran a fairly uneventful race, with the only major drama coming as a result of Bourdais’ two-stop strategy. After the last stops, Dixon had got back ahead of Bourdais, but the Frenchman stayed with him throughout the final stint, though he was never able to make a move on Dixon, meaning they finished second and third respectively.

Bourdais was the only driver to make the two-stop work, with many others bailing out and sticking to the safer three-stop. Spencer Pigot and Jack Harvey were the only other two to try the two-stop, but they finished seventeenth and thirteenth respectively, though it could’ve been a different story for Pigot had he not got a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Bourdais was helped by the one and only caution which ended up merging the two strategies, meaning he was not at too much of a disadvantage tyre-wise in the final stint.

Championship leader Josef Newgarden had a very impressive recovery drive, finishing fourth despite having started down in sixteenth. He made up a lot of places through the first two stints and made steady progress after the restart, giving Alexander Rossi a taste of his own medicine with two laps to go as the pair banged wheels and, for once, Rossi didn’t come out on top. Penske struggled all weekend with pace and tyre wear, with Newgarden’s result a surprise compared to Simon Pagenaud’s ninth-place and Will Power’s eleventh. It wasn’t just Penske struggling though, all the Chevrolet cars were off the pace with only two finishing in the top ten.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

Rossi made light of what was otherwise quite a disappointing weekend for Andretti, finishing a respectable fifth after getting the better of James Hinchcliffe on the restart. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the next best Andretti, coming home eighth while both Zach Veach and Marco Andretti spent the day buried in the midfield, eventually finishing twelfth and fourteenth.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports scored one of the best team results since Toronto last year with Hinchcliffe finishing sixth and Marcus Ericsson one behind him in seventh. Hinchcliffe had been in a solid fourth-place for most of the race but both Newgarden and Rossi passed him on the restart, and from there he was unable to stick with their pace. Ericsson, however, spent the whole race passing cars and making some Rossi-esque moves to finish seventh having started way down the order in twentieth.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Having won the race last time out, Colton Herta was brought back down to reality with a thump. He’d had some engine issues throughout qualifying that his Harding team had hoped to be on top of by the race; the issues resurfaced early on and forced Herta to go behind the wall. The team managed to get him back out on track, but it was only for a test session as he was already 35 laps down by then, meaning he’s gone from hero to zero in the space of two races.

After an eventful race at Barber, IndyCar head to Long Beach next weekend for their first back-to-back of the season.

Full Race Results:

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

DNF – Graham Rahal (engine), Colton Herta (R) (engine)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Colton Herta (R)

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

IndyCar Birmingham Preview

Barber Motorsports Park is the venue for the third round of the 2019 IndyCar season, with Josef Newgarden heading into the weekend at the top of the championship. The 2.38-mile road course is in Alabama and has been Penske territory for the past few years.

Newgarden’s lead in the championship at this stage is not an unexpected one, but the driver in second is not someone who anyone expected to be anything like a championship contender. After his remarkable first win last time out at the Circuit of the Americas, Colton Herta sits in second place in the championship, 18 points shy of Newgarden but with the same margin over third place Scott Dixon.

IndyCar’s first time out at COTA was certainly drama-filled, as was the last time IndyCar came to Barber, though for rather different reasons. Last year, the race at Barber ended up taking place primarily on the Monday, the day after the race was due to run. This was because of torrential rain that caused dangerous levels of aquaplaning, meaning the race had to be stopped after just over 20 laps and then continued as a timed race the following day.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

This didn’t stop Newgarden taking the victory, while his Penske teammates, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, had horrendous races, a trait that seems to have started to play into this season as well. This year, some showers are predicted throughout the weekend but, if the forecast is to be believed, there shouldn’t be anything like the downpours of 2018.

Barber is the third road course of the season, with the usual road qualifying and race formatting in place, as it has been for the last two races, meaning qualifying will again be the two groups of twelve halving until we reach the Fast Six.

Like COTA, there will be a 24-car grid for Barber, with only two changes since the last race. Kyle Kaiser and Juncos will not be present, and it is not known when either will be returning to the series. Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are back on the grid after making their debut at St Petersburg, before they take a two-race break, returning for the Indy 500. Other than that, everyone else is where they were at COTA, with very few changes scheduled from now until the Indy 500.

As mentioned earlier, Penske has always been strong at Barber, winning every race here since 2016 and taking every pole since 2015. In that time, the pole-sitter has taken the win in two out of the four races, though last year was a bit of an anomaly. As for this year, one of the Penske drivers desperately needs a return to form; this is, as it has been for most of the last year, Pagenaud, who’s seat is looking more and more at risk with each disappointing race.

2018 Barber podium, L-R: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Elsewhere, Dixon and Alexander Rossi could both do with wins, or at least podiums, to really state their respective intentions to challenge for this championship, or they will run the risk of Newgarden getting a more comfortable gap at the front. Herta will be looking to carry on his momentum from COTA however, he is not really expected to be in the fight for the win or even the podium, but, then again, he wasn’t expected to be at COTA either.

None of the Road to Indy programme will at racing at Barber, meaning it’s just IndyCar for this weekend. NBC and Sky Sports F1 will be showing qualifying and the race as usual in the US and UK respectively, and all the timings you need for the weekend are as follows…

April 5

Practice 1 – 12:15pm (EDT) / 5:15pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 3:50pm / 8:50pm

April 6

Practice 3 – 11:45am / 4:45pm
Qualifying – 4:00pm / 9:00pm

April 7

Final Warmup – 12:10pm / 5:10pm
Race – 4:15pm / 9:15pm

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
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
81 Ben Hanley DragonSpeed
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Stephen King/IndyCar

IndyCar COTA Report: Herta becomes youngest ever IndyCar race winner

Rookie Colton Herta now holds the title of youngest IndyCar race winner of all time, at the age of 18, after winning the inaugural IndyCar race at the Circuit of the Americas. Herta held off 2017 champion Josef Newgarden to take the win, while pole-sitter Will Power’s race unravelled after Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe came together.

Herta qualified in a remarkable fourth place, making him top rookie and giving him a chance at challenging for his first podium, in what was only his third race. The Harding Steinbrenner driver passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on the first lap to take third place, a position which he held for the majority of the race. He briefly passed Alexander Rossi for second but was then shuffled back to third during the stops and stayed there until the race was turned on its head at the final stops.

Herta pitted earlier than leaders Power and Rossi, taking the lead when Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe caused the race’s only caution before Power and Rossi had stopped. Herta has proved all the doubters wrong in a race where he thought the podium was as good as it was going to get.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Power had not put a foot wrong all weekend and had led all the laps up until the fateful final stops. Both him and Rossi were taking a risk by staying out in what is known as the ‘danger zone’, where a caution can ruin your race, and the gamble backfired. They both pitted during the caution and dropped back through the field – but Power never re-joined the race.

The Penske driver couldn’t pull away from his pit box and, despite the best efforts of the #12 crew, he was unable to get the car going, with what was presumed to be a driveshaft issue. As for Rossi, well he did get back into the race and, after some signature Rossi overtakes and saves, he came home in ninth, which was a good recovery but not what he was hoping for.

Unlike Power and Rossi, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay both benefitted massively from the timing of the caution and were shuffled up the order, despite being off the pace of the leaders all day. After fairly quiet and distant races, the pair filled out the final two spots on the podium, though they were unable to challenge Herta for the win.

Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti also all lucked in with the caution and finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. None of them had a good time in qualifying and it was looking to be an unremarkable race for the trio, but their luck finally turned, and they scored some of the best results any of them have seen in a long while.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Andretti’s race very nearly unravelled when Takuma Sato got a bit too close for comfort, but both drivers got away with it and finished the race. Sato came home in seventh after just getting past rookie Patricio O’Ward on the final lap. O’Ward’s race looked like it would end in something higher than eighth at certain points in the race, but a slow stop at the second round of stops hampered his progress, before he then struggled at the end of his last stint, losing two spots in the last ten laps.

Track limits, and the complete lack of enforcement of them, proved to be quite the talking point of the weekend and played a significant role in causing the race’s only caution. Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe had been fighting in a group for a few laps after their third stops and both went very wide in the small straight between Turns 19 and 20. Rosenqvist went to turn back onto the track sooner than Hinchcliffe and they collided, sending the Swede into the wall just before pit entry and leaving the Canadian with a broken front wing and puncture. No action was taken by race direction, but the collision had huge consequences for the whole field due to the timing of it.

Reigning champion Scott Dixon was one of the drivers who fell foul of this, though he had struggled with pace all race – as had Chip Ganassi teammate Rosenqvist. Dixon was up to as high as third at one point, but ultimately came home in a rather disappointing thirteenth, a result that will do nothing to help his title defence.

That concludes what was a very eventful and surprising first race at COTA for IndyCar with the series next in action at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7.

Full Race Results:

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

DNF – Will Power (driveshaft)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Colton Herta (R)
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Graham Rahal

Featured Image Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

IndyCar COTA Preview

For round two of the IndyCar season, the series is heading to Austin, Texas for their only completely new track of the year. This new addition is F1 and MotoGP venue the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), a track on which only a handful drivers on the current IndyCar grid have raced at.

Josef Newgarden leads the championship going into the second round of the season by virtue of winning the first race at St Petersburg. The 2017 champion’s win was a relatively straight-forward one, with Newgarden dominating the race after the second round of pit stops. Reigning champion Scott Dixon could only manage second place, as he embarks on a challenge to defend his title for the first time in his IndyCar career.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Ed Jones has been cleared to race at COTA despite breaking his finger in a crash with Matheus Leist at St Pete, with the latter uninjured and also racing in Austin.

Since St Pete, Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Colton Herta have all been out to Sebring, racing in the IMSA 12-hour race at the famous venue, though only Bourdais managed to bring home a trophy.

The first IndyCar race at COTA is an exciting event for all involved, and it has been highly anticipated for a number of years, even before it was officially confirmed to be on the 2019 calendar. Road course rules apply to COTA so qualifying will be the same as it was in St Pete with the grid split into two groups of twelve, based on practice times, and the fastest six from each then fighting for places in the Fast Six.

The driver with the most experience around COTA is by far and away Marcus Ericsson who, despite being one of the newest drivers to IndyCar, has competed at the track for the last five years in F1. Rossi also raced at COTA back in 2015 during his very brief spell in F1 and a selection of the other drivers have competed in an IMSA race or two at the track. Generally speaking, it is not a track that a lot of drivers have much experience on, meaning it should be a fairly level playing field throughout.

Credit: Chris Ownes/IndyCar

The grid is broadly the same as it was at St Pete with only three notable differences. Reigning Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward takes over from Charlie Kimball in the #23 Carlin for his first race of the season, after his Harding deal fell through earlier in the year. Kyle Kaiser and Juncos are making their first appearance for 2019 in what is their only confirmed race for this season, so far at least. The only other change is the omission of Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed, who will return to the grid next round at Barber Motorsports Park.

There is no form book for this track, so any predictions on who will go well here are merely educated guesses. At St Pete, Honda clearly had some reliability issues and they’ve been very quiet about them since, with no notion as to whether they’ve actually found what the problems were. Based on the form of one race, Chevrolet seems to have the upper hand, but that could all change at COTA. All drivers will be hoping for a good race in Austin, but only time will tell who will shine and who will struggle.

NBC is broadcasting the race in the US while in the UK it will be on Sky Sports F1 again, though this time hopefully with fewer coverage breakups and adverts! Indy Lights are the only of the three Road to Indy series racing at COTA with their two races held on Saturday and Sunday. The times you’ll need to watch the action this weekend are as follows…

March 22

Practice 1 – 11:15am (EDT) / 3:15pm (GMT)
Practice 2 – 3:05pm / 7:05pm
Practice Warmup – 4:10pm / 8:10pm

March 23

Practice 3 – 11:00am / 3:00pm
Qualifying – 3:00pm / 7:00pm

March 24

Race – 1:30pm / 5:30pm

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
23 Patricio O’Ward (R) Carlin
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
32 Kyle Kaiser Juncos Racing
59 Max Chilton Carlin
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Stephen King/IndyCar

IndyCar St Petersburg Report: Newgarden fends off Dixon to take first win at St Pete

Josef Newgarden took the first win of the 2019 season at St Petersburg, a win that marks his first around the demanding track and Penske’s first there since 2016. He held off a late challenge from defending champion Scott Dixon in what as an action-packed season opener.

After being shuffled back at the start, Newgarden didn’t come to the lead until the second round of pit stops, but there he out-foxed the rest of the leading group and emerged from the pits with a near five-second lead over Marco Andretti, who was doing a good job of holding up the rest of the field. With the help of Andretti once more in the closing stages of the race, Newgarden came under threat from Dixon with the lead dropping to as low as 1.2 seconds but, once Andretti was out of the picture, Newgarden rebuilt his lead to take the win.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Dixon was forced to settle for second-place having not led a single lap of the race. He managed to pass Will Power during the first Andretti hold up, taking second place and allowing him to have a chance at fighting Newgarden for the win. However, the lead Newgarden had built up was big enough to act as an effective buffer, even when Andretti came back into the mix. It wasn’t quite the perfect start to Dixon’s title defence, but it was good enough.

For a while, it looked like the other Chip Ganassi of Felix Rosenqvist would be going for the win, but he got caught out and dropped back by the second round of stops. Rosenqvist passed Newgarden going into Turn 1 on the first lap, putting him in second and in a position to fight Power for the lead. The Swede took the lead after the first restart and went onto lead 31 laps in his debut race, the most bar race winner Newgarden. He came home in a respectable fourth place and showed that he’s ready to take it to teammate Dixon this season.

After starting on pole, Power had to settle for a podium in third with his nemesis, like so many others, being the second stops and Andretti’s rather wide car. He couldn’t clear Andretti after the stops and was passed by Dixon who then disappeared up the road, meaning Power was unable to improve his position in the final stages of the race, but he was still happy with his result, given how badly St Pete has treated him over the past two years.

Alexander Rossi was another driver who was forced to settle for a position probably lower than he was hoping for, especially after he came so close to the victory last year. Like last year, a rookie got the better of him, though this time it was Rosenqvist and not Robert Wickens, meaning Rossi couldn’t do much better than fifth having led two laps during the pit stop sequences.

Wickens attended the race with his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team to support their drivers and celebrate his thirtieth birthday with his fellow drivers. Attending St Pete was one of Wickens’ many goals on his road to recovery after his enormous crash at Pocono last season, with the Canadian a welcome figure in the paddock once more.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

On track, SPM didn’t have such a good weekend with James Hinchcliffe finishing in sixth after getting the better of Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in what was a race-long battle. On the other side of the garage, Marcus Ericsson didn’t even see the chequered flag with a water pressure issue cutting his IndyCar debut short. Their sort-of-teammate Jack Harvey finished tenth in the #60 Meyer Shank supported SPM entry, in his first of ten races this season.

Rosenqvist may have taken the title of top rookie but fellow rookies Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci were not to be forgotten in the first race of the season, finishing eighth and ninth respectively. Herta’s the only Harding driver after they failed to get an engine lease for their second car and Ferrucci lost teammate Bourdais 11 laps into the race, meaning the two rookies had to go it solo, but still delivered more than respectable performances.

One recurring feature of the race was Honda engine failures, of which there were four with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Ericsson and Bourdais all suffering issues that led to their retirements. While Honda had four failures, their rival Chevrolet had none, meaning the former really needs to step up on the reliability side of things, otherwise the Chevy teams could be leaving them well behind.

That concludes the season opener at St Petersburg with IndyCar back in action on March 24 at the Circuit of the Americas.

Full Race Results:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Will Power
  4. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. James Hinchcliffe
  7. Simon Pagenaud
  8. Colton Herta (R)
  9. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  10. Jack Harvey
  11. Spencer Pigot
  12. Graham Rahal
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Zach Veach
  15. Tony Kanaan
  16. Max Chilton
  17. Charlie Kimball
  18. Ben Hanley (R)

DNF – Takuma Sato (gearbox), Marcus Ericsson (R) (water pressure), Ed Jones (collision), Matheus Leist (collision), Ryan Hunter-Reay (engine), Sebastien Bourdais (engine)

(Featured Image Credit: Karl Zemlin/IndyCar)