Road America Preview- Halfway Through a Weird, Wonderful Season

Above: Felix Rosenqvist passes Pato O’Ward in the closing laps to win Race 2 at Road America in 2020

Today- Indycar practice at 5 pm Eastern on Peacock

What a memorable season 2021 has been so far. We have seen four first time winners, seven winners in eight races ,a powerhouse team still looking for its first victory, and a new four time winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Road America is arguably the crown jewel of road courses in America, a race track set inside a national park. It is by far my favorite road course, not only because of the layout and the setting, but also because of the lively, spacious infield. Even last year, Road America seemed to be the track running closest to normal..

This weekend’s race could be the turning point of the year. Pato O’Ward, the only driver with more than one win in 2021, could expand his slim one point lead to a more comfortable margin. If he should get his third win of the season, O’Ward will be in good shape. Series champions usually have at least three wins in a season.

Magnussen Subs for Rosenqvist, Askew for VeeKay

Felix Rosenqvist will miss his second consecutive race. He is still not cleared to drive after his frightening accident Saturday in Detroit. Kevin Magnussen, a former F1 driver currently driving for Chip Ganassi in IMSA will fill in this weekend. Oddly, Magnussen’s father Jan had his second Indycar start at Road America subbing for an injured driver.

Kevin Magnussen

Oliver Askew had just ten minutes in the car last Sunday subbing for Rosenqvist, but with two practices before qualifying, he should be better acclimated to the car.

More Progress for Jimmie Johnson?

Jimmie Johnson seems to finally be getting comfortable in Indycar. Race 2 in Detroit was his best of the season, despite a late spin. Johnson passed cars and was on pace with the field. I see a better finish for him and perhaps a slightly improved qualifying spot.

Penske, Andretti Come back?

Team Penske was on the brink of their first win last weekend. Twice. Still Josef Newgarden grabbed the team’s first pole of the year, and the team seemed stronger overall.

Despite not having a win, Team Penske has seven podiums. Newgarden is fourth in the standings, 51 points behind leader Pato O’Ward.

Andretti Autosport is in a funk. The team has qualified well, and they do have a victory and a pole, both by Colton Herta. Yet their races seem to get away from them. Herta, in ninth place and 97 points behind the leader, is the team’s top driver right now.

Both teams need a strong weekend showing.

Cody Ware Debut

In addition to Kevin Magnussen’s Indycar debut,

#52: Cody Ware, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda, portrait

Cody Ware will premiere with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR. Ware has spent most of his career in stock cars. He has tested Indycars this year. He will be interesting to watch.

The Points Battle

Pato O’Ward leads Alex Palou by one point and Scott Dixon by 36. Dixon has come from farther back than 36 points to win a championship, and this is the time of the year when he begins to hit his stride.

Will Dixon begin to chip away at the lead this weekend. or will O’Ward and Palou continue to top the charts? O’Ward started race two on the pole here last year and came within a couple laps of his first win.

I don’t think any of the top three drivers wins this weekend. The standings will depend on which driver finishes ahead of the other two. In a season where wins are hard to get, every spot in the race matters.

I think Alexander Rossi finally breaks through for his fist win since won at Road America in 2019.