Comeback Complete: Wickens Wins at Watkins Glen; Some Notes

It was only a matter of time before Robert Wickens would win a race. Saturday at Watkins Glen Wickens and co driver Mark Wilkins won the TC/R class of the Michelin Pilot Challenge race. The team finished at Daytona during the Rolex 24 weekend.

Wickens started the race, the Tioga Downs 250, in the Hyundai Elantra owned by Bryan Herta Autosport. He took the lead, then handed the car to Wilkins to finish the race.

In a weekend of national turmoil, it was nice to see a positive, uplifting story like this. Wickens’ comeback story has been an inspiration to many since his paralyzing accident at Pocono in 2018. (Thanks, NBC, for continuing to show it. We don’t need to see it anymore.)

Notes

I’m hearing rumors of a car dropping from the grid due to nonpayment by the sponsor. We may not be able to confirm this until the Mid Ohio entry list comes out. Losing a car would be a bit of a blow to the series, which has had a mostly positive season to date. If you have looked at other sources, you have an idea who I’m talking about.

I am curious about how you view races. Do you still watch on NBC? How many of you watch exclusively on Peacock? Please let me know. If you watch on Peacock, what do you like about it compared to the network broadcast? Thanks.

I believe 2014 was the last season in which the defending series champions dii not win a race in the first half of the year. Will Alex Palou break through sometime before September? I wouldn’t bet against it. I’m not sure it is going to be this weekend though.

Mid Ohio coverage starts tomorrow. I’ll be on site starting Friday with my usual drivel and boring stories.

Herta, Rossi Lead IMS Road Test Day

Simona De Silvestro on track at Thursday’s test

Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi were the tow fastest drivers in Thursday’s test on the IMS road course. Eight drivers from four teams turned laps on a day that might closely reflect the conditions for the Gallagher Grand Prix July 30.

Herta was happy to drive the track on which he won the GMR Grand Prix in May in dry conditions.

“It’s good to get an understanding of what its going to be like that day,” Herta said.

Colton Herta

Grosjean Talks about May

Romain Grosjean had an issue with his car in the morning and only ran two laps. he talked about his experience in his first Indianapolis 500.

“I was annoyed with the car. I hope I never have that car again,” he told the media. Asked his impression of the opening ceremonies, Grosjean said “That was really cool.”

Romain Grosjean

Kirkwood Excited for Mid Ohio

Kyle Kirkwood is looking forward to next weekend’s race at Mid Ohio. The rookie for A. J. Foyt Racing has had a lot of success there when he was driving in The Road to Indy.

“Mid Ohio is my number one track. I can’t wait to go to that one,” Kirkwood said. he also noted that the Lexington track is probably the best road course for the team.

“I just love driving that track” he said.

Kirkwood said Iowa was “a lot of fun to drive.”

Kirkwood thought the 500 pre race was “Amazing. I don’t think anything really compares to that. You sit on the grid, and I’ve never had that sensation of the crowd and the prerace ceremonies. I thought it was pretty big at St. Pete. Pretty much every other grid I go to will be less nerve wracking because of the experience I had at the 500.”

Kyle Kirkwood

Photo Gallery

Simona De Silvestro prepares to go on track
Pato O’Ward
Alexander Rossi
Devlin Defrancesco
Much of test days is sitting in the car

Rosenqvist Stays with McLaren Team

Image from McLaren

The announcement doesn’t say whether he will remain in Indycar or move to Formula E, but it does confirm that Felix Rosenqvist has a job in the Mclaren family for 2023 and beyond.

The official news release from McLaren:

McLaren Racing has signed a multi-year deal with Felix Rosenqvist to remain on the team’s driver roster from 2023 and beyond.

McLaren Racing is currently in the process of evaluating its driver line-ups for 2023 with the newly formed McLaren Formula E Team set to embark on its debut season in the all-electric racing series and plans to expand Arrow McLaren SP into a three-car team with Felix set to be driving in one of the two series.

McLaren Racing is currently in the process of evaluating its driver line-ups for 2023 with the newly formed McLaren Formula E Team set to embark on its debut season in the all-electric racing series and plans to expand Arrow McLaren SP into a three-car team with Felix set to be driving in one of the two series.

Felix, from Värnamo, Sweden, joined Arrow McLaren SP in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2021. Since joining the series in 2019, when he was named Rookie of the Year, Felix has secured three podiums and two pole positions. Felix recently finished the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in an impressive fourth place, and currently occupies a spot in the top-10 among a competitive drivers’ championship.

Rosenqvist’s racing career also includes a stint in Formula E, having raced in the series for three seasons from 2016 to 2019, winning three races, securing six pole positions and seven podiums.

The full Arrow McLaren SP and McLaren Formula E 2023 driver line-ups will be confirmed in due course.

Felix Rosenqvist, said:

“I’m delighted to be remaining with McLaren for 2023 and beyond. With the team expanding into Formula E next season, it provides additional opportunities for me both in the USA and Europe and I look forward to being in a position to announce my plans in the coming weeks. I’ve loved my time with the Arrow McLaren SP Team in IndyCar driving the No. 7 car and we’ve had some great moments together, including securing pole earlier this year in Texas and coming home P4 in the Indy 500. I’m excited and grateful to be given this opportunity to explore the new options available to utilise my experience to help McLaren start 2023 on the strongest possible footing.”


Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, said:

“I’m delighted to be continuing our relationship with Felix. He’s a fantastic racer, with a lot of experience in many different types of racing cars. As a proven race winner in both categories, it was important for us to secure his talent withing the McLaren Racing family as we work to finalise our plans for 2023. His experience in Formula E would be invaluable as we head into this exciting new era of racing for McLaren Racing but he has also made a fantastic contribution to our IndyCar team. I look forward to working together with him to finalise the best opportunity for him next season.”

Road America Preview

Today’s Schedule All Times Central

Friday, June 10, 2022
7:00 a.m. Gates Open
8:00 a.m. USF2000 P1
8:45 a.m. Indy Pro 2000 P1
9:30 a.m. RADICAL CUP P2
10:30 a.m. USF2000 Q1
11:15 a.m. Indy Pro 2000 Q1
12:00 p.m. Vintage Indy Registry
12:45 p.m. RADICAL CUP Quals
1:00 p.m. INDY LIGHTS Autograph Session Fan Village
1:30 p.m. USF2000 Q2
2:00 p.m. NTT INDYCAR SERIES Autograph Session Fan Village
2:15 p.m. INDY LIGHTS P1
3:30 p.mINDYCAR SERIES Practice 1 Peacock
4:45 p.m. RADICAL CUP R#1
5:50 p.m. Vintage Indy Registry

Note: I will be leaving this evening and be at Road America tomorrow morning. I believe I have recovered well enough to make the trip, but it will be a game time decision.

And just like that the season reaches the halfway mark. Road America and the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, the eighth race of the NTT Indycar Series season, also marks the end of an intense stretch of six weeks of activity. A three week run at the end of July is the only other long group of weekends remaining. The way the schedule is stacked is one of the things I don’t like about the series. I would rather see races spread out from March through October. ( Don’t say football. I don’t watch it so I don’t care.

This weekend’s event features two women in the field outside the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in almost nine years. Simona DeSilvestro and Paretta Autosport open their three race season, and join Tatiana Calderon of A. J Foyt Racing on the grid. Paretta Autosport will also enter Mid Ohio and Nashvlle.

Points Battle Continues

No clear favorite has emerged yet for the championship. The top our are separated by just 14 points. The lead has shifted between five drivers over the first seven races. Will Power is ahead of Marcus Ericsson. at the moment by just three points . The lead could shift again Sunday, though I think we are close to establishing the top four or five for the stretch run.

Andretti Resurgence?

Can Colton Herta turn his outstanding Road America qualifying into a win?

If Andretti Autosport is going to et back into the game, Road America is the track to do it. The team gained some momentum in Detroit last week with Alexander Rossi finishing second and Colton Herta coming home eighth. Rossi dominate in winning here in 2019. Herta has one pole and three other front row starts. This pair could start a charge to the front of the pack this weekend. Rossi has moved up to seventh in points with a fifth at Indianapolis and and a second place finish last week. Herta has fallen back to 11th in points, but I think he still has at least one more win left in him for 2022.

AMSP Now Part of Big 4?

O’Ward after winning at Barber

Arrow McLaren SP is close to joining the Big three of Andretti, Penske, and Ganassi. Both of their full time cars, wit Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist have finished in the top 10 the last two races. In race 2 at Road America in 2020 O’Ward and Rosenqvist put on a great battle for the lead. Rosenqvist, driving for Ganassi at the time, took the lead with two laps to go or the win. I look for another strong performance from these two.

For the race, Alexander Rossi will break his 44 race winless streak Sunday. This is the time of year when the top teams begin to assert themselves. There are now four teams strong enough to win any weekend, and Andretti is ready to rejoin the fight.

500 Win Worth $3.1 Million for Ericsson

Last night’s victory celebration was a joyous affair with a lot of humor, a record 16 million dollar purse, and a humble winner. The first post race banquet since 2019 drew what may have been a record crowd for the event. It was only my third time attending, so i can’t speak with certainty about the numbers. There were definitely more people there than in 2018 or 2019.

Jimmie Johnson won the Rookie of the Year Award. The decision did not set well with many fans on social media. I think David Malukas deserved it for his 16th place finish and his strong month in practice. I concede that the highest finishing rookie shouldn’t always receive the award, but it should at least go to someone who finishes the race.

As for the “on track performance” component of the selection criteria, I believe some consideration should be given to the strength of the driver’s team. Of course someone driving for Ganassi or Penske will look better in qualifying and the race.

Conor Daly’s time at the podium was spent attempting to solve the mystery of the orbeez in the hot tub. A video with “investigative reporter: James Hinchcliffe turned up no clues.

Conor Daly wants answers

Daly had his career best finish, sixth, and thinks he is on the verge of getting to the top soon.

Tony Kanaan said he hopes to be back next year, but his future with Ganassi is uncertain. The crowd shouted their appreciation for TK.

Tony Kanaan thanks the Ganassi team for the last two years and hopes to return in 2023.

Pato O’Ward was a gracious second place finisher who can’t imagine what it would be like to be the first Mexican driver to win the 500. He wants to find out next year.

Pato O’Ward came up just a little short on Sunday.

A Humble Winner

Marcus Ericsson displayed humility and gratitude in a low key speech. He thanked his parents, team, and others who have helped and supported him. He apologized for his voice, which after just one day of several to come of non stop interviews was already giving out. At times I wondered if he thinks his win really happened.

Marcus Ericsson talks about his day Sunday and thanks everyone who helped him.

The Money

The prizes for the one off teams don’t even come close to paying what it cost to run a team for the 500. While the purse is a record, the one off teams and thee xtra cars for established teams need to get more back. Waht is the incentive for entering otherwise?

IMS Sustainability- Small Steps Now, Bigger Steps Later

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced sceral sustainability initiatives on Earth Day last month. The initiatives were bold and well thought out. Still, I wondered how and when the plan would go into action. My worries were unfounded. Roger Penske means what he says. This morning I took part in a guided tour of the Speedway, much of it behind the scenes, to get a look at the initiatives that are already in motion. I was impressed with what IMS has put into place in less than a month.

We visited four areas- transportation, food, Firestone, and merchandise. Doug Boles took time from his busy schedule to talk about what the fans see.

Electric Vehicles

All tires arrive at the track via electric powered trailers. The speedway uses 12 ev trailer trucks produced by Daimler. The vehicles have a range of 200 miles.

A charging station is in place in the museum overflow parking lot behind the turn 2 viewing mounds.

The station has a 150 kilowatt charge. In three hours the vehicle will have an 80% charge.

Tyrone Garrison, IMS vice president of facilites, said, “The Speedway is known for innovation on the track. Now we are looking at innovation off the track.”

Garrison said that at some point the track will have to look at charging stations for fans’ electric cars.

Food

The Speedway serves a lot of food during events. n addition to the concession stands, the suites cater for their patrons. A lot of food goes unused. Gleaners Food Bank takes the unused food and ingredients. Some of it goes to second Helpings where it becomes meals for non-profit agencies around Indianapolis. Packaged goods go to Gleaners’ food pantry.

Joseph Slater, Gleaners COO, said that they will rescue “a couple tons” of food during the month of May.

Uneaten food and other edible ingredients that can’t be used for new meals or the pantry are composted.

The compostable material is taken offsite to be converted to compost.

Logan Waddle said that eventually IMS will do their own composting on site and use the material for landscaping at IMS. He expects to compost 10,000 pounds of food waste this season.

Tires

Firestone tires are changing colors. The softer compound, known as “reds” will soon be “greens.” Cara Krstolic explained the new compound made of rubber from a more sustainable material than rubber trees.

The guayule shrub produces rubberlike material. the entire bush can be used to produce the material. Shrubs grow in the United States, reach maturity in 3-4 years and requires 50% less water than a rubber tree.

Cara Krstolic explains the new Firestone compound

The tires will be used during the pit stop competition May 27. Firestone has 26 sets available for the Carb Day contest. The tire will make its race debut at the Music City Grand Prix August 5-7 in Nashville.

Seeing this tire on track will be disconcerting for a lap or two.

Krstolic told me that a street course was chosen for the tire’s first outing because they wanted to start on a small scale and a street course puts the lowest load on tires.

The guayule tire will have a test at IMS in October. Krstolic said the plan is for the tire to be full time in the NTT Indycar series in 2024.

Merchandise

Souvenirs also have moved toward sustainability. An electric merchandise minitruck with shirts, totebags, and drink made of recycled material, can be found at various points in the pagoda plaza.

The T-shirts contain 40% recycled plastic bottles, about six and a half 16 ounce bottles per shirt. Using recycled materials saves 1.9 gallons of wate and 1.9 kilowatt hours of electricity per item.

1,000 Recycle Bins

IMS president Doug Boles spoke to us about the green recycle bins which have a prominent presence throughout the grounds this year. One of the 1,000 recycle bins is next to virtually every trash can. Boles said he is amazed at the number of fans who have commented about the green bins this week.

Boles also talked about reducing the carbon footprint of the entire event, something Penske is committed to.

Boles talked about the carbon offset program that fans can opt in to when they renew their tickets. The Speedway will also offset their use.

Boles told me that the track is working toward a wider use of mass transportation to the race. he expects 6,000-7,000 people to use the shuttle buses this year.

Many corporations make Earth Day proclamations about all the great environmental protection steps they plan to take. Many times, that is the last we hear of those measures. I’m glad to see that IMS is following through with their plans.

Getting Ready to Race

The green flag is scheduled for 2:46 pm Eastern. All cars will start on rain tires. The tire strategy now is when to go to slicks. There is no red/black tire requirements.

At the moment there are a few sprinkles. There are dark clouds over the southwest end of the track. I see a small patch of blue behind the front stretch.