Alex Palou led the only practice for the Grand Prix of Portland despite causing a red flag with a spin about halfway through a wild session. Palou is second in points and looking to rebound from consecutive finishes in the 20s.
Trailing Palou were the two Meyer Shank cars of Helio Castroneves and Jack Harvey.
The top 10:
Qualifying begins at 3:15 Eastern time on Peacock and re airs at 11: 30 Eastern on NBCSN.
A nice tribute to Robin Miller I’m the media center this morning.ore food was added later to make it more authentic.
Callum Ilott confirmed he is “in discussions” with Juncos Bollinger Racing about the ride in 2022.
Marcus Ericsson has signed a multi year deal to stay at Chip Ganassi Racing.
I hope that Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay can be ready for qualifying. Sato needs an engine change and RHR could not get the car to go through the gears.
Points leader Alex Palou had the fastest lap in the only practice before qualifying begins tonight at 7 pm for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. Palou’s lap of 1:10.883 was 0.023 seconds faster than Rinus VeeKay, winner of May’s GMR Grand prix on the IMS road course. VeeKay also won the pole for race 1 of last fall’s Harvest Grand Prix.
Pato O’Ward, Jack Harvey, and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five. Newgarden will have a ix place grid penalty for the race due to an unapproved engine change following the Music City Grand Prix.
The big surprise of the session was Christian Lundgaard, driving for Rahal Letterman Laniqan Racing. The Danish F2 driver was seventh in his first Indycar session, jus 0.030 seconds behind Will Power.
The practice round also saw Colton Herta, who has started on the front row for the last four races, struggle. He had a lockup, overshot turn one, aned had his car stall leaving the pits. Herta was 26th on the time chart, only completing 16 laps.
Qualifying this evening is the same format used in Detroit. The normal first round is followed bay a round of 12 to determine the pole. NBCSN will broadcast qualifying live
The top 12:
I’ll be back later tonight with a qualifying wrapup. Going out to buy spikes for my cooler. I want to look fashionable tomorrow.
Indycar gets on the track earlier today for a 45 minute practice at noon, followed by qualifying at 3:30. Both sessions are streamed on Peacock. Because of the Olympics, NBCSN will not re-air qualifying later tonight. It’s sad that this event does not get any wider media exposure than the race on NBCSN tomorrow. I hope this is an NBC race next year.
Points leader Alex Palou will have a six place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after the Portland test. This is the second grid penalty this season for the NTT Data team. Palou also started six places lower than he qualified in Detroit Race 1. He finished 15th. Palou needs to qualify in the top three or four to have a chance of maintaining a healthy lead. He was sixth yesterday. Scott Dixon, third in the standings, was second.
I’ll be back later tonight with a qualfying wrap-up.
Update- Marti is improving as the medical team works out a treatment plan. Thank you all again for your kind wishes and concerns. We will get through this.
Photo: Alex Palouleads Colton Herta at Road America. Joe Skibinski, Indycar
Indycar had itself one heck of a first half- seven different winners, including four first time winners; only two winners over the age of 30; dramatic finishes, and really good racing. Only two drivers have won more than once, and four of the top seven in points are under the age of 25.
Road America traditionally marks the end of the first half of the season, but with the cancellation of Toronto, which will not be made up, last Sunday was the first race of the season’s second half. The loss of the race, which is not a shock, narrows the field for the championship to three drivers-Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Scott Dixon.
I think the title fight comes down to a battle between Palou, the current points leader, and O’Ward. Only O’Ward and Palou have won more than one race. Palou has led seven of the nine races. Palou has been on the podium five times, O’Ward finished in the top three four times. The 28 point lead Palou enjoys is essentially the difference in points between the two drivers at the Indianapolis 500.
I think Palou will prevail this season. Here’s why.
Both of Pato’s wins came in the second race of the two double headers. He finished third in the first race of each double header, and he was on pole for the first race in Detroit. In both of his victories, O’Ward overtook Josef Newgarden late in the race.
There are no more double headers this season It seems the Arrow McLaren SP team needs a bit of a longer window to figure things out. I’m not sure O’Ward wins another race in 2021, and he may have trouble holding on to second place in the standings.
The Iceman Lurketh
Six time champion Scott Dixon sits on the verge of history on two fronts. His next win, which is very likely this season, will tie him with Mario Andretti for second place on the career win list with 52. Winning the title will tie him with A. J. Foyt with seven championships.
Dixon has been competitive, as always, but the car looks to be just a step behind the front runners. The Indianapolis 500, despite Dixon winning the pole, did not turn out well. Dixon is 53 points behind, and 49 points of that gap are from the 500. He has come from larger deficits to win take a couple of his titles, but I don’t see it happening this year. Still, dixon will continue an amazing string of finsihes in the top five in points.
There will be more drivers winning a race this season. It is inveitable that Josef Newgarden and/or Will Power will win a race before the season ends. Newgarden has won the last two poles and has had victory in his grasp the last two races. He has lost the lead with three laps remaining in Detroit and with two laps left at Road America. Mechanical gremlins and tire strategy have kept Team Penske out of the winner’s circle so far in 2021, but I think we see that situation change in the next three months. It is hard yo believe we are nine races into the season and wondering when a Penske will win a race.
Look for another win by an Andretti Autosport driver as well. Either Colton Herta wins another time, or Alexander Rossi will finally break through. This team has been just as puzzling as Team Penske. Herta has been the only bright spot for the team.
The biggest surprise this year is the overall performance of Romain Grosjean. The former F1 driver has won a pole, took a podium spot, and has been overall competitive in his 6 races in 2021. Grosjean is an outstanding qualifier, starting in the top six three times and seventh twice. Missing the Indianapolis 500 and the two Texas races will probably cost him Rookie of the Year since the award is based solely on points. He would win it if the trophy were awarded based on his performance on track.
Update on Marti- she is vastly improved today. Thank you to everyone for all the good wishes. They mean a lot to us.
I have never seen a race at Road America that good. There were battles all through the field, the lead was in contention all day, yellows figured into the strategy, and another crazy dramatic finish. I don’t know what people want from a race or a series, but if Indycar isn’t it, I can’t think of what would be. This season has been outstanding so far.
A Team Penske driver has lost a race in the closing laps in three consecutive races. I can’t recall that ever happening. All tough self inflicted losses too. Hard to believe this team has just two poles and just eight podium spots this season. In a year with so many different winners,it is hard to believe a driver from this team isn’t one of them.
Romain Grosjean has qualified well all year, but his racing has been a bit overlooked. He is aggressive but clean, and not afraid to mix it up with the established drivers. I really like the way he drives. It is a shame that he will not win Rookie of the Year because of the three races he sat out. He deserves it on performance.
Josef Newgarden sits fourth in the standings, but at 88 points behind he will have a difficult time winning the championship.
Once again, Scott Dixon manages a decent finish. He ends up fourth and is third in points, just 53 behind his teammate Alex Palou.
Palou has led seven of the nine races this season. He is back n top of the standings after a one week stay in second.
Kevin Magnussen and Cody Ware had good debuts. Magnussen did a great job maintaining the lead after the restart until his engine issue. Ware drove around quietly and stayed out of trouble all day. I hope we get to see more of him now that he has had a taste of Indycar.
It is hard to believe a Chip Ganassi Racing driver not named Scott Dixon is tied for the most victories this season and is leading the points.
Oliver Askew did a great job subbing for Rinus VeeKay in the 21 Ed Carpenter car. Askew finished 12th in only his second race of the year. He had more time in the car this week than the 10 minutes he had driving for Arrow last week. the extra time seems to have paid off.
Colton Herta looked like a championship, contender early in the year, but he has faded late in races. Today was a nice comeback to finish second, where he started.
Now, about NBC- a 90 minute pre race show is a bit much, but a five minute post race show is shameful, all because you had to rush to a nascar race at a new venue for them? In a city that Indycar will return to in August? The cut away is especially infuriating after a race as great as this one. We needed to see an interview with Josef Newgarden at the very least.
Today’s post race cutaway by NBC was another slap in the face by the network which claims to love Indycar. After missing the beginning of both races last week, the shabby treatment continues. They are likely the leading contender to keep Indycar because no one else is interested. That is another story and is sad. But if NBC wants to keep the Indianapolis 500, they need to step up their game for the entire season.
Thanks for following along this weekend, and again many thanks for all the good wishes. I will have a follow up tomorrow.
Alex Palou isn’t afraid of a challenge. He proved that at the Indianapolis 500 when he dueled four time winner Helio Castroneves over the last seven laps of the race. Going to Detroit, a track he has never seen in person, will be another step for the current Indycar points leader.
“…it’s going to be challenging for sure. I’ve never been to Detroit. It looks — the track looks awesome. Looks really bumpy. But yeah, I think the layout, it’s super nice as a street course. I’m looking forward,” Palou told the media earlier this week.
“I’ve been preparing a lot on the sim, the track, just for myself, not setup related. I’ve been doing it at home, just because it’s super important on a street course to really know the bumps, to really get some references. And then aside, as well, we’ve been working with the team doing the setup stuff so we don’t have to work that much during the race weekend.And then during free practice, it’s going to be tough. I’m going to be able to — I’m going to have to be able to get up to speed really quick, and yeah, I just need to focus on everything. I need to focus on all the bumps. I need to see how the car rides the bumps. That’s super important. And then braking zones. I think it’s super important on street courses to really nail and attack the braking zones. Hopefully we are able to do that soon enough so we can start developing our car during free practice,” he continued.
On his near miss at Indianapolis, Palou said,
“I think it all came down to traffic, so I think I would just have waited for the last pass a little bit more. But at that point we had Rosenqvist in front, and that helped me. I actually pulled, and if Rosenqvist kept himself out, I think we would have had a chance to just go or maybe to fight again, but yeah, he went, and I was alone there, and he got traffic.Maybe just wait, but it’s super easy to say it now. Maybe a yellow comes out and you are waiting there second and you are like, why did I wait?”
Palou is fighting with teammate Scott Dixon for the championship right now. Some see that as an advantage, but Palou disagrees,.
“No, that’s the opposite because I know he’s going to compete with the same car as me, so I know he’s going to compete with a really good car, and it’s going to be up to us. I would prefer him to be on another team so I could know that I have the best team around me. But no, joking aside, it’s cool. It’s super good to be able to do what he’s doing, to know the strategies they are doing,to know how he’s approaching the weekends. It’s been really helpful for me so far, and it’s going to still be really helpful.”
Palou has a six place grid penalty for Race 1, which puts his record of leading every race this year in jeopardy. Qualifying will be extremely important to his chances of remaining on top of the points standings.
Bourdais led four laps as well. A good start for his time at A. J. Foyt Racing. The team improved every session.
VeeKay recovered from spinning in the first lap melee and a penalty for service in a closed pit.
Grosjean has impressed all weekend with his seventh place qualifying and a top ten finish. A very nice Indycar debut. Maybe the driver wasn’t the problem in F1 his last few years.
Chip Ganassi Racing had three drivers in the Fast Six Saturday and three drivers in the top 10 today. Along with Palou’s win, Scott Dixon finished third and Marcus Ericsson ended the day in eighth. This team could be the power this season.
Simon Pagenaud is starting 2021 the same 2020 went for him- poor qualifying result and a climb through the field. He didn’t get very far today, ending 12th after starting 15th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay begins the season with a DNF again. He has had awful luck in season openers the last few seasons.
Graham Rahal’s seventh place finish from an 18th starting spot must seem like a win for the team. Takuma Sato came home 13th from staring 19th. Both Rahal drivers struggled all weekend.
It felt great to get the season underway and to return to a track whose race was cancelled in 2020; The crowd was as large as it could be. The fans in Birmingham still love this race. They were happy to see it return.
I will have another story about Barber up tomorrow or Tuesday. Then it’s on to St. Pete. Thanks for reading this weekend.
Alex Palou will move from Dale Coyne Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing for 2021. he will drive car number 10, recently vacated by Felix Rosenqvist, who was announced this morning as the drive of cqar 7 for arrow McLaren SP.
Palou’s move gives CGR two drivers who have won multiple championships on different platforms and two drivers with two years or less experience. It should be a great learning environment for Palou and teammate Marcus Ericsson.
The announcement for Chip Ganassi Racing:
Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today that 23-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou will join the team’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES program in the No. 10 Honda beginning in 2021. He will team up with Six-Time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion, Indianapolis 500 and 50-time race winner Scott Dixon, Seven-Time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, and recently re-signed Marcus Ericsson for an expanded four-car lineup in 2021. Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond.
NOTES OF INTEREST:
• About Alex Palou: In 2020, Palou spent his rookie NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh where he scored his first-career podium at Road American en route to a 16th place result in the championship standings. Prior to that, he won a Super Formula Championship race in 2019, competed at the All-Japan Formula 3 championship in 2017, recorded his first race in the Formula 3 Series in 2015, and made his debut in open-wheel racing competing in the Euroformula Open Championship in 2014.
• 2020 Highlights: Palou debuted at the Indianapolis 500 by qualifying for the Fast 9 Pole Position Shootout in his first visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which resulted in an impressive seven-place starting position. The Rookie also made three starts inside the top four by qualifying third at Road America in Race 2, fourth at Mid-Ohio Race 2 and fourth again at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in Race 2. He also ran as high as 11th in championship points after Iowa Speedway.
• Alex Palou Driver, No. 10 Honda: “To say I’m thrilled or excited to be making this step in my career would be an understatement. Driving for Chip Ganassi is just a dream come true. I’ve followed the team for as long as I can remember, and it’s the kind of team and owner any driver would want to race for. Scott has had another tremendous season, reaching 50 wins and a sixth title, so you absolutely couldn’t ask for anything more in a teammate. I can’t wait to work with Marcus and Jimmie as well, and to start contributing to the team and getting to spend more time with everyone.”
• Mike Hull, Managing Director, Chip Ganassi Racing: “I love to watch the growth of young drivers. This year racing Indy cars has been very difficult for young drivers like Alex who hadn’t had the opportunity to visually see the tracks in advance, nor have days of practice in private team testing, or open testing or three-day weekends. Putting that into perspective, he did a heck of a job. We had an opening, and he became available, and Chip has a great eye for talent. Alex has that spark, that intangible thing you combine with talent that is a lot of fun. It’s a great exploration thing, actually. You’re exploring how far you can go, and he has one year of experience with a quality team, quality engineering and a quality teammate. He stood up to that test extremely well.”