Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix- Invert, Reset

Alex Palou celebrates his third win of the year and retaking the points lead. Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Pit strategy and cautions can make or break your race. They hurt Graham Rahal, who arguably should have won the race, and Pato O’Ward, who lost the lead in the points standings They helped Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, and Scott Dixon, who ended the day on the podium. Palou’s team waiting an extra lap to call him in on lap 44 was the winning move today.

The podium. Photo from my friend Brad Proctor

Why can’t Indycar drivers get through the first turn at Portland cleanly? Today’s melee wasn’t as destructive as the first two years after Indycar’s return, but it turned the race on its head, especially with the way Race Control reordered the field. It took a later caution to reverse what happened at the beginning.

Is Alex Palou the next Scott Dixon? Nothing seems to faze this kid-neither two consecutive finishes in the 20s, nor being shuffled to the back of the field after winning the pole. He just does what he needs to do in order to win the title. Today was a big step in that direction.

Palou not only leads O’Ward by 25 points, he now owns the first tiebreaker with his third win of the year. I really didn’t think we would see a driver win three times this season.

The points chase realistically is down to three-Palou, O’Ward, and Josef Newgarden. Dixon is 49 points behind, essentially a full race in arrears. Marcus Ericsson was barely hanging on, and losing 15 more points to the leader pretty much ends his title bid.

I hope in their new television deal that indycar has forbidden NBC from using the “Points as They Run” graphic. It is pointless and meaningless. Drivers don’t earn point as they run. They earn points when they finish. This graphic was displayed at least five times in the first 28 laps, a time in the race where it is totally not necessary.

Points as They Finished

It seems that the Team Penske drivers have had a lot of contact with each other during races this season.

Nice to see Alexander Rossi finally get on the podium in 2021. I think he will win one of the next two races. Rossi dominated two years in a row at Long Beach.

Palou’s repeat win means the series can only tie the record for most different winners in a season with a maximum of 11.

I will be back tomorrow with more on today’s race. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Daly, Rossi Looking for Good Results at Gateway

Indycar photo

Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi both enjoy World Wide Technology Raceway, and they are looking forward to good results Saturday. Both drivers said they enjoy racing there. Rossi is eager to race at the track near St. Louis after his team had a very good test there this year. Rossi is anxious to see how the one day event plays out.

” I love that we’re having the night race again,” Rossi said, “I think that’s critical for short
oval racing. Short oval racing but for the 500 is meant to
be raced at night, easier to follow cars. Everything about it is better. Looking forward to that, having the fans back. Yeah, I think it’s going to be an
interesting kind of experiment for us to do a one-day event.
See how that goes.”

Daly added, ” Yeah, it’s one of my favorite tracks. I
couldn’t tell you why. Ever since our very first test day with
Foyt, where we were quickest, we kind of all looked at
each other, This is weird, not really sure why this is
happening.
I love racing there. Love the way that track challenges us
as drivers and challenges these cars. It will be fun. I’m
just happy to be racing, honestly, which is nice.”

Alexander Rossi photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Rossi talked about his season and how situations have prevented him from showing better results. the last three races have had mostly better results, and he is confident of a strong finish to the season.

” Yeah, I mean, the pace has been great; it hasn’t really
resulted in much. Obviously with the field now, every small
mistake and issue and mis-step in setup decisions from
session to session has a bigger effect than it used to. It
requires everyone to really be perfect throughout the
weekend.
It is what it is. I think the Indy GP, this past race was good.
Nashville we obviously had good pace, but it didn’t result
in anything. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s all down to some
circumstances ultimately/”

, who isDaly talked about the challenges Romain Grosjean driving his first oval race this season, faces.

“… it’s going to be tough without a doubt. I think when you show
up to, like, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it being your
first oval, there’s so much practice, right? There’s so much
testing. Romain obviously got to test, which is great.
When you’re out there, at Indy when we practice, you get a
lot of traffic, you get kind of a feel for what’s going on.
Realistically there’s so little track time in Gateway, he’s
going to be thrust into a very, very new situation.”

The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is scheduled for a green flag start at 8:40 pm EDT Saturday night.

Frye: Test Results Produce More Questions

Photo: Pato O’Ward leads the group during testing at IMS Friday. -Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Jay Frye declared it a good day. It gave Indycar a direction although there is still work to do.

“When we came into this, we thought really at the end of the day that this would precipitate more questions than answers. That’s probably what happened, right. Which is fine. That’s what we expected,” the Indycar president told the media after the four var test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday.

“We did learn a lot. But it did also create a lot of other questions,” Frye concluded.

The test, with drivers Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi representing Honda, and Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward driving Chevrolets, involved various versions of push to pass in an attempt to simulate what the hybrid component might look like in 2023.

Frye explained what Indycar was looking for.

I think today we’ve got a lot of data off the car in a direction on what approach to go with,” he said. “In the way that we have push to pass, with the hybrid system that would kind of be obsolete. You’ll have a bank of energy that you have with the hybrid system that once it will go away, that you will be able to recharge it so it will be on all the time basically. With push to pass there’s an amount of time or there’s an amount of pushes. That’s what we looked at today. We just gave the drivers for every 200 seconds, you’re going to go do a 20 lap run. Use it as you want it. Most used about half, so 100 seconds. It was interesting to see how it played out.”

“We thought they would have liked that for a longer time. This is new. We’ve never done this on an oval. We’ve tested it at Pocono, Texas and Phoenix before but that was with the old package. For this new one, it definitely is much better than it was before which is cool,” Frye concluded. He also noted that trap speeds which are normally around 230 mile an hour, were 236 miles an hour Friday.

The new, larger 2.4 liter 2023 engine, and the hybrid energy recovery system should give the cars 200 more horsepower in 2023. Frye said the series will not allow that much all at once, but adjust the and work up to 900 horsepower.

Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, and and Josef newgarden discuss what they learned in Friday’s test at IMS. Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar.

The Pit Window spoke with three of the drivers after the early end to the test day.

Scott Dixonliked some of the changes and noticed the increase in speed.

“Obviously there’s a lot of power and some of the durations are quite long,” Dixon said. “10 seconds at 70-80 horsepower, especially in a car that’s trimmed out. Your average lap speed could jump by several mph. There’s some good changes to see how you can apply that and to what effect or not effect on the tire and in regards to running in traffic.”

Dixon’s concern with the push to pass is how long a driver would be locked out of the system after using it. He prefers a shorter lock out time.

Alexander Rossi doesn’t think the push to pass would change anything on an oval.

“Yes it’s a pretty big horsepower boost with the push to pass,” said the Andretti Autosport driver. “We’re going to have to look at it to see if it changed anything for the better or worse. It’s definitely different. We got that test accomplished and have some hard data to look at for the future.”

Josef Newgarden was happy to help Indycar gather data and glad that he learned some tings.

“I thought it went well. When you learn something in testing you’re happy about it. I thought we learned some stuff today on our cars on how things works and how they could potentially work in use scenario.

“The horsepower bump was tunable. You could definitely raise the horsepower increase up or down so that jump in the performance off the corner could be bigger or smaller. The length of it is all adjustable. We ran through a couple of scenarios and a couple of configurations. It’s definitely noticeable. A couple of configurations were noticeable. If you want to run a system like that, it’s really what’s the right configuration to give to the field. I think that’s the type of info we were trying to arm INDYCAR with and now it’s on to them to see what we do in the future.”

Frye said that testing of the hybrid system would likely be in January and February of 2022.

Notes

It was wonderful to watch cars on the IMS oval again. It has been more than a year since I have seen the oval used.

Improvements made by Roger Penske are obvious. Most noticeable is the new video board on the back of the Pagoda. it spans the entire width of the building and the high resolution screen is fantastic.

The main thing is how clean the plaza and Victory Circle are. I was so used to how the areas appeared, but I now realize that they were long overdue for sprucing up.

Testing for the Indianapolis 500 is schedule for April 8 and 9, between the mass vaccination clinics at the Speedway. I assume the turn 2 mounds will be open as they were yesterday.

Rossi Set to Bounce Back from Year that ‘Sucked’

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Alexander Rossi will tell you exactly what he thinks.

“No, I just think we sucked globally. Like there wasn’t anything we were doing right, whether itwas qualifying performance, whether it was race performance, pit stops, my driving. None of it was good…Last year just sucked. It sucked on track, it sucked off track. It was a terrible year for everyone except for Scott and Takuma, so good for them.”

The Andretti Autosport driver did see a reason for optimisim toward the end of the season with four podiums and a strong performance at St. Pete, where he was ina position to win until a late crash ended his race and frustrating season. he takes the blame for the incident.

“..the end of the year went really well for us for the most part,minus St. Pete, which is on me.There you go. I’m not going to get into the details of it because it’s not necessary, but I think we’re operating at a really high level right now, and I’m excited to get on track in Barber.”

Rossi said that the team’s testing has gone quite well, and that they are ready to come out of the gate strong. He believes the schedule with fewer short ovals plays to the strength of the Andretti team overall.

” I think street courses followed by the superspeedways followed by road courses are Andretti Autosport’s strong suits and we only had one of those last year which we did not capitalize on whatsoever…Fortunately short ovals really aren’t a huge factor anymore, so yay for that.”

Rossi believes a lot of the issues in 2020 revolved around the condensed track time at races, and not getting to where they needed to be quickly enough.

“…at the end of the day as much as we as a team struggled with the minimal practice time, I did, as well. Like I wasn’t doing a good enough job getting up to speed quick enough, which was putting us on the back foot and having to take pretty big risks in qualifying. Sometimes it was okay, sometimes we qualified — quite honestly we qualified all right all throughout the beginning of the year. We were just never kind of in the top three, which is where you’ve got to be these days. It’s where you’ve got to be to go out and win races.”

Rossi is excited for the 2021 season to begin. he is very about the way preseason testing has gone, and believes he and team can put 2020 in the past. I thought last year was an aberration for Rossi. I look for a strong year from him, and he will be contending for the title all season.

Rossi Tops Sebring Test Day

Photo: Indycar, Chris Owens

Alexander Rossi led a strong showing by Andretti Autosport at Sebring on Tuesday with a quick lap of 52.27 seconds. Teammate Colton Herta was second, followed by Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were next in line.

Photo-Chris Owens Indycar

Harvey, of Meyer Shank Racing had a technical alliance with Andretti last year. I look for a strong year from Harvey. The team has a full year under their belt, and having Helio Castroneves as a teammate for six races should help as well.

Dalton Kellett and A, J, Foyt Racing tested both days and seemed happy with the team’s progress.

Rossi and Dixon Looking for Better Seasons in 2020

Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon hope Friday practice at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg helps them find out how the aeroscreen will affect the cars in race like conditions. In a teleconference this afternoon, Rossi said the brief testing time the team has had leaves a lot to figure out. Dixon wondered about how the extra weight and higher center of gravity will affect handling.

According to Dixon, “The adjustments have been made. The cooling at least was very sufficient for us. Handling-wise I think the CG is a little higher, the car is heavier, definitely one of the areas we’ve really got to try and turn around because we keep adding weight to this car, which especially for accidents is not a good thing. It’s the same for everybody as far as the handling issues. We haven’t seen too much of a difference for us. Springs and dampers and things like that. But every team is unique on that side of things, too. ”

Rossi is still not sure what to expect. “… we’ve really only had at Andretti a day and a half with the weather at COTA. That was kind of a half day. Sebring is kind of its own unique animal. I don’t really know that we know, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s definitely different, but the extent of that won’t become clear to us until probably at least Friday night in St. Pete.”

Both drivers think the expansion of their teams will help them have a better season. Rossi explained,

” I think it’s really cool to be able to bring Colton on kind of into the fold full-time I guess. He was kind of already there with the Harding Steinbrenner Andretti relationship we had last year. We have already noticed a positive difference having the engineering staff back in the office and everyone kind of under the same roof, being able to just more efficiently kind of bounce ideas off each other, just progress the whole team forward. ”

Dixon added,

“We added actually a lot of people this year, probably four or five on the engineering side, then the depth of the whole GT program coming over has helped as far as management and also crew people as well. I think personnel-wise the team is probably in the best situation I’ve seen it in the last maybe five or six years. So I think off-season development has been really good. Also the change of mindset. I think we kind of got stuck there a lot of times just doing the same thing and looking for different answers, which just wasn’t working…”

On the influx of young, talented drivers entering the series, Rossi said, ” Racing is a very difficult sport in the sense that you’re only as good as your last race. You’re constantly having to go out and reprove yourself regardless of what you’ve accomplished in the past. There’s so many guys coming in, your job security really doesn’t exist.”

Dixon replied, “Never think that you know everything. I think that’s the worst position you can be in. You’re constantly learning, it’s constantly changing. I think the sport, even over the last 19 or 20 years that I’ve been a part of it, how much it evolves and changes from season to season is pretty impressive. It’s cool to see. I think it’s fantastic to see the amount of young guys coming in now. There was some pretty good influx probably five to six years ago, as well, with a lot of the guys. You can see their performance, how they’ve adjusted, how quick they’ve been. It’s extremely important for the health of the sport. Hopefully they can keep charging. ”

Electronic Flagging at Laguna Seca

One news item that came out of the conference is that Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca will use an electronic flagging system in 2020.  Formula 1 uses this system in their races and I’m glad to see it coming to an Indycar track.

 

Sebring Test Monday has Some Unusual Elements

It is not unusual for NTT Indycar Series teams to test at Sebring in January. It is unusual for a part time team to test, however. Dreyer & Reinbold is planning a four race program for 2020 and will take part in Monday’s test at Sebring International Raceway. The team has been Indianapolis 500 only the past few years. Sage Karam will drive for the team. A possible second entry for the 500 is also in the works.

We will also get to see two rookies on track together. Rinus VeeKay gets his first run for Ed Carpenter Racing, and Oliver Askew will test for Arrow McLaren SP. Askew’s teammate Pato O’Ward will also get some time Monday.

patoareos
Arrow McLaren SP testing late last year at Sebring

Team Penske will test two time Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin.

You Can Help

Long time racing broadcaster Bob Varsha has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Varsha has broadcast nearly every form of auto racing in his career.

A GoFundMe campaign has been established  by Marshall Pruett for Bob. You can contribute at

https://www.gofundme.com/f/supporting-bob-varsha039s-prostate-cancer-fight?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR2HAf53fA9A0WvHxlgP9F2tY5WfmGPbhP_zxVtKRBeqR-JcWi04uolIqhU

 

Alexander Rossi is auctioning his helmet from the Bathurst 1000 to aid victims of the wildfire in Austarlia. You can bid on the helmet at

https://www.ebay.com/itm/352925771454.

Some Large Grids

With Dreyer & Reinbold’s four race plan and Dragonspeed’s six race program in place, there are some rumblings that Juncos may have something in the works for 2020 as well. Assuming the both Carlin and Foyt have two cars for the full season, several races could have expanded grids.

What a great thing that would be for the series to have fields large than the 22 or 23 we have been used to at most events.

Hunter-Reay Leads Practice 2

Finally a veteran took charge. Ryan Hunter-Reay had the quickest time in Practice 2 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey this afternoon. Two of the rookies who led the morning practice were right behind him. The morning practice was led by three rookies after Colton Herta led yesterday’s second test period. Felix Rosenqvist finished just 0.02 seconds behind Hunter-Reay and Herta was third, 0.001 seconds after Rosenqvist.

“It’s a very narrow window to get it right,” Hunter-Reay said, “I’m not resting on this one.”

The title contenders had mixed results. Simon Pagenaud finished 4th, Josef Newgarden 6th and Alexander Rossi was 23. Rossi had a software issue this morning.

The only red flag was for Scott Dixon who went off track and stalled between turns 10 and 11.

Rossi led the just completed pit stop/warm-up period.  Hunter-Reay was second, followed by Herta. Rossi still feels he will be okay for tomorrow and Sunday.

Notes

You can see almost the entire track from the top of hill near the Corkscrew. The cars carry a lot of speed into the top of the Corkscrew turn.

Hunter-Reay’s livery looks as if his nose was damaged and was replaced by one they just happened to have around. I love tribute liveries but this one has just gone halfway. It’s my least favorite livery this weekend.

Some Photos

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From Kyle McInnes

CHERTP1LS

Rossi Knows What He Needs to Do

For the second year in a row Alexander Rossi enters the NTT Indycar Series finale in second place. The September 22 Firestone Grand Prix at Weather Tech raceway Laguna Seca will decide the season championship.  Rossi trails Josef Newgarden by 41 points. In a teleconference this afternoon, the driver of the number 27 NAPA Auto Parts car talked about his season thus far, and how 2019 compares to last year.

Rossi described his season so far as “Generally good. We made a lot of improvements on areas where we struggled. Some things have been out of our control.” He went on to say that “the 2 car has been better. Josef has had a sensational year.”

The venue for the final race has a lot of unknowns, Rossi said.  Andretti Autosport tested there in February. Rossi declared the test inconclusive due to the weather and some other factors. He thinks everyone is entering the weekend on an equal footing. Rossi began going to races at Laguna Seca when he was three years old. It is where he fell in love with racing.

“Laguna Seca is where I  cut my teeth in racing,” Rossi said.

The race could be decided in qualifying. “the driver who makes no mistakes in qualifying and wins the pole, if he is one of the championship contenders, his job will be that much easier.,” Rossi said. He described the track as having a low grip surface with the braking zone in turn 2 likely being the best passing area.

While Rossi is disappointed to not be closer to the top of the standings, he feels that it actually puts less pressure on him. he knows this year he needs to win the race. “When you’re closer you start worrying about positions and finishing ahead of the other guy. being this far back,  I just need to win.”

Rossi felt in 2018  the team left too many points on the table with silly mistakes. This season he believes the team has improved although ‘We maybe cost ourselves by being too conservative. We had some bad luck in the second half of the season. ”

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is September 22 on NBC. The green flag is at 12:15.