Palou, Rosenqvist Stay Put

In the end, it was much ado about nothing. Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist will stay with the teams they raced for in 2022 next year. In nearly simultaneous announcements, both drivers and teams declared that 2023 will be status quo.

Palou in Victory Circle Sunday

Palou had indicated mid- season that he had signed with McLaren on the heels of a Ganassi announcement that his contract with the team has been extended. Palou ended the season with a win in the final race of the year at Laguna Seca last Sunday. He was fifth in the final standings. From Palou’s Twitter account:

“I’m also grateful that @CGRTeams will allow me to pursue F1 testing with @McLarenF1 outside of my INDYCAR commitment.

·Thank you Chip, Mike and the entire team for your willingness to work together and help support both the team and my personal goals throughout this process. “

Rosenqvist’s ride with Arrow McLaren SP was on the line this past season. He finished eighth in the standings, one spot behind teammate Pato O’Ward. Rosenqvist had one pole this season, at Texas. He had signed an extension with the team, but it was not specific as to which series Rosenqvist would be assigned to.

In the team’s news release, Rosenqvist said,

“There’s no better way to enter the off-season than with this news! I love this team, and I’m so happy to continue working with all the incredible people I’ve gotten to know over the past two seasons. With everything the team has in the pipeline, the continuing relationship with Pato and the addition of Alex Rossi, we are going to bring our A-game for 2023. It will be the most exciting season for me so far. Let it be March already!”

Ganassi Sues Palou

Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar

Chip Ganassi racing has filed a lawsuit in Marion County, Indiana, against Alex Palou, a driver for the team and current NTT Indycar Series champion. The complaint was sealed, but the suit likely involves Palou allegedly signing with McLaren for next season even though Ganassi exercised their 2023 option on Palou.

A team spokesperson said that Palou will drive the 10 car in this weekend’s Gallagher Grand Prix at IMS and is expected to drive the remaining 2022 races.

The filing

Ganassi has requested expedited discovery, within two weeks. as he wants to resolve this case as soon as possible.

I think this case will drag on awhile. McLaren said today they will not buy out Palou’s Ganassi contract, so a settlement doesn’t appear likely.

The implications for Palou’s Indycar career are troubling. Should he not work out at McLaren, I don’t think another Indycar team will touch him. McLaren has not even said that Palou will drive one of their cars in the series next season. AMSP driver Felix Rosenqvist said last weekend that he doesn’t think Palou will be driving at all next year.

It would be a shame if Indycar loses one of its brightest future stars, who already has a championship, because a team is trying to hoard all the top talent in the series.

I thought having a legendary brand like McLaren in the series was going to be great for the series. I really don’t like what they are doing. Their signing tactics are not good for the series as a whole.

I wrote about this subject just a few days ago:

Draining the Talent Pool

Poaching Season- McLaren Palou Announcement Follows Ganassi Option News

Marvin Gaye sums up the day’s news best. I posted a news release from Chip Ganassi Racing announcing the team is picking up its 2023 option on Alex Palou. I went out for a couple hours, come home and find out Palou has signed with McLaren.

McLaren is building up a strong lineup of drivers. So far, only Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi have definite spots in the Indycar program. My understanding is Palou’s spot is not named. I will do some digging tonight nd tomorrow and hope to get some clarity tomorrow.

At any rate, another level of drama has been added to the second half of the Indycar season. Make sure your popcorn makers are working.

Ganassi Picks Up 2023 Option on Palou

Chip Ganassi Racing exercised its 2023 option to retain defending NTT Indycar Series champion Alex Palou today. The news release from the team:

Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today that the team has exercised its option to extend Alex Palou through the 2023 season.

Palou won CGR’s 14th INDYCAR SERIES championship in 2021, also becoming the first Spaniard to ever win the season title.

“Alex’s track record speaks for itself,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. “He’s a proven champion and one of the most formidable drivers in the world. We are very excited to continue working together.”

The defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion has continued to impress this year, securing his 12th podium finish in his 25th career race with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio.

Palou will return to the CGR fold for his third season with the team next year.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be back with Chip Ganassi Racing next season,” said Alex Palou. “The team welcomed me with open arms from day one, and I’m excited to continue working with Chip, Mike Hull, the folks on the No. 10 NTT DATA car and everyone within the organization. The goals remain the same and we will continue to work relentlessly towards achieving them.”

The CGR team heads north this weekend where Alex Palou will race for the first time in Canada at the Honda Indy Toronto.

About Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi has been a fixture in the auto racing industry for over 30 years and is considered one of the most successful and innovative owners in motorsports. Today, his teams include four Honda cars in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, two Cadillac Dpi’s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and one GMC Hummer EV in Extreme E. Overall, his teams have 21 championships and more than 240 victories, including five wins in the Indianapolis 500, eight Rolex 24 At Daytona victories, and wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ganassi boasts state-of-the-art facilities in Indianapolis, where INDYCAR, IMSA and Extreme E teams are located, and a corporate office in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit, www.chipganassiracing.com.

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500 Wrap Up- Feels Like Old Times

Marcus Ericsson celebrates with car owner Chip Ganassi. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Everything about yesterday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 felt like a race day in the 1980s- the huge crowd, the electric tingling buzz in the atmosphere, even the way the race played out- had an 80s feel to it. Roger Penske and Doug Boles have worked hard to restore the glory of the 500 after two devastating years of the pandemic. The real proof of their success will be in seeing the momentum of 2022 continuing for the next several years.

The Speedway expected 300,000 fans. i think they had more than that. It was great to see the stands packed again. G stand, where I sit, was fuller than I’ve ever seen it, including in 2016. The infield crowd across the way was definitely larger than I ever recall.

The Race- Classic Style

This was not the best 500 I’ve ever seen, but it was far from the worst. It was darn good race, though. Most of the drama came in the pits where strong pre race favorites Alex Palou and Scott Dixon lost their chances at winning.

The race had a feel of a race in the 1980s, where a strong favorite would dominate only to drop out out of contention due to some misfortune. Yellows occurred at untimely moments, jumbling the field. One driver, usually a darkhorse like Marcus Ericsson, would emerge victorious.

The Lost Boys of Indy

Two teams that used to dominate Indy, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport, have been MIA the last two years. Yesterday Josef Newgardens’s 13th place finish was the best for the team. Both Newgarden and Will Power had issues in the pits. neither was a serious threat to win.

Alexander Rossi’s fifth place finish salvaged a miserable day for Andretti. Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was the next best on the team with a 20th place result.

Rookies

The four rookies with long term futures finished in a tight pack from 16th to 20th, with veteran Ed Carpenter in 19th. David Malukas ran a steady pace all day and ended 16th after starting 13th. Kyle Kirkwood arguably had the best drive of the day among the rookies, coming from 28th on the grid to come home 17th.

Christian Lungaard finished 18th. Crashes took out Jimmie Johnson, Callum Ilott, and Romain Grosjean.

Red Flag

I still maintain that the red flag was a horrible call and did nothing to enhance the finish. I will die on this hill. Fans are not entitled to a green flag finish. Some races just don’t have exciting finishes. This is not a video game.

The race ended under yellow anyway, so stopping the race was a moot point. If track safety structures weren’t compromised, there is no need for a red flag in that situation.

21st Century Mario?

Scott Dixon at driver introductions yesterday. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Scott Dixon is becoming the new Mario Andretti. He has one Indianapolis 500 victory, which is a great accomplishment. He also has six Indycar titles and needs just one more win to tie Andretti for second place on the career win list.

Yesterday Dixon passed Al Unser for the most laps led in 500 history.

Like Mario, Dixon has had multiple chances to win a second 500 and has come up short. Similarly, he does not need to win a second 500 to seal his legacy. Dixon is one of the all time greats in Indycar racing no matter how many 500s he has won.

His role, however, is becoming clear as his window of opportunity narrows. Dixon will be an excellent ambassador for the sport when he retires as the mantle passes from Mario.

Quick Thoughts on a Quirky 500

What started as a tag team fuel saving race quickly turned into a race from the 1980s with strong cars dropping out of contention due to strange circumstances and a winner who was considered to have an outside shot taking the checkered flag. What looked like a Ganassi 1-2 blowout turned into a free for all.

The timing of the yellows left the outcome sufficiently in doubt.

In the end, a Ganassi car won. Congratulations to Marcus Ericsson. He drove a calculated race and he had the strongest car at the end.

Since Marcus Ericsson joined Ganassi, I have felt he was a bit underrated. he wasn’t one of my top choices to win today, but I felt he was someone to watch out for.

Losing at the Pit Line

Alex Palou was the victim of timing. he entered pit lane just as the caution came out. The penalty gave him no shot at the win, but he did claw back to ninth.

I can’t remember Scott Dixon making an unforced error on a pit stop. It happened so late in the race that he didn’t have time to recover. I’m beginning to wonder if he will ever win another race. Today seemed like a lock.

Team Finishes

Despite the two Ganassi favorites Dixon and Palou losing their chance to win, Ganassi cars finished first, third, and ninth.

Arrow McLaren SP had finishes of second and fourth. Both Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist had cars capable of winning. Their split strategy late when Rosenqvist pitted early nearly got them to Victory Lane. I didn’t think their cars had quite the pace of the Ganassi cars, but their tactics nearly worked.

TK’s Last Dance?

If this was Tony Kanaan’s final 500, he went out strong. He finished third and led six laps. Kanaan was in the mix all day. I hope he comes back.

Movers

Four drivers who started 16th or worse finished in a group in the top ten. Alexander Rossi finished fifth from 20th; Conor Daly was sixth after lining up in 18th; Helio Castroneves went from 27th to seventh; and Simon Pagenaud finished eighth from 16th on the grid.

The biggest mover of the race was Juan Pablo Montoya, who started 30th and finished 11th.

Five of the drivers involved in crashes today had three years or less Indycar experience. Three were Indy 500 rookies.

After the race it looked like Ericsson was going to stop on track and celebrate in a similar manner to Castroneves and Pagenaud did. Instead he pulled into pit lane at the last possible moment. Did Indycar order him to go directly to the Victory Podium? If so, why?

I will have a more extensive race wrap up tomorrow. Thanks for following along for the last three weeks. I have had a lot of fun this month.

Palou Leads Ganassi Sweep of Top Three; Kellett Okay after Crash

Alex Palou didn’t get on track until about 40 minutes remained in today’s post-qualifying practice, but he shot immediately to the top of the pylon with a 229.441 lap. he led teammates Scott Dixon and Jimmie Johnson as Chip Ganassi Racing sent a strong message for the rest of the grid prior to Race Day.

Takuma Sato broke up the CGR parade in fourth, followed Marcus Ericsson in a fourth Ganassi car. Ericsson turned the most laps of any of the Ganassi drivers, 38. Palou and Kanaan each made 31 circuits, the team low.

The rest of the top 10:

Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly, Marco Andretti, Sage Karam, and Simon Pagenaud.

The action had a race day intensity, with cars running in packs, sometimes three wide.

The month’s first incident occurred with about 30 minutes left. Dalton Kellett went high in turn 1, spun and hit the wall hard facing the wrong way. The right side of the car lifted but returned to the ground quickly. Kellett was uninjured.

Sato ran the most laps today, 106. Four other drivers, Scott McLaughlin, Christian Lundgaard, and Colton Herta also turned at least 100 laps.

Ericsson Thrives in Chaos

Marcus Ericsson doesn’t give up. He has a knack for getting back into contention after misfortune strikes during a race. Last year he won the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville despite an early incident which saw his car become airborne. In last Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at IMS the Chip Ganassi racing driver came back to finish fourth after an off road adventure.

Ericsson talked about his knack for overcoming adversity.

“I’d like to be you know, running up front all day and having a steady race, leading the race and winning the race but yeah, it seems to be when there’s chaos we thrive so it’s just I don’t know, I think I have a you know, really good fit well, they’re, you know, good guys that are very smart and make good decisions and that helps us put us in good positions. And also for me, I you know, a driver can make a difference as well when it’s you know, harsh conditions and a lot of things happening and then it seemed to work in my favor.”

Passing was tricky on Tuesday, Ericsson said.

“It was pretty busy at times. There were some b ig packs running. And it’s always hard in practice because people are trying to blend out and drop back into field and it sort of gets- a few times where it gets tricky because of it but I thought our car especially towards the end of the day was really, really good, really happy in traffic. So that was promising. So looking forward to building on that again today and see if we can learn more.”

Marcus Ericsson talks to the media this morning

Today the Ganassi team may try some running as a group to get a sense of the draft and how difficult passing may be

“Yeah, I think since we are five cars, we’re gonna try and get out and do some, you know, some profit group brands. So that that is a plan, but as always, you know, we have to see how the day goes. But yeah, I think it’s one of our advantages for us being five cars that we can go out at a specific time together.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Ericsson is wary of the weather changes and its effect on qualifying.

“It’s tough for me I find because especially around here that the weather and the temperatures really can make a car really good or really bad very quickly. So I think that’s something looking at the forecast for this week. Now. It was raining all day yesterday. I think the track is going to be pretty green to today, but it’s gonna warm up in the afternoon. So let’s see how that is. And even tomorrow is supposed to be really hot and windy. And then you look at Saturday and Sunday and it seems like it’s a cold front coming there. So I think it’s going to be quite tricky for all the teams and drivers to sort of try and get the get the car in the sort of sweet spots because around this place, you know, small changes makes a big difference. So yeah, it’s definitely a challenge and I think the experienced guys probably have a bit of upper hand there on starting you know, it’s my fourth year so I’m getting there but compared to hell, you and these guys I have a few years ago.”

I think Ericsson is a driver to watch in qualifying and the race. I have him as a dark horse to win.

Jimmie Johnson Goes Full Time

The announcement this morning that Jimmie Johnson would enter the Indianapolis 500 was not a surprise, but the fact that he will run the four other oval race was. The seven time NASCAR champion announced that he will run the entire NTT Indycar Series season in 2022. The Chip Ganassi Racing entry will bear Carvana as his primary sponsor for 16 of the 17 races. The American Legion will be on the number 48 car for one of the two Iowa races. Carvana was Johnson’s amin sponsor in 2021.

The announcement came on NBC’s Today Show. Johnson followed with this Tweet:

In 2021 Johnson only ran the road and street courses in the series. He showed steady improvement throughout the year. His best qualifying spot was 22nd, where he started in three races. Johnson had a best finish of 17th in each of the final two races at Laguna Seca and Long Beach.

Johnson tested the oval at Texas and ran a rookie orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. He did well at IMS. Johnson needs two more laps to complete the rookie test.

The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, scheduled for May 29, now has six rookies who will attempt to qualify. The other rookies expected to enter are Kyle Kirkwood, Callum Ilott, David Malukas, Devlin DeFrancesco, and Christian Lundgaard. There may be one or two more rookies on the entry list.