The 2023 Grid- Clearer and Murkier

Photo: Devlin Defrancesco at Long Beach

Just when you thought Silly Season was over, the NTT Indycar Series grid for 2023 became both clearer and cloudier in the last week.

Devlin DeFrancesco will stay in the 29 car for Andretti Autosport in 2023. He has had a somewhat uneven season, but DeFrancesco has qualified well in several of recent races. He started ninth at Gateway

Colton Herta

Formula 1 rumors have again risen around Colton Herta. Red Bull has made inquiries about his filling one of the Alpha Tauri seats which may soon be vacant. Herta is still shy of the required 40 points for an F1 super license. My guess is he is back in the 26 for one more year. Herta would likely be a reserve driver in F1 in 2023.

The Newest Hottest Driver

I thought it was a foregone conclusion that David Malukas would be back with dale Coyne Racing next year. The rookie has begun to get notice from other teams, and his second place at gateway two weeks ago really cranked up the free agent buzz.

David Malukas

There seems to be great interest from Chip Ganassi Racing, which could have as many as two openings in 2023, depending on the Alex Palou situation with McLaren, and whether Jimmie Johnson returns with Carvana.

This puzzle may not be resolved for awhile. My fear is that Malukas may end up the odd man out. That would be a huge mistake for the series.

Where Do Indy Lights Drivers Fit?

Linus Lundqvist will most likely win the Indy lights championship and have three Indycar races, including the Indianapolis 500, guaranteed. If Malukas moves to Ganassi, could Lundqvist move into the seat at Coyne?

Matthew Brabham and Hunter McElrea are also seeking Indycar rides. Ernie Francis, Jr. may also be looking to move up, at least for the 500.

Indycar in2023 will have the usual problem of too many drivers seeking too few seats. The grid is expected to expand next season, but the driver situation will only improve when the elusive third OEM appears.

Herta Takes Toronto Pole

Colton Herta Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

The streak is over. Coming into Toronto this weekend, the NTT Indycar series had seen nine different pole winners in its nine races. A different pole winner today would have tied a record set in 1952. But Colton Herta won his second pole of the season in a wild qualifying session that saw several pole contenders eliminated early due to a red flag.

The first group in round 1 had a smooth run. In group 2 things got a bit crazy. Devlin DeFrancesco overshot turn 3 and went nose first into the tires. The other cars were on an out lap, so DeFrancesco was not penalized. While he was extricating himself, Alex Palou’s car stopped on track, causing a red flag.

Drivers scrambled to get their best laps in the short time remaining. Kyle Kirkwood was on pace to solidly advance, but he clipped the wall in turn 6 and spun just before pit entrance in turn , bringing out a red flag. The drivers behind Kirkwood did not get to complete their laps. Will Power, Graham Rahal, and Simon Pagenaud, who all looked like pole contenders, missed the second round.

The round of 12 included four rookies- Callum Ilott, David Malukas, Christian Lundgaard, and Devlin DeFrancesco. Malukas would advance to the fast Six. he was the only driver in the final round who could keep the pole streak alive.

Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Josef Newgarden set the fastest time with less than a minute to go, then pitted and waited. Herta and Scott Dixon were both on a pace to beat Newgarden’s time. Herta edged Newgarden by 0.25 seconds. Dixon was faster than Newgarden but fell short of Herta by 0. 089 seconds. Herta earned his ninth career pole.

Notes

Points leader Marcus Ericsson will start ninth.

Callum Ilott just missed the fast Six and will start seventh.

David Malukas is in a good spot to pick up more ground on Christian Lundgaard in the Rookie of the Year battle. Lundgaard leads by 14 points. He starts 10th tomorrow.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing drivers Jack Harvey and Graham Rahal saw their competitive practice times go for naught with their 13th and 14th place staring spots. Rahal looked to be a pole contender.

Pato O’Ward has been slow all weekend. O’Ward needs a good result Sunday. He has averaged a 25th place finish the last two races.

Does Will Power have another come from behind run in him? Power will line up 16th tomorrow. It will be his third straight start of 15th or worse. Toronto is a difficult track to make up ground.

Results

Herta Paces Morning Practice

Colton Herta turned the quickest lap in his morning’s pre qualifying practice session and will lead group 2 in round 1 this afternoon at 2 PM.

The start of practice was delayed 33 minutes because of incidents in support series. In Indy Pro 2000 qualifying, a car spun at the entrance to pit lane and dislodged the tire barrier. In the Porsche Cup qualifying session two cars collided and had hard contact with the wall and tires, moving the wall out of place and severing a camera cable.

There were problems for a few title contenders and several incidents of wall contact. Only two incidents resulted in red flags.

Alex Palou made contact and suffered damage to the left front suspension. he limped into the pits as action continued. Josef Newgarden noticed an oil pressure light on his dash and came into the pits. The car did not return to the track. An engine change might be coming before qualifying.

Romain Grosjean brought out the first red flag after heavy right rear wall contact. He slowly rolled back to the pits with the wheel close to separating from the car. With less than a minute remaining in the session, Takuma Sato had the hardest hit of the day. The car suffered heavy left side damage.

We will probably see some laps under one minute in qualifying on the red tires.

Qualifying begins at 2 PM, and several teams have a lot of work to do.

TheTop 13

Herta Paces Practice 2

Colton Herta turned a lap of 1:07.027 late in this morning’s practice to lead the final practice round before qualifying this afternoon. Herta’s lap came just before the third red flag ot yhe morning halted practie about 90 seconds early.

Rinus VeeKay had led the majority of the practice until the final push by other drivers dropped his time to sixth. Will Power finished second and Josef mewgarden was third. Power’s time was only 0.003 seconds behind Herta. Newgarden was 0.034 seconds off the pace.

Three red flags interrupted the session. Just two and a half minutes into the session, Devlin DeFrancesco went off track in turn 2 and had cintact with the barrier. With about 30 minutes left Dalton Kellett went into the turn 12 tire barrier. The final stoppage happened with only a minute and 23 seconds left. Will Power oulled his car off course in turn 4 and stopped. The carbwas towed back to the paddock.

No external damage to Power’s car

The results set up a fascinating second qualifying group with Herta, Newgarden, Alex Palou, and Pato O’Ward. We could see a three round duel between Herta and Newgarden.

The top 13:

Kanaan, Ericsson Lead Carb Day; Herta May Need Backup Car

A delayed and shortened Carb Day practice followed the pattern of the other practice sessions with Chip Ganassi Racing cars in three of the first four spots. Tony Kanaan led the way with a lap of 227.114 mph, followed by Marcus Ericsson in second with a 227,004 mph lap. Scott Dixon was furth and Jimmie Johnson seventh in another Ganassi car.

Carb Day practice began just before 1 pm after the trrack dried from morning rains. The scheduled two hour practice was reduced to 90 minutes.

The session stopped twice for incidents. David Malukas attempted a pass on Santino Ferrucci going into turn 1. They touched wheels, Malukas went high and spun, hitting the wall in much the same way Dalton kellett did last Monday. The hit wasn’t as severe as Kellet’s, but there was still suspension damage.

Herta told NBC reporter Dave Burns, “I feel a little bit of sadness for that racecar.”

With about 30 minutes left, Colton Herta hit the outside wall in turn 1. The car got airborne and landed upside down. Herta was not injured. The car cannot be repaired, and Herta will drive a backup car Sunday. Herta will keep his starting position.

Josef Newgarden completed a session high 62 laps. Ed Carpenter turned the fewest circuits at 32.

The top 14:

I will have more later. Tomorrow the public drivers’ meeting is the only thing on the Speedway calendar.

Singin’ in the Rain- Herta’s Early Stop Pays Off

Some quick thoughts on a wild day at IMS:

The GMR Grand Prix was a two-hour long endurance race. I felt I was at the Rolex 24 for most of the race. Some quick thoughts. I will follow up with more tomorrow.

Honda finally broke through with a victory.

The race was not the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but gosh it was entertaining. Strategy changed almost every lap, contenders spun, came back, and spun again. Teams gambled, and some won while others lost. The drama and intrigue made for a fascinating event.

As we saw in 2019, this race is helped by rain.

A Good Day for Some Rookies

Four rookies had their best finishes of the year today. Callum Ilott was eighth, Christian Lundgaard ninth, David Malukas 12th, and Tatiana Calderon came home 15th. Calderon led a lap.

I can’t recall a race before today in which Will Power was on the pole and didn’t lead a lap.

Power has finished third or fourth in every race this season.

ECR Figuring Out Road Courses

Ed Carpenter Racing seems to have gotten a handle on road courses. The team has been in three Fast Six rounds and has twqo top five finishes.

Conor Daly’s fifth place today was his first top five in five years. Daly started fourth.

Rinus VeeKay has a pole and a fourth place start and finished third at Barber.

In 2019 Simon Pagenaud showed how good he was on a wet track, winning the GMR Grand Prix with a last lap pass. Today in less than ideal conditions he finished second after starting 20th. Definitely the driver of the day.

Alex Palou worked his way back to 18th after his early spin. He was not able to get his lap back because of the way the yellows fell. This track has been a difficult one for Palou. Last summer he finished last when his engine expired.

Thanks for following along. i will have more tomorrow on this wild race.

Herta Tops Warm Up; McLaughlin Engine Issue

Colton Herta had the fastest lap in this mirrning’s warmup session for this afternoon’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Scott Dixon led most of the session before Herrta put down his quick lap, the only lap in 1:05 range.

Points leader Scott McLaughlin crew discovered a broken header after just two laps and they are changing the engine.

The practice had just one red flag. With about eight minutes left

Graham Rahat slid and his rear wing had slight contact with the wall.

The results:

Herta on Pole as Andretti Continues Long Beach Mastery

Tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin just where the 2021 race stopped-Colton Herta will lead the field to green flag followed by Josef Newgarden. In a qualifying session which the previous track record shredded to bits, Herta set the new mark of 1:05.3.

Herta and his Andretti Autosport teammates asserted the perennial dominance the team has has had since 2018. Alexander Rossi won the race in 2018 and 2019 from the pole. Herta won here last fall and now has added the pole.

Newgarden did not lead Team Penske in either of the practices, but came on strong during qualifying. Neither Will Power nor Scott McLaughlin advanced to the Fast Six. McLaughlin will be absent from the first row for the first time this season.

Meyer Shank Racing.lookred very strong in practice, but neither Simon Pagenaud nor Helio Castroneves advanced to the final round.

Romain Grosjean led the final practice and appeared to be on his way to the pole. He ran his car into the tire barrier, bringing out a red flag with just two seconds left in the session. The incident moved him to sixth place. The five remaining cars had an opportunity for one more timed lap

Only Felix Rosenqvist and Rosdi took advantage of the time. Rossi’s attempt ended as needed to use the runoff area. Rosenqvisy did not improve.

Qualifying results. Note-Devlin DeFrancesco will start 23rd tomorrow as he serves a six grid place penalty. I will have more thoughts on the day later this evening.

Herta on Pole as Andretti Continues Long Beach Mastery

Tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin just where the 2021 race stopped-Colton Herta will lead the field to green flag followed by Josef Newgarden. In a qualifying session which the previous track record shredded to bits, Herta set the new mark of 1:05.3.

Herta and his Andretti Autosport teammates asserted the perennial dominance the team has has had since 2018. Alexander Rossi won the race in 2018 and 2019 from the pole. Herta won here last fall and now has added the pole.

Newgarden did not lead Team Penske in either of the practices, but came on strong during qualifying. Neither Will Power nor Scott McLaughlin advanced to the Fast Six. McLaughlin will be absent from the first row for the first time this season.

Meyer Shank Racing.lookred very strong in practice, but neither Simon Pagenaud nor Helio Castroneves advanced to the final round.

Romain Grosjean led the final practice and appeared to be on his way to the pole. He ran his car into the tire barrier, bringing out a red flag with just two seconds left in the session. The incident moved him to sixth place. The five remaining cars had an opportunity for one more timed lap

Only Felix Rosenqvist and Rosdi took advantage of the time. Rossi’s attempt ended as needed to use the runoff area. Rosenqvisy did not improve.

Qualifying results. Note-Devlin DeFrancesco will start 23rd tomorrow as he serves a six grid place penalty. I will have more thoughts on the day later this evening.