Just a Few Indycar Related Notes

Seems I have been away for a bit. It has been a hectic week with Marti coming home after 118 days, three hospitals, and two rehab centers. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers the last four months. We are readjusting to a more normal life. This week is also Heartland Film G=Festival week, so I’ve been spending much of my free time in a movie theater. Okay, Back to work.

Dan Wheldon

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident in Las Vegas. I am not going to rehash that horrible day. It was a tragedy compounded 10 days later by a much deeper, personal loss.

I was a big fan of Wheldon’s, and his death was a huge loss to Indycar. However, the good that came out of it was the new safer chassis that he helped develop. I think he would have continued to be a great ambassador for the sport after his retirement fro racing.

Tony Stewart Buys into NHRA

The news should not be a surprise. Tony Stewart likes to own racing related things. He owns a NASCAR team, a race track, and now he owns an NHRA team. Leah Pritchett, his fiancee, will be the driver.

I wish Stewart well in this venture. I hope his next acquisition is an Indycar team.

Weight and Heat-An Issue for 2023?

At a Firestone tire test at Mid Ohio last week, Josef Newgarden had a chance to drive with added weight simulating the 2023 car with the larger engine (2.4 liters) and the hybrid KERS system.Overall, Newgarden was pleased with the test, but, according to an article on Motorsport.com, Newgarden voiced concerns about the physicality of the car, especially during races in the heat of summer.

From the Motorsport article:

“I think we’re starting to push over the edge of what some of the drivers can do physically, in some conditions, and we need to be cognizant of that. It’s something I’ve spoken to IndyCar about.”

Newegarden believes the added weight- 120 pounds or so of the new power package in addition to approximately 60 pounds of the aeroscreen is “excessive.” Indycar will have added 180 pounds to the car over a span of four years.

A new chassis with an integrated aeroscreen would help reduce weight. I hope Indycar looks at other areas where some poundage can be removed from the racecar.

Kirkwood Tests for Andretti

Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood tested a car for Andretti Autosport at Sebring. Kirkwood felt right at home in the Indycar, and he set the day’s fastest lap. He will test again at Barber on October 25th.

There is still no word on Kirkwood’s plans for next season, but I think Andretti may be looking for a way to get him a full time ride. There may be an announcement by the end of the month.

Newgarden’s Pole Keeps Slim Hopes In Play

Some quick thoughts on a wild qualifying session:

I hope the PA was playing the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” as Josef Newgarden won the pole for tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is to earn the maximum 54 points. He got the first one of those today. he still needs Palou to finish near the back of the field. Palou can still win the championship no matter what Newgarden does by finishing as low as 23rd. Newgarden holds the tie breaker over Palou of more second places. If Newgarden wins tomorrow the two drivers will each have three victories.

The qualifying session was appropriately unpredictable way to put a cap on an unpredictable season. There have been some dramatic qualifying days this year. Today was off the charts.

Pato O’Ward’s chances for the title are hurt a bit by his not winning the pole. He will start eighth, two spots ahead of Palou.

Where did Helio Castroneves come from? The four time Indianapolis 500 winner may have given us a preview of 2022. Castroneves held the top spot in the Fast Six until the last lap, when Newgarden and Dixon both beat his time.

If there is any consolation for Palou, it is that he hasn’t had two bad days in a row all season. The team struggled all day in practice, and they went into qualifying not knowing what they had.

Simon Pagenaud is ending his time with Team Penske on a good note. He has qualified well in the last two races.

Hats off to the crew of Will Power’s car. After his huge collision with Jack Harvey at the end of Round 1, they got the car running for Round 2.

Indycar has to review incidents and timing faster. Two rounds had unnecessary lengthy delays. It seemed to me O’Ward and Palou were the only two cars that slowed down for Power’s incident, but i agree that Palou was too far behind to advance. O’Ward, I felt, should have made the Fast Six.

I didn’t understand what Colton Herta’s strategy was, but it wasn’t the correct one. It’s puzzling what happened to him and Alexander Rossi.

If Romain Grosjean can keep his car off the walls tomorrow, he may be a factor in the race.

The starting lineup:

Newgarden Fastest on Slippery Dusty Track

Josef Newgarden led the field in the opening practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Defending winner Colton Herta was second, followed by points leader Alex Palou.

Helio Castroneves locked up and went deep into the dirt, narrowly missing the tire barrier with 18 minutes left in the practice round. Scott McLaughlin stalled on course with about 20 seconds left, and the red flag ended the session.

Weather Tech Raceway was quite slippery this afternoon, with several cars going off track and sending large dust clouds obscuring the vision of drivers behind the errant cars.

Newgarden and Palou were the only title contenders in the top 10. Pato O’Ward was 14th and Scott Dixon was 11th. Newgarden was the only Chevrolet in the top 10. His best lap was 0.08 seconds better than Herta’s fastest circuit. Palou was 0.26 seconds behind.

The top 10:

Date Change for St. Pete

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race of the Indycar Series, will be earlier in 2022 and 2023. In 2022 the race weekend is February 24-27, and in 2023 the season begins March 2-6. I understand the date changes are because of television network availability.

Mid Ohio- Finally Team Penske Finds Victory Circle

Photo by Matt Fraver, Indycar

Charlie Brown got to kick the football at last. On his third try to win a race from the pole, Josef Newgarden hung on despite rapidly fading tires to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio. Marcus Ericsson made up much of the eight second gap he had with less than 10 laps to go to finish just 0.8 seconds behind.

Newgarden;s win ended a season of frustration for himself and Team Penske as both took their first victory of the year. In Detroit race 2, Newgarden lost to Pato O’Ward as his tires could not maintain pace in the final three laps. At Road America gearbox issue with two laps to go caused Newgarden to fade to 21st from the lead. Will Power had Detroit race 1 in hand until his car would not restart after a red flag.

The race was a decent one for Mid Ohio, with a nice battle for positions third through sixth in the middle of the race.

Some Thoughts

Marcus Ericsson once again stood ready to take advantage of a Team Penske misfortune, but Newgarden was able to hang on this time. Ericsson is becoming a great teammate to points leader Alex Palou and Scott Dixon, who is third in points. He sits 5th in points, 104 points behind Palou.

Palou did what he needed to do in what I thought was a championship drive yesterday. He got the most points he could, and he only lost points to the contending driver farthest away from him. Newgarden still trails Palou by 69 points with six races to go.

Pato O”Ward picked his way through the field from 20th to finish eighth and maintain second place in the standings. He trails Palou by 39 points.

Will Power’s season of frustration continues. Yesterday’s lap 4 crash ended what could have been a very strong day for the 2014 series champion. I’m not sure there is any blame to assess here. he and Dixon had a great duel through turns 4 and 5.

Santino Ferucci has driven in four races in 2021 and has four top ten finishes with a ninth place yesterday. Has Rahal found his third full time car? The sponsor, Hy Vee, has to like what they’re seeing. Ferrucci started 22nd.

Romain Grosjean continues to impress with a great save in the keyhole after being blocked by Sebastien Bourdais. His seventh place finish rom 18th on the grid was one of several great drives yesterday. Grosjean has four top tens in seven races.

Ryan Norman had a respectable outing in his Indycar debut. Although he finished 20th, he had worked his way up to 15th at one point and seemed to be on a good pace.

I find it sad that Simon Pagenaud is not a in the conversation for agood finish anymore.

Are the hot seats getting hotter for Felix Rosenqvist, James Hinchcliffe, and Ryan Hunter-Reay? Sunday’s first lap incident involving all three drivers didn’t help their causes any.

Colton Herta’s race woes continue. Two bad pit stops knocked Herta out of contention yesterday. He qualifies well, but the team needs to work on the race setup.

Jack Harvey’s team needs to rethink their strategy. Once again, they chose an off strategy move which didn’t pay off. The Meyer Shank team seems too eager to try something different instead of seeing how the race will play out. They have been in a funk since winning the Indianapolis 500 with Helio Castroneves.

Side Bars

It was a profitable day for the Ohio State Troopers, who were busy all day, “welcoming” motorists to Ohio on Interstates 71 and 70.

The crowd was near the normal size for Mid Ohio. Indycar races on July 4th have not been well attended in the past. While I would prefer to celebrate the 4th in some other fashion, I was okay with the relatively short drive in the same day.

I liked the early start time. Even if Mid Ohio returns to its traditional date next year, I hope they retain the noon start,.

Front Row Show Renewed for Third Straight Week

Photo of Josef Newgarden by Matt Fraver, Indycar

Indycar’s longest running show, Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta in the front row, has been renewed by the series for a third straight week. Newgarden edged Herta this time by just 0.004 seconds in a wild qualifying session that saw lots of sliding and dirt thrown around, it had a controversial ending to Group 1 in Round 1.

Jack Harvey looked to be safely the top six ubtil he spun and came to halt just ahead of the timing line. Alexander rossi and Simon Pagenaud sped by, but did not slow enough according to race control. At the checkered flag, Harvey and Pagenaud were in and Rossi was out. Harvey lost his best lap, and Pagenaud and Rossi lost their final lap. As a result, Harvey and Pagenaud did not advance, but Rossi did. Rossi would go on to make the Fast Six.

The question now is, can Newgarden win? His last two poles looked like dominating wins, but tire and gear issues cost him each of the last two races with just a few laps to go. Herta has finished fourth and second in the previous two races.

Some Thoughts

Rinus VeeKay had a nice return race from his injury. The second year driver advanced to round 2.

The Fast Six seemed like old times with two cars each from Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti.

Will Power had to scramble in Round 1 to get his car fired again. He finally got on track with just four minutes left. Power, the active leader in pole positions, made it to the Fast Six. Power still does not have a pole this year. This is not the first time the 12 car has had electrical issues.

I hope Jack Harvey has his bad luck for the weekend out of the way now and can get a decent finish tomorrow.

Points leader Alex Palou starts seventh, while Scott Dixon starts fifth. Pato O’Ward, second in points, starts 20th.

Results:

Final practice begins in just a few minutes. Enjoy.

Newgarden Paces First Practice

Is this the weekend Josef Newgarden gets to the finish line first? The team Penske driver served notice that he is ready to grab his first win of the season, leading today’s only practice session by a bit less than 0.03 seconds over Pato O’Ward.

Jack Harvey was third, not too far behind points runner up O’Ward. Harvey hopes to reverse the team’s race day misfortunes this weekend.

Points leader Alex Palou finished ninth today with a lap he set early in the 45 minute session. Scott Dixon was seventh, putting the three top title contenders in the top ten.

Felix Rosenqvist spun and stalled exiting turn 1, causing a red flag which lasted about three minutes. Colton Herta went off track in turn 11, somehow kept the car away from the wall, and returned to the track. It was a wild ride nd quite a save. Takuma Sato went wide in the final turn in the final minute of the session and bumped the tire barrier, but he was able to drive back to the pits.

Results:

Indycar’s next practice is at 9:05 am EDT on peacock with Qualifying at Noon, also on Peacock. Qualifying will be aired on NBCSN at 8 pm tomorrow night.

Newgarden Leads Chevy 1-2-3 in Practice 2

Josef Newgarden led the final practice round before qualifying for the GMR Grand Prix at 4: 30. Newgarden edged Rings Veekay and teammate Will Power in a Chevy sweep of the top 3. All four TeM Penske cars finished in the top 10, with Scott McLaughlin fifth and Simon Pagenaud eighth.

Pato O’ Ward struggled for most of the session but salvaged a ninth place at the flag.

Scott Dixon had a clutch failure and ended 23rd.

Juan Pablo Montoya struggled the entire practice period and was the slowest car

The top 12:

In

Newgarden Fastest in Friday Practice

Photo: Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Things are back to normal at St. Pete. Josef newgarden and team Penske teammate Will Power ended the lone Friday practice 1-2 on the speed chart. Newgarden’s time of 1:00.8029 was 0.083 seconds faster than Power. Colton Herta was third quick. The top five were within 0.0963 seconds of Newgarden.

The session was red flagged with just a couple minutes to go when Sebastien Bourdais spun. Cars returned to the track with just seconds left, but no one had time to get another completed lap.

Discussing today’s track conditions and the closeness of the times, Newgarden said that the track was “really high grip today.” He believed that the high grip contributed to the close speeds among the top five.

The Day

The crowd got bigger as the day went on. I’m not sure that it reached the 20,000 capacity, but a decent number of people were there. Mask wearing, which was good at first, diminished as more people came.

I didn’t care for waiting until 4:15 for the first appearance by Indycar today. I understand why a practice needed to be cut from the schedule, but an earlier time for your featured series would be better.

Two liveries I really liked- Simon Pagenaud’s Australian Gold.

Indycar photo by Chris Owens

And Alec Palou’s NTT Data. I love the number in a circle.

Indyvar photo by Chris Owens

Notes- Dalton Keller seemed to be having an engine issue. His car sounded very rough entering turn 1.

It was interesting watching Romain Grosjean try different lines through the first turn.

Tomorrow Indycar has practice at 9:45 a6 qualifying at 1:45. Both sessions are live on Peacock. The qualifying will re air on NBCSN at 10 pm Eastern.