Newgarden Leads Day 2

The sun escaped its cloud prison and the Indycar series team got in a four hour practice at IMS today. The session saw cars running in groups and practicing passing. Teams ran together to get a feel for the draft..

Just two caution periods for track inspections interrupted today’s practice period.

Josef Newgarden led today’s session with lap at 229.519 mph. Takuma Sato also had a lap over 229 mph, just 0.0157 seconds slower. The next five drivers had speeds in the 228 mph range.

Newgarden has won the last two races and feels good about his chances in the 500. After the test ended, he told the media<

“I can’t deny things feel really good on the 2 car. They’re just progressing. It’s not like two steps forward, two steps back, or vice versa. I feel like it’s going forward every single time, and we’re just getting better.

We’ve been on a good trajectory at the moment. I don’t want to see it flatten too much; I want to see it go the other way. I feel confident with what we’ve got, feel good at showing up anywhere. Being at Team Penske makes that easier. I always feel confident in our group.”

Unlike Wednesday’s string of yellows for incidents, today was issue free. Drivers completed 3,267 laps. Marcus Ericsson completed he most laps, 148.

Marco Andretti climbs into the 98 to start his day.

The top 10 had three Chevys and seven Hondas. All five cars from Chip Ganassi Racing were in the top 10. Tony Kanaan was the fastest from the team at third place with a lap of 228.767.

Tony Kanaan in turn 2

Helio Castroneves did not run today. He is uninjured, but his car was not repaired in time from yesterday’s crash.

Notes

Marco Andretti was the only Andretti Autosport driver in the top 15 in sixth place. Romain Grosjean finished 16th. Alexander Rossi was 23rd and Colton Herta was 28th. Puzzling results for a team that used to be really good at IMS.

Colton Herta gets ready to start the test session

Sato was not driving the car he will drive in the 500 this week. The team did not want to risk damage to their speedway car.

Santino Ferrucci showed some speed . he finished twelfth today but was in the top 10 for a good chunk of the session. I don’t understand why he doesn’t have a full time ride.

Callum Ilott again led the pure rookies. Keep an eye on him next month.

Will Power pointed out at the end of the day that today’s results mean nothing for qualifying. The cars ran without their qualifying boost, and qualifying is one car on track, not several that can give the trailing car a tow.

“You need (extra boost for qualifying), with everyone going on single runs on exactly the same fuel load with no draft, all that. That’s the only way you’ll know,” Power said.

Thanks for following along these two days. It was great to be back at IMS with cars running on the oval.

Today’s time sheet

Quick Thoughts- Long Beach Grand Prix

Photo: Josef Newgarden earns a hard -fought win

Today’s race showed that a street course can produce exciting racing. Pit stop strategy got Josef Newgarden to the lead. He then had to defend against three challengers- Colton Herta, Alex Palou, and Romain Grosjean. Newgarden brilliantly defended the lines going into the corners to keep Grosjean at bay.

There was a three -way battle for the lead over the last 20 laps. You just can’t ask for more.

Team Penske has swept the season so far, which should worry the rest of the paddock. Scott McLauglin won the opener at St. Pete. Newgarden has now won two in a row heading to Barber, one of his favorite tracks.

Romain Grosjean

Half a Loaf for Andretti

Andretti Autosport hoped to have a much- needed successful weekend. Herta won the pole, and Alexander Rossi and Grosjean joined him in the Fast Six.

A day that looked like a victory, a potential second podium spot, and a top ten dissolved by the halfway mark.

It almost all got away from them. Grosjean’s second place saved the day. Rossi had two forays into runoff areas and Herta crashed. Rossi did finish eighth after running as high as fourth.

As talented as Herta is, he has difficulty playing catch-up. In Nashville last year he also crashed while trying to chase down the leader.

Johnson’s Weekend of Contact

Jimmie Johnson had arguably his most forgettable weekend of his Indycar career. He had wall in every session but one. Johnson injured his hand in Friday’s practice crash. After the first two races and his sixth place result at Texas, I though we might be seeing some progress. Long Beach is a big setback for Johnson.

Kyle Kirkwood

Top Ten for Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood finished 10th today for A, J, Foyt Racing. This will not be his last top ten finish this season. Kirkwood has done a great job qualifying and today the team got a good race result. He was consistent all day.

The other rookies did not have great days. Kirkwood’s teammate Tatiana Calderon finished 16th, her best result to date. The Foyt rookies were the two highest finishing rookies.

The others- Christian Lundgaard (18th), David Malukas ((21st), Callum Ilott (24th), and Devlin DeFrancesco (25th) had contact or mechanical issues. Lundgaard was the only other rookie running at the finish.

Scott Dixon

Dixon has been relatively invisible this season. He started 16th and finished sixth, a decent day for anyone, but below par for a six time champion. Dixon sits fifth in points, but it has been a very quiet fifth. It has been almost a year since Dixon won a race.

Disappointing Days

Besides Herta and Rossi, Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, and Simon Pagenaud had hopes for better results.

McLaughlin’s troubles began after two laps of the warmup, when a cracked header ended his practice time. The engine was replaced. He spun exiting the hairpin and recovered to finish 14th but slipped to second in the point standings.

Marcus Ericsson, whom I expected to contend for the win today, spun on lap 66 while fighting for third place and ended up parked in a runoff area for the rest of the day. He will be back and should get a win sometime this year.

Simon Pagenaud did some flower gardening around the fountain and ended the race in 19th. After a promising stat to the weekend on Friday when he led the first practice, Pagenaud seemed to lose some steam with each session. I am puzzled by what I have seen from Meyer Shank Racing this year. I thought they would be much better.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was a success. It returned to its traditional spot on the calendar, drew huge crowds each day, and produced a great race. I will have a weekend wrap up in the morning before heading back to Indy. Thank you all for following along this weekend.

Quick Thoughts- Expel 375

After a processional beginning the race came alive on lap 148 after the last caution period. Staring on lap 150 the lead changed hands four times in 15 laps.

A last turn pass for the win always makes a race better. Josef Newgarden said in the post race press conference that he had conceded the win, but saw an opportunity when he got to turn 3 of the final lap.

The start

There was more passing than I expected. Newgarden said the headwind down the front stretch helped and that the special session yesterday did clean up the high line a bit.

Team Penske has come out of the gate strong this season after a lackluster 2021. In the two races this young season, they have two wins and four of the six podium positions.

Scott McLaughlin is setting himself up for a strong championship run. Two front row starts, a win and a second place finish leaves with a 28 point lead over Will Power.

Great Drives

Jimmie Johnson will get the bulk of the praise for his sixth place finish after starting 18th. He steadily and quietly moved up the field.

But my driver of the day is Santino Ferrucci. Ferrucci replaced Jack Harvey this morning when Harvey was not cleared to drive after his crash in practice yesterday afternoon. Indycar allowed him 15 minutes to shake down the car, which was moved to the back of the grid. For Ferrucci to finish ninth under the circumstances is amazing.

Marcus Ericsson finished third from 14th and being in contention near the end. All four Ganassi cars finished in the top 10.

The season is shaping up to be a shootout between Penske and Ganassi drivers.

Andretti Woes Continue

Andretti Autosport had another forgettable day with three cars finishing in the bottom four positions. Alexander Rossi completed just 11 laps before retiring with mechanical issues. Romain Grosjean went out next with a water pressure problem on lap 103.

Devlin DeFrancesco was involved in a three car crash also involving Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves. It appeared that he had a hand in all three yellows. I’m anxious to see the replay.

Colton Herta came home 12th one lap down.

AMSP Title Hopes Fading Fast

Felix Rosenqvist did not lead a lap despite starting on pole. Her eventually retired and finished 21st after a bad pit stop. Pato O’Ward hit a crewman on a stop and finished 15th. O’ward is 13th in points and he needs a really good result at Long Beach to get in contention. He is also going to need some help.

More Oval Training for Indy Lights?

Two accidents today involved Indy Lights rookies. Kyle Kirkwood spun and hit the wall in turn 4. Devlin DeFrancesco was involved in a three car accident in between turns three and four.

Texas was the first high speed oval for the rookies. The question is, should Indy Lights run more ovals, especially high speed tracks? The absence of the Freedom 100 at IMS took away the one fast oval for the junior series.

I understand that budget concerns about equipment damage is a factor in the schedule structure, but are they really helping the drivers who come to Indycar without any experience on a track like Texas?

Newgarden Leads Final Practice; Harvey Crashes

Josef Newgarden led a final practice interrupted by a heavy crash involving Jack Harvey. Following the cleanup Indycar extended the session time to make up for the lost time.

Before the final practice, seven cars ran high downforce setups in an attempt to make the second lane drivable for tomorrow’s race. Firestone measurements indicate that there is more grip in that lane. How that translates to the racing line remains to be seen.

About 20 minutes into the practice Jack Harvey brushed the outside wall at the exit of turn 2. The HyVee machine darted to the inside of the track and made heavy contact with the inside wall, destroying the front of the car and the left rear side. Harvey was able to walk away from the car.

None of the on track sessions today were during the time that the race will take place tomorrow. I do think Newgarden has a very fast car. His seventh starting spot is not an obstacle to his winning the race. Any of the first seven starters has a good chance to win.

Practice results:

Thanks for following along today. Look for my pre race story in the morning and a post about my ride around the track this evening.

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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.