Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi were the tow fastest drivers in Thursday’s test on the IMS road course. Eight drivers from four teams turned laps on a day that might closely reflect the conditions for the Gallagher Grand Prix July 30.
Herta was happy to drive the track on which he won the GMR Grand Prix in May in dry conditions.
“It’s good to get an understanding of what its going to be like that day,” Herta said.
Grosjean Talks about May
Romain Grosjean had an issue with his car in the morning and only ran two laps. he talked about his experience in his first Indianapolis 500.
“I was annoyed with the car. I hope I never have that car again,” he told the media. Asked his impression of the opening ceremonies, Grosjean said “That was really cool.”
Kirkwood Excited for Mid Ohio
Kyle Kirkwood is looking forward to next weekend’s race at Mid Ohio. The rookie for A. J. Foyt Racing has had a lot of success there when he was driving in The Road to Indy.
“Mid Ohio is my number one track. I can’t wait to go to that one,” Kirkwood said. he also noted that the Lexington track is probably the best road course for the team.
“I just love driving that track” he said.
Kirkwood said Iowa was “a lot of fun to drive.”
Kirkwood thought the 500 pre race was “Amazing. I don’t think anything really compares to that. You sit on the grid, and I’ve never had that sensation of the crowd and the prerace ceremonies. I thought it was pretty big at St. Pete. Pretty much every other grid I go to will be less nerve wracking because of the experience I had at the 500.”
Note: I did not feel well yesterday and left the track before practic began. I took a rapid COVID test bwhich was positive, then I arranged a PCR test. I should get those results today. I am heading home this morning to isolate if necessary.
Kyle Kirkwood put up the fastest time in yesterday’s first practice session for the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit. The A. J. Foyt Racing driver turned a lap of 1:16.1345 edged Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi. All three drivers have announced new deals for 2023. O’Ward extended his contract with Arrow McLaren SP, Rossi joins O’Ward as a teammate next year, Kirkwood moves into Rossi’s current ride at Andretti Autosport.
Felix Rosenqvist slid in turn 1 and hit the barrier. The car suffered moderate damage.
Kirkwood also was fastest in practice in the IMSA GTD class.
The Day at Belle Isle
The Friday crowd was vary large for the final race on the island.
It was nice to see activity nin the infield again. In 2021 all vendors were outside the track.
Instead of a food court the food trucks lined up on na drive just before the paddock. The event provided many more tables this year.
I will report remotely the rest of the weelend, and we will see what happens as afr as Road America goes.
If you’re shocked by this, you haven’t been paying attention. This announcement takes the mystery out of Friday’s team announcement.
The Andretti release:
Andretti Autosport has today announced that NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie and 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Champion Kyle Kirkwood will pilot the No. 27 AutoNation Honda starting in the 2023 season.
“I couldn’t be more excited to return to Andretti Autosport next year and represent AutoNation and Honda.” said Kirkwood. “Andretti Autosport is a place I’ve called home for years past and I have truly felt like family. I have a ton of loyalty to the team, and it means a lot to have Michael and the Andretti team offer me this opportunity. AutoNation has been doing great work in raising awareness and funding for cancer research. I’m honored to Drive Pink (DRVPNK) next season.”
Kirkwood continued, “I have worked extremely hard this season and will continue to work harder every day for the A.J. Foyt team. I want to thank the entire team at A.J. Foyt Racing for giving me the opportunity to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The group on the No. 14 car have been incredible and I am beyond grateful to them for all the amazing experiences we have been able to share together so far this season.”
AutoNation, America’s largest and most admired automotive retailer, will serve as the primary sponsor for the full 2023 racing calendar as they drive towards $35 million donated in the fight against cancer. As a long-time partner with the championship-winning organization, AutoNation and DRVPNK have appeared on race cars across the Andretti Autosport INDYCAR team since 2014.
“We really enjoyed having Kyle as part of our Indy Lights team and he’s off to a strong start in INDYCAR,” said Andretti Autosport Chairman and CEO Michael Andretti. “I think he’ll bring a fresh perspective and will be competitive. We are looking forward to helping him continue his career growth.
“AutoNation first joined the team eight years ago and we’ve been thrilled to see how their support has continued to grow over the years. We’ve seen a lot of successes both on and off the track and are excited to see what Kyle and AutoNation can do together for the DRVPNK campaign.”
“We are excited to welcome Kyle to the team and for the passion and commitment he will bring to our mission to drive out cancer, through DRVPNK,” said Marc Cannon, AutoNation CXO and EVP. “We would also like to wish Alexander all the best and thank him for his endless efforts to support AutoNation’s mission to drive out cancer over the years.”
With this move, it is confirmed that Alexander Rossi will depart the team at the conclusion of the 2022 season after seven years. Together, Rossi and Andretti have captured seven wins, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in Rossi’s rookie 2016 INDYCAR campaign.
“Alexander has been a great contender for us, and we’ve enjoyed having him as part of the team for seven seasons,” added Andretti. “He’s won races and become a leader in the team, but all careers and all teams evolve, and we’ve mutually decided it’s time for each of us to move on. I have no doubt he’ll have a continued, successful INDYCAR career and we wish him the best. In the meantime, we are all working hard to finish the 2022 season strong.”
Takuma Sato kept the fastest lap of the day in leading Thursday’s practice as he did Tuesday. His best lap, 227.519 mph, was a bit slower than Tuesday’s best of 228.939 mph. Scott Dixon again was second after leading until the final half hour.
The Dale Coyne team also had its second driver, David Malukas, with today’s third best time. Malukas was seventh on Tuesday.
In the final hour Romain Grosjean had three close calls with the outside wall. He did not make contact, but with tomorrow’s higher speeds Grosjean needs to be careful about drifting out on that far on corner exit.
A. J. Foyt Racing jumped into the top 12 with J. R. Hildebrand fourth and Dalton Kellett 11th.
The top 12, by teams:
Although no Penske driver cracked the top 12, Will Power was the fastest on the no tow list. I expect Penske drivers to be in the hunt for the top 12 on Saturday.
After practice Ed Carpenter said no one knows who will be really good for qualifying
“…a lot of people haven’t shown their hand just yet. I don’t think Ganassi has really shown anything — there’s someone else, McLaren I don’t think did any Q sims either today. So there’s some big hitters that still are concealing what they can do.” he said.
Kyle Kirkwood said of the additional power that cars will have tomorrow and Saturday,
“For me it’s a little bit intimidating going from qually sim and pulling out the downforce out and feeling how light the car is there. It’s kind of like you don’t really want to turn the wheel because you’re just unsure what the car is going to do, and adding another 10 or 15 miles per hour to it is going to be less than comfortable, I would have to say. From the people that I’ve talked to they all say it’s not that big of a step. It actually feels better because you get the runs out of the corners and it’s not like you lose tons of grip due to the speed. I guess I’ll let you know after I go through Turn 1 the first time with more power.”
Jimmie Johnson added, “Yeah, all of that, and then the only thing to add is the last time I was in qualifying trim here was in a Cup car, and we let off used little brake to get into Turn 1. So to feel the boost and the straightaway speed and look down at that 90-degree turn and think that I’ll hold it flat, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with my right foot.”
Kyle Kirkwood is excited to be in his first 500. I spoke with the A. J. Foyt Racing driver yesterday after practice.
“It’s a really cool thing,” Kirkwood said of driving in the 500 for the first time.
He was happy with his morning run when the number 14 car finished 11th.
“We did the most laps out of everyone. So we’re getting the critical things that we’ve got to take everything apart, put our car back together and we seem to be better than we started off for some reason. So we’re happy with everything works around.”
Kirkwood felt his car picked up where they stopped at the end of the open test last month.
“You know, it’s just starting off. Everyone’s kind of starting off slow because it’s such a long, such a long two weeks of testing and everything so it’s really just making sure we got all the big things sorted out and we’ll start fine tuning the car as days go on,” Kirkwood said.
“We feel good. I think the conditions are quite a bit different than they were at the at the open test. I think everyone out there seemed to struggle a little bit more in traffic, for whatever that reason,” he continued. “We’ve had some rain over the past couple weeks and the track might have been a bit dirty. Possible. . But we feel we feel okay at the moment.”
The team’s plan for yesterday afternoon was “We’ve got a big list of items that we need to get through this next week and we’re just hitting all this off gathering as much data together and then we’ll reconvene or go back over it at some point, either at the end of this week or next week and figure out exactly what we have and we’re looking forward to get through these types of items and hopefully ended up with a really good car at the end.”
At St. Pete Kirkwood mentioned that he didn’t have much oval experience. Racing at Texas seems to have helped his confidence on ovals.
“Yeah, I’m very comfortable. It’s a bit different than Texas is given how flat the track is. But I feel very comfortable in the number 14 Rokit Chevrolet. “
Kirkwood ended up 21st in the afternoon session. It’s not unusual to see cars slide backwards in the second practice session as the team tries different setups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scott McLaughlin turned a sizzling final lap as time expired to win the pole for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding. He edged teammate Will Power, who will start on the front row for the 12th time at St. Pete.
Group 1 in Round 1 ended with six different teams advancing, including A. J Foyt Racing with Kyle Kirkwood, Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus Veekay. Colton Herta led the round with a time of 59.466 seconds, followed by Graham Rahal, VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Kirkwood, and Josef Newgarden.
Group 2 saw Power lead with a lap of 59,394 seconds, followed by McLaughlin, Romain Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou. Palou and Grosjean recovered from heavy damage in the morning practice.
The second round saw a great battle for the lead between Power, Grosjean, McLaughlin, and Herta, with Power taking the round. Power set a track record with his lap of 59.346 seconds.
The Firestone Fast Six looked to be comfortably in Power’s grasp as Herta, Grosjean, and Pagenaud all failed to beat his time. McLaughlin’s final lap was 0.12 seconds better than his teammate. The second year driver has earned his first career pole.
Two drivers and teams who had great drives today- Kyle Kirkwood of A. J. Foyt Racing and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing. Neither team is known for their prowess on road and street courses, nut today may be a sign that the situation could be about to change. Kirkwood finished fifth in Round 1. The rookie has shown in two days how talented he is.
VeeKay appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered mid -season last year. VeeKay was third in Round 1, sixth in Round 2, will start fourth tomorrow.
The eighteenth Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg began late this morning with a gala luncheon. Drivers from each of the series racing on the downtown streets were present. Mayor Ken Welch, who will serve as the race’s Grand Marshall, welcomed everyone. The race expects a record crowd for the three day long event.
The drivers each gave brief remarks.
I chatted with Takuma Sato, David Malukas, and Kyle Kirkwood.
Sato is enjoying his new team, Dale Coyne Racing.
“I love it. Right obviously you know some nervousness but it’s a lot of excitement in a new team new boys engineers and you know, I’m happily settling. So very, very good.”
About his rookie teammate, Sato said,
“…he’s obviously the one of the upcoming young drivers, is very bright and cheerful and he’s been quick to learn so I think we have a really good opportunity to work together.”
Sato is excited for this weekend, but thinks there are a lot of unknowns.
“Well, I would say you know, re are little unknown factors but yeah, that’s how it is and in particular for the first practice for the day.”
Sato’s teammate, David Malukas is eager to begin his Indycar career. He ha d a lot of praise for Sato, who was on his radio during the first test day at Sebring.
“Sebring was great. I mean, the first day was amazing, I think we ended up being like P two on the time. It’s like I was always surprised. Second day, we tried many different changes, because the whole goal we’re not winning Sebring. We didn’t want to chase the car to try to get ready for today. And we found some pluses somewhere like confusing, but in the end we were exactly right. After three months off, I was like really impressed with the car. I was like, What do I do? Takuma has been a big help. Oh, of course. I mean, he has so much expertise and he helped me so incredibly. Like he helped me so much the first day; he didn’t actually drive so like he had the headset on and he was talking to me telling me some information like what I should do. He’s awesome. He’s so friendly.”
Malukas is concerned about pit stops and driving on the alternate tires. About the red tires, he said,
“So I hear rumors. I heard some rumors that like actually sometimes the car’s slower with it because it’s so much grip and it’s so hard that they don’t want you to stand on it, I don’t know. Hopefully we could see like, I mean, there’s a big jump with it. Hopefully we can figure it out and hope like I still hold on to the wheel. Because I heard it gets even heavier.”
Pit stops are totally new to Malukas, but he thinks the walls and the limiter may help him.
“Oh, that’s still very new to me. We did some practice and man I’m not gonna lie I was pretty bad. Takuma did it like perfectly every time so that’s gonna be, I think, the hard part for me is getting it right. I’ve never done that my whole life. So we’ll see how it goes. I think now you know that I like an actual wall and there’s people everywhere. I think it’d be a bit easier because you know, at Sebring we’re trying to simulate a situation with tires, everything and it just wasn’t good. So we’ll see.”
Kyle Kirkwood is happy with how testing went last week and appreciates the help he has received from his A. J. Foyt Racing teammates, Dalton Kellett and Tatiana Calderon.
“Dalton has obviously a wealth of knowledge as well as engineering capabilities and Tatiana hsa a lot of experience. She n a lot of different cars, so there’s a lot of things that she’s been able to add to the team that are just like I’ve never really thought to do that.”
Kirkwood is uncertain how the alternate tires will perform.
“They changed this weekend. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I think from my knowledge, looking at the seat they’re gonna be quicker but they’re going to go away faster. I don’t know what made you know, I’ll let you know I’ve never driven on red tire so that’s what I was wondering. Yeah, anticipation. I’ll let you know after the first practice.”
Kyle Kirkwood is excited to begin his first NTT Indycar Series season. The driver of car 14 for A. J. Foyt Racing shared his outlook on the 2022 campaign this morning at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg First Block event.
Kirkwood’s background and winning ways n the Road to Indy should serve him well in Indycar. He is the first driver to win the championship at each rung of the ladder system, with 31 victories in 50 races.
As far as what will make the 2022 season successful, Kirkwood isn’t setting specific goals. He is looking at each round and then will total everything up at the end. What will be a successful season?
” I’m not going to really pinpoint it. I can’t say right now. Oh, if we finish top 10 in the championship that will be successful. It’s gonna be very situational. It depends where we’re at on pace, how strategy goes how everything plays out, and we’ll just have to have to pick it off weekend by weekend and not be upset about a weekend because I feel like we should have done better than we did. Yeah, obviously I’ll be disappointed but if we do better than we think that we should have even though it might be a 15th place finish. From the outside it looks bad but from within the team, it’s a success. So yeah, so we just have to take it weekend by weekend and piece everything together throughout every single weekend and if after 17 races and we have a good season, then I’ll be satisfied.
Kirkwood talked about his experience at the Rolex 24. His GTD Pro Lexus was fighting for a podium finish, but faded near the end of the race. He talked about how driving sports cars gives him the experience that the Road to Indy doesn’t cover,.
” I learned actually a lot in sports car stuff. The consequences are massive in a sports car compared to an Indy car. If you slide the car, you lose a lot of time so you have to be very precise. Also, one thing that you don’t get in the lower categories that you do in IMSA, and IndyCar or that you have to do is pitstops and a wall and tire and fuel saving. Those are all things that you don’t get in the lower series. So by me running an IMSA. It’s a lot that I can carry over to the IndyCar season. “
Kirkwood plans to do “four or five more sports car races” this year.
Unfamiliar tracks may be a bit of a challenge, but Kirkwood is eager to learn them. His favorite tracks seem to be those run by Green-Savoree, the St. Pete promoters. He talks about his favorite tracks and which tracks he needs to learn.
“St. Pete because it’s it’s a home track for me. I get a lot of family friends to come out to it. The weather’s always great. There’s just something unique about it. Even though it’s a street course it promotes a lot of good racing, a lot of good passes. And then Mid Ohio, but that’s a bit of a bias because I’ve won probably 13 or 15 races that I’ve run there. So every time someone asked me that (my favorite tracks) it’s either here or Mid Ohio, which is ironically a Green-Savoree event as well. Yeah, but they do a handful of them. Those are two of my favorites.”
” Most likely one of the new places. I don’t have a lot of oval experience. So learning the dynamics of Indianapolis or Iowa is going to be tough for me because I haven’t been to either one of those places or driven around it. But yeah, so those will be one of the toughest I think some of the road courses that I have been to or the street courses I’ve been to will be a bit more of a breeze but the ovals will will definitely be tough.”