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.

IMS Tire Test – Looking Two Seasons Ahead

Photo: Pato O’Ward will represent Chevy in today’s test.

Today’s schedule:

Tire testing 9-12

Break 12-1

Tire testing 1-5

Today’s tire test won’t have the drama or excitement of Wednesday’s Rookie Orientation, but it has importance for the next two seasons of the NTT Indycar Series. In addition to testing next year’s tire compound for the Indianapolis 500, Indycar will add weight to the cars, simulating the added weight in 2023 of the larger 2.4 liter engine and the hybrid energy recovery system. The new components should about 125 pounds to the cars. The extra weight will give the series an idea of how the balance of the cars will change under more weight.

I am very interested to hear what Jay Frye and the technical crew says about today’s results. We are a long way from the final configuration for 2023.

Helio Castroneves after winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 in May

Meyer Shank Racing with Helio Castroneves will represent Honda and Arrow McLaren SP with Pato O’Ward will test for Chevy. are the test cars. The oldest driver in the series and one of the youngest drivers providing input reflects the 2021 season and the generational transition Indycar is going through.

As far as I know the turn 2 mounds are open. There is no streaming for today’s activity.

Rain Cuts ROP Short; Grosjean and Johnson Have Long Wait to Finish

The on again, off again rain finally cut short Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway around 4 pm this afternoon, leaving Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson short of completing their rookie tests. The drivers, who just completed their first season in Indycar, will have to wait until the open test in April to finish the final laps of phase three of the 40 lap test. The afternoon stoppage was the second one of the day, and there was not enough time to get the track dry for more running.

These photos by Joe Skibinski of Indycar sum up the day. Race cars and dark clouds

Grosjean needs two more laps at 215 mph or better, while Johnson needs about five laps.

Johnson had a bit of an advantage as he remains with his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Grosjean not only had the stress of his first time driving on the IMS oval, but also the concerns of his first day with a new team. It was his first day as a driver for Andretti Autosport.

Romain Grosjean photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Asked about the stress, Grosjean said,

“I think really the most stressful part was to know what my first lap speed was going to be. You grow up or move from there. I had no idea what to expect to get to 205. Then it went pretty smoothly, enjoyed
it. When you have to go above 215, that’s where the fun starts. ”

Grosjean felt at ease with the support he received

“I got some good explanation, some good tip from the guys, from the engineers also, James Hinchcliffe came in the morning, which I appreciated a lot. Michael was there, as well. When you’ve got those guys, they know what they’re talking about, so that was great to
be with them and to know what to do.”

Jimmie Johnson photo by Chris Owens Indycar

Johnson fuflilled a childhood dream by running the oval in an Indycar.

“… just a special day to drive an INDYCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have truly, truly enjoyed it. It was a childhood dream come true. The experience is more than expected and something that I really, really enjoyed.”

He said today has heightened his interest in driving in the 500.

“(My interest) Definitely, definitely increased. I think
the look I had at Texas increased it and brought me here.
A little short on laps for what I wanted to experience today.
As comfortable as I felt my interest is at the highest it’s
been, certainly my comfort is at the highest it’s been. All
that said, there’s still a lot of work between now and really
pulling through with this opportunity.”

In an interview just after the day ended, Johnson’s face lit up when he was asked if today made him want to run the 500. While he admitted there is “still a lot of work to do” for him to be able to run in May, he seems determined to make it happen.

It was an exciting day to see two veteran drivers turn their first Indycar laps on an oval. For Grosjean, it was just the second time he had seen open wheel cars on the oval. Johnson, who has won at IMS four times in NASCAR on the oval, I enjoyed watching him run in a different type of car.

The rookie class for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 could be very deep in talent and numbers. In addition to Grosjean and Johnson, there could be up to four drivers from this year’s Indy Lights Series, plus maybe a current NASCAR driver.

Update from IMS- Rain Delays Rookie Tests

A damp morning pushed back the start of on track activity by 10 minutes this morning. Jimmie Johnson left thepits first Romain Grosjean followed. Both drivers did an installation lap and returned to the pits. Johnson left to begin Phase 1 of his roomie test. Grosjean started out, but the yellow light came on for moisture at the south end of the track.

Johnson had completed five laps with a top speed of 208 mph.

Track drying efforts halted after a soaking rain hit the track.

Track drying has just resumed. More rain may arrive around 3:30.

Here are some photos from this morning.

Johnson, Grosjean Take Next Step in Indycar Careers

Photo: Romain Grosjean set for his new team.

Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean hope to complete Rookie Oientation tests at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in preparation for their Indianapolis 500 debuts next May.

Jimmie Johnson. Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Johnson did not run any ovals in 2021, while Grosjean ran one, At World Wide Technology Raceway. Grosjean did a great job on his initial oval run.

Today’s activity begins at 10:30 am. ROP was originally scheduled to begin at noon, but was moved up because of a chance of rain this afternoon. The Turn 2 viewing mounds are open. There is no streaming of the tests.

Each car gets three sets of tires for the three phase test.

Phase 1- 10 laps 205-210 mph

Phase 2- 15 laps at 210-215 mph

Phase 3- 15 laps at at 215 + mph.

It will be hard to get used to seeing the 28 car with someone other than Ryan Hunter-Reay in it.

Grosjean, Johnson Take IMS Rookie Tests Wednesday

From Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway & NTT INDYCAR SERIES
Grosjean, Johnson To Take Indy 500 Rookie Test Wednesday at IMS


Grosjean and Johnson, both series rookies in the 2021 season, will attempt to complete the test that involves a series of laps at three controlled speed phases on the 2.5-mile oval. The Rookie Orientation Program is a prerequisite for participation in the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29, 2022.
Former Formula One standout Grosjean plans to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport, while seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson is exploring possible participation in the race in the No. 48 Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Note

I understand that fans may view the tests from the turn 2 viewing mounds.

Pagenaud Joins Meyer Shank Racing

From Meyer Shank Racing:

Pataskala, Ohio (27 September 2021) – INDYCAR SERIES Champion and winner of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 Simon Pagenaud will join Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship driving the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda. Pagenaud will team with four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves in the No. 06 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda.

Pagenaud will be joining MSR which has grown its presence in the series continuously since it’s series debut in 2017 with a one-off entry in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. In five short years, MSR won the prestigious 2021 Indianapolis 500 with Castroneves. The 2022 season will mark the first two-car full-time campaign for MSR as it will field two Indianapolis 500 winners in the team’s hunt for the 2022 INDYCAR championship.

“Next year will be a big year for MSR and I think we have a very strong lineup of drivers between Simon and Helio,” said Mike Shank. “We have built this program every year, growing with our partners and working to have all the ingredients we need to be competitive. Our Indianapolis 500 win was a big breakthrough, and we are looking forward to having a consistently competitive program that will have the chance to fight for wins and podiums no matter where we go and I think this lineup will help us do that.”

“This is such an exciting time in my career,” said Pagenaud. “MSR has proven it is a high-quality organization when they won the Indianapolis 500 and pairing Helio and me together will help our team in 2022 and beyond. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”

Pagenaud claimed the 2019 Indianapolis 500 victory with a convincing run out front after starting from the pole. He was the first polesitter to win the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2009. Pagenaud also scored a strong third-place podium finish in the 2021 edition of the race.

Pagenaud also won the 2016 INDYCAR Championship and has 15 wins, 14 poles and 37 podium finishes since making his series debut in 2011.

Beyond his success in INDYCAR, Pagenaud has also shown strength in sports car competition, collecting podium finishes in the most iconic IMSA SportsCar Championship races. Pagenaud finished second in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona and collected a third place finish in the 2017 and 2020 Petit Le Mans. He also participated in some prestigious European endurance races, the most iconic being the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans where he missed victory by a very close margin.

Before becoming a champion in America, Pagenaud competed in Europe for several years, winning the ‘Volant Elf’, a young drivers’ competition, in 2001, which marked the start of his career. Until 2006 he moved through the ranks of some of the most renowned young drivers’ formulae in Europe before deciding to pursue his career in the United States.

Meyer Shank Racing will head into the 2022 race season equipped with two-full season INDYCAR entries with the returning support from primary sponsors AutoNation and SiriusXM as well as continued partnerships with CAP fixtures, Rocky Fork Co. and Roberts Service Group.

Long Beach Thoughts- A Race that Reflected the Season

As races at Long Beach go, today was one of the better ones. Yellows forced pit strategy, the winning pass came on the track, and there was early doubts as to who would win the championship. Hometown driver Colton Herta won the race after starting 14th. He should have won pole yesterday, but a mistake in qualifying pushed him back on the grid.

Herta led every session except for qualifying. He held off Josef Newgarden on the last restart to win by 0.5883 seconds. The sad thing about eing the winner of the last race of the year is that no one cares. It is a shame in this instance. Herta grew up in Southern California and first went to this race when he was 2 years old to watch his father Bryan race. Winning here is very special for him, but everyone focused on seris champion Alex Palou.

Herta will have to win here next April when the 2022 edition of the Long Beach Grand Prix runs. Don’t bet against him. He won California this year.

9/26/2021 Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

A Deserving Champion

Alex Palou won the NTT Indycar series championship with consistent driving and an unflappable focus. he reminds me of Scott Dixon in his approach to a race. I don’t think this will be the last of his titles. I will have more on him tomorrow.

Random Thoughts

Ed Jones had been racing well the last few weeks, but today we the Jones of old. I was concerned after qualifying yesterday when I saw that he would line up between title contenders Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou. Unfortunately, he ended O’Ward’s race and the chain reaction nearly took Palou out of the race. Jones seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time more often than not.

I have never seen so much tension and anger in the paddock as I did this weekend. I loved it. Indycar felt alive. I hope the tension continues all season in 2022.

Three drivers I felt for today- Pato O’Ward, who didn’t get a fair shot to fight for the championship. This team will be even stronegr next year and O’Ward will be in the title mix as long as he drives in the series.

Romain Grosjean, an instant fan favorite from the moment he started his Indycar career this spring, felled by wall contact and dropped out of the race with 10 laps left. He had some amazing races this year, and while not officially the Rookie of the Year, he was the first timer that was the most fun to watch.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose last drive for Andretti Autosport ended as the last car running at the end. Hunter-Reay was involved in the Ed Jones incident on lap1 and struggled with a poor handling car the rest of the day.

Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an early spin to finish eighth in what may have been his last drive for A. J. Foyt Racing.

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Congratulations to Scott McLaughlin, the Rookie of the Year. McLaughlin had a steady, if unspectacular year. Like the other rookies in the series, he had to learn a completely different type of car. I think we will hear his name a lot more in 2022.

I hope the new deal with NBC doesn’t include Rutledge Wood. His pieces are insipid and interrupt the race broadcast unnecessarily.

Josef Newgarden’s last three seasons- Champion in 2019, second in 2020, and second in 2021. Newgarden was also champion in 2017.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I will have a story about Alex Palou’s season and a season wrap up this coming week.