So close. Will Power was so close to earning his first pole position of 2021, but Pato O’Ward nipped him at the line by 0.0067 of a second. O’Ward’s third pole of the year came at an opportune time for the driver third in the standings. Points leader Alex Palou qualified sixth and other title contenders Scott Dixon rolls off 26th and Josef Newgarden starts 20th. Dixon was penalized for spinning and affecting other drivers’ laps, and Newgarden has a six place penalty for an engine change to serve.
All three rounds of the shortened qualifying format produced drama as several drivers traded the top spot. But the star of the day was Christian Lundgaard, the Danish F2 driver in the RLL Hy Vee number 45 this weekend. Lundgaard impressed in the practice session, and he dazzled in qualifying, making it to the final round and leading the fast Twelve for a bit. He will start fourth. No matter how his race turns out, his weekend is already a success.
Colton Herta’s string of front row starts ends at four. He qualified fifth.
Romain Grosjean missed his second consecutive pole on the IMS Road course by just 27 thousandths of a second. He starts third.
.Ed Carpenter Racing had its best road course qualifying in a while. Conor Daly starts eighth and Rinus VeeKay ninth.
Newgarden and Dixon start in a part of the grid where there is usually trouble in the first turn. If they get through that, it will be interesting to see how far they advance wht strategy they use.
Update- Marti is improving as the medical team works out a treatment plan. Thank you all again for your kind wishes and concerns. We will get through this.
Photo: Alex Palouleads Colton Herta at Road America. Joe Skibinski, Indycar
Indycar had itself one heck of a first half- seven different winners, including four first time winners; only two winners over the age of 30; dramatic finishes, and really good racing. Only two drivers have won more than once, and four of the top seven in points are under the age of 25.
Road America traditionally marks the end of the first half of the season, but with the cancellation of Toronto, which will not be made up, last Sunday was the first race of the season’s second half. The loss of the race, which is not a shock, narrows the field for the championship to three drivers-Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Scott Dixon.
I think the title fight comes down to a battle between Palou, the current points leader, and O’Ward. Only O’Ward and Palou have won more than one race. Palou has led seven of the nine races. Palou has been on the podium five times, O’Ward finished in the top three four times. The 28 point lead Palou enjoys is essentially the difference in points between the two drivers at the Indianapolis 500.
I think Palou will prevail this season. Here’s why.
Both of Pato’s wins came in the second race of the two double headers. He finished third in the first race of each double header, and he was on pole for the first race in Detroit. In both of his victories, O’Ward overtook Josef Newgarden late in the race.
There are no more double headers this season It seems the Arrow McLaren SP team needs a bit of a longer window to figure things out. I’m not sure O’Ward wins another race in 2021, and he may have trouble holding on to second place in the standings.
The Iceman Lurketh
Six time champion Scott Dixon sits on the verge of history on two fronts. His next win, which is very likely this season, will tie him with Mario Andretti for second place on the career win list with 52. Winning the title will tie him with A. J. Foyt with seven championships.
Dixon has been competitive, as always, but the car looks to be just a step behind the front runners. The Indianapolis 500, despite Dixon winning the pole, did not turn out well. Dixon is 53 points behind, and 49 points of that gap are from the 500. He has come from larger deficits to win take a couple of his titles, but I don’t see it happening this year. Still, dixon will continue an amazing string of finsihes in the top five in points.
There will be more drivers winning a race this season. It is inveitable that Josef Newgarden and/or Will Power will win a race before the season ends. Newgarden has won the last two poles and has had victory in his grasp the last two races. He has lost the lead with three laps remaining in Detroit and with two laps left at Road America. Mechanical gremlins and tire strategy have kept Team Penske out of the winner’s circle so far in 2021, but I think we see that situation change in the next three months. It is hard yo believe we are nine races into the season and wondering when a Penske will win a race.
Look for another win by an Andretti Autosport driver as well. Either Colton Herta wins another time, or Alexander Rossi will finally break through. This team has been just as puzzling as Team Penske. Herta has been the only bright spot for the team.
The biggest surprise this year is the overall performance of Romain Grosjean. The former F1 driver has won a pole, took a podium spot, and has been overall competitive in his 6 races in 2021. Grosjean is an outstanding qualifier, starting in the top six three times and seventh twice. Missing the Indianapolis 500 and the two Texas races will probably cost him Rookie of the Year since the award is based solely on points. He would win it if the trophy were awarded based on his performance on track.
No one should be surprised at what Pato O’Ward is doing this season. We knew he was an exceptional talent when he began his Indycar career. I have to wonder how much better he would be if he had not lost his original Carlin ride and missed part of a season in Japan. I’m glad he is in Indycar and I hope the sirens of F1 don’t draw him away.
O’Ward’s weekend- a pole, a third place, a win after starting 16th, 88 points, and the new points leader. Not bad.
Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Team Penske now know how Charlie Brown feels when Lucy pulls the football away. Saturday was not Power’s fault, but the fault of a questionable call race control. Yesterday Newgarden got caught out by the yellows and had to finish the race on the alternate tires- a big ask to go 25 laps with the reds on this track. What a frustrating weekend for them.
O’Ward broke the streak of seven different winners in seven races. His second win of the season gives him the tie breaker should the championship end in a tie. Usually the series champion has at least three wins in a season.
Is There Still a Big Three?
Indycar fans are used to referring to the Big Three- Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti, but is that changing? Penske has just one pole and no wins, Andretti one win and one pole, and Ganassi has two wins and one pole. Arrow McLaren SP has two poles and two victories. We either have a Big Four or a Big Two. For now, I don’t think we can say Big Three.
Before his spin on lap 54 I thought Jimmie Johnson was having his best drive of the year. He passed cars on track with confident moves and was keeping pace.
Romain Grosjean’s reaction to his brake fire left me with a lump in my throat. I’m sure he never wanted to be in another burning car.
Scott Dixon leaves Detroit with the same points deficit to the leader he had going into the weekend, but he is now third instead of second in the standings.
I don’t think I have ever seen a snoozer of a race turn into a good race as quickly as I did yesterday.
Santino Ferruci had two top ten finishes this weekend. Yesterday’s was especially noteworthy since he destroyed his primary car in qualifying and drove a backup car in the race. The car got to the grid about two minutes before the command to start engines.
An annoying trend that needs to stop now-The PA announcer in the past has called drivers to their cars for years. I guess it is to build excitement for the start of the race. I have always found it unnecessary to announce but it never bothered me until the last few races when celebrities began assuming the task. Really? Next we will see celebrity drivers of the trucks that take the drivers around the tracks during driver introductions. Having celebrities at the races is great, but having menial tasks like saying “Driver to your cars” is a little much.
I will be back later with a full weekend wrap up. thanks again for following along this weekend.
Photo: Pato O’Ward celebrates his first Indycar win. Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar
Finally. Pato O’Ward knew he could win Indycar races before he even raced in the series. I remember his first press conference at Sonoma in 2018 before his first Indycar start. There was a quiet confidence about him. I felt then that I was looking at a future Indycar Series star. Today the road to stardom in the Indycar Series officially began.
O’Ward’s first series win came tonight with a series of strong passes, including moving past two cars on the second restart. His car was one of the strongest the entire race and the pit strategy on the final stop put him in a position to go for the win. he showed the patience he has sometimes lacked in waiting until the right moment to overtake Josef Newgarden with 23 laps to go. This won’t be his last win of 2021. We have a new contender for the championship.
Scott Dixon brought the field to the green flag at a slower than normal pace. The resulting six car pile up at the back of the pack caused the first 18 laps to be run under caution. I was surprised there was no red flag, but I assume the television window played a part in keeping the lap count going.
Alexander Rossi is off to another frustrating start to his year. He is more irritated this year about it because he feels his car is more competitive than it was in 2020. Rossi felt Indycar should have held qualifying for today’s race. That may not have prevented the accident, but I see his point, that some of the drivers involved in the wreck would have started further toward the front.
One of the problems with double header weekends is it is hard to deviate from the schedule. A last minute call to qualify today would have caused teams to scramble for an extra session. Indycar might want to look at building some flexibility into their double header schedule for a situation like this weekend in the future.
Tough Weekend for Bourdais, Daly
The early promise shown by Sebastien Bourdais and A. J. Foyt racing fell apart, literally theses last two days. Bourdais was involved in two of the three crashes the past two days. Neither was his fault.
Conor Daly struggled to a 21st place finish Saturday and ended up upside down today. Again the aeroscreen prevented an unpleasant outcome.
Both Dale Coyne cars and both Foyt cars suffered damage in the incident.
It is a good thing that the next race is in two weeks. Some of these cars were the teams’ cars for the Indianapolis 500, so there is plenty of time for repairs.
A Better Race
After Saturday’s race, I was not expecting an improvement in the racing tonight, although I though it would play out differently. Sunday’s race turned out to be a darned good one. I don’t know if it was the earlier start time in warmer temperatures than Saturday, or the teams learned some things in the first race, but there was passing for position, including at least three passes for the lead.
The oval package still needs a lot of work to make the cars race better. Texas Motor Speedway has to somehow eliminate the PJ1 compound for Indycar. I would not mind future races to be like what we witnessed tonight.
Indycar is four races into the 2021 season. Drivers under the age of 25 have won three races and have been on the pole three times. One of the poles was awarded by rule due to rain. Both Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward have won their first Indycar race. Colton Herta the “veteran” among the under 25 crowd, has won four races and four poles in his career. Palou led the point standings until the end of Saturday’s race. O’Ward is now second to Dixon in points, while Palou is third.
The future of Indycar is looking very bright.
It is hard to believe that Josef Newgarden led his first laps of 2021 in the fourth race of the year tonight.
In four races Indycar has seen four different winners from three different teams. two different drivers have won the two earned poles.
The Top 5 finishers tonight represent five different teams.
Alex Palou is the only driver to have led laps in every race this year.
This is the deepest into a season I can remember going without a win by a Team Penske driver. I will be shocked if I can still say that by the end of this month. Penske’s record at IMS on both the road course and in the 500 is second to none.
Pato O’Ward began his title quest by winning the pole for the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. The Mexican driver in his second full time Indycar season set a track record in round 2 on the way to the first starting spot for tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. O’Ward led the round of 12 with record lap of 1:05.5019.
Qualifying began five minutes late after a power outage postponed the USF2000 series second race. The race ran after Indycar qualifying.
O’Ward earlier this year declared his intention to have his Arrow Mclaren SP Chevy contend for the series title, and today gave credence to his goal. In two practice sessions and two qualifying rounds where some top drivers had issues, O’Ward stayed focused on the task at hand. He also had to survive the more difficult qualifying group.
Alexander Rossi will start on the outside of row 1. Rossi led the second practice session earlier in the day. He abandoned his usual qualifying strategy when he is a pole contender. Instead of waiting to get in one hot lap as time runs out, Rossi was one of the first two cars out at the start of the Fast Six. He stayed out the entire time. Will Power was the first car out for the final round. Power’s tires seemed to fade as could not improve his times from early in the session.
James Hinchcliffe slid into the tire barrier in turn 5 causing a red flag in the second group. The round restarted with just a bit more than 4 minutes left. As time ran out, Felix Rosenqvist went off track in the final turn. He lost a spot in the final round for affecting another driver’s lap.
Rookies Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean advanced to the second round. Grosjean finished second in his group, and McLaughlin was fourth. Grosjean starts seventh tomorrow and McLaughlin will roll off twelfth.
I can’t remember the last time Chip Ganassi Racing had three cars in the Fast Six. Alex Palou led the first practice session, and Marcus Ericsson had an impressive qualifying. Scott Dixon begins his title defense from fifth place.
The biggest surprise in qualifying was Josef Newgarden finishing eighth. He usually does very well here. Starting position is generally a big factor in the race results at Barber.
I think we will see a first career win tomorrow, but it may not necessarily be Pato O’Ward. Alex Palou looked very strong all day.
Photo: Pato O’Ward leads the group during testing at IMS Friday. -Joe Skibinski, Indycar
Jay Frye declared it a good day. It gave Indycar a direction although there is still work to do.
“When we came into this, we thought really at the end of the day that this would precipitate more questions than answers. That’s probably what happened, right. Which is fine. That’s what we expected,” the Indycar president told the media after the four var test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday.
“We did learn a lot. But it did also create a lot of other questions,” Frye concluded.
The test, with drivers Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi representing Honda, and Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward driving Chevrolets, involved various versions of push to pass in an attempt to simulate what the hybrid component might look like in 2023.
Frye explained what Indycar was looking for.
I think today we’ve got a lot of data off the car in a direction on what approach to go with,” he said. “In the way that we have push to pass, with the hybrid system that would kind of be obsolete. You’ll have a bank of energy that you have with the hybrid system that once it will go away, that you will be able to recharge it so it will be on all the time basically. With push to pass there’s an amount of time or there’s an amount of pushes. That’s what we looked at today. We just gave the drivers for every 200 seconds, you’re going to go do a 20 lap run. Use it as you want it. Most used about half, so 100 seconds. It was interesting to see how it played out.”
“We thought they would have liked that for a longer time. This is new. We’ve never done this on an oval. We’ve tested it at Pocono, Texas and Phoenix before but that was with the old package. For this new one, it definitely is much better than it was before which is cool,” Frye concluded. He also noted that trap speeds which are normally around 230 mile an hour, were 236 miles an hour Friday.
The new, larger 2.4 liter 2023 engine, and the hybrid energy recovery system should give the cars 200 more horsepower in 2023. Frye said the series will not allow that much all at once, but adjust the and work up to 900 horsepower.
The Pit Window spoke with three of the drivers after the early end to the test day.
Scott Dixonliked some of the changes and noticed the increase in speed.
“Obviously there’s a lot of power and some of the durations are quite long,” Dixon said. “10 seconds at 70-80 horsepower, especially in a car that’s trimmed out. Your average lap speed could jump by several mph. There’s some good changes to see how you can apply that and to what effect or not effect on the tire and in regards to running in traffic.”
Dixon’s concern with the push to pass is how long a driver would be locked out of the system after using it. He prefers a shorter lock out time.
Alexander Rossi doesn’t think the push to pass would change anything on an oval.
“Yes it’s a pretty big horsepower boost with the push to pass,” said the Andretti Autosport driver. “We’re going to have to look at it to see if it changed anything for the better or worse. It’s definitely different. We got that test accomplished and have some hard data to look at for the future.”
Josef Newgarden was happy to help Indycar gather data and glad that he learned some tings.
“I thought it went well. When you learn something in testing you’re happy about it. I thought we learned some stuff today on our cars on how things works and how they could potentially work in use scenario.
“The horsepower bump was tunable. You could definitely raise the horsepower increase up or down so that jump in the performance off the corner could be bigger or smaller. The length of it is all adjustable. We ran through a couple of scenarios and a couple of configurations. It’s definitely noticeable. A couple of configurations were noticeable. If you want to run a system like that, it’s really what’s the right configuration to give to the field. I think that’s the type of info we were trying to arm INDYCAR with and now it’s on to them to see what we do in the future.”
Frye said that testing of the hybrid system would likely be in January and February of 2022.
It was wonderful to watch cars on the IMS oval again. It has been more than a year since I have seen the oval used.
Improvements made by Roger Penske are obvious. Most noticeable is the new video board on the back of the Pagoda. it spans the entire width of the building and the high resolution screen is fantastic.
The main thing is how clean the plaza and Victory Circle are. I was so used to how the areas appeared, but I now realize that they were long overdue for sprucing up.
Testing for the Indianapolis 500 is schedule for April 8 and 9, between the mass vaccination clinics at the Speedway. I assume the turn 2 mounds will be open as they were yesterday.
Pato O’Ward left no doubt about his plans for the 2021 Indycar season.
“We want to win races. We want to be consistently fighting for podiums, and we want to be there. We want to be contenders every single race weekend.I think in doing so, that’ll put us in a position at the end of the year to fight for the championship. That is the goal. I want to get to Long Beach having a possibility to win the championship,” The Arrow McLaren SP second year driver said on Indycar Content Day yesterday.
O’Ward finished fourth in the season standings in 2020, winning his first career pole at road America. While he has yet to win a race, that will happen this coming season. I have a feeling he will stand on the top step of the podium more than once this year.
O’Ward spent time in the off-season watching his races from 2020, focusing on the races he felt he should have won. His goal this year is to qualify better and to minimize pit errors, which hurt him in a couple of races last season. O’Ward told the media,
“Man, I rewatched every race where we were in contention, both Iowa races, both Gateway races,Road America. Just from things that I learned last year,you qualify up front, you make your life so much easier.Another thing is that pit stops are huge in INDYCAR racing. I lost a lot of my race wins because we didn’t execute in the pits, and that’s huge. I feel like our pace was very, very strong. I think we were very strong in many places that we went to all year.But where we need to push this year, and we may need to make sure if we have a mistake it has to be minimized, is in the pits, and me as a driver just do my job.”
Motivation has never been an issue for O’Ward, but he seems even more determined to succeed this upcoming season.He feels that he and his team are ready to mix it up with the big three of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti. He does acknowledge it’s a tall order.
“I feel like last year we left a lot of unfinished business. We were close to winning four races, and we didn’t get it done. We didn’t get it done. There were tough pills to swallow,and I felt like that left everyone in the team so hungry. I can see it from the off-season, just how much work has been put into the development of trying to make the cars go faster at the speedway and road courses.Me as a driver, I truly don’t think I’ve ever been fitter, more ready to try and win the thing. I have lots of faith in the team. I have lots of faith in what we can accomplish as a group. It’s going to be ridiculously hard, but it is possible.”
The addition of Juan Pablo Montoya for the Indianapolis 500 should help him as a driver and the team overall, O’Ward believes. He also thinks having gone through a complete Indycar season as ateam and knowing what to expect, will improve their chances of success.
“I think having a year under our belts and the engineers knowing what I like and how I go about things, I think that just helps everyone work better and more efficient. I have lots of faith that all those small guys behind the computer doing all the analysis and the developments of either it can be a road course, street course, superspeedway for drag,aero, whatever it may be, I feel like in this off-season they had a direction and they had more of a clear picture of where they had to work, to work at or see where there was massive improvements to be made.”
The Indianapolis 500 is where O’Ward really wants to improve. Last year the superspeedways were “like driving into a black hole,” he said. He believes the team, with Monotya’s help, will be stronger at the brickyard in 2021.
I am putting O’Ward on my list of title contenders. This is the first of a series on each of the drivers I think has a shot at the Astor Cup in 2021.
Pato O’Ward had the quickest time in Monday’s test at Weather Tech Raceway Monday. The private test The private test session included seven drivers from four teams. It was the first test day in an Indycar for Juan Pablo Montoya, who will drive for Arrow McLaren SP in the Indianapolis 500.
Montoya will be in car number 86 at Indianapolis. The number is a tribute to Peter Revson’s 1971 500 pole winning McLaren.
Romain Grosjean, who recently signed with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR, was third fastest on the day. Grosjean said in an earlier interview that this track was the one he was most looking forward to driving. he had Laguna Seca on a video game when he was younger.
Helio Castroneves also partticipated in the test for Meyer Shank Racing. Castroneves will drive in six races, including the 500, for Meyer Shank Racing.
Indycar’s next official test will at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 8-9 for all entries in the Indianapolis 500. There is no word yet if this test will be open for public viewing.
Arrow McLaren SP revealed their liveris for the number 5 car of Pato O’Ward and the number 7 car of Felix Rosenqvist today. The cars have a bit of a different look and are not similar as they were last year. In 2020 Oliver Askew’s number 7 had blue end plates and the cars were at times difficult to distinguish.
The team presented the cars in a You Tube video this morning on their social media channels.
The numbers on the roll hoop appear a bit sharper on the 2021 car. Last year the numbers were a hard to see at times. I’m glad they kept the abstract look of the digits.
Juan Pablo Montoya will join the team for 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. His car number, sponsor, and livery will be announced closer to May.