Newgarden Tops Practice 3

Josef  Newgarden laid down the quickest lap of the weekend in the last few minutes of practice 3 this morning with a time of 1:42.882.  Coton Herta was second 0.35 seconds behind. Will Power had the third best time 0. 38 seconds off Newgarden’ s lap. NTT  Indycar  Series qualifying for the REV Group Grand Prix is at 3:0 pm Central Time.

Yesterday’s session leaders, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, were fourth and fifth respectively. Four rookies finished in the top ten. In addition to Herta, Felix Rosenqvist was seventh, Santino Ferrucci eighth, and Patricio O’Ward tenth.

I am not surprised by the results of this session. Penske cars have been pretty dominant here, and Newgarden and Power were the front row last year. We could see a repeat of that lineup.

I did some more exploring this morning and found two great viewing spots. One is at the top of the inside of turn seven. There is a large bleacher from where you can see turns six and seven plus the beginning of the carousel after the Speedville bridge.

The other location is somewhat secluded with few spectators. I will just say it is an amazing spot to watch from, but I’m not divulging where it is.

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts.  Watch for my full report on Wildfire Sports later tonight.

Saturday Morning at Road America

It’s a very busy day today. On track action begins at 9 ET and is continuous throughout the day. The Road toi Indy has a full slate with race 2 qualifying for Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights. Following the Indycar practice at noon ET all three RTI series hold their first races of the weekend. USF 2000 at 1, followed by Indy Pro 2000 and then Indy Lights.

Indycar qualifying for the REV Group Grand Grand Prix starts at 4 ET.  There is little threat of rain today, but Sunday still looks iffy.

I’m looking at the combined practice results from yesterday. Four drivers had their fastest lap in Practice 1, including Ryan Hunter-Reay, who led that session. Hunter-Reay is sixth on the combined chart. Jack Harvey, Marcus Ericsson, and Max Chilton were at the bottom of the charts in both sessions.  Harvey had a couple of incidents in Practice 1.

Will Power and Josef Newgarden are the only Chevys in the combined top 10 at second and third.

Back with an update after Practice 3.

Rossi Leads Practice 2

Photo: Alexander Rossi had the day’s fastest lap. Photo by Kyle McInnes

 

Alexander Rossi led the afternoon practice with a  quick lap of 1:43.120. Rossi’s lap was the fastest of the day. Will Power was second at 1:43.408. Seven Hondas were in the top ten, one more than in the morning session.  Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden and Carlin driver Patricio O’Ward were the only other Chevy drivers in the top ten.

The top ten drivers were separated by 0.953 seconds. The fight for the pole tomorrow should be that close.  The entire field is separated by more than 2 seconds.

In the pit stop practice period each car was allowed one hot lap before pitting.  Ryan Hunter-Reay had the fastest lap of that session, 1:44.484.

Saturday’s Schedule:

Practice 3:      12 ET NBC Gold

Qualifying:      3 ET  NBC Gold

 

Hunter-Reay Quickest in Practice 1

Ryan Hunter-Reay led the first practice for the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America this morning. The first session for the NTT Indycar Series was dominated by Honda cars with six drivers in the top ten. The three Chevy machiunes from Team Penske were all n the top along with Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter racing. Will Power was the fastest Chevy in fourth.

The top 5- Hunter-Reay 1:43.755; Takuma Sato 1:43.824; Scott Dixon 1:43.984; Power 1:444.039; and Newgarden 1:44.070. Alexander Rossi was sixth, still behind Newgarden.

The practice was stopped twice for incidents involving Jack Harvey. The second issue saw Harvey miss turn 12 and slide into the runoff area on the driver’s left. Harvey is okay.

I spent some time during practice exploring various parts of the back part of the track from turns 13 and working down the backstretch to turns 10 and 11. The speed the cars have heading to Canada Corner is amazing.  I drove back to the front stretch through the campgrounds. This track never ceases to amaze me with the skill set a driver needs to do a lap here.

Graham Rahal’s car sure looks Bobby’s MGD car when at speed. Very cool to see that look again.

Welcome to Road America

Just arrived at Road America. Today looks like the best day weather wise. There are chances of rain both tomorrow and Sunday. Sunday’s rain may affect the race.

Today’s Indycar schedule:

Practice 1  12:05 ET

Practice 2   4:00  ET

Pit Stop Practice  5:00 ET

All sessions are on NBC Gold.

 

Remember to set your DVR for Sunday to NBC. If you have the series set to record on NBCSN, it will not transfer over. Back with an update after Practice 1..

Road America Preview- A Crucial Weekend for Title Contenders

Above: Spencer Pigot exits turn 5 at Road America

It’s the time of year when every point gained or lost becomes magnified. With 8 races left, points have more value every week. The NTT Indycar Series returns to action this weekend at the most beautiful track in the United States, Road America. The 14 turn, 4. 048  mile track has uphills, downhills, tight corners, and sweeping curves.

Road America returned to the Indycar schedule in 2016 after an absence of nine years.  the event has been a great success, with huge crowds. Just four active drivers have won here- Sebastien Bourdais (2007), Will Power, Scott Dixon, and Josef Newgarden.

This weekend is crucial for the drivers chasing Josef Newgarden in the points. Alexander Rossi trails by just 25 points.  A win would be ideal for him, but just finishing ahead of Newgarden will help. Simon Pagenaud in third place needs to improve on what has been a consistent showing around sixth or  seventh place the last few races to stay in contention. Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato could definitely use a better showing than they had at Texas. The fourth and fifth place drivers are on the verge of dropping too far behind to catch up.

I’m looking at five things to watch for this weekend.

Rossi Needs a Win

Rossi’s best hope of catching Newgarden is to start winning races. Newgarden has won three times this year while Rossi has just one victory. If Rossi can win twice more and Newgarden doesn’t win again, Rossi with three second places would hold the second place tie breaker if they are tied in points.

Rossi’s only win in 2019 was at Long Beach. He has never finished better than 13th at Road America. This could be the year he breaks through. Rossi finished fifth at Barber and ninth at COTA  in the two natural road courses to date.

Will RLL Have Another Strong Road Course Weekend?

Rhal Letterman Lanigan drivers Sato and Graham Rahal were dominant at Barber. Sato and Rahal both started on the front row with Sato winning from the pole. Rahal finished 23rd, fighting a throttle issue all day and stopping on track near the end of the race.

Rahal has had three straight top tens, topped with a third place at Texas. Sato won the pole at Texas but finished three laps down after a pit incident on his first stop. If they duplicate their Barber performance, we could see some pints taken from the front runners.

More Newgarden/Cindric Strategy Magic?

At Barber, Detroit Dual 1, and Texas, team strategist Tim Cindric and Newgarden made the correct calls on tire choices and pit stop timing. Each time they got to the front and stayed there. They may have another chance this weekend as there is a chance for rain during the race on Sunday.

They may not need too much strategy, though. Newgarden won last year from the pole. He led 53 of the 55 laps, holding off Ryan Hunter-Reay for the victory. More teams need to watch what they do and follow them into the pits. It seems to be working.

Is This Finally the Herta Comeback Week?

This is becoming a traditional race week question. Colton herta had a brilliant drive at Texas go for naught when he collided with Scott Dixon on lap 228. Herta finished 18th. he had been on his way to a podium finish.

After four straight last or next to last finishes, Herta was 12th in each Detroit race. The winner of this year’s inaugural race at COTA is back on the type of track where he can succeed. Despite the poor finishes, Herta is just three points behind Santino Ferrucci in the rookie standings.  Ferrucci has complete all but two laps this season and has been consistently in the top ten lately.

Time for Dixon’s Run?

It’s getting late for Scott Dixon. Dixon has one win just as he had coming into road America last year. What he also has on this year’s resume is two DNFs for crashes, two more than last year.  Dixon led the standings coming into Elkhart Lake last year, but finds himself 89 points behind the leader in fourth place.  Dixon has been further behind later in a season than this, but it feels like time is growing short for him to make a run. I’m afraid his record of never winning back to back titles will stay intact.

The Wrong Answer

My pick for the win is Ryan Hunter-Reay. He finished second in 2018 after a good battle with Newgarden. Hunter-Reay has been just average so far in 2019, but this was the race that began a strong second half run last year that resulted in two victories.

 

Reminder- The race is on NBC this Sunday beginning at noon ET. Green flag is approximately 12:43 ET.

O’Ward on Road America Entry List

Photo: Pato O’Ward will again drive car 31 as he did in Detroit.

Pato O’Ward returns to Carlin Racing for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. O’Ward, who originally was thought to have a full season ride at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, signed a 12 race deal with Carlin after St. Pete.  It has since been announced that he will not run Gateway or Iowa. O’Ward is looking for funding to complete the NTT Indycar season.

His new contract with the Red Bull Junior program is awaiting approval of his super license. He may not be fully eligible for it at this time.

Also returning to the paddock is Jack harvey in the number 60 MSR entry. This race race is the seventh of Harvey’s 10 race program in 2019. He will also race at Mid Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca. Harvey had a career best third place finish at the Indycar Grand Prix in May.

Twenty three cars are on the entry list for the fourth race at Elkhart Lake since Indycar returned.

Look for a full preview on Thursday.