Indycar Drivers’ European Vacations

Above: Pato O’Ward at Road America last week.

Indycar began a three week summer break after Road America last weekend. The Series returns to action in Toronto July 14.  What do drivers do in their weeks off?  They go to Europe. One may not return. It’s complicated, and we’ll discuss that last.

The week before the REV Group Grand Prix Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais went to Le Mans to participate in the 24 hour race for Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT teams. It was the last Le Mans for this car. Ford is shutting the GT program down. My hope is that they return in another class, preferably the prototypes.

This coming week (July already? Really/) Marcus Ericsson will participate in a Pirelli tire test in Austria on Tuesday.  Ericsson is still a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo. When the Indycar season ends he will spend more time at the remaining F1 races.

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Ericsson heading to Turn 14 at Road America

O’Ward Fills in for Banned Driver; Japan Next?

Pato O’Ward’s weird itinerant season continues. This weekend he is driving for MP Motorsport in Formula 2 in Austria. O’Ward replaces Mahaveer Raganathan, who accumulated enough penalty points to earn a one race suspension. Jordan King is O’Ward’s teammate this weekend. O’Ward qualified 17th Friday, one second off the pole speed and just 0.25 seconds slower than the more experienced King. It was O’Ward’s first time in this type of car, first time at this track, and of course first time on this particular tire.  Overall, he did a great job.

F2 runs two races this weekend, a race on Saturday which includes a pit stop, and a sprint race on Sunday.i am anxious to see how Pato does in the two events.

News from japan’s Super Formula that Dan Ticktum is losing his Red Bull backed ride has led to speculation that O’Ward will finish the season there. Nothing is confirmed. Ticktum has scored just 1 point this season. His teammmate has out performed him significantly.

Since O’Ward is under contract to Red Bull, he may complete his season there. That would be a big loss to Indycar, which thought they had a rising star. Considering Ticktum’s struggles, this may be a difficult situation for O’Ward. doesn’t work out, will there still be room for him back in Indycar? Let’s hope so.

I’ll be back next week with a look at another past Indianapolis 500 program.

 

Road America Postscript- Farewell to Speedville

The post Road America hangover is becoming as bad for me as the post 500 hangover. This is definitely my second favorite track after IMS.  I decided this in 2016 after about the first five minutes I was there. This year was the best year for me of the four Indycar events as experience goes for many reasons.

First, my friends Leigh and Bob were there for the first time.  They found some places I had never seen in turns 7 and 10. It was nice to see the track through fresh sets of eyes. We also had a great time visiting establishments in Elkhart Lake. I’m sure they will be back.

I also spent some time in the kink and I was impressed by the speed the cars carry before braking for Canada Corner.

The race behind Alexander Rossi was great. Third through sixth were contested all day. Dixon’s charge from the rear after the turn 5 incident was exciting to watch. His teammate Felix Rosenqvist had an excellent drive moving from 18th to 6th. Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe had steady drives and fought hard all day.

Colton Herta had an eventful day. After losing the lead to rossi in turn 3 of theopening lap, he had contact with both Power and Pagenaud in separate incidents and seemed to spend a lot of time off track in turn 5. Herta’s eighth place finish was his second best result of the season.

Rossi was probably not given any consideration for the drive of the day, but he should have been in the conversation. Winning margins like this don’t happen often in today’s NTT Indycar Series. His drive was a thing of beauty.

The crowd looked to me to be the biggest since 2016.  I thought the bowl at the bottom of turn 5 was fuller than it had been the last two years.

I’m about halfway through the NBC broadcast and i am very impressed. The cameras were on the Herta-Pagenaud skirmish all the way, including the point when Dixon blew past both of them. Great work.

So I will say good bye to Road America until next year and leave you with some photos.

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Rossi leads lap 1
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Marcus Ericsson finds his way back on track.
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Some of the big crowd in turn 5
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Power (l) tries to get around Herta, who did not give up spots asily.
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Rossi’s wondering, ” Where is everybody?”
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Pagenaud unsuccessfully tries to get by Herta. Seconds later Dixon blasts by both of them.

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts REV Group Grand Prix

That was quite a  bold move Alexander Rossi made  to take the lead over Colton Herta. Then an F 1 race broke out.

Rossi did what he needed to get done today- f inish ahead of Josef Newgarden and Cut into the lead as much as possible.. The gap is down to seven points.

Dixon is not quite out of the points race, but he is edging closer to waiting another year for title number 6.

There was great racing and action in position three through six most of the day.

Will Power and Newgarden knew they had nothing for Rossi.  Power said, “I never saw Rossi all day. A yellow or rain might have helped.”

Newgarden was satisfied that he got all he could out of the car and third was the best they could do.

Simon Pagenaud had an impressive drive finishing ninth after starting 16th.

Dixon made a great comeback for a top five after spinning on the opening lap.

Turn five was a very busy, action packed area today.

Santino Ferrucci finished a lap down, the third lap he hasn’t completed this season.

Rossi has now won the three crown jewels of Indycar circuits- Long Beach, Indianapolis, and Road America.

Look for my full report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  I will also have a  Road America postscript with photos in this space Tuesday. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

 

 

It’s Race Day!

Good morning from Road America. We are about six hours from the green flag. There is still a chance of rain but the timing is uncertain.

Yesterday’ s qualifying sets up some interesting situations. Can Colton Herta get his second win of the year? Can Alexander Rossi get his second win of the year and gain ground on Josef Newgarden? What strategy will Newgarden and Tim Cindric use to get the lead?

The results could give us a hint of how the rest if the season will go. Will Scott Dixon starts with a new engine and need a good result to keep his chances of repeating as champion  alive.

I’ll be back after the race with Quick Thoughts and my full race report will post tomorrow on Wildfire Sports.  Enjoy the race. Remember it’s on NBC at noon ET

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