Quick Thoughts- Detroit Grand Prix

Indycar photo by James Black

Will Power’s strategy worked, Alexander Rossi’s plan almost worked. Power had enough of a lead that his red tires lasted 20 laps. He was helped by the race going caution free. If you like strategy races. this one was about as good as it gets. Both teams executed their plans well, and the race was decided on the track. The two best cars finished 1-2.

The win was redemption for Power, who had Race 1 last year pretty much in hand until the race was red flagged. His engine wouldn’t restart and the race resumed with Power in 20th.

I’m sad to see the race leave Belle Isle. The racing there has been really good the last few years.

Kyle Kirkwood had his best run of the season spoiled by a mistake leaving the pits. He was pretty much guaranteed a top 5. He has done fantastic work this year on a small team. I can’t wait to see how he does with Andretti next year.

The start of the race was probably the worst of the year with half the field not lined up or even close to the front of the grid. It didn’t matter in the long run, but it was not a good look.

Right Strategy, Wrong Year

Josef Newgarden’s strategy in 2021 was to end on reds with as short a stint as possible. His plan didn’t work last year as a yellow flag force him to pit and change to the alternate tire sooner than planned. Power used that strategy this year and it turned out to be the winning play.

NBC- Nothing But Commercials

I thought the broadcast was rather disjointed. The booth did a great job, but it seemed commercials breaks happened every four laps. Even with side by side it was interrupting of the flow. There were too many flashback episodes, and they were always on the larger screen when they should be on the smaller one. I’m more interested in the current action. We didn’t need to rehash what happened to Will Power last ear 10 laps from this year’s finish.

Numbers

Power is the sixth different winner after seven races.

There has been a different pole winner for each race.

The points lead has changed hands six times among five drivers. Only Scott McLaughlin has led for consecutive races. Power has regained the lead that Marcus Ericsson took last week. Power’s lead is three points over Ericsson. Josef Newgarden, in fifth place, is just 47 points behind Power.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I had another good day of improvement, but my trip to Road America is in serious jeopardy.

I’ll have some more thoughts on the weekend tomorrow.

Power Still Indy’s King of The Road

If it’s early May in Indianapolis, you will find Will Power on the pole. Power won his fourth GMR Grand Prix pole and fifth on the IMS road course. Power snatched the pole from Alex Palou on the final timed lap of the Firestone Fast Six. His time of1:09.766 beat Palou by 0.043 seconds.

The pole was Power’s 64th of his career. He is just three behind Mario Andretti’s record of 67.

Will Power talks about his 64th career pole

The entire qualifying ran without issues. Only one Honda, the car of Alex Palou, made it to the final round. The rest of the Fast Six, in order, are Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly, Pato O’Ward, and Felix Rosenqvist.

Conor Daly earned his best starting spot of the season

Some pole contenders struggled during qualifying. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay did not make it out of the first round. Herta will start tomorrow’s race in row 7 and VeeKay in row 8. Jack Harvey, who usually qualifies well at this track, will start 9th Saturday.

The 2021 polesitter, Romain Grosjean, starts 10th.

Unfamiliar Territory

Simon Pagenaud starts 20th and Scott Dixon starts 21st. Pagenaud won the pole at the GMR Grand Prix in 2016 and has won the race three times. Dixon has won once and is usually a top finisher. Watch for this pair to move forward tomorrow.

Notes

The scoring pylon showed the time remaining in each round. This is something that wasn’t always done in the past. I’m glad they had it up there.

I found a lot of nice shirts while making a brief pass through of the merchandise shop behind the pits. If anyone has a dresser I can have, I will add to my T-shirt collection.

The speed difference for the starting grid from first to 27th is 1.68 seconds.

Palou had the fastest lap in qualifying, 1:09.411 in round 2.

Thanks for following along today. I will have some follow up on today tomorrow morning.

8

McLaughlin on St. Pete Pole as Penske Sweeps Front Row

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.

Scott McLaughlin on his pole winning lap

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.

Will Power

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.

Qualifying Results:

Some Teams Still Looking for Speed

Today’s schedule:

Gates Open 7:45 AM-1:30 PM

8:00AM – 8:45AM Indy Pro 2000 Race 2
9:00AM – 9:45AM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2 Peacock
10:00AM – 10:45AM Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 2
11:00AM – 12:00PM SRO GT America Race 2
12:30PM – 1:45PM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying Peacock

2:00 PM-2:30 PM Indy Lights Autograph Session Fan Village

3:00 PM- 4:00 PM Indycar Autograph Session Fan Village

4:00 PM-6:00 PM Party in the Park North Straub Park

8:00 PM Fireworks

On track activity is packed into just five hours today. The Indycar field has just 45 minutes to prepare for qualifying. Andretti Autosport had three drivers in the top 10 Friday while Team Penske and Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing each had two drivers near the top. The team that puzzled me the most was Arrow McLaren SP, who had Felix Rosenqvist 16th and Pato O’Ward 20th.

Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t have any driver higher than 15th place Marcus Ericsson.

The practice round today will be run in cooler conditions than Fridy’s late day session. The temperature at 12:30 when qualifying starts is expected to be 76 degrees and sunny, rising to 78 by the time the Fast Six begins.

Indycsr decided not to alter it’s qualifying format in spite of a larger full time grid and even more cars at some events. We saw a few cars backed up in turn 10 yesterday trying to make a gap, but not a huge line. A qualifying round may look different.

Yesterday’s fastest driver, Romain Grosjean, said about his session,

“I think we’ve got a very, very strong baseline, but I think there’s a little bit more to come if we put it all together. Hopefully we can
find that and have fun for the rest of the weekend.”

Will Power said about qualifying this season,

“It will be very tight qualifying sessions, and it’ll come down to whether you get a clean lap and don’t get held up, if someone doesn’t back
up or you don’t go through a yellow. Yeah, it’s going to be
that sort of year, which is great. I think it’s very good, very fun.”

Today will be a fun day. Practice and qualifying can be seen on Peacock.

Dixon, Power Look to Equal or Tie Andretti Marks in 2022

Scott Dixon and Will Power have an opportunity this upcoming Indycar season to tie or pass Mario Andretti in different career categories. Dixon, who has won at least one race every year since 2003, needs one victory to tie Andretti’s career mark of 52 wins, second only to A. J. Foyt. It was a shock that he only won one race last season.

Power is four poles shy of tying Andretti’s career mark of 67 poles, first among Indycar drivers. Power won only one pole last season, at the second IMS road race. His single pole was more of a shock than Dixon’s single first place.

Other Storylines for 2022

How will Romain Grosjean fare with his new team? Can Grosjean have the same success as part of a larger team, Andretti Autosport, as he had with Dale Coyne? Can he keep pace with Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi?

Romain Grosjean

Will we have a third OEM announcement by the time of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500? If we don’t, it will be at least 2025 until Honda and Chevrolet have another competitor.

Will having 14 races on NBC significantly increase viewership? The deal with NBC is probably the best package Indycar has ever had. I hope it pays huge dividends. If not, there may never be another deal this good.

Can Beth Paretta finalize a deal for the Indianapolis 500? It would be a shame if 2021 was a one time effort. The credibility of the Race for Diversity and Change would suffer if her team is not at IMS in May.

Keep an eye on Ernie Francis, Jr. in Indy Lights as well. I hope he does well enough to get a shot the 500 in 2023. It is just as important to have African American representation in Indycar as it is to have a female presence.

Some predictions:

Season champion- I give a narrow edge to Colton Herta over Pato O’Ward in a tight yearlong battle.

Winners- Eight drivers will win races this season, with Herta and O’Ward winning at least three each. Scott McLaughlin may be the only first time winner in 2022.

David Malukas

Rookie of the Year- This is a tough contest to decide. Christian Lundgaard has better equipment, but David Malukas is more familiar with most of the tracks Indycar will run. I think Malukas will win, but it will come down to the final race.

On September 12 we can all look at this post again and have a good laugh. Thanks for reading my preview series. Now let’s go racing!

The King Reclaims His Throne

Photo by Kyle McInnes

Will Power in victory lane at the IMS road course. It’s a step back toward normalcy. Power won the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix today, his first win in ten months. Gis 40th career win puts him two wins behind Michael Andretti on the all time career list. Power won for the fifth time at the IMS road course.

Tire strategy was key today. Power took the lead after the first round of opit stops. Pole sitter Pato O’Ward started on reds while most everyone else began the race on the primary tires. O’Ward switched to blacks on the first stop and power took on the faster red tires. He passed O’Ward and ran away from the field, building a lead of more than eight seconds over O’Ward and then Colton Herta.

The race was a mostly processional affair, with a couple of interesting battles in the field. Passing seemed difficult. After a caution filled race last Sunday, today saw the yellow flag come out just twice, the first time on lap 67. Alex Palou brought ourt the first caution when his engine let go. The DNF tightened the points race significantly. he now leads O’Ward by just 21 points. Rinus Veekay spun with assistance a few laps later and stalled, forcing another yellow.

Power is the ninth different winner in 2021. The series is just two different winners shy of the record 11 different winners with four races left.

Notes

Alex Palou had everything going his way. He was ahead of his three closest pursuers in the championship and he was less than twenty laps away from padding his lead. Then it was all gone in a puff of smoke.

Christian Lundgaard impressed this weekend. The 20 year old drove a good race, even getting the lead during a pit stop cycle. he finished 12th. I hope we see him again before the season ends.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Top Gun Racing and R C Enerson completed just 16 laps today, but the team did get to race for the first time. They have obtained some sponsorship, and plan to be at Gateway next weekend. I thought it was quite an accomplishment for them to get to do a qualifying run for the 500. they have come a long way.

Scott Dixon matched his worst finish of the year, 17th. Ironically both have been at IMS.

Palou’s poor finish hurt some, but with the days his closest competitors had, it didn’t hurt as much as it could have. His advantage is that O’Ward and Dixon keep swapping second and third, while Newgarden makes only minimal gains and has three drivers to overtake.

The crowd was decent today, although the place didn’t have a true race day vibe.

IMS had a beautiful tribute to Bob Jenkins on the video boards before the race.

I will be back tomorrow with some more thoughts on this weekend’s format tomorrow. Thanks for following along these past two days.

Pole Fight and Last Chance Battle Involve Former Winners

Today’s Schedule; All Times eastern

Gates Open 9:00am 7:00pm

Last Chance Practice 11:00am 11:30am

Firestone Fast Nine Practice 11:30am 12:00pm

Last Chance Qualifying 1:15pm 2:30pm


1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Firestone Fast Nine 3:00pm 3:45pm


2:30 PM – 4:30 PM ET

NTT IndyCar Series Practice 5:00pm 7:00pm


4:30 PM – 7:00 PM ET

Grandstands open:

Paddock, Paddock Penthouse, A Penthouse, B Penthouse , E, E Penthouse, Tower Terrace, Northwest Vista and Deck, Southeast Vista and deck.

Note: only limited sections open in all stands.

Parking:

North 40 is free. All other lots are paid. $10

Four former winners have a shot at the pole this afternoon in the Fast Nine shootout. That is a routine occurrence. Onf ormer winner will fight to make the field. That doesn’t happen often.

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Hunter-Reay earned a chance to run for the pole this afternoon. Dixon had the fastest time yesterday, Kanaan was third, Castroneves sixth, and Hunter-Reay eighth.

I think the pole battle is between Dixon, Kanaan, and Colton Herta. Dixon is favored, but don’t dismiss Herta’s chances.

On the other end of the field, five drivers, including 2018 winner Will Power, need to qualify for the final three spots in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Power had the 31st fastest time yesterday, but the if three of the other four can outrun him, the 2014 series champion will sit out next Sunday. Power, one of the greatest qualifiers in Indycar history, will get one of the spots, but it may be tight. The cars are competing just against each other today, and not against the rest of the field.

Also looking for a spot on next Sunday’s grid are Simona DeSilvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and R C Enerson.

Stay tuned. this will be a fascinating day at both ends of the field.

Some photos from yesterday:

Can Helio Castroneves win another pole?
Always nice to see Robert Wickens at the track
Simona DeSilvestro after her first qualifying run.

Power Leads First Day

Photo: James Black, Indycar

Will Power ran the fastest lap on the opening day of practice for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. with a speed of 226.470 late in the afternoon portion of the day. The fist two hours of veteran practice had two rain interruptions in the first hour, and a third stoppage near the end of the session. Practice never restarted. The Rookie and refresher tests, scheduled to begin at noon suffered a two hour delay.

Graham Rahal led the early practice round. Stefan Wilson and J. R. Hildebrand completed their refresher tests. R. C. Enerson still has one phase to complete of his rookie test due to a mechanical issue. Indycar will allow him to finish the test at 11 am tomorrow, ahead of the noon start of the six hour practice period.

Power was asked if he felt casrs would be able to follow more closely and have more opportunities to pass this year. He thinks so

“…as far as stuck in traffic I felt pretty good just running with two or three cars in front. Felt more comfortable than I have for awhile.That was promising, and yeah, I think cooler conditions can make everything feel pretty good. I think when the heat comes it’ll certainly change everything and become harder to follow.I think adding that downforce is certainly going to help theracing. I think you’re going to have one of the old style races where the front three are just swapping positions constantly because you can follow so close now. I think,yeah, it’s good for the fans,” Power answered.

Today’s results:

Rank Car Driver Name C/E/T Session Time Speed Total Laps
1 12 Power, Will D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.7403 226.470 87
2 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/F Practice 2 00:39.7578 226.371 55
3 30 Sato, Takuma D/H/F Practice 2 00:39.7998 226.132 76
4 24 Karam, Sage D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.8332 225.942 69
5 47 Daly, Conor D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.8865 225.640 82
6 22 Pagenaud, Simon D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.9592 225.230 81
7 5 O’Ward, Pato D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.9740 225.146 78
8 9 Dixon, Scott D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0021 224.988 68
9 18 Jones, Ed D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0621 224.651 77
10 8 Ericsson, Marcus D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0686 224.615 85
11 48 Kanaan, Tony D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0725 224.593 68
12 86 Montoya, Juan Pablo D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1099 224.384 63
13 16 De Silvestro, Simona D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1373 224.230 81
14 2 Newgarden, Josef D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1714 224.040 48
15 21 VeeKay, Rinus D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2158 223.793 82
16 29 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2180 223.780 78
17 7 Rosenqvist, Felix D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2246 223.744 63
18 20 Carpenter, Ed D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2377 223.671 69
19 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/F Practice 1 00:40.2776 223.449 82
20 98 Andretti, Marco D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2980 223.336 73
21 26 Herta, Colton D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2993 223.329 84
22 06 Castroneves, Helio D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3480 223.059 63
23 27 Rossi, Alexander D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3581 223.004 74
24 10 Palou, Alex D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3792 222.887 71
25 3 McLaughlin, Scott (R) D/C/F Practice 1 00:40.3885 222.836 68
26 11 Kimball, Charlie D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.3938 222.806 36
27 4 Kellett, Dalton D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.4729 222.371 61
28 1 Hildebrand, JR D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.4928 222.262 22
29 45 Ferrucci, Santino D/H/F Practice 1 00:40.5034 222.204 42
30 60 Harvey, Jack D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.5199 222.113 56
31 59 Chilton, Max D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.5606 221.890 70
32 51 Fittipaldi, Pietro (R) D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.7657 220.774 80
33 14 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/F Practice 1 00:40.8402 220.371 38
34 25 Wilson, Stefan D/H/F Practice 2 00:41.1762 218.573 25
Total Laps for Combined Sessions: 2255

Notes

As wonderful as Saturday was, watching the cars on the oval in mid May was the most welcome sight yet. Everything was as I remembered- the blur of colors whizzing by, the smell of ethanol, the vibration of the fences, the hustle bustle of each team running, stopping, for adjustments, and going out again- and it made me happy. There are even better days to come.

On my walk through Gasoline Alley I noticed two women working on the Paretta Autosport car of Simona De Silvestro. I also saw several other women on crews for other teams. It is a welcome sight and about time Indycar offered opportunities for everyone.

Paretta Autosport crew members. 75% of the crew are women. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

A. J. Foyt Racing did an outstanding job with the throwback livery on J. R. Hildebrand’s car. It is difficult to represent a roadster livery on a rear engine car. This is one of the best I’ve seen.

The Top Gun entry shows a hint of the Johnny Lightning Special, but also reminds me of the Konstant Hot Special.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Tomorrow will see warmer temperatures than today. It should be interesting to see which cqars maintain the day to day consistency despite the weather difference.

No Added Pressure for Drivers in Contract Year

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay are beginning contract years in the NTT Indycar Series. Simon Pagenaud may be in a contract year, but he side-stepped the question last week. All three drivers plan to keep driving the way they always have and not worry about 2022. The consensus is that there is always pressure to perform, regardless of their contract status.

Ryan Hunter-Reay Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Hunter-Reay had a frustrating year in 2020. It began with a car that wouldn’t fire on the grid at the opening race in Texas. The Andretti Autosport driver did manage a 10th place finish in the season standings, however. Hunter-Reay usually finds a way into the top 10 despite problems during a race. Last year was a bit more of a struggle than most years.

Looking ahead to 2021 Hunter-Reay said, “Yeah, definitely I’m looking forward to that kind of makeup,what feels like a makeup season almost. Hopefully we can do that, barring any variants of COVID that might derail that.”

As for extra pressure coming from a one year deal, Hunter-Reay said that he approaches every race as if it could be his last in the car.

“My whole career has been that way. It’s been, Hey, here is your opportunity. Get in the car, we’ll let you know if you’re going to be in the car the next race. That’s how it always has been for me. That’s why I’ve always had that grab-it-by-the-neck mentality. Even when I had a three-year deal, if I had a bad weekend, it was the end of the year. I have to make sure I’m performing next weekend, otherwise somebody with a big smile is getting ready to jump into my seat. It’s just part of my mentality, part of my makeup. No, that’s how I’ve been operating for 20 years, man. Right at home for me.”

Hunter-Reay has stiff competition from his own team. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta should be fighting for the championship and possibly a win at the Indianapolis 500.

Power Hopes for Better Start

Will Power feels the need to have a better start to the season. 2019 and 2020 both began with a series of issues that hampered his run for the title. He has still managed to win twice in each of the past two years and add to his career pole mark. He is inching closer to Mario Andretti’s career pole total. Power goes into 2021 with same attitude he does every year.

“…same effort that I put in because I had put so much effort in every time. I so badly want to win. Yep, same fire, internal fire burning. Just do as I do, do obviously my best.”

Any extra pressure seems to come from the poor starts of the last two years.

“It actually does feel a little bit that way, youknow, considering we’ve started the last four seasons in a really bad way. It certainly isn’t speed that’s the issue. It’s our bad days are just too bad. Our bad days are DNFs and multiple laps down. They’re not like a 10th place or a seventh place, and that’s our problem. The speed is certainly not. Winning is certainly not. Consistently,whether it’s mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me, you just — we have to have a solid beginning to the season.”

Like Hunter-Reay, Power will compete with Team Penske teammates-Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud for points and podiums.

Pagenaud Looks for Better Qualifying, Race Results

Simon Pagenaud Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Simon Pagenaud had a frustrating season in 2020. Poor qualifying forced him to play catch up during races. he did get a victory in Iowa race 1 after starting last, and his eighth place final standing seems like a decent year. It was not good enough for Pagenaud. What went wrong?

“…a combination of things that didn’t work out the way I wanted. Obviously the car change made a big difference. The lack of testing made a big impact on my season.”

Team Penske has been able to test this pre-season and that should make a big difference in Pagenaud’s year. As for pressure to keep his job in 2022?

“…my personal opinion is just go out there and do the best you can, race hard and be in the moment. The contracts will take care of themselves when they do.It’s too early to tell anyway. But yeah, I always race as hard as I can. My motto is having no regrets ever, so I work hard, and I want to have no regrets. So if I have no regrets, there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue.”