St. Pete Qualifying- After Chaos, Normalcy Returns

Some thoughts about today’s qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which can be viewed at 8 pm Eastern on NBCSN:

It was nice to have the drama of the Fast Six again. This is only the second time this season the Fast Six has been the qualifying procedure.

It seems the black tires may be faster than the red alternate tires here. Alexander Rossi advanced from round 1 without going to the reds.

Colton Herta’s tire strategy looked good in the Fast Six but hurt him at the end.

Group two results and penalties caused a delay, partly due to an issue with timing and scoring. The delay created a lot of confusion as to who would advance. Indycar got it right in the end, though.

What a very nice run for Sebastien Bourdais in the A. J. Foyt Racing number 14. The team is definitely looking forward to beginning the season here in March.

While Scott McLaughlin starts near the back, he showed some flashes of speed in practice. He has a lot to learn about qualifying, but I think he will have a great year in 2021.

Andretti Autosport looked strong today with three cars and their technical partner Meyer Shank in the Fast Six.

Ironic that Oliver Askew got into Round 2 because Felix Rosenqvist was penalized. An angry Rosenqvist driving from the rear of the field will make for some excitement tomorrow.

I can’t remember a qualifying session where six penalties were assessed.

The Will Power/Colton Herta qualifying rivalry continues. I look for more clashes between them next year, with Herta winning a few more times.

Power’s fifth pole of the year puts him within five of Mario Andretti’s 67 career poles. Power has won 9 poles at St. Pete. Today’s was his 6th pole here in 7 years. He has won this race from the pole just once, however.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Strange that both title contenders , Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden failed to make the Fast Six. Dixon starts 11th and Newgarden starts 8th. Not winning the pole cost Newgarden a valuable point in his chase to overtake Dixon. Dixon still needs to finish ninth or better tomorrow, but depending on what Newgarden does, Dixon may be able to win the title with a lower finish.

James Hinchcliffe had a solid day which should help his chances to secure a seat for next year. He was strong in practice, led group 1 in qualifying, and made the Fast Six.

Tomorrow morning look for my race day preview. I’ll include some things my on site reporters have shared about the the venue.

Qualifying results:

Race 2 Quick Thoughts-A Sense of Normalcy

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power takes the pole and dominates the race. Team Penske sweeps the weekend. with two wins and two front row starts. Power and Josef Newgarden combined to lead 109 of the 160 laps. This weekend brought a sense of normalcy back. This how the IMS road course works.

A victory at St. Pete would make Power a 40 race winner. It has been more than 20 years since two 40 race winners were active in the series.

Not every race can be as great as Friday’s, and I wasn’t expecting today’s race to be that good. It is quite a feat to lead every lap in a race, especially one with such a long pit stop delta.

It was nice to see Simon Pagenaud move up to the top 10 after an awful friday. He still hasn’t figured out qualifying. Pagenaud’s struggles in qualifying have been one of the most puzzling things about this season.

Colton Herta made an impressive late charge to close in on Power. It made the last few laps interesting.

Alexander Rossi had his best weekend of the year with two podium finishes.

Jack Harvey has three top 10s and one podium in four races on the IMS road course.

Scott Dixon’s struggles continue. His lead over Newgarden is just 32 points heading to St. Pete. The Florida street course is not one of Dixon’s better tracks. He just needs to keep Newgarden in sight during the race.

I don’t know how Indycar determines race distances, but I think 5 more laps might have made the race more intriguing.

If the fans had a vote, the Harvest Grand Prix would be an annual event.

Finally, huge thanks to Roger Penske, Doug Boles, and the entire staff at IMS for their efforts to create a safe environment for fans to be to attend the races this weekend. The fans who live in Indianapolis needed this, and they will remember and appreciate this weekend for a long time.

Power on Pole for Race 2

Will Power is back home again in Indiana. He took the pole position for this afternoon’s Race 2 of the Harvest Grand Prix. Power has won on this track three times in the May edition of the IMS road course race.

Colton Herta starts second. Yesterday’s winner, Josef Newgarden, starts 9th and points leader Scott Dixon starts 15th. Rinus VeeKay, yesterday’s pole winner, starts 14th.

Power’s pole is his 4th of the year and 61st of his career. He could tie or pass Mario Andretti’ s career mark of 67 poles sometime next season.

Power Looks for Mid Ohio Sweep; Dixon Hopes to Extend Lead

Today’s schedule

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Today’s race is on NBC. Make sure to set your recording on the proper channel.

Can Will Power sweep the weekend? I think he has the best chance to win both poles and both races anyone has had his year. Scott Dixon needs to finish ahead if Josef Newgarden today to regain momentum.

Pato O’Ward had a disappointing day yesterday. I hope he can salvage part of the weekend.

Can Andretti Autosport find that little extra today?

I’ll have a brief report post qualifying. My Quick Thoughts will be up tomorrow morning.

Quick Thoughts- Mid Ohio Race 1

Photo: Matt Fraver, Indycar

It was obvious after qualifying that Will Power was going to have a monster race. Any driver who can win the pole from Group 1 in this qualifying format has a really good car. The bad news for the rest of the field is that Power is in Group 2 tomorrow. The expected rain means Group 1 will got out on a green And possibly slightly wet track.

Although Power had the race well in hand, there were some good battles behind him. Alexander Rossi and teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay fought early. Rossi and Graham Rahal had a late battle for third. The Rahal home crowd perked up when Rahal nearly got by. Scott Dixon and Colton Herta also had a good fight for tenth.

If Conor Daly hadn’t run out of fuel, Rd Carpenter Racing would have had two cars in the top ten. Daly qualified fourth. Perhaps ECR might be getting more competitive on the road courses. Rinus VeeKay had another top ten. He also made another great pass in turn 4 on Herta.

It was one of Andretti Autosport’s best days of the season, with three cars in the top ten plus the Meyer Shank team getting another top ten with Jack Harvey. Hunter-Reay also started on the front row.

Speaking of Harvey, he just quietly goes about his business and keeps getting good results.

Power’s 60th pole and 38th career win move him closer to joining two legends. He is just seven poles behind Mario Andretti and one win behind Al Unser, Sr. for fifth place. He passed Sebastien Bourdain’s today on the victory list.

Josefs Newgarden made up 20 points on Scott Dixon today. How many can Dixon get back tomorrow? Dixon’s biggest ally is time.

COVID Protocols

Mid Ohio did a great job keeping fans safe. Masks were worn more today than at any other track with fans I’ve been to. Staff reminded people who had masks off to wear them and fans complied. The squares painted in orange for people to sit in were hard to see. White paint or chalk might have been better. I appreciate the concept and people respected the boundaries.

The track is hoping the success of their protocols this weekend will allow them to host more fans for the IMSA race on two weeks. All 6,000 tickets for today we’re sold.

I’ll be back with a Day 2 preview in the morning. Quick Thoughts for tomorrow’s race will be up Monday morning. Thanks for following this weekend.

Results

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GMR Qualifying- The Kids Are Alright

Photo: Indycar, Chris Jones

Will Power won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix with a brilliant final lap in the Fast Six. he nipped Jack Harvey by 0.188  seconds. Old news. This was Power’s fourth pole in this race. He won the other three times he started on pole. The pole was the 58th of Power’s career, and he is just nine shy of tying Mario Andretti for the most career poles. He will creep even closer by year’s end.

What I want to focus this qualifying report on though is the younger drivers in the series. Overall, they had a great day. I will discuss them after a recap of qualifying.

Round 1, Group 1

The youngsters led the way, grabbing the first four spots to advance. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden struggled to squeeze into the final transfer spot.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Max Chilton

Felix Rosenqvist

Conor Daly

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Josef Newgarden

Round 1, Group 2

This session had a more traditional look with Power leading and more drivers expected to advance filling the next round.

Results:

Will Power

Colton Herta

Scott Dixon

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Alexander Rossi

Round of 12

Half of the drivers in the second round have less than three full years of Indycar experience. It looked as if the fast Six would shape up to be another the great Power vs. Herta pole battles we had last season, but another youngster decided to spoil the fun.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Colton Herta

Will Power

Josef Newgarden

Fast Six

Jack Harvey came within a whisker of his first career pole. Power nipped him on the final lap as time ran out. The result was Harvey’s second consecutive GMR Grand Prix Fast Six. In 2019 he started third and finished third.

Results:

Will Power      1:10.177

Jack Harvey    1:10.365

Colton Herta

Graham Rahal

Oliver Askew

Josef Newgarden

The Kids

If you were keeping score, half of each of the last two rounds had drivers with less than three years experience. Oliver Askew in his first road course qualifying led two rounds of qualifying and had the fastest lap of 1:09.878 in the second round.

Conor Daly got a rare second round spot for Ed Carpenter Racing and will start 8th tomorrow.

Colton Herta showed last year that he will be a perennial contender.

Jack Harvey loves this track. if he can transfer his success at IMS to the rest of the series, he will be someone fun to watch.

Max Chilton advancing to the second round was nice to see.

Felix rosenqvist had an off day today, but could be a factor tomorrow.

We are witnessing a very quick generational change. These younger drivers are the sport’s future. The current stars have at most three years left. The series will be in very good hands when they leave. We could see a few more surprises this season. The kids are alright.

 

 

 

Power Quickest in GMR Practice; Good session for Young Guns

It’s probably bad news for the rest of the field. Will Power lead the only practice session for the seventh running of the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this morning.  Power languished near the back of the pack through the first hour of the 90 minute session, then slowly began moving toward the front, topping the charts with about  15 minutes remaining. He was the only driver to crack the 1:10 mark.

The results:

1 12 Will Power Team Penske 1:09.949 –.—- 30
2 18 Santino Ferrucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 1:10.124 0.1755 21
3 8 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.165 0.2161 28
4 5 Pato O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP 1:10.187 0.2387 29
5 9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.205 0.2567 25
6 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 1:10.285 0.3359 25
7 22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske 1:10.313 0.3642 27
8 10 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.362 0.4132 29
9 45 Spencer Pigot RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport 1:10.363 0.4146 23
10 7 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP 1:10.364 0.4154 30
11 88 Colton Herta Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport 1:10.385 0.4360 17
12 1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske 1:10.386 0.4375 26
13 60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing 1:10.455 0.5063 24
14 98 Marco Andretti Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian 1:10.486 0.5372 30
15 27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport 1:10.520 0.5717 21
16 30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:10.538 0.5894 25
17 21 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing 1:10.606 0.6571 36
18 59 Max Chilton Carlin 1:10.611 0.6627 26
19 15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:10.685 0.7367 31
20 20 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing 1:10.694 0.7448 26
21 26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport 1:10.709 0.7602 27
22 55 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh 1:10.886 0.9376 26
23 4 Charlie Kimball AJ Foyt Enterprises 1:10.980 1.0312 25
24 29 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport 1:11.227 1.2783 26
25 14 Dalton Kellett AJ Foyt Enterprises 1:11.448 1.4997 42
26 24 Sage Karam Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 1:11.616 1.

The rookies and younger drivers had some time at the top. Felix Rosenqvist, last byear’s pole sitter, led for a while, as did Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson.

Oliver Askew is the only rookie in the top 10. The biggest surprise in the top 10 is Spencer Pigot in 9th.  His team, Citrone Buhlo in partnership with RLL Racing,  team is making their Indycar debut this weekend.

the practice was stopped twice. Santino Ferrucci bumped Ryan Hunter-Reay around the 45 minute mark. Hunter-Reay was getting his tires up to temperature when Ferrucci tried to pass him pon the inside going into turn 7. Hunter-Reay spun and stalled. Ferrucci received a 5 minute stop and hold penalty for avoidable contact.

With about 30 minutes left, Sage Karam lost power on the access road by turn 12.

Notes

Except for Hunter-Reay, the rest of the Andretti Autosport struggled in the middle of the pack.

A dozen or so fans stood at the ,main gate watching the video board facing the entrance.

It was frustrating hearing the cars but not seeing them. It was still better than nothing.

I have never seen the Speedway look nicer.

A few photos:

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Back tonight after qualifying.

Power: Car with Aeroscreen Could Race This Weekend

In a mid afternoon press conference  NTT Indycar Series Jay Frye said today’s Aeroscreen test “exceeded our high expectations. We learned a lot; we have lot of work to do but the foundation is set.” Frye said the cars will visually be different when teams do their own things to blend the new device into their liveries.

If necessary, the AMR  Safety Team will be able to remove piece “within seconds,” Frye said. “They already have a piece they are practicing on,” he added.

The day long test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw drivers Will Power and Scott Dixon log 600 miles by 3 pm. Both drivers agreed that the test was seamless . Both drivers commented on how quiet it was in the cockpit. “I can hear my radio,” Dixon said.

Power was impressed with how quickly the project came together.  “When you’ve driven it for a day you’re going to feel naked without it, ” he said. Asked if this car could race this weekend, Power responded, “you could race this weekend; no problem, no issue.” Dixon agreed.

Power and Dixon still believe some adjustments need to be made with the tear-offs and air flow adjustments. They both think reflections need work as well.  Dixon sais there are some optional and driver’s personal preference items that need to be looked into as well.

Tire wear was not a concern today. Power said the car was more forgiving. The new weight distribution helped, he said. Dixon said on his long run the speed fall off was about the same as this year.

Following the press conference Power and Dixon returned to the track to do simulated “qualifying runs.”

I started the day skeptical of the aesthetics and how the Aeroscreen would work. I am ending the day impressed with the new safety piece. Safety is the first priority and this is a step in the right direction. As the piece blends in with the cars, it won’t be noticeable. It should be even less noticeable on the new chassis in 2022, when it is an integrated part of the car.

 

 

 

 

Grand Prix of Portland- Quick Thoughts

Will Power has returned. After finally winning a race this year at Pocono, he has now won two out of the last three races. Two wins and htree poles is still a somewhat substandard year for Power, but he has come alive in the last part of the season. One of the things that didn’t feel right about this season was Power not being a threat to win every week.

A great run for Spencer Pigot in sixth. Pigot is another driver who has begun to show better the last third of the year.

Matheus Leist earned A. J. Foyt Racing another top ten. This is the team’s fourth top ten since Iowa.

While Alexander Rossi gained on  Josef Newgarden, Newgarden still increased his lead. Rossi is back in second place, 41 points behind. Simon Pagenaud is just one point behind Rossi.

Scott Dixon is likely done as far as the championship is concerned. Has to be a frustrating day for him.

The first lap yellow seemed to take a long time to clean up. It looked like the wreckers had  hard time hooking the cars up to the trucks.

I’m not sure what Ryan Hunter-Reay was thinking on the restart.

I feel awful for Conor Daly not getting a chance to show what he could do for Arrow Schmidt Peterson. This is the second race in which both ASPM cars were taken out on the first lap.

Felix Rosenqvist has two second place finishes in the last five races. Here is another driver finally emerging late in the year.

Here are two photos I took of the start and the chaos that followed. if you look from Veach and behind him, you can see how it developed.

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Zach Veach (blue and gold car on the left) and behind him is where the first lap accident began

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Look for a full race report tomorrow on Wildfire Sports. I’ll be back next week with comments on the 2020 schedule and the changes at A. J. Foyt Racing. Thanks for following along this weekend.