A portrait of Felix Rosenqvist

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Felix Rosenqvist believes his fantastic drive last Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway was the best race of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. Although he ended up in the SAFER Barrier instead of Victory Lane, the second-year driver for Chip Ganassi Racing was battling his teammate, Scott Dixon, for the victory in the closing laps of the Genesys 300.

With nine laps to go, Rosenqvist was behind James Hinchcliffe’s slower car. Rosenqvist decided to take the high line around Hinchcliffe entering Turn 1. Unfortunately, that was the slippery part of the track, and when Rosenqvist’s car wiggled, it triggered a ride into the wall that ended his race.

But before that, a fantastic duel was shaping up between Rosenqvist and Dixon – the two dominant drivers of the race. That could be a preview of more to come in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“Considering how tough it’s been to prepare for this race and the ovals have not been my strongest side in racing, that made it that much better to run up front Saturday night,” Rosenqvist said. “The confidence was way higher, and the car was super good. We had the best cars out there, as well.

“All of that put together, I felt like a different driver compared to last year at Texas, that’s for sure.”

As a rookie at Texas in 2019, Rosenqvist was never really in the thick of the race as he started 16th and finished 12th. Last Saturday night in the highly anticipated start of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, Rosenqvist was one of the stars of the show.

After starting ninth, he raced his way through the field to contend with Dixon for the victory. The contact with the wall, however, dropped him to a 20th-place finish in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.

Rosenqvist doesn’t blame the PJ1 traction compound for making the high line slick because it was also treacherous in that lane last year.

“We were running at the front and Dixon was flying in P1, we made our pit stop and hoped we got a good out lap,” Rosenqvist said. “The only way we were going to get Dixon was in that pit sequence. Other than that, I was going to go for the high finish.”

Rosenqvist believes the impressive performance from the three CGR drivers on the track including Dixon, Rosenqvist and newcomer Marcus Ericsson was a testament to the team’s engineering during the shutdown. Although many INDYCAR teams were not allowed to work in the shop for the first portion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the engineering staff could work at home.

“Everything clicked on the day,” Rosenqvist said. “It was less hard than last year. It felt normal when we were out there working with the team and driving the car. Once we got back in, it felt like we were driving yesterday.”

For Rosenqvist, the hardest part was the weeks building up to the season opener with the emails and understanding the procedures that would need to be executed in a one-day show.

The next race is the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Rosenqvist earned his first NTT P1 Award for pole for that event last year before finishing eighth.

He will continue to work on his physical fitness and on the simulator during the three-week break.

“We would all like to get going again, but I’m going to try to carry that momentum from Texas and also from my runs on the road course last year,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s a confidence you carry from all the hard work that you put in that is paying off.

“To improve from the way I did at Texas last year to fighting for the front in one year is pretty promising, the amount of progress that I’ve made. Sometimes, we need a sign the work we have put into it pays off. That is the confidence I’m taking into the Indy GP.”

Rosenqvist is better prepared for his second season in INDYCAR. He is calmer inside the cockpit with a slower heart rate and breathing. That’s a sign of having more confidence in the car.

“It’s more knowledge; less rookie,” Rosenqvist said. “I’m not even a rookie anymore.

“But it is a long year. It’s going to be a hell of a championship; it’s going to be tight with a lot of contenders for the title. It’s going to be closer than ever. I definitely feel I’m going be a better driver than last year, and that’s what it’s all about.”