Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is looking back at a fantastic, entertaining 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics. This 10-part series will run regularly in October.
Today’s question: What was the best pass in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: How about a sequence of them? Using this criteria, give me Pato O’Ward’s charge through the top five in the closing laps of the second Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on June 13. On the restart with seven laps to go, the Arrow McLaren SP driver passed Graham Rahal on the inside for fourth place in Turn 1 and Alex Palou on the outside for third in Turn 3. A lap later, he muscled past Colton Herta on the inside for second place in Turn 8, then set sail for race leader Josef Newgarden. At that point, Newgarden’s lead was 1.3 seconds, but O’Ward erased that in a hurry, bumping his way past the Team Penske driver in Turn 8 with three laps to go. O’Ward was gone from there, winning by 6.7 seconds. Watch Race Highlights Video
Zach Horrall: Without a doubt, it’s Romain Grosjean’s show-stopping pass on Jimmie Johnson in the Corkscrew corner at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey in September. One NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie, an F1 veteran, barreling it into the iconic corner on another NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie, a NASCAR legend. What a moment. There was air, contact, a car off course, two incredible saves and many, many jaws on the floor. What more could you ask for? Watch Race Highlights Video
Paul Kelly: It says something about the insane competitiveness of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES that this may be the toughest question for me to answer in this season-end series of roundtables. There were so many skilled, audacious passes this season, so there are many good answers. But none of the other great passes I reviewed topped Helio Castroneves’ daring overtake of Alex Palou on the outside in Turn 1 for the lead on Lap 199 of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Everything was at stake if that move was successful: Castroneves’ drive toward a record-tying fourth “500” victory and immortality, Meyer Shank Racing’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory and, perhaps most importantly, the resurrection of Castroneves’ full-time INDYCAR SERIES career at age 46. If the move failed, Castroneves could have finished second in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for a heartbreaking fourth time or he could have ended up on a collision course with the SAFER Barrier, and he might not have received a full-time call-up from the team for the 2022 season. Instead, Helio pulled it off in breathtaking fashion, almost identical to how Rick Mears passed Michael Andretti in Turn 1 late in the 1991 race en route to his record-tying fourth victory, and his May fairy tale was complete. Watch Race Highlights Video