A fourth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Running third at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when a mechanical issue bit him. A podium finish in Toronto. A second earned pole of the season last weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Yes, Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist has been rolling the past couple of months in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and he knows it.
“For sure, I’ve been on my ‘A’ game the last seven, eight races,” he said, adding that it’s been a group effort on the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. “I think the pit crew has been on (its) ‘A’ game. I think the engineering team has really figured out (and) kind of simplified our program at little bit.”
The gains have been massive year over year. Rosenqvist finished 21st in the 2021 standings due to missing two races following a mechanical failure that sent him hard into the tire barrier in Detroit; he’s ninth this year with four races to go. Both his average starting and finishing position are above his career norms in this series, and his confidence seems to rise with each time in the car.
“I think the team is really vibing well,” he said. “We’re a young team still. There’s a lot of new things happening in McLaren and Arrow McLaren SP every day, and I feel like everything is kind of jelling a bit more every weekend, and the results are following that trend.
“It’s a good place to be right now.”
The good times kept rolling for Rosenqvist during the opening practice for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Friday at Nashville. He was second overall with a best lap of 1 minute, 16.2050 seconds. Rosenqvist qualified fourth and finished eighth in last year’s inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
Moving forward, Rosenqvist hopes the team becomes more consistent, as mechanical woes cost him better results at three of the past five races (Mid-Ohio, Race 1 at Iowa Speedway and last weekend’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the IMS road course).
“I wouldn’t sit here and say that we’re like on a massive roll because we’re still not winning races,” said Rosenqvist, whose only series victory came in a 2020 race at Road America. “But yeah, the performance is good, we’re there pace-wise every weekend (since mid-May). Oval, street course, road course (we’re good), so I think that’s obviously a massive step.”
About Last Year’s Inaugural Race
If last year is an indication, Andretti Autosport drivers should be eager for Saturday’s qualifying session. Colton Herta won the NTT P1 Award with Alexander Rossi third and now-teammate Romain Grosjean fifth. Grosjean was driving for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR last year.
Herta dominated the weekend last year, earning the widest qualifying margin of the season between the fastest two drivers. His advantage over Scott Dixon was .5492 of a second, and then he led a race-high 39 laps in the 80-lap race before hitting the outside wall in the fast Turn 9 chasing Marcus Ericsson for the lead on Lap 75.
Ericsson, who led 37 laps, went on to score his second victory of the season despite running into Sebastien Bourdais, his car going vertical on the restart at Lap 5 and incurring a drive-through penalty. Chip Ganassi Racing earned the only 1-2 finish by teammates across all races last season in this event, with Dixon finishing second after taking fuel only on his final pit stop. He drove the final 48 laps on the same set of tires (19 of those laps were under caution).
With drivers second, fourth and sixth in the standings, CGR is trying to win a third consecutive series championship, and if Ericsson wins the Astor Challenge Cup in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, the Indianapolis-based organization will have won three consecutive titles with three different drivers, something that has never happened in this sport. Dixon won the title in 2019, Alex Palou in 2020.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will stage its second practice of the weekend in a 60-minute session beginning at 12:15 p.m. (ET). Forty-five minutes of track time is guaranteed. Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award will be at 4:30 p.m. Both sessions will air live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will have two sessions Saturday. Practice is at 11:15 a.m. (ET) with qualifying at 3:40 p.m.
Odds and Ends
- The entrance to Turn 9, where Herta’s race ended last year, has been reduced from 85 feet wide to 60 feet wide to accommodate an additional suite. The left-hander is significantly slower as a result, but it should offer more passing opportunities. That modification, along with restarting races coming off the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, are the primary changes to the 11-turn, 2.1-mile street circuit and the staging of the races.
- Alexander Rossi, the winner of the Gallagher Grand Prix last Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, turned only 12 laps during practice Friday due to a mechanical problem. Peacock Premium reported the Andretti Autosport team was forced to bleed the brakes on his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.
- Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda for driver Helio Castroneves will start six positions deeper in the field than it qualifies due to an unapproved engine change following last weekend’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
- The fourth-annual Josef Newgarden Celebrity Ping-Pong Challenge held Thursday night in Nashville raised more than $65,000 for a pair of charities – SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags & Walks Nashville, the driver said.
- NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Zach Veach is working as a driver coach this season with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires rookie Ernie Francis Jr. and the Force Indy team. Veach said Friday he jumped into Francis’ car at a recent Sebring test to turn laps and validate Francis’ feedback. It was the first time Veach turned a wheel in an Indy Lights car since he won the 2016 season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
- Indy Lights driver Antonio Serravalle decided to conclude his season to shift focus toward 2023. He drove for Abel Motorsports and HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. James Roe is now driving HMD’s No. 11 car, moving from TJ Speed Motorsports.
- Benjamin Pedersen led the 50-minute Indy Lights practice by more than four-tenths of a second Friday, turning a best lap of 1 minute, 21.8473 seconds in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD car. Danial Frost was second quickest at 1:22.2616.