ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Felix Rosenqvist outdueled Pato O’Ward in a thrilling late-race battle to score his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory in the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR Doubleheader Race 2 on Sunday, July 12 at Road America.
Rosenqvist’s drive in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ended the undefeated start to the 2020 season by his teammate, Scott Dixon. But the 28-year-old continued the dominating start for Chip Ganassi Racing, which has won all four NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season.
“It feels so good,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s been a long time. We’ve been close so many times. This race was for my 10 car crew, the NTT DATA crew. Also Honda. I’m really proud to be powered by NTT and Honda this year. It’s been really good. Every race just hasn’t had a lock, just hasn’t come together until now. Today we went all for it. Super pace, the car was fantastic. It’s four out of four for Ganassi, which is huge.”
2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rosenqvist completed a stirring comeback to pass O’Ward on the second-to-last of the 55 laps of the race, pulling away to win by 2.8699 seconds at the checkered flag. His previous-best finish was second last year at Mid-Ohio and Portland.
O’Ward dominated the day in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, winning the NTT P1 Award for pole in qualifying this morning and leading 43 of the 55 laps. But as the end of the race neared, O’Ward’s used Firestone red tires, the alternate compound option, began to fall off and allowed Rosenqvist to close the gap quickly. Still, 2018 Indy Lights champion O’Ward, who is racing in his first full-time season, scored his best career finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
“I gave it everything, every little bit I had,” O’Ward said. “I was pushing, pushing, pushing, but I just couldn’t keep Felix behind me. I really want to thank Arrow McLaren SP, Team Chevy. The car was really, really good. We just missed that little extra in keeping the rear tires under us. But we’re here.
“We got some good points this weekend, and we’re looking forward to Iowa. We like running up front. I think we showed that we have everything to do it. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Following Rosenqvist and O’Ward on the podium was Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda with his best finish of the season after a rough start to the year. Rossi’s previous best finish this season was 15th at the season opener June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Marcus Ericsson finished fourth for his third straight top-10 finish and his best result of the season in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Colton Herta rounded out the top five in the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda. Herta is the only driver to score a top-10 finish in every race this season. The consistent start to the year leaves him second in the series standings, 54 points behind Dixon, whose three-race win streak ended with a 12th-place finish in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Rosenqvist proved to have one of the fastest cars all day long. He started seventh and found himself in the top five quickly. He spent most of the afternoon hunting down O’Ward, who jumped out to a lead as large as nine seconds at one point.
A problem during a pit stop hindered Rosenqvist’s drive to the front. The jack dropped while the left front tire was not secured. The crew had to jack the car again to fasten the tire, and Swedish native Rosenqvist lost all progress he had made on Mexican driver O’Ward.
Rosenqvist’s chase resumed after the pit road mishap with a 7.5-second gap to O’Ward. He closed the gap to around five seconds when he made his final pit stop on Lap 43, two laps later than O’Ward’s last stop. Rosenqvist exited pit road with a 5.4-second gap to O’Ward with 12 laps to go.
But Rosenqvist continued to chip away at O’Ward’s lead, helped by more durable Firestone black (primary) tires and a joust between O’Ward and the lapped No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet of Conor Daly over the final stint, which put O’Ward in turbulent air and cost him time.
Rosenqvist caught O’Ward on Lap 54 and made a thrilling pass for the lead exiting Turn 5.
Rosenqvist looked to the outside of O’Ward but then backed out and went low, pulling a crossover move on O’Ward. The two raced side-by-side toward Turn 6 just inches apart from each other. With the momentum, Rosenqvist cleared O’Ward in the next corner and sailed to the checkered flag for his first career victory in North America’s top level of open-wheel racing.
“It was a lot of hard-earned seconds there that we lost in the pit a couple of times,” Rosenqvist said. “But we had so much pace. We kept closing in half a second every lap. And then when they said Pato was on the used reds, you obviously get a lot of faith that he might drop off in the end, and that’s what happened.
“Just stay cool, and then we went for it, really. Used all my push-to-pass on one lap and got him. So, it was a really good fight with him there. Got a little squirrelly coming out of Turn 5 there, but good show and good fun.”
The scintillating finish between Rosenqvist and O’Ward capped a race that was eventful and exciting from the start. In Turn 1 on the first lap, multiple veteran drivers saw trouble and had their days ended.
Heading into the first corner, Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet made contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay and the No. 28 DHL Honda. The contact sent Hunter-Reay spinning into the corner, ending the 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion’s day and resulting in a 22nd-place finish.
The contact had a ripple effect as Santino Ferrucci, driving the No. 18 SealMaster Honda, made contact with Jack Harvey in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXMHonda. Ferrucci was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact but rebounded to finish sixth. Harvey finished 17th.
Then, in Turn 3 just as the caution flag flew, Power made contact with Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda. Rahal attempted to correct the car, but instead he went spinning into the grass and made heavy contact with the wall. He was checked and released from the infield care center and finished 23rd. Power also was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact.
The race was restarted on Lap 3, but it went back under yellow flag conditions at the end of the lap with more trouble from Power. The 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion went off course in Turn 13 and spun into the grass. Power rebounded to finish 11th after bringing out the final full-course caution flag of the race.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will be back in action this Friday, July 17 at Iowa Speedway for another doubleheader weekend at the .875-mile tri-oval. The first race begins at 8:30 p.m. (ET, NBCSN) Friday, with Race 2 of the Iowa INDYCAR 250s scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (ET, NBCSN) Saturday.