Felix Rosenqvist

Felix Rosenqvist isn’t the Arrow McLaren driver most in the public spotlight this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he isn’t the Swede who is the defending champion of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

However, Rosenqvist is one of the three NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers starting from the front row of Sunday’s race (11 a.m., NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network), and historically, that’s a money spot to be in.

Forty-two percent of all “500” race winners have started that race in one of the top three positions, including 13 from the No. 3 spot that Rosenqvist occupies. Only pole winners have won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” more times (21).

The timing of Rosenqvist’s weekend performance in PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying couldn’t have been better as he works to secure his job for 2024. That might be his biggest money play to date.

“I mean, it doesn’t hurt,” the driver of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet said, smiling. “We always try to be quick, and I feel like most of the time we are.

“I don’t really think about (contract talks) right now. I just try to be in the now, extract everything I can every race, and I always tell myself things work themselves out if you just focus on what you do in the car.”

Rosenqvist is riding a wave of momentum in that pursuit, having qualified in the second position for the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course earlier in the month, and he won the NTT P1 Award for the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway in the series’ second race of the season (April 2). He has posted top-10 finishes in each of the past three races.

“Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve been quick,” he said. “We’ve been qualifying up front, (and) we’ve been good in the races (with) good strategy. The whole team has just come together so well that I just feel like there’s quite a lot in store for us for the rest of the season, and obviously now we’re here again on the front row for the second race in a row.

“It’s awesome. We just have to ride the wave, and I feel like that way it’s going to get (better) as the year goes on, (and we’ll see) what happens for me in the future.”

Sunday could go a long way to securing that, and countryman Marcus Ericsson has used the leverage of last year’s “500” to become the biggest name on the INDYCAR SERIES’ free agent market.

There certainly is reason to believe Rosenqvist could do something similar this weekend. He started last year’s “500” from the eighth position and finished fourth after consistently running in the lead group. With teammate Pato O’Ward finishing second and new colleagues Tony Kanaan and Alexander Rossi on board as former winners of the race – they also finished in the top five last year – Rosenqvist and Arrow McLaren like their chances to win the 107th Running.

O’Ward said Monday that Rosenqvist might have the team’s fastest car in race trim, although Rosenqvist said the car was “a little bit off, but it’s all good” and they didn’t run as well in the draft as they wanted. Officially, his best lap ranked 30th among the 33 cars on track.

“We kind of made it worse by trying to make it easier (to drive),” Rosenqvist said. “Hard to explain. But it was a good read … and I felt happy all month, so I’m sure we can revert to a (faster) car.”

Rosenqvist will bid to become the third Swede to win the “500,” following Kenny Brack in 1999 and Ericsson last year. He said Brack was the first driver he remembers watching, grabbing his attention even before he began following European-based Formula One.

Rosenqvist remembers Brack having his horrific crash at Texas Motor Speedway in the final race of the 2003 season, then impressively coming back to IMS less than two years later. As a replacement for the injured Buddy Rice at Rahal Letterman Racing, Brack set the event’s fastest four-lap qualifying effort, although as a second-weekend qualifier he started 23rd.

“That was a big deal in Sweden, and that was kind of my first memories of racing,” Rosenqvist said of Brack. “(The ‘500’) is a big deal in Sweden because he won (it), and obviously Marcus won it last year.

“So, Sweden is pumped for this race right now. There’s a lot of Swedish flags out there already, and everyone is sitting back home and watching late at night.”

Sunday’s race will roll off at about 6:30 p.m. Sweden time, and the locals will have another favorite son to cheer on. Ericsson started fifth last year; Rosenqvist has done him two spots better, which earns him the advantageous third pit box from the exit blend line.

Most of all, the experience of being confirmed as one of Indy’s fastest is good for him and the team, and they participated in the recording of that Monday morning with the traditional front-row photo on the front straightaway.

“It’s a cool thing for me and the whole team being on the front, even if it’s just for the start (of the race),” he said. “(The field) will get mixed up pretty quickly, but it’s definitely a statement of where we are right now as a team, also for me as a driver. It’s definitely a dream to do that, and to get the pole is even more of a dream.

“It’s a cool feeling, and we have an awesome opportunity starting from third – I mean, it’s probably the best place to start from, to be fair. Leading you’re burning too much fuel, and if you’re second, you’re probably getting a false sense of where your balance is. Being third, you kind of learn how to work on your car in traffic, and you’re still kind of in clean air.

“I think third is happy window. Yeah, mega opportunity for us.”