Felix Rosenqvist had two excellent chances to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Iowa Speedway, and both slipped away.
The first was a late passing attempt on race leader Josef Newgarden, who edged ahead just far enough to use the lapped car of Graham Rahal as protection. Rosenqvist’s second chance came on the final restart with three laps to go in the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade.
The driver of the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet was positioned to take a stab at Newgarden, who was still the race leader, only to have Newgarden’s teammate, Will Power, slide under him approaching Turn 1. Power’s move forced Rosenqvist into a higher lane than he preferred, costing him traction and momentum as he drifted back to fifth place.
Rosenqvist managed to regain fourth position to tie his career best on an oval track, but he acknowledged there is pain in going 0-for-2 on this day.
“Never been more bummed about a fourth place, but it was a good drive,” said the Swedish driver, who also finished fourth in the 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rosenqvist started 16th and led two early laps through the first sequence of pit stops. With most of the attention on Newgarden’s weekend dominance and the championship ramifications, Rosenqvist appearing in the top three on Lap 180 of 250 was something of a surprise. He got to second place on Lap 198 by pitting a lap earlier than Newgarden and Power in front of him.
Bear in mind that Rosenqvist was driving a backup chassis due to wall contact in the Honda Indy Toronto. He said regaining form following the changeover of equipment took longer than expected, and the team made several setup changes after he finished 13th, two laps off Newgarden’s winning pace, in Saturday’s Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart.
“It (was) a matter of readjusting a bunch of things as none of the (tubs) are the same,” Rosenqvist said. “That set us back from Day 1 here.
“But yeah, in that sense I was pretty surprised we found such a leap (overnight). I think yesterday we had a top-12, top-11 car and today we had a car to win, so that’s a phenomenal turnaround. Give thanks to the team.”
The two fourth-place finishes are easily Rosenqvist’s best finishes on oval tracks. Finishing seventh in last year’s second Iowa Speedway race was one of his two next-best finishes. However, he won the NTT P1 Award for the 2022 race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Rosenqvist’s only series win came in 2020 at Road America.
The chance to finally break through on an oval is linked to Sunday’s two missed opportunities, and they had him stewing after the race, especially when he matched Newgarden’s elite pace late in the race.
“At one point, I had a go at (Newgarden) and then I got stuck behind Graham,” he said. “I really struggled get by him, and it took a lot out of my tires.”
Newgarden slipped from Rosenqvist’s grasp over the next several laps, eventually staking claim to a six-second lead until a caution flag flew due to Ryan Hunter-Reay’s slight Turn 4 wall contact with 10 laps remaining. With the lapped cars repositioned behind the lead-lap cars for the final shootout, Rosenqvist got his second chance at Newgarden, but again he couldn’t capitalize.
“It was a fair shot to the finish,” he said. “I just didn’t have a good getaway, and then Will pushed me up in the marbles. I was struggling on the restarts; that was our weakest link.
“I think I could have done a better job picking gears and reaction time and all that. I had a little too much of a bog, and Will got me.”
Seconds later, the Turn 2 wall almost got him.
“I was very lucky to finish the race, to be fair, because I was full (steering wheel) lock, waiting to see where I was going to end up,” Rosenqvist said. “Those last-lap things (could have gone) either way, so a hell of a day for us. I’m glad we have some momentum.”
Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. The 80-lap street race is Sunday, Aug. 6 (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).