Marcus Armstrong

Colton Herta and Will Power enter the Month of May 1-2 in NTT INDYCAR SERIES points. Ironically, each is riding a career-long winless drought, too.

Herta has finished third, second and eighth this season in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global w/ Curb-Agajanian. He hasn’t won an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race since the 2022 Sonsio Grand Prix, 33 starts ago. Herta will start 24th in the Sonsio Grand Prix after his car ran out of fuel on his last flying lap during the first round of qualifying Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Power, who qualified third in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet, last reached victory lane in the 2022 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle, 31 starts ago.

If either driver aspires to hoist the Astor Challenge Cup championship trophy later this season, the first for Herta and third for Power, it’s imperative those droughts come to a halt.

“I think if we just keep doing what we're doing, it'll come,” Herta said earlier Friday on an impending win.

Power agreed with that theory for ending his drought. In the last 31 races, Power has six runner-up finishes and six more third-place results.

He trails leader Herta, who leads the points standings for the first time in his career, by one point.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Alex Palou (-3) and Scott Dixon (-7) enter Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) third and fourth, respectively, in points. The two drivers not only swept the two races around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course last year, but both have combined to win three of the last four series titles with Palou the defending champion in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

In Palou’s two championships, he came to the Month of May third in points. He was 26 points back in 2021 and nine back last year.

“Every year is different,” Palou said. “I feel a little bit better now than ’21 and a little bit better than last year. It’s good to know that you can repeat it.”

Since 2000, the only two instances where a driver was outside of the top five in points entering the Month of May and won the championship later that season were Dixon in 2003 and 2018. He was eighth in points in 2003 (-31) and seventh (-51) in 2018.

Herta, Power, Palou and Dixon have combined to win four of the last five IMS road course events. The lone one they didn’t was the 2022 Gallagher Grand Prix that Alexander Rossi won in his final season at Andretti Global. Felix Rosenqvist earned the NTT P1 Award at that race.

Rosenqvist is fifth in points, 14 out of the lead, and looks to become the first driver from a team other than Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global to win a series championship since Sam Hornish Jr.’s back-to-back title run for Panther Racing in 2001-02. Rosenqvist has one career victory, at Road America in 2020 (65 starts ago). His new team for 2024, Meyer Shank Racing, has one career win – the 2021 Indianapolis 500 with Helio Castroneves (48 races ago).

Rosenqvist admits at this point of the season a podium finish is more likely than a victory, but he doesn’t rule out a victory before the season ends.

“We’re up there with the big boys,” Rosenqvist said after Barber Motorsports Park. “It's exciting.”

Penske Auctioning 17 Cars

Roger Penske and his racing organization, Team Penske, have consigned an assemblage of 17 cars for auction at Dana Mecum’s 37th Original Spring Classic, which runs May 10-18 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Penske, a 19-time Indianapolis 500-winning car owner, is scheduled to attend Thursday, May 16.

The vehicles offered by Penske bring together many pace cars that have held the honor over the years along with a diverse selection of other low-mileage, unrestored and limited-edition collector vehicles. The group includes a 1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car Edition (Lot T126) that was awarded to Rick Mears after his dominating run in the 1979 Indianapolis 500. The car stands in unrestored condition, showing just 1,633 miles.

Other notable top lots from the collection include a pair of 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car Editions (Lots T139 and T140) and a 2019 Chevrolet Grand Sport Coupe (Lot T142) with just 50 miles.

For more information on Dana Mecum’s 37th Original Spring Classic, visit or call 262-275-5050.

Armstrong Carrying Special Message

Jeff Schwarz, CEO of Indianapolis-based Schwarz Partners, was a longtime partner with Chip Ganassi Racing. Before Schwarz lost his battle to cancer last fall, CGR dedicated a tribute livery to honor him.

With IU Simon Cancer Center branding on the No. 11 Honda driven by Marcus Armstrong for last summer’s Gallagher Grand Prix around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, it was important to raise awareness of the important work done by the cancer treatment center in Indianapolis.

The red-and-white livery is back for Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix.

This special partnership hit close to home for CGR, too. Barry Wanser, CGR team manager on the championship-winning No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda driven by Alex Palou, told Armstrong during the Gallagher Grand Prix race weekend last year that he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer.

Coming back to the IMS road course for the first time since delivering that news, Wanser is healthy. He credits the sponsor, IU Simon Cancer Center, for the care he received last fall.

“IU Health, in my belief, is the only cancer center in the state of Indiana that had the robotic platform to be able to do the robotic surgery down to my throat without having to like split my jaw,” Wanser said. “It was a difficult recovery, but it could have been far worse. Obviously, the great work they've done is why I'm able to stand here today. I feel great. That's because of all the work that IU does to help battle cancer.”

Armstrong said it’s a true honor to represent the IU Simon Cancer Center, something about which he’s very passionate.

“It makes me even more motivated to go out there and win a race because everyone deserves it,” he said.

RLL Hopes To Capitalize on Lone IMS Road Course Weekend

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is eager to see how much benefit the “Indy Recovery Plan” will do for its oval program. But the team also is just as eager to compete in Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix.

While the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval has recently been troublesome for RLL, the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course layout has been the opposite.

Last year, the team swept both NTT P1 Awards with Christian Lundgaard qualifying on pole last May and Graham Rahal in August. Neither race resulted in victory, but RLL showed it belonged up front.

Lundgaard qualified second in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda for the Sonsio Grand Prix on Saturday, his third straight front-row start at this circuit. Rahal qualified ninth in the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda after being plagued with a variety of mechanical troubles all day Friday.

Rahal led a race-high 36 of 85 laps in last summer’s Gallagher Grand Prix but finished second to Dixon in the closest INDYCAR SERIES finish ever at the IMS road course. That was his third runner-up result at this circuit, two coming to Dixon, in July 2020 and August 2023, and the other to Power in May 2015.

Lundgaard noted a byproduct of the team’s speed on the IMS road course is it allows RLL to experiment this weekend. This is the one of the few tracks Lundgaard admits where the team can tinker a little more.

“I think our worst qualifying is only once out of the Fast Six, personally, so we know the pure pace is there,” he said. “But we also know we need to convert that potential in the race, and we haven’t quite been able to do so the past two years.

“Obviously, only having one GP race there this year is potentially going to hurt us, but it also makes it extra important for us to execute this one.”

ECR Duo Finding Comfort on IMS Road Course

Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix will mark Christian Rasmussen’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

But the rookie driver has competed at the track in many different series. Rasmussen won two of the three races during his championship-winning USF Pro 2000 season in 2021. Among four INDY NXT by Firestone starts, he never finished lower than sixth.

2021 is also the year that Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) earned his first career INDYCAR SERIES victory in May’s Sonsio Grand Prix.

The IMS road course is a place of “firsts” for VeeKay. In addition to his first win, his first top-five finish came in his second career INDYCAR SERIES start in July 2020. His first NTT P1 Award came in the October 2020 Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader weekend. His first laps led and first podium also came that weekend.

“This will be the third birthday of my first win,” said VeeKay, who is 12th in points after three races. “I’m very excited to head back to the road course. This race kicks off the Month of May, so it’s always special. I think we can do really well at IMS the whole month and definitely start by being competitive in the Sonsio Grand Prix. It’s always nice to go to a track with that feeling.”

VeeKay qualified 12th in his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, while Rasmussen will start 20th in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet.

Unique Weekend

Friday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule differed than most stops on the 17-race schedule. Instead of the customary 75-minute opening day practice session on a Friday, followed by the cadence of a Saturday morning practice preceding qualifying later that afternoon, then a Race Day warmup Sunday morning followed by the race that afternoon, Friday produced a pair of practice sessions followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying to set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Sonsio Grand Prix.

The last two Sonsio Grand Prix race winners had thoughts on this unique format.

“I prefer when it's longer, but I don't mind it if it's only one-off weekend,” defending race winner Palou said. “We don't have enough time to go through all the data and make a big change like we need to as soon as the practice one is done. We need to know what we're changing for practice two. Each lap is going to be more important to understand what's going on and we won't have time to go back to relax and think about it.”

2022 Sonsio Grand Prix winner Herta said he likes the three-day race weekends better but isn’t opposed to a condensed weekend if he has a fast race car.

“If you're fast and you roll off the truck good, then you like this format,” said Herta. “You don't have that extra night for all the other engineers to catch up and all the other drivers to look at everything and catch up on you.

“We try to put the best stuff forward that we can and then just try to make changes based off of what we're feeling.”

Odds and Ends

  • Thirteen of the 15 IMS road course races have been won by a top-eight starter. Herta (14th in 2022 Sonsio Grand Prix) and Dixon (15th last August) are the only two drivers to win from outside the top eight.
  • Among the last five Sonsio Grand Prix races, only one driver – Palou last year – won from a Firestone Fast Six starting position (third). Three of the last five races were won from Row 4. Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren and Marcus Armstrong of Chip Ganassi Racing occupy Row 4 Saturday.
  • Four of the last six Sonsio Grand Prix race winners were 10th or worse in points entering the event.