LEXINGTON, OHIO (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A good start to the Honda 200 weekend at Mid-Ohio for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Five-time IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon turned the fastest lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda during the first practice this morning.
Dixon’s fast lap of 1-minute, 06.973-seconds was quicker than Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot (-0.1482-seconds), who was second and Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (-0.1692-seconds) who was third fastest.
Dixon is the all-time winningest IndyCar driver at Mid-Ohio with five wins (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014).
“It’s a track that really feels like home to me,” said Dixon. “I’ve said over the years that it’s a rhythm track, and it’s very technical.”
Chip Ganassi Racing has won 10-times on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn, natural terrain road course with Alex Zanardi (1996 & 1997), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Dixon, Dario Franchitti (2010) and Charlie Kimball (2013) capturing checkered flags.
“Mid-Ohio is a place that we as a team have always felt that all of our cars have a shot at winning, and there aren’t many tracks out there where your confidence level is that high as a team,” said Dixon. “You have to get a lot of things right to go to victory lane there.”
Dixon is coming off consecutive 2nd place finishes in the last two races (Toronto & Iowa) but hasn’t been able to make-up ground on points leader Josef Newgarden, who he trails by 98-points.
“We need a big finish for the championship with five to go starting this weekend in the PNC Bank car,” said Dixon. “Mid-Ohio would be a great place to start a run of strong results.”
Dixon’s teammate, rookie Felix Rosenqvist, will be sporting a new look this weekend on the No. 10 Honda as Clover will be the primary sponsor at Mid-Ohio.
Clover is a customized point-of-sale system for business including retail, restaurant and service businesses.
Mid-Ohio is one of the few tracks the Rosenqvist has had a chance to drive an IndyCar prior to racing there.
“This is the track where I sort of got my introduction to the team, I guess you could say,” said Rosenqvist. “I’ve tested a few times in Scott’s car over the years before coming to IndyCar full time. It’s a track I’m familiar with and one I think we should be able to compete at and get a good result.”
Rosenqvist is locked into a battle for the “Rookie-of-the-Year” award with Arrow Schmidt Petersen Motorsports Marcus Ericsson, Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta and Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci.
“The IndyCar Rookie of the Year race is tight, and we want to continue to lead that,” said Rosenqvist. “Starting toward the front at Mid-Ohio is key for the race as well as for track position, so qualifying is very important this weekend. I’m looking forward to getting going.”
Three rounds of knockout-style qualifying takes place Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by NBCSN and can be heard on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network.
There is a warm-up Sunday from Noon to 12:30 p.m. ET with the race at 4:05 p.m. on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network.
Herta wins wet and wild GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Colton Herta combined great strategy, great driving and some good luck to win a wet and wild NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory was Herta’s first of 2022 and seventh in his career.
Herta started the race in on wet tires after officials declared a wet race due to wet track conditions and showers in and around the speedway. Herta was the first driver to pit for Firestone red alternate racing slicks and following a blistering lap, leapfrogged into the lead as the rest of the field headed for pit road after seeing Herta’s lap times.
Chaos ensued for several Championship contenders as a result of the conditions and hard racing including points-leader Alex Palou, who on Lap 6 spun and lost a lap after he couldn’t get the No. 10 American Legion Honda restarted. Palou finished 18th.
Josef Newgarden was sent spinning Lap 17 after contact with Jack Harvey. Newgarden’s car had to be towed to the pits with two flat tires. Newgarden eventually returned to the race and finished 25th.
Herta meanwhile never stopped fighting for the win in a race where the middle portion was run on slicks before rain returned about mid-way through the race, which brought out four more caution flags for various spins and off course excursions.
“This is the hardest race I think I’ve ever done,” Herta said. “Wet to dry, dry back to wet. Thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around. I know you’re used to this weather, so thank you very much. Love you guys.”
Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud, who started 20th, finished second and was happy to survive the late downpour.
“It was treacherous at the end,” Pagenaud said. “You’ve got to say congrats to Colton because it was really tough to finish the race. We made the right calls on the tires. It was tricky. It was really tricky to decide.”
The victory was the first for Honda power in 2022 and Honda Performance Development placed three cars in the Top 5.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished third after starting on the pole position. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson finished fourth and was the highest finishing CGR Honda.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly finished fifth after starting fourth, which didn’t even begin to describe a day where the No. 20 Bitnile Chevrolet was up-front, falling like a rock, and coming back through the field.
“I’ve never been in a race like that in my life,” Daly said. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team have to be thinking the same thing after Top 10 finish despite a horrendous qualifying effort that left the six-time Series Champion stating 21st.
“Kind of crazy, up and down, like a yo-yo to be honest,” said Dixon. “We got to the lead and led some laps on strategy. Then the rain came and we ran out of fuel on pit road. Got back onto the lead lap after going a lap down (running out of fuel) and at the end it was so hard to see with the rain.”
Salvaging a Top 10 finish kept Dixon in the Championship hunt heading into the double-points paying Indianapolis 500.
“Glad we ended up with a tenth,” said Dixon. “Decent points. We’re only 37-points out of the lead. We could be leading this thing coming out of the 500.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou leads INDYCAR Championship heading into month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is leading the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship points as the series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May activities including the GMR Grand Prix on May 14 and the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Palou took the Championship points lead after a second place finish at this past Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and a third place finish at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 10.
Palou started third at Barber and lost to a spot at the drop of the green flag and spent much of the first stint keeping pace with leaders Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward and McLaughlin.
“I did a couple of mistakes, lost a position on the start with the No. 3 position in the restart with 27,” said Palou. “That just cost me a lot of track time, a lot of track position let’s say.”
Palou ran in the Top 5 all day and was able to get around McLaughlin with the help of his No. 10 American Legion Honda pit crew, who leap frogged McLaughlin, on the final round of pit stops when Palou was able to stay out a lap longer than his other competitors.
“We made a risky strategy of staying out a lot more than others, saving fuel,” said Palou, who won last year’s race at Barber in his debut with CGR.
Palou was trailing VeeKay and O’Ward following the last round of pit stops and set his sights on second place, which was now occupied by VeeKay who passed on the outside by O’Ward in Turn 5. Palou knew he had to go.
“I went two laps longer so I knew I could push more,” explained Palou. “I didn’t really had to save that much fuel as him. I said, Okay, we’ll have a chance, have plenty of overtake to use. I felt really comfortable with the car. Started pushing.”
Palou passed VeeKay on Lap 63 and started running down O’Ward in the closing laps.
“I pushed till the end,” said Palou. “Caught him on some laps, lost a little bit of time on some others. He was really good. It’s maybe a track where even if you’re a little bit faster, you cannot really pass. It’s so hard. As soon as I would get, I don’t know, a second close to him, I would just lose my front and drop 3/10ths max. I was trying to push him and try and make him to do a mistake or try to make him to push too much, have to save fuel. But, no, he did a good job.”
Palou, the defending Series Champion, now sets his sights on The GMR Grand Prix and ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.
“I cannot wait,” said Palou. “It’s such a special place. It’s good that we got a good race now, I don’t know, to get a bit more relaxed going into Indy road course where we had strong results there and we were competitive. Cannot wait for the 106th Indianapolis 500.”
Pato O’Ward wins INDYCAR Honda GP of Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Arrow McLaren SP Racing’s Patricio O’Ward passed Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay on the outside of turn 5 on lap 62 and drove to victory in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
“I knew if I had the opportunity, I would take it,” said O’Ward, who started on the outside of the front row. “I got on my (push-to-pass) button and got around him (VeeKay) in turn 5. I knew we could kind of control the pace of the race after that.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, the defending race-winner and defending series Champion, got around VeeKay on the next lap and got the No. 10 American Legion Honda within a second of the leader, finishing second and taking over the series Championship points lead in the process.
“I was happy with my afternoon”, reflected Palou after the race. “Was exciting there at the end. We almost got Pato. Yeah, super happy. All weekend we had a really good car. I was really comfortable. We were really, really fast.”
VeeKay, who lead the first two-thirds of the race, finished third.
“Coming into turn five I just a little too conservative,” said VeeKay of O’Ward’s pass. “I have screwed myself in the past braking too deep. If I could go back I would go way deeper. I was also struggling a little bit more on my last set of tires.”
Team Penske’s Will Power started 19th and charged all the way up to a fourth place finish and Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon rounded out the Top 5 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda.
The race was not without incident as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal had choice words for Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean after Grosjean made contact with Rahal late in the race.
@RGrosjean said what he said.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 1, 2022
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES next race is the GMR Grand Prix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 14th.