NASHVILLE, Tenn — What a wild weekend it was on the street of Nashville. Under the sunset, Marcus Ericsson climbed out of his No. 8 Honda and celebrated in the warm dusk air in being victorious in a head scratching inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
“I’m trying to figure out how I won the race after being up in the sky, thinking my race was over. Yeah, I can’t believe it,” Ericsson said after scoring Ganassi’s 118th career win.
“INDYCAR, anything can happen. It’s been like that over the years. Once again today it shows that you can never give up, you have to keep pushing all the time, keep believing. If you have a strong team like I have, anything’s possible.”
Ericsson’s journey to victory lane was as crazy as the race itself. It was almost fitting. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver ran literally over Sebastien Bourdais’ car on the Lap 4 restart and went airborne in the process. Somehow, he was able to keep continuing on but with severe front end damage.
Under the caution flag, Ericsson’s crew changed the front wing assembly and made some minor repairs. He was set to resume action but would be in the back. He’d not only pit on Lap 6, but have to do so on Lap 9 for fuel only. He did it again on Lap 11 to serve a stop and go penalty.
Remarkably, the Swede would be the one celebrating his second career NTT IndyCar Series victory. How he got there was nothing short of amazing.
“I thought my race over there,” Ericsson continued. “Then we had to repair the car. I got a stop-and-go. We were dead last. It was all about trying to recover. I think the car got some damage, as well, from that flight. There was definitely some damage on the car.
“I thought I would try and recover as many positions as possible and have a solid, what, top 15 was sort of my game plan after that incident. Then, yeah, the team did a great job with the strategy. Pit stops were great. There were so many incidents. For sure there was a little luck there, as well, no doubt about that.”
Ericsson, ran in the back but due to the carnage and some good timed cautions for him, he found himself back up front. It all happened on Lap 33 when Colton Herta gave up the race lead for the first time of the day and Ericsson’s No. 8 Honda was scored as the leader.
Prior to that, several cars pit on the Lap 17 caution for when Scott McLaughlin was spun then by Ed Jones. Ericsson, didn’t have to pit due to having already done so on Lap 11. Then, following a lengthy red flag period after Will Power got into his Team Penske teammate of Simon Pagenaud on a crazy restart which blocked the final corner for 11 cars, Jack Harvey and a couple of other cars hit pit road.
The main leaders had still not pit and Ericsson was now running behind them. When Rinus VeeKay crashed out in Turn 1 on Lap 31, it was time for the guys up front to have to finally hit pit road. When they did, the beneficiary was Ericsson.
He held onto the lead before pitting on Lap 45. He lucked out because Power got into his other teammate McLaughlin and spun him in Turn 9. Dalton Kellett ran into McLaughlin which brought out the sixth yellow of the day.
Ericsson and several other drivers hit pit lane then due to being able to make it until the end from that point forward. Herta, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden, Romain Grosjean and Pagenaud stayed out. If this race would go caution free from this point forward, it was likely still Herta’s to lose.
We’d quickly go back to yellow on the restart for Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward having contact with each other in Turn 4 which mean that those that didn’t pit, well they needed to. This wasn’t going to go caution free and they would eventually be sitting ducks.
So, all but Grosjean pit. Then, we’d get another caution not long after going green for Cody Ware and Grosjean elected to just pit.
That handed the lead to Ericsson and now he could get to the end on fuel. This was his race to lose but in order to reach victory lane, he had to hold off a hard charging Colton Herta and his six time series champion teammate of Scott Dixon.
Herta, restarted ninth two restarts ago and was fifth on this one. He quickly moved up to second and was there battling Ericsson for the race win in the closing stages. But, Herta locked up his tires and brakes with 12 to go and created a gap of over two seconds as a result. He then had to hustle his way back to Ericsson’s bumper. That put him in peril as he was pushing too hard and found the Turn 9 wall as a result.
Following a red flag, Ericsson just had to hold off Dixon for two laps and the win was his.
Ericsson, got a great restart and defeated Dixon by 1.5596-seconds for his third top two finish in the last five races. In fact, since we got to June, no one has scored as many points as Ericsson as he’s had a top nine in all five races and a top six in four of them. That’s propelled him up to fifth in points with him going from -104 to -79 heading to the Indianapolis road course next weekend.
“We delivered when we had to,” he said. “In the end I think when Colton was behind me and I had to do a really big fuel number to get us to the finish line and still keep him behind, that was one of the toughest challenges of my career. I’m very proud that I could keep him behind and keep the pace up. That won me the race.
“He was pushing really hard, as we could see. He’s been the fastest guy all weekend.
“Then obviously as the race was, with all the incidents, it was going to be another red flag, so it was not going to be an easy finish. But, yeah, I was really happy to finish it off there and have another win. So much things going on today. I’m still trying to figure out how I ended here.
“I think the bottom line was that we were really fast. We were fast. When we got some free air, we were fast. We were fast getting by people, doing the fuel numbers needed. Got the tires to stay underneath us.
“We’ve been fast all weekend. I think I’ve been top six every session. Unfortunately in qualifying yesterday I touched the wall in Q1, broke the suspension. That’s why we started further back. I think we should have been in the Fast 6.”
Dixon, had to settle for runner-up in his No. 9 Honda for his 49th career second place result. Only Mario Andretti (56) has more. Dixon, now has three straight top four finishes on the season and a top 10 in all but one race. He went the final 47 laps on the same set of tires as he pit on Lap 45 for fuel only.
“I don’t really know what to say about the day. It was a crazy race,” Dixon said. “There was a lot of yellows, a lot of reds. I think we did almost 45, 50 laps on the last set of tires. We didn’t take tires on the last stop. They were blacks. That was real interesting.
“Yeah, kudos to the team. You got to take those wins, man. He was in the right place at the right time. I think he had probably one of the most eventful days of everybody out there, flying up in the sky, then getting a drive-through penalty and all that stuff, coming out with a win.
“It was just so good I think today for me just the parade lap, seeing so many people here. That’s what really fired me up, I think what really made the event.
“Of course, the race was tricky. I don’t know what happened back in the pack. There was definitely a lot of cautions. I felt like the front group was doing really well, taking care of each other, not making these dives that maybe created some of these issues early on.”
Dixon said that the fuel only call helped him gain that track position to get a podium, it also cost his race winning chances too.
“Yeah, I was just hanging on,” he said. “The rear tires were definitely pretty shot. I think everybody kind of around us on reds, I think Colton did a tremendous job to fight his way back through. He had some serious speed. I’m not sure how that equated. I know he had a big lockup previous to that. I’m not sure if that caused the second situation he had when he found the wall.
“For me, when the tires are bad, it’s really hard to get fuel mileage as well. You can’t really roll the speed you need to in the apex. It’s a bad combo.
“Yeah, the pace wasn’t great.”
James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay earned much needed top five finishes with Hinchcliffe bringing his No. 29 Honda home on the podium in third for his first top 10 of the season and Hunter-Reay being fourth in his No. 28 Honda.
Graham Rahal rounded out the top five in his No. 15 Honda for his 63rd career top five result and eight top seven in 11 races run this year.
Here are my main takeaways.
Bad Luck Strikes For Herta/Rossi But Good Fortunes For Hunter-Reay/Hinchcliffe
Sunday’s race was honestly Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi’s to lose. They have to be wondering what they have to do to win another race. Both combined to take two of the top three starting spots and quickly went 1-2 by the end of the first lap. Colton Herta was fastest in both practice session as well as dominated qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Alexander Rossi was in the top five in both practices himself.
But, as the race went on, the more their luck would change.
Herta, led a race-high 39 of 80 laps and was by far the class of the field. But, the early cautions didn’t allow him to pull out to a lead that he was just desperately waiting to do. When the action was green, Herta’s lead would quickly grow. But, these cautions and guys pitting when they did, forced his hand.
Those that pit on Lap 17 was the first grouping, then with another caution near the time he needed to hit pit road, it meant he didn’t get a green flag stop with a large lead that he had planned for. Still, he got lucky by that caution being for a crash in Turn 1 which slowed the pace car down and allowed Herta to avoid being outside of the top 10.
Instead of flipping the field, he’d come out in fourth. Alexander Rossi was fifth to give Andretti Autosport all four cars in the top five. This was now shaping up to be a great day for the organization and the much needed momentum that they’ve been searching for all year.
Instead of winning, half of their cars finished outside of the top 15 and the ones that did were their best two bullets in their chamber.
It all went downhill when the caution came out on Lap 41 for Will Power getting into his teammate Scott McLaughlin. The field would get bunched up again and with one more stop needed, why not split some strategies. Herta remained out while his teammates pit on Lap 45.
It cost Rossi. On the ensuing restart, Pato O’Ward got into him in Turn 4 and ruined both of their days. Rossi, wouldn’t recover and would limp home only in 17th. Herta, would have to pit under that yellow flag period and come out ninth.
He still drove his way back up to second but crashed in going for the win and would finish 19th as a result of that.
What a bad taste left in their mouths for both. In Rossi’s case, he has to question when this winless drought that now spans back to June 2019, will end?
This year, he qualified on the front row for the season opener in Barber but was called to pit road to shadow pole sitter Pato O’Ward. One problem? O’Ward was pitting early due to a slow leak in his tire. Rossi, was now on the wrong strategy and finished ninth instead. He was 21st a week later in St. Pete after mid race contact while battling inside of the top 10 with Graham Rahal. A week after that, he was collected in an opening lap crash at Texas and finished 20th. For the Indy 500, he had a top two or three car but that first caution caught him a lap down and he’d never make up for it. He’d finish 29th in a double points race. In Belle Isle, the first race saw the field flip while he was running in the top two due to another ill timed first caution. He’d finish seventh. In Belle Isle 2, he had early race damage and finished 13th.
Now, it happened again.
If luck goes his way, he likely has at the very minimum four podiums right now. Instead, his best finish all season is fifth.
In Herta’s case, he’s had a front row starting spot in six of the 11 races. He’s led the third most laps all year at 154 but has just one win to show for it. Sunday is further proof on it doesn’t matter how good your car is, you need everything to go perfectly in this sport just to win a race.
The tide swung back around though for their teammates. James Hinchcliffe’s best finish entering this weekend was 14th. He’d get a much needed podium in third. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s best finish this season was 10th and he brought his No. 28 Honda home in fourth.
“The pace of the entire Andretti squad was quick,” said Hinchcliffe. “It sucks that Colton and Alex had their problems. Ryan and I both coming home in the top five is a great result for the team.
“For us in the 29 car, it’s been a rough season. We’ve had our own troubles, but we’ve also had a lot of bad luck. It looked like it was going that way again today when we got stuck in the traffic jam in turn 11. Brian Barnhart made a great call, got us in the pits there to kind of cycle through when it all shook out.
“We had a great car. The Capstone car was great. The Andretti Steinbrenner guys in the pits were awesome in that second stop, got us ahead of Ryan because he was ahead of us on track at that point.”
If this team could put it all together and get some luck, there’s no reason to believe all four can’t close this season out on a hot streak.
Dixon Has A Championship Type Of Weekend For A Strong Weekend In The Ganassi Camp
Jimmie Johnson tore up a lot of equipment this weekend in Nashville. He crashed hard in qualifying on Saturday, crashed again in the warmup on Sunday then had crash damage early on in Sunday’s race. That was the only cloud in the sky for the Ganassi camp this weekend.
From the start of practice on Friday to the drop of the checkered flag on Sunday, the other three drivers shined.
They went 2-5-6 with Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson on Friday and 3-4-7 with the same three on Saturday. Both Dixon and Palou qualified second and third on Saturday afternoon, but Ericsson was remarkably absent. He didn’t even make it out of the first round as he’d roll off 18th on Sunday.
In saying that, it shouldn’t be too shocking either to see that. Ericsson, has shown pace in practice and again on race day, but on qualifying day, he’s struggled.
Ericsson has started 13th or worse in seven of the last 10 races including not making it out of the first round all but two times all year. Like he did in Belle Isle, he came from midpack to win.
Dixon, finished second to give Ganassi their 21st career 1-2 result in the sport while Palou had to settle for seventh. In Dixon’s case, was this the start of a championship winning performance this season?
Dixon entered Sunday’s race 56 points behind his teammate Palou for the championship lead. But, did Palou’s grid penalty from having to change an engine open the door for Dixon to come back in?
Palou, initially qualified his No. 10 Honda in third but due to a blown engine in an offseason test at the Barber Motorsports Park back in the winter, it put them behind. See, they knew they’d be one engine behind everyone else and for the second time this season, it’s came back to bite them.
The damage is at least minimal as he’ll roll off ninth instead of third, but this is a tough course to pass on. How many spots can he realistically make up? He would only make up two and finish seventh.
Dixon, cut 14 points off his deficit and now sits at -42 heading to Indianapolis next weekend.
“Yeah, it was definitely I think a good gain on Pato,” Dixon said. “I think Alex still had a pretty decent race. They caught back some good points there. I think we’re just over 40 points behind. There’s definitely loads — 250 plus points left on the table, there’s lots that can happen, especially at some of the racetracks we’re going to.
“Yeah, big day for us for the points. Obviously a win would have been that much better. But, yeah, I think this is where it’s going to separate a little bit. We have to see how that plays out.
“Good day for Ganassi in general obviously with two on the podium. For us, it was a good headway for fighting for the championship. Obviously it was a tough weekend for Alex just because of the fact that he had a six-spot grid penalty through no fault of his own. Those weekends are definitely frustrating, especially on a track that it looks like you could have started anywhere. Maybe you were better off starting at the back for this one.
“Yeah, obviously it’s a race for us against teammates at the minute. You want everybody in the team to have great results. It was great to see Marcus grab another win here. Obviously he’s closing the gap on the championship, as well. Be fun to have three cars fighting it out. I’m sure Chip would definitely like that.”
He’s had a pair of fourth place finishes and now a runner-up in the last three races and seven top fives this season. Palou, has had seven top fives himself but six of them have been on the podium to Dixon’s now three. That plus Dixon having bad luck via an ill timed first caution in the double points paying Indy 500 has put him farther back than he really should be.
The opportunity is now there for Dixon as Pato O’Ward finished 13th. Fourth in points, Josef Newgarden, started 12th and only came home in 10th. Dixon was the only one in the top six in points entering this weekend’s race to even have a top five starting spot for Sunday even and it paid off.
From here it’s to the Indy road course, a spot where Dixon won at last year and had three straight runner-up results prior. Then it’s to World Wide Technology Raceway to where Dixon won at a year ago. Then, it’s to the west coast swing to where Palou and O’Ward have never raced at any of those tracks.
Is this the moment the pendulum has swung back in Dixon’s favor? The door is now open.
RLL Charges Again, Can They Get Qualifying Woes Straightened Out?
Once again, neither of the three Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing cars advanced out of the first round in knockout qualifying on Saturday. The thing is, they’ve not only lacked some pace against their competition this weekend, but they’ve also not qualified well this year in general.
Graham Rahal narrowly did miss out on advancing past the first round as he’d roll off 13th. This was the fifth time in the last seven races that he starts outside of the top 10. Rahal, was 14th and 16th in the two practice sessions this weekend.
His teammate Santino Ferrucci came from 17th. He’s qualified 23rd, 21st, 12th and 22nd in his previous four starts with the team this year. The third year driver was 25th and 20th in both practices himself.
Takuma Sato’s puzzling qualifying rounds this season continues as started 24th on Sunday. He’s not came from a top 10 starting spot all year as his best starts came at Texas in being 11th and 12th respectively. His other starting spots were now 19th, 15th, 17th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th and 19th respectively.
For the race, other than Sato who was crashed out early in an incident not of his doing, there they were again up front too.
Rahal brought his No. 15 Honda home fifth for his eighth top seven in 11 races run this season. Literally in all but three races he’s had a top seven finish and in those other three races, two of them he had a top five car including a winning strategy for Indy before his tire literally fell off after a pit stop. That race paid double points and for the 32nd place result, well that is the big reason as to why he’s not closer than sixth in points right now.
Ferrucci, had a top 10 in literally all four races he previously had competed in and now comes home 11th on Sunday.
Sato, had two top 10’s in his last three starts entering the weekend after having just two in the first seven races prior.
One has to wonder what would happen if they could find the pace in qualifying and started closer to the front. It’s clear where their deficiency is because their race pace is stellar. Rahal was quickest in warmup on Sunday and had pace that if he started further up, he could have challenged for a podium.
Bad Weekend For Penske, Power Has Some Explaining To Do To Teammates
Team Penske put three cars in the top 12 of the starting lineup, but none of which would start in the Fast Six. None would finish better than 10th either in the race to cap a rough weekend for the storied organization.
Josef Newgarden crashed on his final lap of qualifying in the second round which cost him his fastest laps and resulted in a 12th place starting position for Sunday’s race.
Newgarden said that he just messed up and crashed. He tried to get too much out of his No. 2 Chevrolet and it bit him. He owned the mistake and the penalty saying that he deserved it for bringing out the red to end the session.
He’d have a quiet day in a 10th place finish.
He was joined in Row 6 at the start by his teammate Will Power. It’s puzzling to see the pole master being shut out of the top starting spot for all 11 races this year. Power, has now qualified 20th, seventh, 20th and 11th respectively on street courses in 2021.
He had a rough day in running into both Simon Pagenaud and Scott McLaughlin during the race and ruining both of their days. Power, would only finish 14th when it was all said and done and now has came home 11th or worse in seven of his last nine races. Furthermore, four of his last six have been 14th or worse at that.
Pagenaud qualified eighth in his No. 22 Chevrolet while the fourth member of the team McLaughlin got into the wall in the first round and would only start 23rd. McLaughlin, has failed to make it out of the first round in six of the last seven races now.
Pagenaud, crashed again later in the race and finished 21st for his third finish in the last four races of 12th or worse. McLaughlin, crashed again too and came home 22nd.
The puzzling thing is, this is about where the Penske cars were expected to start and finish too. In practice this weekend, this is where they’ve been found.
Power was eighth in the first practice while McLaughlin, Pagenaud and Newgarden were ninth, 10th and 12th respectively. On Saturday, they went 10th (McLaughlin), 11th (Pagenaud), 14th (Power) and 18th (Newgarden) respectively.
Can they turn it around in their best race next weekend at Indianapolis?
Rough Start Of The Race For AJ Foyt Racing
Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start. We were all fearful of an opening lap crash and we did get a first lap caution but it wasn’t at the mercy of any carnage. Dalton Kellett stalled his No. 4 Chevrolet on the front stretch prompting a quick yellow.
Then, on the next restart, his teammate Sebastien Bourdais was ran over by Marcus Ericsson ending his day with a last place (27th) finish. Bourdais started the year off with two straight top 10 result but has since finished 16th or worse in seven of the last nine races.
He was ran over by Colton Herta in Texas 1 then ran over again in a first lap crash a day later on the same track. That forced them to have to be conservative in Indianapolis which led to 19th and 26th place finishes respectively. For Belle Isle, he could race again and he did in the first event with an 11th place run. A day later, he was 16th. That followed another 16th place finish in Road America then 11th in Mid-Ohio and now 27th on Sunday.
Kellett, later would run into a stalled Scott McLaughlin and finish 23rd.
Sunday’s Race Was Chaotic, Should Changes Come For Next Year?
The NTT IndyCar Series and the city of Nashville were setup on a blind date. Both were established and very successful on their own but were setup for a first meeting in person together this weekend. Friday was in fact the first time the two sides had ever gotten together. See, it was slated to be a perfect arrangement that was supposed to lead to a long successful marriage to one another.
Two sets of friends were setup earlier this summer and both were a hit. The NASCAR Cup Series visited the Nashville Superspeedway for the first time ever back in June and it sold out. The SRX Series visited the Nashville Fairgrounds not long after and that event too sold out too.
Well, this one had all the potential to be a successful one, like the ones that their friends shared separately. The thing is, the two sides are quickly finding out in order to make this work, they’ll have to adapt and adjust. It’s more about what can happen in the future than the present but in order to make it a happy fairy tale future, you have to pass the audition and so far, results have been mixed.
Still, all great relationships are about give and take and adapting/adjusting to one another.
No one expected a debut to be perfect and this one has been far from it, but in order to get fans to want to come back to watch your second date next year, the first date needs to improve. Forget what’s occurred outside the fences, that’s a story for another day, but what’s going on inside the track, well it showed that if this race is going to be in the same realm as Monaco or Long Beach, well it has a long way to go to get there.
We saw several incidents this weekend. Saturday alone saw 8 of the 27 cars involved in incidents and that session was only 45 minutes in length. It looked more like a Daytona or Talladega NASCAR race than an INDYCAR practice.
The race looked the same.
Nine cautions for 33 laps including us not getting a full green flag lap until Laps 9-10. The first hour of the race saw six green flag laps, four cautions and one red flag period. The race distance was 2-hours, 18-minutes and 49-seconds. By comparison, the Indy 500 is over 300 miles longer and lasted only 2-hours, 37-minutes and 19-seconds.
As to what could be changed, first off I feel like moving the start and finish lines to the same spot and both being on the bridge is the best scenario. Yes, carnage could ensue there and I get the danger aspect, but the initial race start in which we all thought would be chaotic really wasn’t and we went green flag on the bridge.
The second and fourth cautions all came due to the restart being on the smaller front stretch. That would instantly help.
Another change has to be pit road in general. I don’t like how fields can be flipped due to cautions, but that sequence when Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi led drivers down pit road and didn’t lose much ground was a little ridiculous.
It was a perfect storm in a sense that pit road is small and you don’t lose much ground as well as a crash in Turn 1 and it being so narrow there wasn’t much room to get by which slowed the pace car up, but in no sense should the leader pit under caution and come out fourth after getting four tires and fuel.
In terms of the on track carnage, the bumpy track and drivers’ aggression levels could get adjusted too. Some incidents were truly driver error which having a full weekend under their belts, could only get better in 2022.
“Of course, the race was tricky. I don’t know what happened back in the pack. There was definitely a lot of cautions,” Scott Dixon said. “I felt like the front group was doing really well, taking care of each other, not making these dives that maybe created some of these issues early on.
“I think there were some regulars making mistakes and hitting people. Maybe that needs to be looked at. All the penalties need to be stronger when you cause accidents like that.
“There was just no flow to the race, right? It was like you had six races. So, yeah, I don’t know how it played or how it looked.
“I don’t know. It’s a tricky track. It’s really difficult. Especially on restarts with trying to get temperature in the tires, knowing that it was going to be somewhat hard to pass, there was a lot of people trying to make it happen on restarts. I totally get that.
“I don’t know. It’s a balance, right, that you got to try to work out. Maybe next year I think there may be some areas of track that can change a little bit that would create some passing zones, maybe make the racing a little bit better.
“You look at Herta, he made the passes happen. It can be done cleanly, like he did.”
James Hinchcliffe agreed.
“It was eventful,” he said. “We were at the back, front, kind of ran a little bit of everywhere today, in the middle. Like Scott said, we probably had a few too many yellows for what we would have wanted to put on a good show for everyone here.”
They’re not wrong. To have so many cautions and some drivers racing like amateurs, well it wasn’t a very good look and one that wasn’t going to capture the new found fans from this weekend’s attention.
Yes, we had a thrilling finish but most of the weekend lacked momentum. There was just so much stoppage for crashes that it wasn’t fun for anyone to witness.
With some adaption, this race has potential. I just hope the fans show up next year like they did this and the anticiatpion doesn’t drop off much.
Good Day For Drivers Needing Good Finishes
It’s no secret, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe’s days appear to be numbered with Andretti Autosport. So does Ed Jones’ with Vasser Sullivan Racing in conjunction with Dale Coyne Racing. But, when the dust settled on Sunday’s race, they took home half of the top six finishing positions.
Alex Palou remains in the points lead and despite a seventh place finish in Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. In fact, his gap actually gained a bit in going from 39 points up to 42. That’s because second place in the standings entering the weekend in Pato O’Ward had a rough go of it in tagging the wall in practice on Friday, qualifying eighth on Saturday and having a rough go of it in the race in making contact with Alexander Rossi on Lap 51. After serving two drive through penalties, he’d finish 13th and fall to 48 points back.
O’Ward is now reeling a bit. His last three finishes have been ninth, eighth and 13th respectively.
Scott Dixon supplants O’Ward for second and gains 14 points in going from third (-56) to second (-42). He’s starting to come along now too. This was his third straight top four result and seventh top five of the season. Palou, has nine top sevens and seven top fives himself, but six of those top fives are podiums.
That’s the difference right now between he and Dixon.
Josef Newgarden crashed in qualifying on Saturday and started 12th. He only finished 10th and falls to -75. Newgarden, has just two top five finishes in his last six starts on the year. While he and O’Ward each have four podiums, it’s their lack of top fives in comparison to Dixon and Palou as to why they’re falling further back.
Marcus Ericsson in the hottest driver in the series as he’s scored two wins and three top two finishes in his last five races. In that span, he’s had the most points scored as he went from -104 to -79 with five races remaining in the season.
The thing is, Graham Rahal (-124) and Colton Herta (-135) have to wonder what might have been this season. Rahal, brought his No. 15 Honda home fifth on Sunday for his eighth top seven in 11 races run this season. Literally in all but three races he’s had a top seven finish and in those other three races, two of them he had a top five car including a winning strategy for Indy before his tire literally fell off after a pit stop. That race paid double points and for the 32nd place result, well that is the big reason as to why he’s not closer than sixth in points right now.
Herta, has six front row starting spots and yet again saw a race get away from him. Imagine if he could turn those front row starting spots to podiums?
This race for the title is likely down to five guys but it’s really coming down to the Ganassi threesome.
Honda’s dominated the weekend with taking 1-2-3-4-5-6 on the speed charts in practice on Friday. They followed that up with being 1-2-3-4 on Saturday and having five of the top seven in the second session. In qualifying, they took five of the top six speeds too.
For the race, they led literally all 80 laps and swept the top seven finishing spots and had nine cars come home in the top 11.