LEEDS, Ala — The first four races to the NTT INDYCAR Series season couldn’t have gone much better. St. Pete featured record crowds for the February season opener. Texas appeared to be fixed in terms of the on track product. Long Beach’s attendance was as good as its even been while 2 of the 3 days this past weekend at the Barber Motorsports Park were completely sold out.
That’s just the crowds. The TV ratings are higher now than they’ve been in the last 2 decades. The series is booming in person and on television.
As far as the on track product?
Romain Grosjean may be the most popular driver in the NTT INDYCAR Series right now. The results of that poll were unveiled this past winter. However, he’s not so popular anymore among his peers.
Grosjean’s aggressive style has grown weary on the current INDYCAR paddock and after some run-ins already this season, it’s starting to leak out further.
Grosjean, had a war or words with Takuma Sato back in February following their practice incident in St. Pete. Now, he’s found a new spat with Sato’s former Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing teammate of Graham Rahal.
Towards the closing laps in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Grosjean was battling Rahal for 7th. With 3 laps left, the two made contact on track.
Grosjean, got into Rahal but luckily for the second generation driver, he didn’t lose control of his No. 15 Dallara-Honda. Rahal, would stay ahead of Grosjean until the final lap for when his fuel was low and he had to tip toe around the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park facility to ensure he doesn’t run out of gas and can still come away with a top 10.
That just further added to the Ohio native’s frustrations as he was already to his boiling point with the second year Frenchman.
“I just think it’s clear when you watch the in-car camera, and look at the angle of his head,” Rahal said to the TV broadcast. “When I can see in the mirror his head is directed this way, and the track is the other way, it’s pretty self-explanatory.”
Rahal, said that he felt like he gave Grosjean plenty of room. He knew he had to. Over the radio, his team told him that Grosjean was planning to dive-bomb him.
“But look where he scraped me, why are you turning into me?” Rahal continued. “Your right front is at my left rear. There’s no excuse for that here. Look, he just releases the car to hit me. And here again. Look at how much room he has.
“I’m just frustrated because this isn’t the first time. At St. Pete, he hit everyone he could hit. We come here, he hit Rossi, hit Herta, hit me. At some point, we have to clean up our act.”
Earlier in the race, Grosjean made a bold move to block his teammate Colton Herta on the front stretch. Grosjean, squeezed Herta low and while Herta had to drive into Turn 1 harder than he wanted it, it pushed his No. 26 Dallara-Honda wide off the track as a result.
“Good racing with [Rossi], Colton, Scotty [McLaughlin],” Rahal told IndyCar Radio too. “Good racing with a lot of drivers Just one particular guy not so clean. We’re gonna have to have a little sit down; a little conversation, about what the hell is going on here.
“I think the drivers need to get together. All of us because I’m not the only one with a problem. It’s quite a significant number of drivers that have had run-ins with this guy. As I said on TV, when the roles are reversed, officiating had better be consistent because it’s gonna be reversed at some stage. I’m not gonna play nice. This guy has overstayed his welcome.”
As to what needs to be done from INDYCAR?
“I’ll let you guys decide,” Rahal said. “You guys know. As another driver in the series told me, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and he’s had that reputation over his whole career in Europe, and we’re learning his reputation quickly here.
“If race control doesn’t want to do anything, they’re not going to do anything. But when we go and punt him, they better not do anything to me. Which in the past, I’ve been penalized for a lot less than that.”
So what about Grosjean’s side. Was it intentional?
“We touched a couple of times, but it was good racing,” Grosjean said. “It was tough out there. Barber is a very good track but very tough to pass, especially when you’re in a train. If the guy in front of you doesn’t have anyone in front of them, you can try to defend a different line, but they’re all in line, so it was quite tricky. It’s good racing. It’s IndyCar. Wheel to wheel action. We didn’t have the right strategy; the three-stop didn’t work, and we were better than others on tires. On to the next one.”
Pato O’Ward became the 3rd winner in the 1st 4 races run with his triumph in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. He beat Alex Palou by less than a second to his 3rd career victory. By virtue of his 3rd podium in 4 races run this season, last year’s series champion takes back over the points lead. He’s the 3rd driver in the same 4 races run to lead the standings.
We’ve also had 4 different pole winners this season and for 3 of them, it was their 1st or 2nd career top starting spot.
Scott McLaughlin scored his 1st ever pole and race win in St. Pete. His teammate Josef Newgarden topped him in a photo finish in the next race at Texas. Newgarden, then held off Romain Grosjean in a thrilling end of the race at Long Beach. O’Ward, held Palou off in Barber for 4 very good endings to the races this year.
We’ve had 12 total podium spots available between the 4 races this season with 8 different drivers scoring them.
Points Are Tight
10 points span 1st to 4th right now including the top 7 separated by just 37 points. Alex Palou leads the Penske trio by 10 points with Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon and Rinus VeeKay right behind.
Indy features normal points for the road course races, but the ‘500 has not only double points in it, but also points for qualifying too for the drivers that make the Fast 12. This is a huge month that can really make or break some guys’ seasons.
Penske/Ganassi Still Favorites To Beat
Penske has won 3 of the 1st 4 races to the 2022 season. Ganassi, has been shutout but right behind them though. 5 of the top 6 drivers in points belong to these 2 teams. They’ve combined to have taken 9 of the 12 podium spots to start this year off with too.
Penske and Ganassi have also combined to win nine straight titles including 13 of the last 14 in general.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Penske has won 22 times. Ganassi is behind them at 13. Andretti is third, but they have just six trips to victory lane in that span. Ganassi has more than doubled Andretti which is a large gap now between second and third.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing is fourth with three victories, so half of Andretti’s total which honestly may have Andretti in third all by themselves. But, if you go in the Aeroscreen era (2020-present) Andretti has four wins with Arrow McLaren SP with two. Penske has 13 and Ganassi 11.
Last year, it took Team Penske nine races before finally reaching victory lane during last year’s NTT INDYCAR Series season. The thing is, it’s not like they were too far off though. They had a car finish runner-up in each of the first four races, was fourth and third respectively as their top driver in Indy on the two courses, should have swept both events in Belle Isle, should have won in Road America, then did so in Mid-Ohio.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
Penske is after an Indy 500 win though. They’ve been embarrassed the last two years there.
Penske qualified 13-22-25-28 in 2020, finished 5-11-14-22. They’d lead a grand total of 16 laps that day. A year later, they’d qualify 17-21-26-32 and finish 3-12-20-30 with just 3 laps led all day.
19 total laps led in 2 years.
Simon Pagenaud has looked like the best Penske driver the last two years with him leading all three laps last year and 14 of the 16 in 2020. He’s since departed for Meyer Shank Racing, the team that won last year’s race with former Penske driver Helio Castroneves.
Can Penske find the qualifying speed to get up front in 2022 and then become a factor in the race itself?
Potentially Big Month Ahead For O’Ward/VeeKay
If anyone is going to break up the Penske/Ganassi party up front, look no further than Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay. They took 2 of the 3 podium spots on Sunday in Barber with O’Ward the win and VeeKay not only the pole, but leading a race-high 57 laps in the process too.
Now, both look to have a big month ahead.
The last time out on the Indy road course, O’Ward scored the pole last August. The last time out for the May road course race, VeeKay won. Then, it’s the Indy 500 to where O’Ward has finished 6th and 4th respectively. VeeKay, qualified on the front row a year ago too.
After Indy is Belle Isle to where VeeKay finished runner-up on the Saturday race last year and O’Ward won Race 2.
Chevy The Top Manufacturer
The thing is, while we’ve had 3 different winners, and 3 different point leaders, all 4 races were still won by Chevrolet’s though too.
The bowties are off to an undefeated start to the 2022 season with 4 wins in 4 races by 3 different drivers. They’ve also won 3 of the 4 poles and have taken 7 of the 12 podium spots as well.
Furthermore, Chevy has led 412 out of 523 (79%).
Chevy, dominated the series when they came back in 2012. However, with the UAK coming out in 2018, Honda turned the tide to close the gap. In 2018, Honda won 11 times compared to Chevy’s 6. 2019 went back to Chevy (9-8) but the two tied in 2020 (7-7). Last year, it was 9-7 in favor of Honda with Chevy now leading 4-0 in 2022.
In the three year span of the Aerokits from 2015 through 2017, it was Chevy 34, Honda 15. With the same car this time around, it’s Honda 35, Chevrolet 32.
Now, we go to Indy to where it’s a place where we’ve seen 1 or the other dominate and not as evenly matched as we thought. Maybe this is the year it is.
Chevrolet had the preferred power in this race in 2018 and again in 2019. They’ve swept the front row both years. In 2018, they led nearly 150 of the 200 laps run. 2019, they combined to lead 155 of the 200 laps. In 2020, it was all Honda.
This time Honda swept the front row and took 11 of the top 12 starting spots. They’d lead 180 of the 200 laps and sweep the top four finishing spots and take 8 of the top 10 finishers overall.
How much could Chevrolet close the gap?
They did by a lot. They led over 100 laps but it was closer between the 2 manufacturers. Each had 3 cars in the top six while Honda had better qualifying pace, it was virtually even in race pace.
So, what happens this time around?
For the road course, Chevy has won each of the last 4 races on it including 9 of the last 10 in general.
“They’ve been really strong, that’s for sure, stronger than last year,” Palou said of the Honda to Chevy comparisons this year. “We can see on the sector times where we’re losing.
“But yeah, unfortunately it is how it is now. We were really good at the Speedway test, which that’s like a major problem, like it’s not there. Yeah, I don’t know. They’ve been really good. They’ve been really strong.
“We were really strong at the beginning last year, I think, all the Hondas. Now maybe we’re a little bit behind. We don’t know. Yeah, we still can fight with them. We still can get to the same lap as them on mileage or even more, like I was able to get two more to Pato, one more. I think we’re not too far. Maybe we’re a bit behind.”
Taylor Kiel spoke to that fact after their win on Sunday.
“I don’t know where Honda is at,” he said. “All I know is that Chevy has put a tremendous amount of work into their package in the off-season. I can sit here and say they’ve given us everything that we’ve asked for. They’ve worked relentlessly to close any perceived gaps that they thought they had.
“We certainly as a team have felt a huge shift in performance from year to year. I think we did a lot in the backcourt as a team to improve car performance. Chevy has done a fantastic job as well.
“At this stage in the engine game, as far advanced as we are, for them to find the gains they have is remarkable. Kudo to everyone at Chevy, Pratt & Miller, Ilmor, all the work they’ve done.”
Penske’s Undefeated Start Comes To An End, Did Skipping Barber Test Hurt Them?
Team Penske’s perfect 3-for-3 start to the 2022 season with 3 wins in 3 races ends at 4. Not only did they not win Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, they were shutout of the podium for the first time all season too. In fact, they had 1 car (Will Power) finish in the top 5 all day.
That opened the championship door back up with them having 3 of the top 4 spots in the standings entering Sunday and now having Alex Palou take over the points lead and allowing Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon and Rinus VeeKay back in the hunt too.
While they’ve won this race 5 times in the 11 year history of this event prior to this weekend, they just didn’t look like themselves once they unloaded on Friday morning. They were only 5-16-18 on Friday’s practice, 4-11-16 on Saturday morning and 6-11-16 on Saturday afternoon. That’s wasn’t going to get it done for the win on Sunday especially with coming from starting spots of 4th, 7th and 19th respectively.
How much did not testing here cost them though?
Team Penske didn’t test here like other teams did. We’ve seen how track time including testing can really separate teams from those that don’t. It’s a new strategy involved in the series today that can really make or break race weekends.
How much did not testing here hurt Penske?
Well, Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing did. They combined to take 8 of the top 10 speeds in Friday’s practice session and 7 of 10 on Saturday morning. In the afternoon session, the teams that tested went 1-2-3-4-5. For qualifying, they took 4 of the top 6 qualifying speeds including 8 of the top 12.
Penske elected to focus on the street course and oval package for 2022 and will use their test days on them. They chose to test at Texas in favor of Barber. It paid off in a 1-2 finish but Will Power said that while the test was nice, it didn’t help much because they used a similar setup on his car this year as last at Texas.
The lack of testing at Barber is hurting them but helping the others including Callum Ilott who was in the top 10 in all 3 practice sessions including leading the final session while also qualifying 11th.
Now, it’s to Indy to where their main focus has been all along. They want an Indy sweep of the road course and ‘500.
Youth On Full Display In Barber
The podium was one of the youngest we’ve ever seen. A 22 year old was victorious. A 21 year old finished 3rd and led the most laps. A 25 year old was the meat of the sandwich in 2nd.
“Yeah, I think it’s great for the youth movement now,” VeeKay said. “All the young guys, of course, Alex has done it a few times last year, and already this year. Same with Pato.
“I’m happy to get there with those guys. I think it really shows that young guys are coming through, the new generation is kind of taking over.”
Palou had a different perspective.
“Yeah, I mean, we’re not really taking over. If you have Scott Dixon as your teammate, you would really think that’s not true (laughter).
“Yeah, I think it’s a good podium obviously. It’s always good fighting with each other. I think we know a lot how we race each other. I think we already shared like couple of podiums together. It’s really cool. Hopefully we can continue doing the same.”
The weekend favored the youth in general. That’s different.
When you come to Barber Motorsports Park, you think of Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato and Will Power. Combined, they’ve won 5 of the 11 races but also 8 of the 11 poles.
In fact, they had won the pole in 5 of the last 7 tries here. However, none of them made it out of the first round in qualifying. That may be the most eye opening stat of the weekend.
Power’s 63 career poles rank 2nd most ever. Castroneves’ 50 is 4th all-time. Dixon has 27 poles which is tied with Al Unser for 10th most in INDYCAR history.
Coming into this weekend, Dixon had never qualified outside of the Fast 6 in any of his 11 Barber starts.
Power, had 8 front row starting spots here in 11 tries including 9 Fast 6’s. 10 of his 11 starts were 7th or better.
Castroneves, had 7 Fast 6’s in 8 tries with a worst start of 7th.
They’ll start 13th (Dixon), 16th (Castroneves) and 19th (Power) respectively. Throw in Colton Herta (10th) and you get some of the best qualifiers coming from 10th on back.
In the 11 year history of this race, no one has won from worse than 9th.
Sato, qualified 17th and Pagenaud 24th.
On the flipside, it opened the door for the youngsters.
Among the Fast 6, all were under the age of 30 and all had a combined 15 poles. 4 of the 6 had 2 or fewer career poles won heading into Saturday afternoon.
A 21 year old and 22 year old shared the front row. Row 2 was a 25 year old and 28 year old. Row 3 was a pair of 29 year olds.
3 of the top 4 starters have a combined 4 poles. 2nd place starter has 4 poles total. Factor in 3 of the 4 pole winners this season earning their 1st or 2nd career pole and you get a wild qualifying trend shaping up.
Practice 1 saw 22 year old Colton Herta lead 25 year old Alex Palou. Practice 2 saw 21 year old Rinus VeeKay lead 22 year old Pato O’Ward who led 22 year old Colton Herta who led 28 year old Scott McLaughlin. 25 year old Alex Palou was 6th.
“It’s great, man,” O’Ward said of the youth movement. “I think we’ve seen it not just this year but the past two years. I think it’s awesome to see the young ones coming to the series and giving the veterans a hard time.
“At the end of the day these guys that we’re racing against, Dixon, Power, Newgarden, we’ve been watching them for so many years. They’re basically idols of all of us when we were coming through the ranks trying to get to INDYCAR.
“It’s really cool to be able to battle with them. Ultimately what you want to do when you get to race against them, you can have your fan boy moment for a couple seconds, but then you want to beat ’em.”
Palou A Legitimate Championship Threat, Did He Surpass Dixon For Lead Ganassi Driver?
Alex Palou snagged his 3rd podium in the first 4 races of the NTT INDYCAR Series season on Sunday from the Barber Motorsports Park and by virtue of that, while winless this year too, also grabs ahold of the points lead heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month.
Palou, brought his No. 10 Dallara-Honda home 2nd in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and now looks like a legitimate favorite to win his second straight series title. Would that make him the lead driver in the Ganassi camp too?
“I was happy with my afternoon,” Palou said. “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.
“I did a couple of mistakes, lost a position on the start with the No. 3 position in the restart with 27. That just cost me a lot of track time, a lot of track position let’s say.
“Yeah, so far so good. We made a risky strategy of staying out a lot more than others, saving fuel. We almost got Pato. Another podium, it’s good.”
For years, Scott Dixon was the overall lead driver at Chip Ganassi Racing. It wasn’t until Dario Franchitti came to the team in 2009 to where the pendulum swung from the 9 car to the 10 car. Prior to that, Dixon had won two championships in a six year span including an Indy 500 as well as 16 wins. The 10 car had 6 wins in that span.
However, Franchitti won three straight titles between 09-11 to go along with 11 wins. Dixon, had 10 victories still but was 2nd, 3rd and 3rd respectively in points.
The only separation was Franchitti’s titles.
2012 saw Dixon win twice and Dario once, the Indy 500, which equaled them now in victories between 2009-2012. Each had 12 wins. Dario had 3 titles and 2 Indy 500’s though.
2013 saw it swing back to Dixon’s favor. Dixon won 17 times between 2013 and the end of 2020. The rest of the teams won three times. In fact, between 2014 and 2017, they had a four car operation.
Now though, it appears that it’s swinging back to the 10 car side.
Palou joined CGR in 2021 and immediately won the title. In 20 starts in this span, he has 3 wins and 12 podiums. Dixon has just 1 win and 5 podiums.
In fact, Dixon has just 1 win in his last 26 starts overall dating back to the second Gateway race in 2020. He had six wins in the 20 races prior as this span between wins is the second longest of his career. The other was 39 races between wins at Richmond in 2003 and Watkins Glen in 2005 as well as 36 races between his win in Nazareth during the 2001 season and his next victory in the 2003 season opener in Homestead. In fact, Dixon has just 6 podiums in his last 26 starts compared to 20 in his previous 31.
That’s remarkable in a sense that a little over a year ago, unless you really followed motorsports closely, you more than likely had never heard of a human named Palou before. Nothing against Palou either but he just wasn’t a well known driver over here in the United States yet.
He was willing to pursue a path of success no matter where it took him. An opportunity with Team Goh led him to Dale Coyne Racing in the middle of a pandemic for the 2020 season. A year later, he was on the move, this time to a bigger team.
It was his sophomore season in the series but his first with Chip Ganassi Racing. Fast forward to a little over 12 months later, he comes back to the scenic Alabama facility not only as a race winner in the sport, he did so three times a season ago, but also as the defending series champion too.
How much has changed in the Spaniard’s life now compared to around this time a year ago?
“Changed quite a lot, yeah,” Palou told me on Thursday afternoon. “It was the first race with Ganassi, with a big team, with — I remember that I didn’t really have a really close relationship with Dixon or Jimmie yet, which for me was like oh, my God, I’m racing with these guys and in the trailer with them, which now I have that’s just a bit more normal.
“But yeah, I’m just more comfortable with the team, with the car, with the series, obviously with myself just knowing that we had an amazing year last year.
“But yeah, same mindset. Everything starts from new. It’s not like we started with one more point than everybody else. We started with the same points, and we just need to try and make it the best we can every weekend.”
As a result of such a strong season last year, Palou has definitely noticed that his peers maybe now have more respect for him this season compared to this point a year ago too.
“I don’t think they race me differently,” he told me. “Maybe you can see that on qualifyings where we go all slowly all together. Maybe last year people would not respect me that much, as you could expect.
“Now they are okay if I am up front, let’s say, if we go together. But apart of that, when we’re racing hard, I don’t think anybody is racing me differently.
“I think everybody knows how I race, that I would always be as aggressive as I can but leaving enough space for them to race, as well. It’s been fun so far. I have not had any problems with anybody yet, which hopefully we can continue like that.”
With another podium, you have to start to wonder if the best is still ahead.
Palou said after the Long Beach podium that while Penske is getting all the attention, it’s not like he’s had a bad start either. He’s was 15 points back then and hadn’t won yet. Eventually, the Penske streak will have to end and what better driver sitting there to capitalize than Palou.
“I think the season in INDYCAR in terms of like drivers and teams being strong or not, I think we all know there’s like 10, 15 racing drivers and different teams that can win,” he said. “So it’s not a surprise anymore to see, I don’t know, guys like Herta being 11th now. Like that’s the level of the series right now.
“But yeah, I don’t know. I think it was surprising for me. I focus more on myself. I think it was surprising for me that this year with the three races we had so far that we are there, we are in the mix. Like we haven’t win any race and we are like 15 or 20 points back, so it’s really good.
“I’m surprised that we are really good on places that I expected to struggle, and that doesn’t mean that now when we go to places that I expect to be better or more comfortable we are going to be like shining and winning.
“But at least it makes it clear like we can be okay.”
Palou made a scary proclament though too. He says they have better cars now than what they had last year.
“Yeah, we had better cars than last year so far,” he continued. “Hopefully we can go to the places we won or we were really strong last year and we can still have really good cars.”
Now could be the start of that dominating string. All 3 of his wins were on natural road courses last year and natural road courses make up 3 of the next 5 races on the schedule.
1 of the other 2 remaining races in this upcoming span? The Indianapolis 500. He was runner-up in 2021.
“I cannot wait. It’s already May today,” he said. “You can feel it. It was super sunny today. Yeah, cannot wait. 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.
“Yeah, I was already really happy with the start of the season we had. Obviously another podium, another race where we were pushing it at the end, and almost got it. It gives us some momentum, some confidence, some happy time.
“It’s going to be good. It’s going to be really busy from next week on, so it’s good to have, like, couple of good results to get there.
“Also looking forward because we had strong results in the road course before, and also at the 500 last year. Can’t wait.”
If you go back to last season, he has 6 top 4 results in the last 7 races run. With what’s ahead, how important is it to keep this momentum going into the most important month of the year? Was it bigger to gain momentum heading to Indy or not lose it?
“Yeah, I’ve seen all sports, but especially racing, momentum is basically a big part,” Palou told me. “I think the momentum we have now, it’s amazing, and just having a bad race now wouldn’t crush all we’ve done so far.
“Yeah, just focus on Barber itself instead of thinking about the month of May. I know it’s like as soon as we finish Barber it’s like month of May and everything is nonstop, which that’s going to be great. I cannot wait for some busy times in racing.
“But yeah, I think it would help if we can win it or we can have another strong result and just go like more comfortable to the month of May. But if we can’t, it’s not going to be a big deal.”
This can be the start to further propel Palou into stardom.
Andretti Guys Reeling
The Andretti Autosport bunch is 8th (Romain Grosjean), 11th (Colton Herta), 13th (Alexander Rossi) and 24th (Devlin DeFrancesco) in points. They’re reeling. Oddly enough, one could say that the fastest overall cars this season hail from this camp. They just can’t finish.
Herta, has had pit road problems plague him for much of this season. It happened at both St. Pete and Texas. He then was pushing too hard coming to pit lane in Long Beach and crashed. Qualifying hampered him in Barber and while pushing hard in the race, he spun and went from 6th to 10th. Rossi, had a bad pit call in St. Pete, a mechanical failure in Texas, and a bad pit stop in Long Beach and Barber now. His winless streak is now to 41 races. He has just has just 8 podiums and only 11 top fives in that span too.
The Andretti Autosport driver seemed to be on a quick path to a championship once he won his second career NTT IndyCar Series race in Watkins Glen during that 2017 season. From the Toronto race that season through the one at Road America in 2019, Rossi had six wins, 16 podiums and 22 top five finishes in a span of 33 races.
But, here we are.
He was second in the championship in 2018 and third in 2019. But, this dip started during the middle of that ’19 season which is why he didn’t hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy that season and why he’s hasn’t yet overall. He was 10th in the final standings last year and currently 16th now following an 8th place result in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He hasn’t won a race since Road America in 2019. He led 54 of 55 laps that day. In fact, that was the 10th race of that season. At that point, he had led in 7 of the 10 races to account for 182 laps led.
But, over the last 40 races during this winless streak, he’s led a total of 95 laps. He led 83 laps in 2020, two last year and 10 in St. Pete. That’s it.
Also during this 40 race drought, he has finished 17th or worse in 7 of his last 19 starts. He had 6 finishes of 17th or worse in his previous 47 races.
Meyer Shank Racing Guys Quiet Entering May at Indy
The little team that could won the Indianapolis 500 in historic fashion last year. Meyer Shank Racing produced Helio Castroneves’ 4th Indy 500 triumph. Now, the little team could turn into the biggest storyline when the oval activity starts in a few weeks at IMS. They feature Castroneves who’s back going for a record setting 5th ‘500 crown as well as 2019 Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud.
Yes, the team with 1 career Indy Car victory has 2 of the last 3 Indy 500 winners.
However, both drivers come to Indy quiet. Pagenaud, sits 12th in points with 1 top 10 in 4 races while Castroneves is 17th (14th, 23rd, 9th and 21st). While they’ve had 2 top 10’s in the last 3 races combined, they just haven’t gotten put together collectively yet.
Neither driver has led a single lap all season. Maybe the quietness ends this month though. Pagenaud and Castroneves are always a threat at Indy and can turn their seasons around quickly this month still.
AJ Foyt Racing Still Struggling
With a new revamped lineup again in 2022, AJ Foyt Racing felt like they could contend closer to the front. Would they win? While that’s a goal, they knew they couldn’t just turn it around overnight. They’d rather be fighting for realistic goals of top 10’s. However, after 4 races run, they have 1 top 10 across their three cars and that was a 10th place result from rookie Kyle Kirkwood in Long Beach.
They sit 20th, 25th, 26th and 29th in points right now with Tatiana Calderon (24th, 16th, 26th) and JR Hildebrand (14th) sharing the No. 11 Chevrolet.
They took 3 of the bottom 5 finishing spots on Sunday.
Lap 32 Caution Ruined 3 Stop Strategy But Barber Still A Course Where 2 stop vs. 3 stop closest margin
For those on the 3 stop strategy, the beginning of the race was going their way. Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta were blazing fast and may have had something if not for Callum Ilott and Helio Castroneves having contact on Lap 32 in Turn 9. That brought out the 1st and only caution of the day and for the 3 stoppers who were going to have to pit here in a few laps, it ended their shots of a win.
The top 3 stopper to finish was Romain Grosjean in 7th. Herta, was 10th with Marcus Ericsson (11th) and Josef Negarden (14th) barely inside of the top 15.
However, the margins between the 2 were close. The last 2 years saw the 2 stop strategy win out, but if that caution doesn’t fly when it does, maybe a 3 stopper was going to be the right one this year.
If you gave up on the race past the midway marker though, shame on you. Prior to the final round of pit stops, it appeared that strategy was now out the window. That happened with that Lap 33 caution. It was now the 2 stop strategy for the win and those drivers were settling in. However, all hell broke loose in the end.
Coming to the final pit stops, the top 4 were VeeKay-O’Ward-McLaughlin-Rossi. At the checkered flag, they finished in order: 3-1-6-9.
Will Power was 7th coming to the final round of stops but wound up 4th. Scott Dixon improved from 6th to 5th, McLaughlin faded to 3rd, Colton Herta spun while battling for 6th to fall to 10th and Graham Rahal/Romain Grosjean had an intense battle with a war of words.
The final 30 lap so this race was edge of your seat racing.