INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network)

Will Dixon/Rossi Win During This Next 3 Race Span?

Alexander Rossi hasn’t won in 2 years. Exactly. It was here in 2019 as the site of his last INDYCAR victory. That was 44 races ago.

Scott Dixon hasn’t won a race in over a year himself. His stretch is 20 races. He also has just 1 victory in the last 29 overall.

However, both enter Road America on the heels of podiums in Belle Isle and are looking more and more likely to end these droughts soon.

Dixon led the most laps (95) in the Indy 500 and if not for a speeding penalty in his final stop, the drought for him was likely over on May 29. Rossi charged from Row 7 to finish 5th that day. In Belle Isle, Rossi was 2nd and Dixon 3rd.

With Road America, Mid-Ohio and Toronto up next, can either pick up a win in the next 3 events?

Rossi has 2 podiums in his last 4 Road America tries. Then it’s to Mid-Ohio to where he has 6 straight top 6 results including 3 podiums in his last 5 tries. After that we go to Toronto to where he has 2 podiums in his last 3 efforts there too.

He’s steadily improved in poitns too going from 27th to 18th to 13th to 15th to 11th and now to 7th.

Dixon has 5 top 5’s in his last 6 at Road America, 6 wins at Mid-Ohio and 3 wins at Toronto including 2 straight top 2’s there.

“Yeah, last week didn’t go as planned. You just got to keep looking forward,” said Dixon.

“Honestly, I think we had great pace all weekend. These sessions are crazy. Going into qualifying I think I did two consecutive laps at speed. Definitely a wild weekend. Not a race that I thought would have gone green-checkered either. We couldn’t even do five minutes in a row in practice without a red flag.

“It’s good for myself. It’s great for the team. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

I think Rossi and Dixon can each get a win in this next 4 race stretch.


Will The Race Be Won On Saturday?

Street course races have produced a lot of parity in the starting lineup. 5 of the last 7 race winners have come from 14th or worse. However, road course races are the exact opposite. Qualifying in an NTT IndyCar Series race on these have been a great precursor for who wins the actual races a day later.

  • Starting positions for natural road courses lately (since 2016) – 41 races (counting Barber, Indy this year)
    • 2016: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st
    • 2017: 7th, 1st, 5th, 2nd 1st, 3rd
    • 2018: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 20th, 1st
    • 2019: 4th, 1st, 8th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd, 1st
    • 2020: 7th, 9th, 7th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st
    • 2021: 3rd, 7th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st
    • 2022: 2nd, 14th
  • That’s 39 of the last 41 coming from the top 10 (95%)
  • That’s 21 of 40 from the pole (53%) and 27 of 41 from the front row (65%)
  • Also, that’s 32 of 41 (78%) from the Fast Six.

See how qualifying makes or breaks race winning chances. I mean, if you don’t make it out of the first round, you basically have no shot at victory.

That further proves that you have to get into the Fast Six to give yourself any shot on Sunday. I mean at Road America, all seven races were won from a top 10 starter including five of which from the top five. In fact, three of those five top five starters came from the front row at that.

Mix all of this together and you can see why it’s imperative to qualify up front this weekend.


Felix Rosenqvist has 3 straight top 10 finishes now. Is that enough to keep his job for a 3rd season at AMSP? Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Is Rosenqvist Doing Enough To Save His Job?

AMSP has signed 2 of its 3 drivers for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series season. Both are on multiyear deals. Both are what most consider stars in the series at that between Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi. Here’s the thing though, AMSP only has 2 full time cars right now and has 2 full time drivers locked up for next season. While they keep talking about adding a 3rd full time car, it’s not formally been announced yet. I’ve also got no reason to believe it won’t be full time but in saying that, what does this do to Felix Rosenqvist?

He’s a free agent at seasons end and left a good chance at Chip Ganassi Racing for AMSP between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Ganassi tested Rosenqvist a few years ago and wanted him for their program then. Unfortunately, they didn’t have room. Following a few more ho-hum seasons in the 10 car, they made Rosenqvist an offer to come back to the States and join Ganassi. He had a strong, not solid year as a rookie in 2019. For 2020 debuted the Aeroscreen during a global pandemic. Still, Rosenqvist looked quick. He should have finished 2nd in Texas as the season opener that year. He would win not long after in Road America. The Swede looked like he was going to be what Ganassi hoped he’d become. Then he spurned them at the altar and went to AMSP for 2021.

He’s not done enough they feel to sign him yet. Is that troubling?

Rosenqvist struggled at the onset of the 2021 season. He wasn’t adapting to the new Chevrolet car as he’s only driven a Honda in INDYCAR prior. He watched Pato O’Ward thrive and felt like he needed more time.

The summer break hit and it was a perfect reset. The team tested out west and figured out areas to improve upon. Rosenqvist took off after. He had 4 top 10 starting spots over the final 6 races run, 3 of which in the top 5. He started not better than 13th in the previous 8 races. That allowed him a 2nd year back in 2022. Unfortunately, his future is in question with the team again.

It was always going to be a prove it year and if you dig deeper, he’s starting to show promise.

Rosenqvist has 5 top 8 starting spots in 7 races run this season including a pole at Texas. The only problem is, up until Indianapolis, the finishes still weren’t there. But, over the last 3 races, maybe we should be taking notice after all.

He finished 6th in the GMR Grand Prix. He was 4th in the Indianapolis 500. After starting last in Belle Isle last Sunday, he drove all the way up to 10th and now sits 9th in the standings nearing the midway mark of the season.

Has he done enough to merit that 3rd seat in 2023?

He’s making a strong case that if he’s not retained that he could have some options elsewhere. Should he want them. I’ve actually heard Rosenqvist’s name linked to Formula E rides so he potentially could be heading back in that direction.

If so, he’s going out blazing saddles with 9 top 10 starting spots in the last 13 races. He’s finishing better and looking more and more like a front runner.

You also have to look at the situations that he’s been put in during these races too. They had him on the wrong strategy in Barber after starting 6th. He was affected by the rain in Indy after also starting 6th. He qualified 4th in Long Beach and too had strategy come into play. His halfshaft broke in Texas while pitting in the top 3 near the midway mark of the race.

If strategy and pieces don’t fail him, he’s a top 10 car. That’s why Rosenqvist is an interesting one to watch especially this weekend since he technically won the last time he was at Road America (he missed last year due to injury).


Is Road America A Championship Preview?

For whatever reason, Road America is a place that rewards the best. Just look at the recent winners since we’ve been coming back to this scenic track. Will Power a former series champion won in 2016 for a race that had 3 of the top 5 drivers in the final standings finish in the top 5 that day. Scott Dixon won in 2017 and won the title a year later in 2018. Josef Newgarden won the championship in 2017 and won the race in 2018 on a day that 3 of the 5 in the final points standings scored a top 5 in Road America too.

For that 2017 race, the entire top 5 in Road America finished in the top 5 in the final standings at that.

Alexander Rossi won in 2019 and was 3rd in points. Newgarden finished 3rd in that year’s race and would go on to win the title. 4 of the top 5 in the final standings finished in the top 5 at Road America that season as well.

2020 saw Dixon win Race 1 and 3 of the top 5 in the final standings finish in the top 5 that day as well as seeing Dixon win the title later that season. The same fate happened to Alex Palou last season. He won but only after Newgarden had a mechanical issue on the final restart. They were 1-2 that day and 1-2 in points at seasons end. 4 of the top 6 in the final points standings finished in the top 6 that day and would have been 5 in the top 7 if not for Newgarden’s incident.

So, out of the last 6 years at Road America, at least 3 drivers would score a top 5 there and would later finish in the top 5 at seasons end in points. In fact, the eventual season champion has finished on the podium in each of the last 5 years here (2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 1st).

Among the 3 on the podium on Sunday, you’ll likely find the series champion this season. Among the top 5 finishers, 3 will be there at seasons end too.


Pato O’Ward drives out of pit lane last month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Has AMSP Passed Andretti Autosport In Pecking Order?

At one point in time, when you made it as an Andretti Autosport driver, you didn’t leave. Ryan Hunter-Reay turned down Roger Penske at one point in his career if that tells you something. But, here we are with Alexander Rossi leaving the team that took a chance on him back in 2016 for Arrow McLaren SP. In fact, AMSP failed to make the Indy 500 multiple times over the last few years first with James Hinchcliffe and then with Fernando Alonso.

Since 2020 though, one could say that AMSP has surpassed Andretti in the INDYCAR team pecking order.

We’re always asking if the “Big 3” has been caught and that’s really due to Andretti Autosport falling back to the clutches of the field. Penske and Ganassi are still the top 2 with earning championships in 13 out of the last 14 years and having 5 of the top 6 in points right now this time around.

However, Pato O’Ward has made AMSP a championship front runner the last 3 years and consistently the one battling Penske and Ganassi for titles. Rossi sees that and wants to join forces.

He’s not won since the 2019 season. Andretti has won 5 races since 2020, all by Colton Herta. AMSP has won 3 times, all by O’Ward. Has AMSP really closed the gap that much or has Andretti failed on their own bad luck?

Rossi says both.

Right now though, one can say that stats prove Andretti is still barely ahead of AMSP with championships and even wins since 2020. But podiums and top fives sway towards AMSP on the overall package.


3 comments

  1. […] Alexander Rossi is on a roll. The Andretti Autosport driver drove from Row 7 to 5th in the Indianapolis 500 back on May 29 and then last week went from 11th to 2nd on the streets of Belle Isle. On Friday, he continued the upward momentum in putting his No. 27 Dallara-Honda P1 on the speed charts in the 75 minute long practice session from Road America. […]

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