Newgarden gets redemption at Road America to win Sonsio Grand Prix, recap with my 5 takeaways

A week after his Team Penske teammate of Will Power got redemption for how the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series race at Belle Isle ended, Josef Newgarden did the same at Road America. Last year, Power’s No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet was leading at the end of the 1st race of that doubleheader weekend in Detroit. There’d be a late race caution which sparked a red flag. His car wouldn’t refire.

He’d prevail last Sunday on the same 2.35-mile street course.

A week after that moment for Power last year, Newgarden started on the pole and dominated the race at Elkhart Lake. Then, we’d get a late race caution and on the final restart with just a couple of laps-to-go, Newgarden’s gear box failed him dropping him from a win to 21st.

A year later, a similar situation occurred. Newgarden held a 2.8 second lead over Alexander Rossi with less than 10 to go but unfortunately for him, Pato O’Ward stalled on track. That brought out the 4th caution of the day and set up a late restart with 5 to go.

Rossi had been cutting into Newgarden’s lead prior to the caution in seeing it go from 4.9 seconds before their final pit stops on Lap 41 down to 2.8 after. The deficit was getting smaller and smaller and now Newgarden had Rossi on his rear wing again for a late restart.

Newgarden got a great launch but we’d have another quick yellow for Helio Castroneves spinning behind out of the final corner. That sparked a 3 lap shootout once we got back green.

This time, Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet didn’t fail him. He’d not flinch and cruise to his 23rd career series victory which ties him with Tommy Milton for 19th on the all-time wins list. It was also his 20th since joining Team Penske in 2017 which 3 of those 20 coming this year. By virtue of where his 3 wins came from (Texas, Long Beach, Road America), he wins the $1million bonus for completing the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge. That award goes to the driver to win on all 3 disciplines and Newgarden knocked that out in 8 races.

“It was a great day. Great, great day,” Newgarden said. “Felt really good going into it. Felt like we had a car to win today. It was just about executing.”

The $1 million will be split between Newgarden and Team Penske, and the two charities of Newgarden’s choice – Wags and Walks of Nashville and SeriousFun Children’s Network. The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge is part of a new partnership between industrial staffing giant PeopleReady and INDYCAR. It will continue to award a $10,000 donation to every race winner for the remainder of the season – split between the driver, their team, and their charity of choice.

He’s not had 4 podiums in his last 7 Road America starts and moves from 47 points out of the lead to 32.

Rossi lost 2nd to Marcus Ericsson on the final restart with the Swedish driver scoring his 7th career podium and 11th top five in his No. 8 Dallara-Honda. He’s not had a tp 10 in all but 2 races run this season and takes over the points lead heading to Mid-Ohio.

Rossi went from the pole to 3rd in his No. 27 Dallara-Honda for his 27th career podium and 39th top 5. The momentum is still there with 3 of those 39 top 5’s being consecutive. Rossi led 16 laps in all on Sunday but after a slower opening pit stop, he never regained the advantage that he lost.

He led the 1st 16 laps of the afternoon and hit pit lane with Newgarden in tow on Lap 15. Newgarden beat him out of pit lane due to Newgarden’s teammate of Scott McLaughlin also pitting on that lap but he pulled into his stall as Rossi was wanting to leave to in order to not run into him, Rossi had to wait. That split second of doing so allowed Newgarden a clean exit without any interruption ahead which put him in front of Rossi.

“I think Brian (Barnhart) was telling me to wait,” said Rossi. “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just an unfortunate sequence that happens. I think it certainly cost us the lead there.

“That being said, I do think Josef had a really strong car today so I don’t know necessarily that we would have been able to beat him. Maybe, I don’t know.

“But it’s neither here nor there. That’s just part of the way it works. Ultimately it’s good to avoid contact and lose a little bit of time.”

Newgarden would stay ahead of him the rest of the day as a result. Despite having 2 final shots at Newgarden, Rossi says that the Tennessee native got the best of him on each which is why on the final one, he overcompensated from the first restart a lap prior which allowed Ericsson by.

“I think we were the second best car,” Rossi said. “Pretty aggressive on the restart there to try and do something. Just kind of overstepped a little bit. That’s what allowed Marcus to get by.

“Ultimately I don’t know that we would have been able to win. A little disappointing, but all in all I think it was a very positive weekend for us for obvious reasons A good run of races, look forward to going to Mid-Ohio.”

Newgarden credited that 1st stop in the win too but also said he felt like his car was the best one out there.

“My team really put me in position on that first stop. Rossi was not going to be easy to beat today. I felt like he was very strong. I felt like we were a little bit better than him, but he was by no means going to be simple to go by.

“That first stop is really what set the tone for us. Once we got in position, it was about getting through the lap markers, the alternate strategy quicker than him, building a gap, maintaining it. I felt like our PPG car was hooked up and had it from Team Chevy on the power side pretty much as always this year.

“Really comfy. To be able to win this million bucks, give half of it to charity, is very cool. Very, very cool. I’m sure our recipients are going to be thrilled with that.”

Romain Grosjean was 4th in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda while Colton Herta went from 11th to round out the top 5 in his No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

Alex Palou had a run in with his teammate on Lap 3 Sunday in Road America. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Points Implications/Drama Filled Race

Sunday’s race had huge points implications in Road America. 3 of the top 4 in the standings finished 19th or worse including 3rd and 4th entering taking home the final 2 spots in the scoring order. You had 5th place in points winnings, 2nd in points finishing 2nd in the race and 7th in points coming home 3rd.

That’s why Marcus Ericsson becomes the points leader once again as he and Will Power and trading jabs each race it seems. Power took over the points leading after a 3rd place finish in the GMR Grand Prix. Ericsson took it away after winning the Indy 500 15 days later. Power took it back following a win last Sunday in Belle Isle.

In Road America, Power was punted by Devlin DeFrancesco on Lap 8. He’d finish 19th and would drive 50 laps furious at the Canadian rookie driver.

Ericsson and his teammate/defending series champion had a moment in Turn 5 on Lap 3 sending Palou to an early exit in 27th. The usual reserved Palou had some tough criticism of his teammate for the maneuver.

“He was trying to win the race on the 3rd lap,” Palou said. When asked if he was surprised that his left front suspension broke that easily, Palou said that he was “surprised my teammate hit me, not that my car broke. We can play this game as well.”

However, Ericsson saw a different side. He felt like at that moment and after seeing the replay after the race, that he didn’t do anything wrong.

“Yeah, from inside the car, the door was open there,” said Ericsson of the incident. “I went for the move. Alongside him at the apex, made the corner. From my side he turns into me from the outside lane. You hate to see your teammate retire from a contact with you. That’s the last thing you want to do.

I was surprised that we hit at the middle of the corner.

 I made the corner, didn’t go up on the curb. It was not like I was oversteering or anything like that. I was surprised to get the hit there. I don’t know what more to say. 

“I don’t see I did anything wrong. It was a fully race move. Might have been early in the race, but this race is a track-position race. If you get an opportunity, you need to go for it.

“As I said, there was nothing wrong with that move. That was clear on the TV pictures. I don’t feel that was on me. I feel like it was more on his side there.”

Ericsson ran a clean race the rest of the way to come away runner-up and now holds a 27 point advantage over Power heading into the July 3 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Newgarden goes from 5th to 3rd in gaining 15 points (-32) while Pato O’Ward goes from 12 points back to 45 after stalling on Lap 48 and finishing 26th.

Palou drops from 14 back to 47.


1st Pit Stop, Final Restarts Key

Alexander Rossi says he had the 2nd best car on Sunday. Josef Newgarden humbly agreed. That’s why the 1st pit stop sequence and the final 2 restarts shaped this race.

Rossi led the 1st 16 laps of the day. Both he and Newgarden hit pit lane on Lap 15. Rossi had Scott McLaughlin 1 stall in front. By virtue of his Belle Isle pole, Newgarden had pit stall No. 1.

That helped this sequence that saw Newgarden beat Rossi off pit lane.

McLaughlin was pulling into his stall as Rossi was wanting to exit. In order to not make contact, Rossi had to wait to pull out of his pit stall to allow McLaughlin to pull into his.

“I think Brian (Barnhart) was telling me to wait,” said Rossi. “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just an unfortunate sequence that happens. I think it certainly cost us the lead there.

“That’s just part of the way it works. Ultimately it’s good to avoid contact and lose a little bit of time.”

Newgarden said that moment paved the way to his 3rd win of the season.

“My team really put me in position on that first stop,” Newgarden said. “That first stop is really what set the tone for us. Once we got in position, it was about getting through the lap markers, the alternate strategy quicker than him, building a gap, maintaining it. I felt like our PPG car was hooked up and had it from Team Chevy on the power side pretty much as always this year.”

He’d not really get threatened for most of the rest of the way. Even as both came to their final stops, Newgarden was far enough ahead to never seriously feel Rossi was a threat from behind. It was just that first stop to get ahead of him without having to pass him on track was the key.

“Rossi was not going to be easy to beat today,” said Newgarden. “I felt like he was very strong. I felt like we were a little bit better than him, but he was by no means going to be simple to go by.”

The other key was the fact that Pato O’Ward brought out a yellow with 8 to go. Rossi was closing on Newgarden but he says it was artificial with Newgarden catching traffic. However, he had another shot at him on a restart with 5 to go.

Newgarden, got a good jump on him. Rossi got a mulligan via Helio Castroneves spinning on the restart. This time, Rossi played it too good. He over adjusted which allowed Marcus Ericsson to pass him for 2nd.

“Pretty aggressive on the restart there to try and do something,” Rossi said of the final 2 restarts. “Just kind of overstepped a little bit. That’s what allowed Marcus to get by.

“Ultimately I don’t know that we would have been able to win. He went pretty early on the first one. I went with him on the second and actually got too close.

“Yeah, he executed well. It was my mistake, which allowed Marcus to get by. You got to try in those situations to go for the win.

“I do think Josef had a really strong car today so I don’t know necessarily that we would have been able to beat him. “

Rossi says he honestly didn’t have much for Newgarden anyways. He felt like he had the 2nd best car in the end.

“Yeah, probably a little disappointing when you start on pole and can’t convert,” Rossi continued. “It was generally a good day I think. I think Josef had a little bit better pace than us. I think we were the second best car.


Sunday was a strong race pace showing out of the entire RLL camp. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Strong Rebound From RLL

I wondered how Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing would respond this week. Following a quiet Month of May and a dismal weekend last time out in Belle Isle, how would they look at one of their favorite tracks?

Not much different. This weekend looked a lot like the recent ones. They lacked pace in practice and qualifying but when it came to race day, there they were rallying from behind for another solid outing.

On Saturday, all 3 drivers were eliminated in the first of the three round knockout qualifying format. Christian Lundgaard would start 13th in his No. 30 Dallara-Honda. He’s been decent on these types of tracks in starting 14th, 8th and 13th now respectively on them.

However, with Jack Harvey (20th) and Graham Rahal (22nd) were coming from the back. That’s more eye opening.

Rahal told me in April that they’re struggling figuring out this qualifying deficit. He pointed to how good of a qualifier Harvey was with Meyer Shank Racing and that once he came over to RLL this season, even he is struggling.

Harvey had qualified in the top 10 in each of his last 3 Road America starts entering the weekend including 2 of which being in the top 3 at that. This would mark his worst career start here.

Rahal was 14th last year but he also qualified 6th, 6th, 9th, 5th, 4th and 5th respectively prior. To be 22nd after being 23rd last week and 21st for the Indy 500 is showing he too is struggling with qualifying pace.

In the race, they’d get all 3 cars in the top 13 with 2 of the 3 in the top 10 at the checkered flag. That’s a hell of a showing with 2 of the 3 starting 20th or worse.

They did so on varying strategies. Lundgaard and Harvey would run their stints long while Rahal went short. All 3 though would end up on reds at the end and would finish 8th (Rahal), 10th (Lundgaard) and 13th (Harvey).

The 2 late cautions helped preserve the reds and allow that decision to be the right one.

Rahal pit on the 3rd caution of the day for primary tires on Lap 9. Lundgaard and Harvey stretched their tires to Lap 17, the longest first stint of anyone in the field. Their 2nd stops occurred on Lap 25 for Rahal, Lap 29 for Harvey and Lap 31 for Lundgaard. Harvey would go on reds for this stint. Lundgaard just ran reds for 14 laps with Rahal back on blacks.

That meant Rahal had to run reds for the final stint and do so while saving fuel too so he had to go the final 15 laps on reds. Lundgaard pit for the final time on Lap 42 and went reds again. Harvey also pit on Lap 42 as well.

Rahal scored his 130th career top 10 finish in 249 career starts. Lundgaard picked up his 2nd career top 10 with the other being on the IMS road course last month too.


Alexander Rossi celebrates redemption following his 1st pole since 2019 at Belle Isle. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Andretti Puts 3 Cars In The Top 5 But No Win

This was looking like the weekend that Andretti Autosport was going to finally put it all together. See, AA always has Friday pace. It’s bad luck in qualifying which usually leads to rough race days as a result.

This time around, they looked improved. They took the pole and had 3 cars in the top 7 of the starting lineup. Then, they got some bad news that Colton Herta would have to serve a 6 spot grid penalty for not being able to have his No. 26 Dallara-Honda engine repaired from his Carb Day crash. They had 3 weeks to get it fixed and they couldn’t. Instead of rolling off 6th, he’d start 11th now.

Grosjean slid up to 6th and with Alexander Rossi snapping his 3 year pole drought, maybe 1 of the 2 could get the win.

Rossi would lead the 1st 16 laps but get slowed up on his initial stop by Scott McLaughlin who was coming into his pit at the same time as Rossi coming out. That allowed 2nd place starter Josef Newgarden to exit ahead of Rossi and stay ahead of him the rest of the way.

On the final restart, Rossi was too close to Newgarden which slowed him up a bit and allowed Marcus Ericsson to challenge him for 2nd now. Ericsson got by and Rossi fell to 3rd.

Herta went from 11th to 8th by the first few laps and then was 6th on Lap 6. He was all the way up to 4th for the final restart but had very few push to passes left. Grosejan was 5th and had plenty and used them to get by Herta for 4th.

They’d finish 3rd, 4th and 5th to give AA 3 cars in the top 5 but none better than 3rd. It’s a start but not a day that they expected.


Chevy Wins Again, Honda Takes 4 Spots In The Top 5

Honda went 1-2 in practice on Friday. Chevy went 1-2 on Saturday. They split the difference in qualifying with each having a representative on the front row. So, who wins on Sunday?

Chevy took the win via Josef Newgarden but Honda took the 4 spots behind him. Newgarden had 4 Honda’s in the top 5 at the start and prevailed over them as the lone bowtie fighting among the Honda’s.

While the Honda’s looked good in taking 4 spots in the top 5 as well as the pole this weekend, it’s still not a win. It snaps their 4 race win streak in Road America and moves them to 0-6 outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this season.

Chevrolet went 4-for-4 to start the 2022 season off with. Then they went 0-for-2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Last week the visited the victory circle again in Belle Isle. They’re 6-for-6 away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but 0-for-2 on it.

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