Penske’s Street Course Prowess ends
Coming into this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto, Team Penske had won all 3 of the street course races run during the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series season. They had also won each of the last 3 races on the year in general too. On top of all of that, Penske had won 3 of the last 4 on the Exhibition Place circuit as well.
However, none of the 3 took home any hardware this time around with Penske finishing P9, P10 and P15 respectively. They didn’t lead a single lap all race either which was also shocking.
It wasn’t a clean weekend for them either. Josef Newgarden had electrical problems in his engine on Saturday morning and didn’t turn a single lap. He did rebound to qualify 3rd but a slow final pit stop relegated him from a potential podium to 10th.
Will Power had a fast car but bad luck struck in qualifying with a red coming out while on a flier. Instead of advancing to the 2nd round, he would start 16th.
What’s odd is, Power has been in the top 3 of each of the last 3 Saturday morning practice sessions. He’s not made it out of the opening round in either. He qualified 15th in Road America, 21st in Mid-Ohio and 16th in Toronto.
For Mid-Ohio, he had the quickest lap in his group but was docked his 2 fastest laps due to blocking Helio Castroneves. That plus this weekend has aided in him starting outside the top 10 in each of his last 5 races including 6 of the last 7. He finished 19th in Road America and 15th in Toronto. Mid-Ohio he rebounded to a podium but these Saturday’s are hurting his championship chances. He’s now 35 points out.
Scott McLaughlin was the cleanest of them all but was in a fight for a top 5 on the final restarted and with Graham Rahal making a dash for 4th, Simon Pagenaud pounced when McLaughlin had to back out and slid immediately back to 6th. He would end up 9th.
Rookies Qualify Well, Finish Respectable
For the 2nd straight race, the rookies were well represented in the 2nd round of qualifying. David Malukas qualified 5th. Callum Ilott was 7th. Christian Lundgaard (10th) and Devlin DeFrancesco (12th) also made the Top 12.
For Malukas, he’s qualified in the top 8 in 3 of the last 4 races including 2 of the 3 in the Fast 6 at that. On Sunday, he was knocked around a lot but still stood tall in 12th. Ilott was 14th and DeFrancesco 18th.
Lundgaard though impressed the most in coming home 8th in his No. 30 Dallara-Honda. He leads Malukas by 20 points in the rookie of the year chase.
Andretti Still Struggling For Finishes
There was no internal fighting for the Andretti camp which is a promising end to a race weekend. In fact, they put all 4 drivers into the 2nd round of qualifying on Saturday. That though, is why this weekend may not be seen as a solid out though with them coming home P2, P16, P18, P23.
Yes, Colton Herta was the runner-up, but Alexander Rossi was punted by Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 44 resulting in a 23rd place effort. Rosenqvist finished 3rd so that’s around where Rossi would have slotted.
Grosjean struggled for race pace while DeFrancesco faded from 12th to 18th. For Grosjean, his 16th place run was the 5th time in the last 6 races that he’s finished 16th or worse. DeFrancesco has finished 18th now in 3 of his last 4 races and was 17th in the other. Rossi was 19th in Mid-Ohio and now 23rd the next time out.
That Sebring test worked wonders for the RLL camp. They’ve largely struggled for qualifying pace all season. In turn, it’s forced them to drive through the field each week. This time, they had pace off the truck on Friday. They went P3, P11 and P18 in Session 1. On Saturday morning, they were P5, P7 and P16. Qualifying saw them P10, P13 and P14 but the only reason Graham Rahal wasn’t higher as because he was caught out by 1 of those red flags too.
Still, Rahal drove from 14th to 4th for his 1st top 5 of the season. Christian Lundgaard went from 10th to 8th while Jack Harvey was 19th.
It was a season changing effort that could help propel them to a great 2nd half of the season.
Just How Far Will Dixon Go?
Scott Dixon has now won a race in 2 decades worth of service (20 years). He’s won at least 1 race in 18 straight seasons. Both are records. His 52nd win ranks him in a tie for 2nd most ever with Mario Andretti. That’s the same guy he’s chasing in other major categories too.
Dixon has 49 runner-up finishes. Andretti has 56. He has 129 podiums. Andretti has 144. Dixon has 188 top 5’s. Andretti has 193.
Dixon is coming for him.
He’s one championship shy of tying AJ Foyt for most ever too. The Kiwi was starting to show signs of slowing but now, not so fast.
He could soon be the one with the most poles in Indy 500 history. He already has led more laps than anyone else there. I don’t think he can catch Foyt for most wins, but he can at least break the tie with Andretti.
Dixon says he would like to race for the next 5 years. If that’s the case, the runner-ups and top 5’s will be threatened too.
By time Dixon hangs it up, he could have the most championships, 2nd most wins, 2nd most runner-ups, 2nd most podiums, most top 5’s, most laps led in Indy 500 history and most poles in Indy 500 history.
I feel like we’re underappreciating his greatness still. He doesn’t get the attention that he deserves.
Rosenqvist Not Giving Up
With Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi signed for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series season, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo under contract for the 2023 Formula One season and now the signing of Alex Palou for some point under the McLaren banner, one could say that Felix Rosenqvist’s destination in 2023 would be with Formula E.
They have a new program there for 2023 and will have 2 seats for the taking. Zak Brown said he wants a veteran in 1 of those seats and Rosenqvist had 2 full time years in the series including 3 wins there before coming over to INDYCAR.
However, Rosenqvist is hoping his recent results change that destination.
Rosenqvist made it abundantly clear following his 1st podium in his 2 years that he’s been with AMSP, he wants to stay and is going to do everything in his power to make Zak Brown’s decision on where to use his Swedish driver all the more difficult.
“I want to be where I’m at right now,” Rosenqvist said. “I think Arrow McLaren SP has pretty much become a home for me. Yeah, it’s up to Zak. He’s the man who is making the moves. Probably going to take a couple of weeks before we know more. Hopefully today (Toronto) changed something. My ambition is to keep proving it that way.”
Rosenqvist feels like if he was destined to be in Formula E, then Brown would have said something by now. See, when Rosenqvist was awarded last month with a new contract, it wasn’t revealed to where he’d be racing for McLaren at. The contract was with McLaren not necessarily Arrow McLaren SP on the INDYCAR side.
With the Palou situation looking murky, Rosenqvist is trying to take advantage.
“I’m going to take that chance,” Rosenqvist continued. “If there’s a chance for me to be here next year, I’m going to try to prove I can.”
He told me this past June during a test here at IMS that he felt like he’s driving as good now as ever before in his career.
He has 5 top 10’s in his last 6 races on the year including 4 of which in the top 6. He was 4th in the Indianapolis 500 and 3rd last week in Toronto. He also has 8 top 8 starting spots in the last 9 races on the season too.
The only non top 10 on race day was due to a problem Chevrolet owned up to as a problem on their end of his engine. The only non top 10 on qualifying day was a team mistake by calling him out of his pit stall in front of another car. That too wasn’t Rosenqvist’s doing.
At this rate, maybe he can save his ride after all…
Ericsson Has Championship Winning Weekend
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver entered the weekend 20 points up on Will Power for the championship. He leaves 35 up. Ericsson was the first driver across the finish line among the top 5 in points entering the day which made this a championship type performance for him this weekend.
He was 4th in Friday’s practice, 2nd on Saturday and while he qualified 9th, he moved up to 5th in the end and held off last year’s champion Alex Palou in the end for his 5th top 5 of the year (10th start). He had 7 top 5’s in his previous 46 starts.
Also, this was his 17th top 10 in his last 20 starts in the series which will make it difficult for those behind him to catch and pass him without winning multiple times. That’s going to prove difficult with us seeing 7 different winners in 10 races run in 2022.
Can Palou/O’Ward Get Going Again?
Back on May 1, Pato O’Ward beat Alex Palou in Barber. Little did we know then, they’d falter ever since. Palou is in the midst of a contract saga and while he was 6th Sunday in Toronto, he only has 1 top 5 since leaving Barber 2 1/2 months ago.
Similar fate for O’Ward. He has 2 top 5’s but only 1 podium in that same span. 4 of his last 6 finishes have been 11th or worse including being 26th, 24th and 11th the last 3 races. He’s since dropped to 6th in points again.
Palou improved from 4th to 3rd but I’m skeptical on his championship hopes. He’s winless this season and got into the wall on Saturday morning and had an engine misfire in qualifying.
Honda Picks Up 1st Non Indy Win Of The Season
Honda had a front row sweep on Saturday. They went 1-2 in the race a day later. It was their 1st victory away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all season. It capped a great weekend with them putting 6 cars in the top 8 of both practice sessions this weekend including 1-4 on Friday and 1-2-5-6-7-8 on Saturday.
Pole Winner Curse
We’ve only seen 1 pole winner earn a race win in the same weekend just once in the last 11 series races. That came in the 2022 season opener. Colton Herta couldn’t do it this weekend in Toronto but finished a respectable 2nd. However, the last 3 race winners on the season came from 2nd at the start. In fact, 3 of the 4 street courses run this season were won by a front row starter.
Honorable Mention: Foyt Cars/Johnson Struggle Again
In Mid-Ohio, the AJ Foyt Racing cars went P22-P25-P26. They were P22-P24 on Sunday with the 3rd missing the weekend due to sponsorship problems.
Dalton Kellett has finished 20th or worse in each of the last 8 races now. Kyle Kirkwood has done so in 4 straight with results of 24th, 20th, 26th and 22nd now. 6 of his last 7 have been in this frame too.
They’ve been found back there with company. Jimmie Johnson’s 2nd season has seen him close the gap on the speed charts but not on the box score. He’s finished better than 20th just twice all season. After being 16th in Mid-Ohio, he was 21st on Sunday.