5 things I’m watching for Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network)

Can AMSP Finally Pull It Off

McLaren has been in the news a lot lately for the Alex Palou contract saga. However, a win in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) would certainly go a long way into quieting the voices.

They took 2 of the top 3 starting spots for Saturday’s 85 Lap race which makes me wonder if they can finally capitalize on it.

Felix Rosenqvist scored the pole on Friday. 2 of his 3 career NTT INDYCAR Series poles occurred here.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my best track. I mean, I have two poles here, but I wouldn’t say result-wise it’s my best track,” he said after scoring the pole for Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). “I’ve been struggling a little bit here in the races historically.

“I just feel like we’ve worked very hard as a team to improve this track as we go here twice a year, and at some point last year we were like, guys, we need to improve at the Indy GP because we’re struggling.”

He’s not wrong. His best finish in 7 starts here is 5th in Race 1 of the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix race weekend. Even the year he scored the pole, he finished 8th. He qualified 6th in May’s GMR Grand Prix and came home exactly where he started.

Pato O’Ward earned the pole for this race just last year. He finished 5th. That’s his best finish here too.

At some point, Rosenquist feels the tide will turn. He credits the test here last month with helping maybe propel him further in Saturday’s 85 Lap race.

“Since then every time we come back here I feel like we’re just getting better and better,” he said. “We had a test here a couple of weeks ago where I think we found some really good things, and we were pretty sure where we wanted to start today in terms of setup, and yeah, it’s just been a smooth day.

“Lucky to have one of those days.”

Felix Rosenqvist scored the pole for Saturday’s race at Indianapolis. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Rosenqvist Doing Enough To Save His Job?

Felix Rosenqvist is thriving right now. He said after his podium finish 2 weeks ago in Toronto that he’s going to try and make it difficult for Zak Brown to take him out of his No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet for next season. See, the Swedish driver signed a deal back in June with McLaren Racing to remain with the organization. However, it didn’t necessarily mean that he’d remain in the NTT INDYCAR Series.

McLaren has 2 F1 seats and both are likely to be occupied by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo next season. They have 3 INDYCAR seats and Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi are signed to them. They’re also starting a 2 car Formula E team as well. There’s 2 open seats on that end.

With Rosenqvist having Formula E success before his journey to INDYCAR and the addition of Alex Palou at some point, what does this do to Rosenqvist?

He’s been in limbo.

“I want to be where I’m at right now,” Rosenqvist said back in Toronto. “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.”

So far he is. Rosenqvist just scored his 3rd career pole on Friday from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in going 1:10.2265-seconds in the Firestone Fast Six. 2 of Rosenqvist’s 3 career poles have come on this 2.439-mile road course.

Rosenqvist says that having such a good lap in the first round allowed him to immediately pit and save that set for the final round. As a result, he scored his 2nd pole of the season and 11th top 10 starting spot in 13 races run this year.

“It is man, I’m really enjoying myself right now,” he told me on Thursday in the shadows of the IMS victory podium. “It’s been you know, a lot these kind of things during the year happen. I’m happy. I think there’s no reason to dwell on those things. I feel like wherever we show up we’re quick. Like we’re being quick on all kind of tracks this year and that’s all you want. You want a shot to be out there fighting for wins and that seems to be not only ambition, but it seems to be the reality almost every track we go to so it’s great.”

Now, can he turn this pole into something special, – his 2nd career win in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix? A win would go a long way to solidifying a future seat here.

“INDYCAR, I think it’s kind of addicting in a way,” he says. “Like it’s very tough. It’s probably — I wouldn’t say like — the driver level is high everywhere in professional championships, but it’s just such a team effort to get everything right on the day in terms of setup, pit stop strategy. The driver has to be fit, he has to be focused. There’s just so many variables, and if you lose one second in a pit sequence, you’re gone. That’s your day gone.

“I think that whole thing becomes — like when you succeed and when you win a race or get a podium or whatever, it’s just something you want to do again because it’s very rewarding when you do well, but it can also be brutal when you’re struggling, as I did last year. It was a super tough season for sure.

“But yeah, I’m doing well, and I want to continue that, so yeah, hopefully I’ll stay.”

His teammate Pato O’Ward is hoping that Rosenqvist stays as his teammate too.

“I mean, I love the guy, and I think what makes the atmosphere in the team so good to work around him is that he’s a genuine good guy, and it’s very easy to work with him,” he says. “It’s in his best interest for the whole team to do well. He won’t section himself off and kind of — in the back of his head kind of wish bad upon the other car just to do better. No, I think that’s what makes our team very special is we’re all obviously pushing each other, but we’re both working together to create a package that’s going to be easier for both of us to drive and just to get better.

“The point is to have a team that is P1 and P2, right? That’s always going to be the goal.

“I just think he fits exactly what the team of McLaren Racing and all that stands for. In order to create a team or to make a team better and drive it forward, you need complete trust and transparency when working with each other. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing.”


Josef Newgarden was cleared to resume activity this weekend in Indianapolis. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Team Penske

Saturday’s race could very well play out for Team Penske to win again. AMSP has 2 of the 3 cars in front of them for the Gallagher Grand Prix and they’ve acknowledged that they’ve struggled to turn their qualifying pace to race day pace on natural road courses. The only other car in front of them is Alexander Rossi and he’s riding a long winless drought himself.

Will Power starts 4th. Josef Newgarden is 5th.

On top of that, Team Penske hasn’t won the spring race here since 2019. However, they dominated the two Harvest Grand Prix’s in 2020 with Josef Newgarden leading 34 of 85 laps in his win during the first doubleheader race of the race weekend. A day later, Will Power led all 75 laps in victory.

Last August, Power led 56 of 85 laps in another win.

While they were 3-20-25 back in May, can they dominate another summer race again?

They’ve also won each of the last 2 natural road course races on the season by 2 different drivers. Power has won each of the last 2 Indy road course return trips and has 3 top 4 finishes in 4 natural road course starts this season. Scott McLaughlin has 3 top 7 finishes in the same 4 races including a Mid-Ohio win on July 3.

Newgarden while he won at Road America, that’s his only top 5 in 4 races run this season on these tracks. He also has just 1 podium in 11 IMS road course starts too.

That could set up another Power dominated day.


Alexander Rossi speeds down Hulman Blvd on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Rossi’s Winless Drought Coming To An End?

Alexander Rossi thought his long winless drought was likely coming to an end last month in Road America. He entered the race weekend after having finished 2nd in Belle Isle a week prior. Rossi went out and won the pole for the Elkhart Lake race and made the field take notice.

However, he didn’t win. Rossi finished 3rd. It felt like he was inching closer and closer though. Instead, he faded into an abyss.

He finished 19th after starting 12th in Mid-Ohio. For Toronto, he qualified 4th but crashed with Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 44 while battling for a spot in the top 5. For Iowa, he qualified 19th and 21st respectively and finished 13th and 18th.

He said on Friday that his only Iowa excitement was seeing how strong the AMSP cars were and that he will be joining them next year.

That winless streak is now sitting at 49 races. Does it snap here or extend to 50?

He was quickest in Friday’s practice and qualified 2nd.

“Yeah, it’s great to be here during the GP,” Rossi said. “We’ve always historically struggled here, especially in qualifying. Our race pace has been good in the past, and that’s never been an issue, but we’ve never been able to qualify here, so we had a really good test a month ago, and it’s nice to see that translate. We had a really good test in Iowa, too. That didn’t really work out.

“It’s good. It’s good to be back obviously at the speedway. We all love coming here, and it’s great to be here on the triple-header weekend, and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.

“Every time you transfer it’s like a little mini-victory, and that helps you get that help of confidence to go the next round.

“I always think round 1 is really the hardest, just because it’s been a while since you’ve had the red tires, especially this year, so you’re kind of guessing as to what the grip level is going to be, and usually if you’re pretty successful in round 1, it should transfer in round 2.

“That lap that Felix did, I don’t think we had anything for it, so hats off to him.”

This was the 3rd time in the last 6 races that he’s started in the top 2 rows. Trends are also on his side also. 4 of the last 5 winners on the season have all started 2nd. Plus 3 of the 4 races on natural road circuses in 2022 were won from 2nd place too.


3 of the top 5 in points roll off in the top 5 on Saturday. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Points

3 of the top 5 in points entering this weekend will roll off inside of the top 5 of the starting lineup on Saturday. Will Power (-8) starts 4th. Josef Newgarden (-34) rolls off 5th. Pato O’Ward (-36) will come from 3rd.

However, points leader Marcus Ericsson stalled on his out lap in the opening round and as a result will have to start last (25th). His teammate Scott Dixon failed to make it out of the first round again here and will start 20th.

At one point in time, Dixon was the man on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He had a span of 4 straight top 2 finishes including a win in the 2020 COVID race that July. Since then? He’s been anything but.

Dixon was 9th and 8th respectively that October of 2020. In May of 2021, he finished 9th. He was 17th last August here and 10th again in May. If you count his 1st 3 starts on this 2.439-mile road course, Dixon has finished 7th or worse in 8 of his 12 starts.

What’s baffling is, he’s no where to be found in qualifying either. In his last 6 starts now, he’s qualified 12th, 15th, 16th, 26th, 21st and 20th respectively.

Ericsson is still expected to climb on Saturday. He has just 1 top 10 starting spot in 8 Indy road course tries too including 6 of his last 7 being bounced in the 1st round. In race mode here, he has 5 top 10’s in his last 6 tries too so there’s no reason to doubt that he can’t do some damage control on Saturday.

“I feel with Marcus the further back he starts, the better he finishes,” Rosenqvist said of his countrymate. “He has like a magic way of just always being there in the end.

“That’s probably why he’s leading the championship, man. He’s probably the best racer in the field right now. I don’t really think he’s worried about it, either.

“Every time I talk to him and he’s had a bad qualifying, it’s just like, oh, I’m just going to drive up the field. Yeah, good for him. He’s really figured out how to go forward in this series, and I think that’s — I love being here on pole, but that’s only like 10 percent of the job done, and the rest you have to do what Marcus is doing right now.

“I’m not too worried for him. I’m sure I’m going to see him around somewhere tomorrow in the race.”

The thing is, he’s held onto the points lead after each race since leading here on May 29. With Power starting 4th and only trailing him by 8 entering the weekend, there’s a real chance he can leave here with the points lead instead.

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