Ageless John Force powers to 140th career NHRA Funny Car win, first ever at Norwalk

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Having just turned 65 two months ago, John Force shows no signs of slowing down.

The record-holding 16-time and reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion captured his 140th career victory in Sunday’s finals of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Also winning in their respective classes were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force and fellow veteran racer Ron Capps gave fans a great show in a close final round. Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 4.113 seconds at 317.27 mph, while Capps did so in 4.135 seconds at 305.56 mph.

It was Force’s second win in the first 13 races this season and his first win ever at the Norwalk track, located between Toledo and Cleveland.

“It was special to me,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I’ve come to this track for decades. I’ve won here at the Night of Fire races. Robert [Hight] and my daughter Ashley [Force Hood] have won here. I keep coming back here.

“The Bader family (track owners) is P.T. Barnum doing this year-round, 90-some race a year. They light the fire under those fans. Look at the crowd on Friday night and that whole fireworks show. I’ve been real lucky in my career and you want to win them all, but I really wanted this win.”

Hight, who is Force’s son-in-law and also president of John Force Racing, remains atop the Mello Yello Funny Car points standings, but with Sunday’s win, Force continued his climb upward, now sitting in second place. Capps, meanwhile, is a close third.

“It’s a really great show, and I’m just excited to be a part of it,” Force said. “We raced some great kids: Capps, Cruz (Pedregon), (Tim) Wilkerson, Chad Head. We gave them some good racing. Hey, we got the win. I’m just glad to get that one out of the way. Now I’ll try to get my second win here.”

In Top Fuel, Brown (3.797 seconds at 318.84 mph) continued his red-hot ways. Having won last week at Joliet, Illinois, Brown revved through the field to win again Sunday, defeating No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon (4.982 seconds at 155.52 mph) in the final round.

“It’s been a true blessing to be out at this racetrack this weekend,” Brown said. “The Bader family really put on a great show. The racetrack was great all weekend long. We got some cloud cover today. When four cars can run 3.75 in the first round with other cars across the board at .76, .77, that shows you how competitive the Top Fuel class is right now. It’s crazy tough to win a round right now, let alone a race.”

Brown remains second in the Top Fuel standings, while Langdon moved into third. Doug Kalitta remains the points leader.

In Pro Stock, No. 1 qualifier Enders-Stevens (6.632 seconds at 210.14 mph) dominated throughout the weekend en route to her unprecedented fourth win of the season and 10th of her career, defeating her former crew chief-turned-driver Dave Connolly (6.665 seconds at 207.56 mph) in the final round.

“You can’t think about any of the negative things when you get into a 215-mph race car and I was able to do that today,” Enders-Stevens said. “At the end  of the day we came out on top and that’s all that matters.”

With her 10th win, Enders-Stevens becomes only the third female racer in NHRA history to reach double digits in wins. Angelle Sampey is No. 1 (41 wins), followed by legendary racer Shirley Muldowney (18).

“Shirley [Muldowney] is a legend and a mentor and Angelle is also a friend who lives a few miles from me,” Enders-Stevens said. “Those are two extremely talented ladies who are passionate about our sport. They broke down barriers so we could all do what we enjoy doing out here. It’s great to have my name on that list.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (6.901 seconds at 193.96 mph) earned his third win of the season, defeating Hector Arana, who made his second straight final round appearance but is still seeking his first win since 2009.

“Today, we learned exactly what we need to do,” Hines said. “We started treating it differently than in years past. Instead of slowing on Sunday my bike actually picked up. Hopefully, that’s bad news for the competition and we could continue on a roll. There is no time to sit back and relax.”

Lastly in Pro Modified, Troy Coughlin (5.940 seconds at 250.92 mph) defeated Von Smith (5.920 seconds at  243.99 mph).

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes next week off before beginning its noted three-race “Western swing,” July 18-20 in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

 

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FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Antron Brown, 3.797 seconds, 318.84 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 4.982 seconds, 155.52 mph.

Funny Car — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.113, 317.27  def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.135, 305.56.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 210.14  def. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.665, 207.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 193.96  def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.924, 195.53.

Pro Modified — Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.940, 250.92  def. Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.920, 243.99.

 

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FINISHING ORDER (1-16):

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Shawn Langdon; 3.  Tony Schumacher; 4.  Troy Buff; 5.  Brittany Force; 6.  Doug Kalitta; 7.  Steve Torrence; 8.  Pat Dakin; 9.  Spencer Massey; 10.  Richie Crampton; 11.  Khalid alBalooshi; 12.  Larry Dixon; 13.  Terry McMillen; 14.  Clay Millican; 15.  Bob Vandergriff; 16.  J.R. Todd.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  John Force; 2.  Ron Capps; 3.  Cruz Pedregon; 4.  Jack Beckman; 5.  Matt Hagan; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 7.  Del Worsham; 8.  Chad Head; 9.  Alexis DeJoria; 10.  Bob Tasca III; 11.  Tim Wilkerson; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  Jeff Diehl; 14.  Courtney Force; 15.  Jeff Arend; 16.  Robert Hight.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Dave Connolly; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Chris McGaha; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Jeg Coughlin; 7.  Jonathan Gray; 8.  Vincent Nobile; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Greg Anderson; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Shane Tucker; 13.  Larry Morgan; 14.  John Gaydosh Jr; 15.  Mark Hogan; 16.  Travis Mazza.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Hector Arana; 3.  Adam Arana; 4.  Steve Johnson; 5.  Angie Smith; 6.  Jim Underdahl; 7.  Chaz Kennedy; 8.  Eddie Krawiec; 9.  Hector Arana Jr; 10.  Matt Smith; 11.  John Hall; 12.  Shawn Gann; 13.  Scotty Pollacheck; 14.  Elvira Karlsson; 15.  Michael Ray; 16.  Jerry Savoie.

PRO MODIFIED: 1.  Troy Coughlin; 2.  Von Smith; 3.  Rickie Smith; 4.  Pete Farber; 5.  Kevin Fiscus; 6.  Danny Rowe; 7.  Steve Matusek; 8.  Mike Janis; 9.  Eric Latino; 10.  Gary Capano; 11.  Bob Rahaim; 12.  Clint Satterfield; 13.  Bill Glidden; 14.  Mike Castellana; 15.  Kenny Lang; 16.  Steven Whiteley.

 

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.772, 328.06 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.786, 324.59; Steve Torrence, 3.780, 327.11 def. Larry Dixon, 3.801, 325.45; Pat Dakin, 3.829, 320.28 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.159, 289.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.759, 324.44 def. Terry McMillen, 3.884, 325.22; Doug Kalitta, 3.752, 327.51 def. Richie Crampton, 3.779, 323.35; Antron Brown, 3.756, 324.67 def. Clay Millican, 4.038, 241.58; Troy Buff, 3.834, 312.50 def. J.R. Todd, 6.795, 96.38; Brittany Force, 3.753, 329.83 def. Spencer Massey, 3.778, 326.95;

QUARTERFINALS — Buff, 4.689, 190.27 def. Dakin, 11.648, 69.71; Brown, 3.824, 320.89 def. Torrence, 4.527, 186.67; Langdon, 3.786, 327.51 def. Force, 3.866, 305.56; Schumacher, 3.847, 317.42 def. Kalitta, 4.224, 236.26;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.793, 320.89 def. Schumacher, 5.171, 144.41; Langdon, 9.866, 80.36 def. Buff, broke;

FINAL — Brown, 3.797, 318.84 def. Langdon, 4.982, 155.52.

 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.104, 315.19 def. Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.439, 209.95; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.094, 311.77 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.258, 258.91; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.072, 317.64 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.295, 282.78; John Force, Mustang, 4.080, 317.72 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.199, 261.57; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.059, 316.90 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 11.685, 70.73; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 304.25 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, DQ; Chad Head, Camry, 4.075, 316.30 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.090, 309.77; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.075, 315.49 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.145, 312.86;

QUARTERFINALS — C. Pedregon, 4.109, 307.58 def. Johnson Jr., 4.141, 312.06; Capps, 4.130, 309.42 def. Hagan, foul; Beckman, 4.181, 305.91 def. Worsham, 4.476, 226.01; J. Force, 4.217, 279.21 def. Head, 4.755, 181.76;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.126, 311.34 def. Beckman, 4.169, 309.84; J. Force, 4.149, 290.88 def. C. Pedregon, 4.150, 306.53;

FINAL — J. Force, 4.113, 317.27 def. Capps, 4.135, 305.56.

 

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.619, 209.98 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.591, 210.83; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.590, 210.08 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.587, 210.47 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.603, 209.75; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.590, 210.31 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.623, 209.82; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.615, 209.79 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.684, 207.62; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.571, 211.10 def. Mark Hogan, GXP, 6.754, 205.88; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.570, 211.39 def. Travis Mazza, Ford Mustang, 12.297, 71.93; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.589, 210.73 def. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.671, 209.30;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.621, 209.52 def. Nobile, 7.026, 158.89; Johnson, 6.609, 209.92 def. Coughlin, 6.658, 209.17; Connolly, 6.607, 209.85 def. S. Gray, 6.597, 210.50; Enders-Stevens, 6.593, 211.06 def. J. Gray, 6.660, 209.33;

SEMIFINALS — Connolly, 6.883, 209.10 def. Johnson, 11.306, 81.45; Enders-Stevens, 6.601, 211.20 def. McGaha, 18.030, 46.32;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.632, 210.14 def. Connolly, 6.665, 207.56.

 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.985, 191.95 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 23.502, 24.78; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.896, 193.35 def. John Hall, Buell, 6.923, 191.46; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.913, 194.30 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.911, 193.96; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.905, 192.14 def. Michael Ray, Buell, foul; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.958, 195.42 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.926, 194.13; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.905, 195.34 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.873, 196.13; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.897, 195.68 def. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, foul; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.910, 194.66 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.979, 192.77;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.988, 191.43 def. A. Smith, 6.986, 192.11; H. Arana, 6.970, 194.49 def. Kennedy, foul; A. Arana, 7.006, 183.94 def. Krawiec, 7.041, 179.06; Hines, 6.892, 193.35 def. Underdahl, 7.000, 192.91;

SEMIFINALS — H. Arana, 6.894, 196.10 def. A. Arana, 6.960, 194.91; Hines, 6.950, 193.13 def. Johnson, 6.991, 191.46;

FINAL — Hines, 6.901, 193.96 def. H. Arana, 6.924, 195.53.

 

PRO MODIFIED:

ROUND ONE — Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.923, 241.37 def. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.972, 240.51; Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.974, 245.90 def. Bill Glidden, Ford Mustang, 6.042, 230.33; Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 5.932, 250.09 def. Clint Satterfield, Pontiac Firebird, 6.022, 242.02; Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.907, 246.62 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 6.224, 196.59; Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.909, 247.75 def. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.045, 215.51; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.983, 244.92 def. Gary Capano, Chevy Corvette, 5.966, 237.34; Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 5.952, 249.16 def. Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.933, 244.12; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.909, 246.57 def. Steven Whiteley, Camaro, 14.106, 76.42;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 5.950, 249.63 def. Janis, 6.599, 167.84; R. Smith, 5.918, 247.07 def. Fiscus, 5.916, 250.97; Farber, 5.974, 246.93 def. Matusek, 6.011, 244.16; V. Smith, 5.939, 241.24 def. Rowe, 5.929, 247.57;

SEMIFINALS — V. Smith, 5.911, 242.76 def. Farber, 8.541, 107.29; Coughlin, 5.940, 250.32 def. R. Smith, 5.946, 245.94;

FINAL — Coughlin, 5.940, 250.92 def. V. Smith, 5.920, 243.99.

 

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POINTS STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 1,130; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,082; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 938; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 785; 5.  Spencer Massey, 780; 6.  Steve Torrence, 747; 7.  Brittany Force, 690; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi, 652; 9.  Richie Crampton, 626; 10.  J.R. Todd, 593.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 1,067; 2.  John Force, 889; 3.  Ron Capps, 846; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 845; 5.  Alexis DeJoria, 779; 6.  Courtney Force, 764; 7.  Del Worsham, 748; 8.  Matt Hagan, 739; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 726; 10.  Jack Beckman, 655.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 1,166; 2.  Allen Johnson, 925; 3.  Jeg Coughlin, 900; 4.  Dave Connolly, 875; 5.  Jason Line, 863; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 840; 7.  Shane Gray, 833; 8.  Chris McGaha, 600; 9.  V. Gaines, 562; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 484.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 650; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 581; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 515; 4.  Hector Arana, 416; 5.  John Hall, 407; 6.  Matt Smith, 394; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck, 375; 8.  Angie Smith, 352; 9.  Michael Ray, 333; 10.  Steve Johnson, 320.

Pro Modified: 1.  Rickie Smith, 414; 2.  Mike Janis, 403; 3.  Von Smith, 362; 4.  Mike Castellana, 359; 5.  Steve Matusek, 358; 6.  Danny Rowe, 353; 7.  Kevin Fiscus, 333; 8.  Pete Farber, 319; 9.  Troy Coughlin, 313; 10.  Steven Whiteley, 238.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar Preseason, Day 1: Simon Pagenaud on why he likes teasing Josef Newgarden

Newgarden Pagenaud feud
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A roundup of nuggets from the opening day of preseason IndyCar Content Days for media that lead into two days of preseason testing Thursday and Friday at The Thermal Club, starting with a playful “feud” between former teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud:

After making a point to needle Newgarden during the Rolex 24 at Daytona (when he was warned for being deemed to have caused a spin by the car driven by Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Pagenaud laughed about why he likes poking at his ex-teammate at Team Penske.

“I just love to press the button with Josef,” Pagenaud said. “I just love it. I’m being very open about it. I think he knows it, too. It’s funny to see him unsettled a little bit. I like when he gets aggressive. I don’t know why. It’s funny.”

They scrapped a few times as Penske teammates. Pagenaud notably was hot after a 2017 incident at Gateway during Newgarden’s first season with the team, but he later backtracked and blamed it on his French blood.

Pagenaud says all is good between now – though he also admits with a devilish grin that he’s taking advantage of the freedom from leaving Penske last year.

“Absolutely, yeah. I couldn’t do that before,” he said with a laugh about teasing Newgarden. “I would get in trouble.

“Yeah, I can be myself. I can say what I want to say. Nobody is upset about it. I love Josef. Don’t get me wrong. I love the guy.

“Do I love the driver? Not always, but I enjoy pressing the button with him because he seems like such a confident person. Yeah, I like to just go press it a little bit.”

When he was informed of the sardonic comments (Pagenaud asked reporters to make sure they relayed that he enjoyed passing Newgarden in the race) after his first stint at Daytona last weekend, Newgarden took a shot back.

“He doesn’t get many opportunities these days, so I’m sure he enjoyed that,” Newgarden said. “Take them when you can get them. There’s so much happening I don’t even remember half the stuff that happened when I was out there. Hey, he’s a big note-keeper, that guy.”

Pagenaud, who is winless since 2020, conceded that point Tuesday at IndyCar’s media session.

“I will do better this year,” he said. “But I got to build my team up, put myself in that situation. We were not there yet. I hope we can be there this year.

“But certainly not being teammates, you race differently. Now, the driver that he is, I have a huge amount of respect for him. He’s tremendous. I mean, he’s one of the best at what he does. So beating him is even a better reward. But I like my résumé better than his.”

For the record, Newgarden has one more IndyCar championship than Pagenaud but is empty in the Indy 500 win column compared to the 2019 winner at the Brickyard.

During his Rolex 24 availability, Pagenaud also took playful aim at the “Bus Bros,” the branded social and digital content that Newgarden and teammate and buddy Scott McLaughlin have been producing for nearly a year.

“Apparently they hang out together all the time,” Pagenaud cracked. “They’re ‘Bus Bros.’ Do you guys know what this is, the ‘Bus Bros’ thing? Have you watched it? I should start watching it.”

Newgarden and McLaughlin are scheduled to appear together on the second day of the preseason media event at the Palm Springs Convention Center, so stay tuned for the next round of snark.


Pagenaud is among many drivers enthused to get acclimated to The Thermal Club, which is a $275 million motorsports country club of sorts.

But for the Frenchman, Thermal represents more than just a chance to tune up for the 2023 season. Pagenaud, who made his first visit to the desert track three years ago after winning the Indy 500, is thinking about his long-term future.

“It’s actually something I’m really interested in for my future but in another life,” he said. “I love the concept. Actually before my IndyCar career, I was on a project like that myself in France. I was going to build something similar. I had the backing, I had everything going on, but my career took off. I had to give up on the project.

“But it is something I’ve always been interested in. My dad used to run my home racetrack. I had access to it, so I could see how that was going.

“I always had a passion for it because it’s a way to allow the fans to get closer to the car, allow the sport to be more known to the general public. There’s so many things that you can do with a racetrack, not only for races, but so many people that can come to bicycle races, you can have runners do a marathon. It doesn’t have to be just racing. It can be events. I’m into that. I’ve always been. Certainly when it’s time to stop driving, it will be something that I’m interested in, yes. That’s maybe 20 years from now.”


Felix Rosenqvist returns for his third consecutive season at McLaren, the longest stint with one team for the Swede since 2014 in F3.

But he finds himself somewhat in a similar position to last season when his return was uncertain for months during the Alex Palou-Chip Ganassi Racing saga. Palou is back with Ganassi but still expected to join the team in 2024, and with Rossi and O’Ward on long-term deals, Rosenqvist would be unable to stay unless the team added a fourth car.

He is taking it all in stride with the same grace in which he managed last season’s uncertainty.

“I think I handled it probably as good as I could,” Rosenqvist said of last year. “That’s probably a reason why I’m here this year. I think it’s a massive opportunity for me to be back for a third year. I feel like I have all the tools I need to perform, feeling very good with everyone at the car. As I said, there’s so many things happening last year on and off the track. I think as a team, we just really learned a lot from that that we can bring into this season.

“I think we’ll be tough this year. We have a lot of things in the bag to try early this season. A couple of things here at Thermal we want to try. Going into the season, we have pinpointed some areas where we feel we were lacking a little bit, like the short ovals, for example. I feel like we’ve done the best we can to attack all those areas and bring the best possible package we can.”

Rosenqvist is winless since his breakthrough victory over O’Ward at Road America in 2020. Ending that skid certainly would improve his prospects, but he isn’t worried.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “That’s a long time until next year. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m in a good spot. I’m in a well-performing team. I feel well with everyone around me. I feel like I have a good support from the team. I don’t really think too much about that stuff. I just try to do what I can do, which is go fast forward and try to win races.”


After being frozen out of remote access to team data last year, Palou said his working relationship at Ganassi is “back to 100% like it was before from both sides.” The 2021 series champion said he had full privileges restored after he closed the season by winning the finale at Laguna Seca Raceway and then settled on staying with Ganassi a day later.

He is allowed to continue his F1 testing with McLaren, too, though IndyCar will be the priority in-season.

“It was a tough year,” said Palou, whose contract dispute lasted for two months. “Could have been a lot worse, for sure, than what we had but also could have been a little bit better if we didn’t have anything around in our minds. It’s a part of racing.

“I’m just happy that now we know that even with things in our minds, we were able to be successful. Hopefully, we can be back to 2021 things during this season. Yeah, obviously there’s always some moments (in 2022) where you’re like, ‘Oh, no, my God, this is not going the direction I wanted.’ But there was things that were out of my control, obviously. Some things that I could control, as well. But at the end of the day I had all the information from my side, from other sides. I knew that everything could be settled, and it did.”


Pato O’Ward unplugged from the racing world for six weeks during the offseason, ensuring he was fully recharged when the new year arrived.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in the past few years,” said O’Ward, who tested an F1 car in 2021 and then went right into preparing and racing (then winning) the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I said, ‘I want at least six weeks. Don’t talk to me, don’t text me, I don’t want to hear anything.’ It’s healing. It’s very healing.

“As much as you love what you do, you need to find a balance of just doing something else. I always tell people, there’s a huge difference between relaxing and recharging. How I recharge is doing things I don’t normally do during the year. Just being at the beach to me is my favorite thing to do after driving race cars. I made sure that I had that kind of time to just enjoy my loved ones. After I was finished with that, I was like, ‘OK, race cars now.’ ”


Marcus Ericsson is planning on a long future with Chip Ganassi Racing, and the 2022 Indy 500 winner seems well-positioned to become the team’s anchor driver if he can maintain last season’s consistency.

Jimmie Johnson has been replaced by the Marcus Armstrong-Takuma Sato combination, and Alex Palou is leaving after this year.

Six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, 42, is Ganassi’s unquestioned dean until his retirement, but Ericsson clearly is interested in the mantle after that.

“I’m feeling very much at home in the team,” said Ericsson, the Formula One who is entering his fourth season with CGR. “I’m super happy about that. I wish to stay for a very long time, as well. There is some uncertainty with other places maybe in the future, but Dixon seems to be just getting better and better. He might be here for another 10 years or so, who knows.

“But that’s great. Me and Scott, we work really well together. I can still learn a lot from him. I want to be here for a long time and win races and championships together.”

The Swede had a droll response when asked if no longer being the only Marcus will get confusing in Ganassi debriefs. “Yeah, it is; I’m angry,” Ericsson deadpanned. “I think we’re OK. He seems like a good kid. He has a good name.”


Following in the footsteps of Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard from F2 to IndyCar, Armstrong is OK with deferring his F1 dreams to run road and street courses as a rookie in 2023. The New Zealander grew up as an IndyCar fan rooting for Dixon, his boyhood idol and fellow countryman.

“I’ve been watching him on TV since I was a kid,” Armstrong, 22, said. “It’s cool because IndyCar is massive where I’m from because of him. I’ve always been so attracted to this championship. Of course, I spent my entire life chasing F1. You can never say ‘never.’ If I’m honest with you, I’m happy where I am now. It’s a dream come true.”

Armstrong hopes to move to full time in 2024 and believes being aligned with a powerhouse such as Ganassi will give him an opportunity to post strong results immediately (just as Ilott and Lundgaard had flashes as rookies last year).

“I’ve been genuinely impressed by the organization, just the strategic point of view that Chip Ganassi Racing has, it’s really quite remarkable,” he said. “I can understand why they’ve had so much success. I think fundamentally I need to get on it straightaway. I have all the information in the world, really. I just need to hit the ground running, do well immediately.”


In among the wildest stories of the offseason, rookie Sting Ray Robb revealed he landed his ride at Dale Coyne Racing because he ran into Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist at PitFit Training, a physical fitness and performance center used by many drivers in Indianapolis.

Lundqvist was the presumptive favorite for the DCR No. 51 Dallara-Honda, which was the last open seat heading into the 2022 season. Because of his Indy Lights title (since rebranded as “IndyNXT”) with HMD Motorsports, Lundqvist had a six-figure sponsorship to bring to an IndyCar team, and DCR is partnered with HMD.

“There was a few teams that we were talking to, and Dale’s team was not the one that was at the top of the list because we thought they already had a driver,” Robb said. “Obviously with Linus winning the championship, we assumed with the HMD association there that there would be a straight shoe-in for him.

“But I actually was at PitFit Training one day with Linus and discovered that was not the case. That created an opportunity for us that allowed me to call up my manager, Pieter Rossi, and get him on the phone, and he immediately called Dale and said, ‘Hey, we’re available.’ I think there was a mutual understanding of what availability was for either one of us. That’s when conversations began. Then we had a really good test in 2023 right at the beginning of January, and I think that was kind of the one that set the tone that allowed me to get in the seat.

“I think there’s been some opportunities that were miraculously created that we couldn’t have done on our own.”

Robb, who finished second in last year’s Indy Lights standings, hasn’t talked to Lundqvist since their PitFit meeting.

“Linus does deserve a seat” in IndyCar, Robb said. “His on-track performance was incredible. But it takes more than just a driver to get into IndyCar. You’ve got to have a village around you that supports you, and so I think that that is where my group made a difference. It wasn’t just in my performance, but it was the people around me.

“I feel bad for Linus because as a driver I can feel that way towards him because I could be in that seat if I didn’t have those same people around me. So there you go.”