Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Martinsville

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The Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup ended yesterda at NASCAR’s biggest track.

This coming weekend, the Eliminator Round begins at NASCAR’s shortest track.

The .526-mile Martinsville Speedway will serve as setting for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, which kicks off the final set of three races that will determine the four championship combatants at Homestead-Miami Speedway next month.

With the start of the new round comes another reset for the eight remaining drivers in the Chase, this time to 4,000 points apiece. Again, what happened in the previous round no longer applies.

It’s all about Martinsville, then the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, and at last, the 1-mile Phoenix International Speedway.

And a win by anyone among the “Eliminator Eight” over these next three weeks now means even more – a chance to become Sprint Cup champion in South Florida.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know as the Chasers face what some folks call “The Paperclip”…

MARTINSVILLE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

1 – Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.6
2014 Rundown
· Five wins, 15 top fives, 20 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.5
· Led 20 races for 916 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Two top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 82.3, 14th-best

2 – Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.7
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; eight poles
· Average finish of 13.4
· Led 24 races for 1,817 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.8 in 26 races
· Average Running Position of 13.7, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.2, eighth-best
· 956 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.163 mph, eighth-fastest
· 6,348 Laps in the Top 15 (66.6%), sixth-most
· 578 Quality Passes, sixth-most

3 – Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.1
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.3
· Led 7 races for 41 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One win, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 15.5 in 25 races
· Average Running Position of 15.1, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.9, 10th-best
· 1,008 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· 5,419 Laps in the Top 15 (56.8%), ninth-most
· 528 Quality Passes, ninth-most

4 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.0
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.1
· Led 14 races for 218 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Four wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.8 in 17 races
· Average Running Position of 9.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.6, third-best
· 580 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.467 mph, third-fastest
· 7,007 Laps in the Top 15 (82.1%), fourth-most
· 609 Quality Passes, fifth-most

5 – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.6
2014 Rundown
· 12 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.6
· Led 18 races for 468 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Four top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.0 in 29 races
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.2, 12th-best
· 173 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 1,023 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.042 mph, 11th-fastest

6 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford Ecoboost Fusion Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.7
2014 Rundown
· Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.5
· Led 11 races for 135 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 15.7 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 15.9, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 81.4, 15th-best
· 1,036 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 5,181 Laps in the Top 15 (54.3%), 11th-most
· 555 Quality Passes, eighth-most

7 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.4
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.3
· Led 23 races for 743 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight wins, 27 top fives, 34 top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 7.0 in 43 races
· Average Running Position of 6.7, second-best
· Driver Rating of 119.0, second-best
· Series-high 1,034 Fastest Laps Run
· 933 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.684 mph, second-fastest
· 8,375 Laps in the Top 15 (87.8%), second-most
· Series-high 691 Quality Passes

8 – Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 104.3
2014 Rundown
· Six wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.9
· Led 26 races for 1,518 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4 in nine races
· Average Running Position of 16.2, 14th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.5, 11th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.102 mph, 10th-fastest

9 – Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.0
2014 Rundown
· One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Led 15 races for 453 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9 in 19 races
· Average Running Position of 13.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.1, sixth-best
· 409 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 952 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.342 mph, fifth-fastest
· 6,587 Laps in the Top 15 (69.1%), fifth-most
· 616 Quality Passes, fourth-most

10 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.2
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.7
· Led 16 races for 1,119 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight wins, 18 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 5.2 in 25 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 124.8
· 1,010 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 91.737 mph
· Series-high 8,833 Laps in the Top 15 (92.6%)
· 680 Quality Passes, second-most

11 – Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.3
· Led 12 races for 218 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Three top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.2 in 21 races
· Average Running Position of 20.4, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 77.7, 19th-best
· 255 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

12 – AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.2
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 20.2
· Led 5 races for 68 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.6 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 21.3, 23rd-best
· Driver Rating of 70.8, 22nd-best

13 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.6
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8
· Led 15 races for 300 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· 11 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8 in 29 races
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.9, fourth-best
· 471 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Series-high 1,111 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.374 mph, fourth-fastest
· 7,393 Laps in the Top 15 (77.5%), third-most
· 668 Quality Passes, third-most

14 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.6
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.1
· Led 7 races for 110 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Five top 10s
· Average finish of 20.1 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 20.6, 21st-best
· Driver Rating of 70.5, 23rd-best
· 1,068 Green Flag Passes, second-most

15 – Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.5
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 19.4
· Led 12 races for 183 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, three top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.8 in 28 races
· Average Running Position of 18.2, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 79.0, 18th-best
· 987 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most

16 – Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.4
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 21.6
· Led 5 races for 23 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 24.0 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 23.9, 30th-best
· Driver Rating of 64.8, 27th-best

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Martinsville Speedway Track Data
Race 33 of 36
0.526-mile oval
Banking, turns – 12 degrees
Banking, straights – Zero degrees
Frontstretch/backstretch length – 800 feet
500 laps, 263 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson, 124.8
Jeff Gordon, 119.0
Denny Hamlin, 109.6
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 99.9
Tony Stewart, 97.0
Kyle Busch, 96.1
Clint Bowyer, 94.6
Kevin Harvick, 93.2
Ryan Newman, 86.9
Brad Keselowski, 84.5
*Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Martinsville

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 99.595 mph, 19.013 seconds, 10.25.2013
2013 race winner: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 70.337 mph (3 hours, 44 minutes, 21 seconds), 10.27.2013
Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 99.595 mph, 19.013 seconds, 10.25.2013
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 82.223 mph (3 hours, 11 minutes, 55 seconds), 09.22.1996

Martinsville Speedway History

· Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating race tracks in the United States.

· The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville was on July 4, 1948.

· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was Sept. 25, 1949.

· The track was paved in 1955.

· The first 500-lap event at Martinsville was in 1956.

· Concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976.

Martinsville Speedway Notebook

· There have been 131 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.

· 599 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville; 376 in more than one.

· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has the all-time most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville with 67 starts; Jeff Gordon has the most among active drivers with 43.

· Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Martinsville Speedway in 1949.

· 58 drivers have Coors Light poles at Martinsville, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with eight; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.

· 12 drivers have won two or more consecutive Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway. Four of the 12 have won three consecutive poles at Martinsville: Glen Wood (Fall of 1959 and 1960 sweep); Darrell Waltrip (1979 sweep and spring 1980); Mark Martin (fall of 1990 and 1991 sweep); Jeff Gordon (2003 sweep and spring 2004).

· Youngest Martinsville pole winner: Ricky Rudd (4/26/1981 – 24 years, 7 months, 14 days).

· Oldest Martinsville pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (4/26/1987 – 45 years, 6 months, 14 days).

· 47 different drivers have won at Martinsville Speedway, led by Richard Petty with 15; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead the series among active drivers with eight wins each.

· 24 drivers have multiple wins at Martinsville Speedway only five active drivers have multiple wins: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (eight), Denny Hamlin (four), Tony Stewart (three) and Kurt Busch (two).

· Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 21.

· 21 of 131 races (16.0%) at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; seven of those 21 wins came from active drivers: Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (2003 twice), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2012, spring 2013) and Denny Hamlin (2010).

· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Martinsville producing more wins (21) than any other starting position.

· 36 of the 131 (27.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the front row: 21 from the pole and 15 from second-place.

· 95 of the 131 (72.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.

· Six of the 131 (4.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 36th, by Kurt Busch in the fall of 2002.

· Youngest Martinsville winner: Richard Petty (04/10/1960 – 22 years, 9 months, 8 days).

· Oldest Martinsville winner: Harry Gant (09/22/1991 – 51 years, 8 months, 12 days).

· NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes at Martinsville Speedway with seven; Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers with four each.

· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 30; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 18.

· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 37; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 22.

· Jeff Gordon leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Martinsville Speedway with a 7.186. Ryan Newman (9.680) and Denny Hamlin (9.765) are the only two other active drivers with an average starting position at Martinsville inside the top-10.

· Three active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top-10 at Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson (5.200), Jeff Gordon (6.953) and Denny Hamlin (8.765).

· There have been five NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Martinsville Speedway: fall 2007 (500/506), fall 2008 (500/504), fall 2009 (500/501), spring 2010 (500/508), and spring 2012 (500/515).

· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions eight times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway; the most recent was the fall race of 2011.

· Jeff Gordon has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway without a DNF (43).

· Tony Stewart (4/18/1999) and Scott Riggs (4/10/2005) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway.

· Mike Bliss (09/27/1998), Travis Kvapil (10/24/2004), Michael McDowell (3/30/2008) and Scott Speed (10/19/2008) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Martinsville Speedway.

· 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Martinsville Speedway. Fred Lorenzen won four NSCS races straight (the most) from the fall of 1963 through the spring of 1965.

· All eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Martinsville Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville with the fewest previous appearances (three).

· Ryan Newman competed at Martinsville Speedway 20 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.

· Four drivers have made eight or more attempts before their first win at Martinsville Speedway: Kevin Harvick (19) and Ryan Newman (20).

· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway is the 4/1/2007 race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.065 second.

· Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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· Seven car numbers have produced five or more Martinsville Speedway NSCS wins:

Car Number – Drivers – (Years)

o No. 43 – Richard Petty (1960, ’62, ’63, ’67 sweep, ’68, ’69 sweep, ’70, ’71, ’72 sweep, ’73, ’75 and ’79); John Andretti (1999)

o No. 11 – Cale Yarborough (1974, ’76, ’77 sweep, ‘78); Darrell Waltrip (1981, ’82, ’83, ’84); Geoff Bodine (1990 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2008, ’09, ’10 sweep)

o No. 28 – Fred Lorenzen (1961, ’63, ’64 sweep, ‘65 and ‘66); Buddy Baker (1979); Ernie Irvan (1993).

o No. 2 – Dale Earnhardt (1980); Rusty Wallace (1993, ‘94 sweep, ’95, ’96 and ‘04)

o No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2004, ’06, ’07 sweep, ’08, ’09, ’12, ‘13)

o No. 24 – Jeff Gordon (1996, ’97, ’99, ’03 sweep and ’05 sweep, fall 2013)

o No. 3 – Ricky Rudd (1983); Dale Earnhardt (1985, ’87, ’88, ’91, ’95)

NASCAR in Virginia

· There have been 285 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Virginia.

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· 172 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.

· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. 11 of the 19 Virginia native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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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.”