Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Texas

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From a non-Chase competitor winning to two of the Chasers suffering major problems, the Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville left a mark on the run to the Sprint Cup Championship Race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s triumph has now ensured that two of the four Championship combatants will make it in on points. With a fifth Cup title on his mind, Jeff Gordon is leading the Chase Grid. And two winless drivers, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, are currently in position to advance to Homestead with a shot at the big prize.

But with the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on the horizon, it’s going to take a big effort from somebody to upset the likes of Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, and the Hendrick-powered Kevin Harvick – all of whom have been a cut above performance-wise on the big ovals all season long.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

TEXAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

1 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.3
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 13 top fives, 21 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.1
· Led 24 races for 873 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.2 in 27 races
· Average Running Position of 13.9, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 92.3, ninth-best
· 323 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 4,067 Laps in the Top 15 (63.9%), eighth-most

2 – Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.4
2014 Rundown
· Four top fives, 15 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.0
· Led 7 races for 41 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, three top fives, five top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 19.1 in 22 races
· Average Running Position of 20.1, 22nd-best
· Driver Rating of 73.1, 21st-best
· 1,479 Green Flag Passes, second-most

3 – Joey Logano (No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.9
2014 Rundown
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 21 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3
· Led 21 races for 976 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, four top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 18.4 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 19.3, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 77.1, 19th-best

4 – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.8
2014 Rundown
· 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.3
· Led 19 races for 470 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.3 in 24 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.4
· Series-best Driver Rating of 106.1
· 353 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 1,448 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.587 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 5,045 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%)
· 742 Quality Passes, second-most

5 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.9
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 14.9
· Led 15 races for 286 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 10.8 in 17 races
· Average Running Position of 12.4, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best
· 179 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 1,380 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.154 mph, 10th-fastest
· 3,931 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), 10th-most
· 742 Quality Passes, second-most

6 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.4
2014 Rundown
· Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.7
· Led 11 races for 135 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.5 in 19 races
· Average Running Position of 12.4, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.9, sixth-best
· 361 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,240 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.402 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,573 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), fifth-most
· 716 Quality Passes, fifth-most

7 – Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.4
2014 Rundown
· Six wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 13.5
· Led 26 races for 1,518 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 18.1, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 78.8, 18th-best
· 164 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most

8 – Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.3
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; eight poles
· Average finish of 14.0
· Led 24 races for 1,817 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.6 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 15th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.3, 14th-best
· 1,461 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 3,706 Laps in the Top 15 (58.2%), 12th-most
· 685 Quality Passes, seventh-most

9 – Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.2
2014 Rundown
· One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 16.8
· Led 15 races for 453 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, seven top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4 in 18 races
· Average Running Position of 10.8, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.2, fourth-best
· 353 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 173.610 mph
· 4,448 Laps in the Top 15 (73.8%), sixth-most
· 641 Quality Passes, 10th-most

10 – AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.7
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 19.9
· Led 5 races for 68 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two top 10s
· Average finish of 21.7 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 28th-best
· Driver Rating of 68.5, 25th-best

11 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.5
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.5
· Led 16 races for 379 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, four top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.0 in 24 races
· Average Running Position of 13.1, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.4, 10th-best
· 216 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 1,346 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.243 mph, eighth-fastest
· 4,624 Laps in the Top 15 (72.7%), fourth-most
· 736 Quality Passes, fourth-most

12 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.5
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.2
· Led 16 races for 1,119 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 9.5 in 22 races
· Average Running Position of 11.4, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 103.6, second-best
· Series-high 522 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.393 mph, fifth-fastest
· 4,666 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), third-most
· 681 Quality Passes, eighth-most

13 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Fire Ant Killer Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.7
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.0
· Led 7 races for 110 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.7 in 21 races
· Average Running Position of 12.0, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 102.2, third-best
· 473 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.543 mph, third-fastest
· 4,797 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4%), second-most
· Series-high 784 Quality Passes

14 – Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.0
2014 Rundown
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 17.1
· Led 12 races for 218 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.7 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 14.9, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 85.4, 13th-best
· 223 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,398 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· 3,957 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), ninth-most
· 688 Quality Passes, sixth-most

15 – Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.6
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 19.9
· Led 13 races for 204 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.3 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 15.3, 14th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.5, 12th-best
· 193 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 1,451 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most

16 – Aric Almirola (No. 43 Farmland Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.6
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 21.5
· Led 5 races for 23 laps
Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One top 10
· Average finish of 19.6 in seven races
· Average Running Position of 21.4, 24th-best
· Driver Rating of 68.2, 26th-best

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Texas Motor Speedway Track Data
Race 34 of 36
1.5-mile oval
24 degrees of banking, turns
5 degrees of banking, straights
Frontstretch length – 2,250 feet
Backstretch length – 1,330 feet
334 laps, 501 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Texas
Matt Kenseth, 106.1
Jimmie Johnson, 103.6
Greg Biffle, 102.2
Kyle Busch, 102.2
Tony Stewart, 99.2
Carl Edwards, 96.9
Denny Hamlin, 93.8
Clint Bowyer, 92.7
Jeff Gordon, 92.3
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 90.4
*Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Texas

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Carl Edwards, Ford, 196.114 mph (27.535 seconds), 11.01.2013
2013 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 151.754 mph (3 hours, 18 minutes, 5 seconds), 11.03.2013
Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 196.299 mph (27.509 seconds), 04.12.2013
Track race record: Greg Biffle, Ford, 160.577 mph (3 hours, 7 minutes, 12 minutes), 11.14.2012

Texas Motor Speedway History
· Construction on Texas Motor Speedway began in 1995.
· The first NASCAR national series race at TMS was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on April 5, 1997 – won by Mark Martin.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was on April 6, 1997 – won by Jeff Burton.
· The track underwent a repave between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
· In 2011, the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was moved from Sunday to Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Texas Motor Speedway hosted its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on November 6, 2005 – won by Carl Edwards.

Texas Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, one NSCS event from 1997 – 2004 and two races per year since 2005.
· 138 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas; 111 in more than one.
· Jeff Gordon is the only drive to have made all 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Jeremy Mayfield was the first Coors Light pole winner, in 1998 with a speed of 185.906 mph. The inaugural Coors Light pole at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 was cancelled due to weather conditions.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Texas, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. with two each.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway: Bobby Labonte (2003 and 2004) and Ryan Newman (2005 sweep).
· Youngest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (11/05/2006 – 23 years, 0 months, 12 days).
· Oldest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (4/08/2002 – 46 years, 6 months, 0 days).
· 18 different drivers have won at Texas Motor Speedway, led by Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson with three each.
· Seven drivers have multiple wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart each have two.
· Roush Fenway Racing leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Texas Motor Speedway with nine; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five and Joe Gibbs Racing with four.
· Three of the 27 (11.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; Kasey Kahne (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2012) and Kyle Busch (2013).
· The third-place starting position is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Texas Motor Speedway, producing more wins than any other starting position (five) – most recent: Jimmie Johnson (fall 2013).
· Six of the 27 (22.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the front row: three from the pole and three from second-place.
· 21 of the 27 (77.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Four of the 27 (14.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Texas Motor Speedway is 31st, by Matt Kenseth in 2002.
· Youngest Texas winner: Joey Logano (03/30/2003 – 23 years, 10 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Texas winner: Dale Jarrett (04/01/2001 – 44 years, 4 months, 6 days).
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with five; followed by Matt Kenseth with four.
· Matt Kenseth leads the series in top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 13; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 10.
· Matt Kenseth leads the series lead in top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 17; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 16 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 13.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Texas Motor Speedway with an 8.818. Johnson is the only active driver with an average starting position at Texas in the top 10.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Texas: Matt Kenseth (8.250) and Jimmie Johnson (9.455).
· There have been three NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Texas Motor Speedway: fall 2006 (334/339), spring 2008 (334/339), and fall 2012 (334/335).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions twice in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway; the inaugural event in 1997 and spring 2007. The race has never been rain shortened.
· Casey Mears has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway without posting a DNF (20).
· Jeff Burton (4/06/1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4/02/2000) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career race at Texas Motor Speedway.
· David Ragan (4/09/2011) and Martin Truex Jr. (11/04/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway.
· 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski (11/02/2008) and Trevor Bayne (11/07/2010) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (2008 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2010 sweep).
· 11 of the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Texas Motor Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Texas in his first appearance; Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman won in their second appearance at TMS.
· Jeff Gordon competed at Texas Motor Speedway 16 times before winning in the spring of 2009; the longest span of any the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Only three of the 12 winning drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Texas Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (16) Kyle Busch (15) and Kurt Busch (13).
· Kevin Harvick and Joe Nemechek lead the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 23 each.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway was the (4/4/2004) race won by Elliott Sadler with a MOV of 0.028 second ahead of Kasey Kahne.
· Two female drivers have made NSCS starts at Texas Motor Speedway: Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick.
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· Tony Stewart leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Laps Led at Texas Motor Speedway with 801 laps led in 24 starts.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in Laps Completed at Texas Motor Speedway with 7,990 laps.
· One NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has won at Texas Motor Speedway in two different manufacturers: Jeff Burton (1997 – Ford; 2007 – Chevrolet)

NASCAR in Texas
· There have been 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in the state of Texas.
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· 80 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Texas.
· 10 drivers from Texas have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. Six of the nine Texas 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.”