Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Phoenix

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It’s almost time to decide which four drivers will have the opportunity to compete for stock car racing’s biggest prize.

On Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, the third and final elimination race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup will take place. None of the eight remaining drivers in the Chase have been able to lock themselves into the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which would surely create an exciting atmosphere on its own.

But in the wake of another post-race fight that involved three Chase contenders in Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick, Phoenix has become even more compelling.

The aggression that has been on display throughout this post-season is bound to continue with a trip to Homestead on the line. And what we’ve seen so far in terms of drama may pale in comparison to what could be in store for us in Arizona.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know about the ninth race of the 2014 Chase – the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500…

PHOENIX-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

1 – Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.8
2014 Rundown
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 21 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.4
· Led 21 races for 976 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 15.9 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 15.1, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.7, 15th-best

2 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.8
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 16 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 14.8
· Led 16 races for 289 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, eight top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3 in 18 races
· Average Running Position of 11.7, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.1, seventh-best
· 237 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 4,134 Laps in the Top 15 (72.6%), seventh-most

3 – Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.9
2014 Rundown
· Four top fives, 15 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.0
· Led 7 races for 41 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 18.2 in 24 races
· Average Running Position of 15.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.7, 11th-best
· 821 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· 4,031 Laps in the Top 15 (67.1%), ninth-most
· 539 Quality Passes, second-most

4 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.3
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 13 top fives, 21 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.6
· Led 25 races for 922 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Two wins, 11 top fives, 21 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 11.3 in 31 races
· Average Running Position of 10.3, third-best
· Driver Rating of 99.9, third-best
· 237 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.692 mph, eighth-fastest
· 4,874 Laps in the Top 15 (81.2%), second-most
· 450 Quality Passes, sixth-most

5 – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.1
2014 Rundown
· 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.7
· Led 20 races for 529 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.2 in 24 races
· Average Running Position of 15.9, 15th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.3, 12th-best
· 173 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 835 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.506 mph, 11th-fastest
· 3,616 Laps in the Top 15 (60.2%), 10th-most
· 449 Quality Passes, seventh-most

6 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.3
2014 Rundown
· Two wins, seven top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.5
· Led 11 races for 135 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Two wins, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 12.1 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.9, fourth-best
· 367 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.784 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,124 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7%), eighth-most
· 435 Quality Passes, ninth-most

7 – Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.2
2014 Rundown
· Six wins, 15 top fives, 18 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 13.2
· Led 27 races for 1,540 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Three top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.7 in 10 races
· Average Running Position of 14.9, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.9, 10th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.711 mph, fifth-fastest

8 – Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.7
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s; eight poles
· Average finish of 13.6
· Led 25 races for 1,819 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Five wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.8 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 103.9, second-best
· 386 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 771 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.868 mph, second-fastest
· 4,646 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), fourth-most
· 446 Quality Passes, eighth-most

9 – Kyle Busch (No. 18 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 16.5
· Led 15 races for 453 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.3 in 19 races
· Average Running Position of 11.8, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 97.7, sixth-best
· 253 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 835 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.704 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,802 Laps in the Top 15 (80.0%), third-most
· Series-high 562 Quality Passes

10 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.7
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 19 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.3
· Led 16 races for 379 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.4 in 24 races
· Average Running Position of 16.3, 16th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.0, 13th-best
· 822 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.500 mph, 12th-fastest

11 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.9
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.8
· Led 17 races for 1,310 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Four wins, 14 top fives, 18 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 6.3 in 22 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 6.9
· Series-best Driver Rating of 116.5
· Series-high 609 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 126.185 mph
· Series-high 5,319 Laps in the Top 15 (88.6%)
· 533 Quality Passes, third-most

12 – AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 GLAD Trash Bags Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.8
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 19.7
· Led 5 races for 68 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Two top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.7 in 10 races
· Average Running Position of 16.9, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 80.4, 19th-best

13 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 Sherwin Williams Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.6
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.9
· Led 7 races for 110 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Five top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0 in 21 races
· Average Running Position of 14.7, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.0, ninth-best
· 288 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 825 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.564 mph, 10th-fastest
· 3,395 Laps in the Top 15 (56.5%), 11th-most
· 408 Quality Passes, 11th-most

14 – Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Led 14 races for 219 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, five top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.6 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.7, eighth-best
· 290 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 125.644 mph, ninth-fastest
· 4,174 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), sixth-most
· 411 Quality Passes, 10th-most

15 – Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.7
2014 Rundown
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 17.7
· Led 12 races for 218 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 17.8 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 18.8, 22nd-best
· Driver Rating of 79.9, 20th-best
· 160 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most

16 – Aric Almirola (No. 43 Farmland Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.2
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 21.6
· Led 5 races for 23 laps
Phoenix International Raceway Outlook:
· Average finish of 18.6 in seven races
· Average Running Position of 17.5, 21st-best
· Driver Rating of 74.2, 24th-best

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If two or more Eliminator 8 drivers are tied after Phoenix, the tie-breaker will go to the driver with the best finish in the three Eliminator Round races. Here is how the Eliminator 8 drivers have fared in each of the first two races in this round:

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Phoenix International Raceway Track Data
Race 35 of 36
1-mile oval
Banking, Turn 1 and 2 – 10-11 degrees
Banking, Turn 3 and 4 – 8-9 degrees
Banking, Frontstretch – 3 degrees
Banking, Backstretch – 8-9 degrees
Frontstretch Length – 1,179 feet
Backstretch Length – 1,551 feet
312 laps, 500 kilometers

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Phoenix
Jimmie Johnson, 116.5
Kevin Harvick, 103.9
Jeff Gordon, 99.9
Carl Edwards, 99.9
Tony Stewart, 98.3
Kyle Busch, 97.7
Denny Hamlin, 97.1
Kurt Busch, 96.7
Greg Biffle, 91.0
Brad Keselowski, 88.9
Note: Driver ratings compiled from 2005-14 races (19 total) among active drivers at Phoenix.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet – 139.222 mph, 25.858 seconds, 11.08.2013
2013 race winner: Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet – 105. 733 mph (2 hours, 57 minutes, 3 seconds), 11.10.2013
Track qualifying record: Brad Keselowski, Ford – 139.384 mph, 25.828 seconds, 02.28.2014
Track race record: Tony Stewart, Pontiac – 118.132 mph (2 hours, 38 minutes, 28 seconds), 11.07.1999

Phoenix International Raceway History

· Construction was completed in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course.

· Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988.

· The first spring race was held on April 23, 2005 and also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch.

· The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year.

· The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept., 2011):

o Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet

o Reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls

o Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet

o Tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet

o Implemented variable banking to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves, including 10-11 degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 8-9 degree banking in Turn 4

Phoenix International Raceway Notebook

· There have been 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.

· 194 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix; 139 in more than one.

· Mark Martin leads series in starts at Phoenix with 34; followed by Jeff Gordon with 31.

· Geoffrey Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.).

· There have been 20 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four.

· Youngest Phoenix pole winner: Kyle Busch (4/22/06 – 20 years, 11 months, 20 days).

· Oldest Phoenix pole winner: Mark Martin (03/03/13 – 54 years, 1 month, 22 days).

· Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04), while Gordon won the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007. Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011.

· Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career Coors Light poles at Phoenix International Raceway

· There have been 23 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Eliminator Eight driver Kevin Harvick, with five – (’06 spring race and Chase race, ’12 Chase race, ‘13 Chase race and ’14 spring race).

· The eight drivers have won more than once at Phoenix: Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins with five followed by Jimmie Johnson (four), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two) and Mark Martin (two).

· Of the eight drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix International Raceway, Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009).

· Five drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006) and (2013 Chase race – Spring race 2014); Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the five to win three consecutive races (fall 2007, swept 2008).

· Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven.

· Four of the 36 (11.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the Coors Light pole: Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010).

· Seven of the 36 (19.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the front row: four from the pole and three from second-place.

· 17 of the 36 (47.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position inside the top 10.

· 19 of the 36 (52.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.

· 3 of the 36 (8.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finish at Phoenix with a 6.273; he is the only active driver with an average finish inside the top 10.

· Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.

· Matt Kenseth won the 2002 race from the 28th-place starting position, the furthest back an active race winner has started.

· Two perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix, Kurt Busch in April of 2005 and Kevin Harvick in November of 2006.

· Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Kyle Busch (11/13/2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).

· Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Mark Martin (04/18/2009 – 50 years, 3 months, 9 days).

· Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three each.

· Jimmie Johnson lead the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 14; followed by Mark Martin with 12 and Jeff Gordon with 11.

· Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win at Phoenix International Raceway.

· 21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Phoenix participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix in their first appearance.

· Jeff Gordon competed at Phoenix International Raceway 16 times before winning (4/21/2007); the longest span of any the 23 winners.

· Six drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (16), Ryan Newman (15), Kasey Kahne (14), Denny Hamlin (13), Carl Edwards (12) and Rusty Wallace (11).

· Joe Nemechek leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix without visiting Victory Lane with 28.

· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was the (4/10/2010) race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds.

· Two drivers have won at Phoenix and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009); Dale Earnhardt (1990).

· Danica Patrick is the only female driver that has made a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway.
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· Car numbers that have produced three or more Phoenix wins:

Car Number – Drivers – (Years)

o No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009)

o No. 99 – Carl Edwards (2010 and 2013) and Jeff Burton (2000, 2001)

o No. 29 – Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep, 2012 and 2013)

o No. 5 – Mark Martin (2009), Kyle Busch (2005) and Terry Labonte (1994)

NASCAR in Arizona

· There have been 41 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in Arizona. All but five of them have taken place at Phoenix International Raceway. Four Cup races were held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix and one Cup race was held at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.

· 32 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Arizona.

· None of the drivers from Arizona have won a race in NASCAR’s three national series.

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.”