Rossi Indy 500 win adds to Andretti’s, Honda’s incredible year

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INDIANAPOLIS – Perhaps easy to forget or overlook in the aftermath of the fact rookie Alexander Rossi won the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil was who he did it for, besides himself and his family.

In delivering the victory for Michael Andretti, Bryan Herta and the Agajanians, plus Honda, Rossi has added another incredible race in the world of motorsports to their respective win totals in 2016.

ANDRETTI’S MAGICAL MONTH OF MAY

Let’s start with Andretti, first. We all know what a challenging 2015 season it was for both the Andretti Autosport team, and what also occurred with the overall Andretti company, following the loss of all three of its promoted races (Miami FE, NOLA and Milwaukee) and the dissolving of Andretti Sports Marketing into what is now LST Marketing. Then all that paled in comparison to the loss of driver Justin Wilson at Pocono in August.

Alas, Andretti told me preseason at Phoenix that “the team’s never clicked this well before,” which was a bold statement to make considering the level of dominance the team has achieved before, most notably between 2004 and 2005 in IndyCar.

But this is why he knows his team and knows his people better than I do and considering the amazing month his race team has had, that statement bares more fruit.

Consider the month of May for Andretti Autosport:

  • 1-2 in the Indianapolis 500, led by Rossi over Carlos Munoz, after placing three cars into Fast Nine Shootout (arguably could have had four, had Rossi not been bumped out at the last second).
  • 1-3-4 in the Freedom 100 for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, led by Dean Stoneman, in the closest photo finish in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, with Dalton Kellett and Shelby Blackstock third and fourth.
  • Two wins in first two Red Bull Global Rallycross races with Tanner Foust at Phoenix, and a second from defending GRC champion Scott Speed in race two.
  • Double points finish in the most recent FIA Formula E Championship race with Robin Frijns sixth and Simona de Silvestro ninth in the Berlin ePrix, the team’s first double points score of the year.
  • Stoneman also won one of the Indy Lights road course races earlier this month at IMS, his first career victory.

That’s just the on-track side. Commercially speaking the team also completed a late deal with NAPA Auto Parts, following an invitation for the company to the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend and then within a week, Rossi’s car was getting re-wrapped in yellow and blue prior to qualifying. The goal was to maximize NAPA’s exposure over the two weeks – that certainly worked.

Rob Edwards, Director of Race Operations and Engineering for the team and Munoz’s race strategist, made a couple key points of note during a brief chat on Monday morning during the Rossi victory shoot.

He noted that Herta’s presence within the team has, already, evolved into a Dario Franchitti-at-Ganassi or Rick Mears-at-Penske type of advisory/sage guidance role. Herta was always known as a smart, thoughtful driver and it’s become obvious that the addition of the No. 98 team to this group has enhanced the single, unified program.

Additionally, Edwards said that the thinking with Rossi is that this is designed to be the first of more years to come. If they’re not thinking about 2017 yet, it’s not because they don’t want to – as Rossi has said in numerous interviews, keeping the focus on now a would-be potential championship bow in 2016 is the next immediate goal.

Keeping Rossi in the Andretti fold in IndyCar would be good for the series, and good for the team, to not have turnover in the fourth car, as there has been in recent years.

“It works really well together. Again, I have to give Michael the credit,” Herta said of the team partnership post-race. “Back when I drove for him, when we had all those great years together with the four of us, it wasn’t an accident. He chose people based on how they fit in, putting these groups of people together.

“I think he really saw the same thing here, a good fit. I don’t know if he gets enough credit for having the vision of understanding what a team is and not just individuals, but putting a team together.”

“It’s been great. The partnership has been fantastic,” Andretti added. “We’ve always been good friends. It was great to have him back part of our family. Hopefully we’ll stay together for a long time.”

HONDA ADDS INDY TO DAYTONA, SEBRING THIS YEAR

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This win was big for Honda. Getty Images

People don’t know how much this win means to Honda. This is big. This is something that wasn’t just desired, but almost needed, for the Japanese manufacturer whose U.S. operations are out of the Honda Performance Development headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif., and who endured a trying 2015 season and particularly trying Indianapolis 500.

The tell tale of whether Honda put all its 2016 eggs into Indianapolis will be revealed later, over the final 10 races. And Honda still trails Chevrolet in the IndyCar manufacturer’s championship (858-607).

But for one day, Honda got all the spoils it has been working towards, and has added the Indianapolis 500 win to two other wins of huge magnitude this year – the back-to-back wins in the Ligier JS P2 Honda fielded by Tequila Patron ESM at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“That 100th running of the Indy 500 had a little bit of everything: clean, long runs at the beginning, followed by unfortunate incidents in the pits mid- race, to finish up as a strategy and fuel economy nail-biter – all the things that make IndyCar racing exciting,” said HPD President Art St. Cyr.

“After dominating the first half of the race, it was gratifying to know that we had enough depth to cover both the fuel economy strategy, and the max power strategy. It makes all the incredibly hard work performed by HPD over the past year worthwhile. Congratulations to Alexander [Rossi] for an incredible performance in his ‘500’ debut.”

The craziest stat of the race for me about Honda? In the first five races of the year, Honda led only 40 of the 612 total laps, with Conor Daly having 29 of those laps out front.

On Sunday, Honda led 129 of 200 laps, from seven different – largely unlikely – drivers: Ryan Hunter-Reay (52 laps, a race-high), James Hinchcliffe (27), winner Rossi (14), Townsend Bell (12), Alex Tagliani (11), Munoz (10) and Bryan Clauson (3).

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage