What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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Here’s What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, won by Alexander Rossi:

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) — WINNER: “We said coming into this weekend that we have to execute for five weekends in a row, this is the start of that, hopefully. The NAPA Andretti team were so on it today. They gave me an amazing race car and this one’s for them. It was great strategy all day. We could make a two-stop if we committed early and that’s what we did. Great fuel mileage from Honda, great tire life from Firestone, so an all-around perfect day.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – finished 2nd: “We stuck to our guns and I thought our strategy worked well. The problem is, on my third stint, I just got stuck in a whole gaggle of cars. Unfortunately, they were on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and I was on blacks (Firestone primary tires), and I couldn’t make it through and just lost loads of time. I was probably losing about a second a lap for a good 10-15 laps. It’s unfortunate. Nevertheless, the Lucas Oil car went from P5 to P2, I can’t complain.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 3rd: (About if he had anything else for the leaders): “No, man, everyone else is so good in this series that you just have to have everything perfect. We just weren’t quite good enough on blacks (Firestone primary tires). We really struggled to get up to speed on those, but were pretty good on reds (Firestone alternate tires). But still a good day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Obviously, another full green race and I can’t believe it. It’s just a series full of really good drivers now, and no one makes mistakes and it just came down to strategy.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 4th: “We just seemed to catch traffic and I don’t think our strategy worked quite as well as we wanted it to, but you make a plan and go with it. It didn’t quite all work today for us. But it was a very good effort from everybody today. I think the Hitachi Chevrolet was good today. We gave a good shot at it today. We will go back and analyze it and go on from here.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 5th: “Basically, a frustrating day. I think the car had some good speed. We were really quick early on in a stint, we kind of faded a little bit. The track condition was just not great. We would pit and one of the cars in front of us, or right around us, would pit, too, and we’d fall behind them and it just kind of put us back. It was one of those days where one little, tiny move could have jumped us another two or three spots.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda) – finished 6th: “Today was making up for a big mess up yesterday. It’s sad, as this car could have been a winner today with our pace. It was a heck of drive and I don’t think it gets much better than that going from 24th to 6th in a straight-up fight on a track that’s difficult to pass. Obviously, it was a lot of ‘what ifs’ that come to mind. Really happy with the day, but quite disappointed for the group as far as the weekend is concerned, as I think we could have been on the podium.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 7th: “It wasn’t our day; it was kind of a mess. I felt like I was running around on crutches out there. We started out on the first set of sticker reds (new Firestone alternate tires) and had a left-front (tire) that was falling apart. I had a huge vibration, so we had to pit early. There was no way around it and that committed us to the strategy. Unfortunately, pitting early like that, then you just put yourself at risk for everybody to overcut you, continuing to run and we just got out of everybody’s way that way, unfortunately. I was just doing whatever I could to hold the floodgates back there at the end. I was on primary (Firestone) black tires racing everybody on sticky, alternate reds. I was doing whatever I could to keep it from coming around at the end. We definitely needed today to go better. It’s unfortunate it went this way today for the DHL, AutoNation and Butterball turkey team. It’s a bummer. We started third and we thought we had a better shot at it today, but congrats to the No. 27 team and to Alex (Rossi). He had a good run doing the ol’ two-stopper and it worked out. Everybody said that if it went green all day today, two stops wasn’t going to work, but he showed them.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 8th: “Without a warmup this morning, it was going to be a bit of a guessing game as far as race setup. Luckily, the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team guessed right. I could really be myself and attack during this race. We’ve just got to keep working in that direction. I think we were able to make huge gains in our street circuit package in Toronto. The whole team is super-fast on ovals and the last bit is getting where we need to be on these road courses. Today was very satisfying to prove that our showing during qualifying is not the true performance of the No. 22 Menards team.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda) – finished 9th: “I’m disappointed. We just weren’t good enough today. The pace just wasn’t there in the car and the rear was so unstable. We struggled with too much oversteer most of the race, which put us a ways behind the 8-ball. I just couldn’t get close enough to anybody without losing a lot. We had to just manage the rest of the day. I was hoping for a better result for the Fifth Third Bank team.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda) – finished 10th: “I’m slightly happy to bring home another top-10 finish. The last half of the season, we wanted to be consistently in the top 10 and I want to prove that I belong here. I think we’re doing more and more of that every weekend. With no yellow (flags) today, I think we needed to qualify a little bit better to be able to race towards the front. But I’m just so happy that our Relay car had the speed, but we just got caught in some traffic. It’s just hard racing out there, especially on the blacks (Firestone primary tires). We were falling back, so we were fighting with everything we could with those guys on the red (Firestone alternate) tires, but I think, overall, it was a pretty good day for us. We learned a ton and I’m excited to go on to Pocono, and hopefully, we finish a few spots higher.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Ruoff Home Mortgage / Curb Honda) – finished 11th: “I’m a bit bummed for the Ruoff Home Mortgage team. We had (Sebastien) Bourdais beat, and then I’m not sure what happened, but he was able to gap us there on the second stint. We only had clear track on the second stint and we were flying, so we were one of the fastest cars out there, but the circumstances just didn’t work out.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 12th: “I sent it on the first couple of corners. That was really good fun, a bit of wheel-banging and running side-by-side with a few people. We got up to ninth in those first two laps. Our pace was pretty good during the race. I don’t think we were a million miles off at all. We had a bit of a slow first pit stop and lost a few places there, then we just seemed to struggle a bit on out laps. Those are the two areas where we lost the time; otherwise, I think we would have been a bit higher up. We still have a bit of work that we need to do, but overall, it was a good race.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 13th: “It was a bit of a tough start of the race. We didn’t get a great start and got kind of boxed in. We weren’t able to move up early on like we had hoped for. We struggled with the black (Firestone primary) tires, but once we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on again, the car was pretty good. We were able to make passes and fight our way up to 13th. The second half of the race wasn’t too bad, but we would have liked to have a different first half. We’ve had a very solid last five or six weekends and a lot of positives to take away. We will work to put it to good use for the last races.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – finished 14th: “It was a pretty disappointing day for us. We had to roll the dice on strategy a little bit given where we were starting. Unfortunately, it just didn’t play out for us. We had a rough day in pit lane which didn’t help; it lost us some track position that cost us a ton of time behind (Zach) Veach in the second stint. From then on, we were just doing damage control. It’s unfortunate. We had to take a bit of a risk starting 10th and today just didn’t play out. The Arrow Electronics crew will regroup, pull a tear-off on this one and go for it in Pocono.”

ED JONES (No. 10 DC Solar Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 15th: “A frustrating day. I think we had the pace and we should have been around seventh or eighth. We called the wrong strategy and got on the wrong tires. Unfortunately, everything we did made the race worse for us. We also had a (tire) puncture to add to that. Just seems like recently everything has gone against us and everything we try to do. It makes everything look a lot worse than it is. Surely, things will change around and we will come back stronger.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet) – finished 16th: “I think it was a tough day for everybody out there. The track conditions meant that it was going to be pretty slippery and the cars were going to be quite a handful. We really struggled in that first stint and I just wasn’t able to get the lap time out of the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. The guys did a great job in pit lane and we flipped up the strategy on the last stint when we went with the Firestone alternate tires, which helped us out a lot. We’ll go back to the drawing board and evaluate what we did here, and hopefully, be able to learn from it.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 17th: “It’s extremely disappointing not to be able to compete competitively. The start was good. I overtook a couple of cars and was P6, and there were only a few cars in front and it all looked good, but on the second lap in Turn 4, I know (Max) Chilton was on push-to-pass and was coming, so I left one car space into Turn 4 and it was all good. On the exit of Turn 4, somehow he clipped me from behind and I got spun from that. After that I never recovered in the race. Unfortunately, in the middle of the stint the pace wasn’t very good, so it was difficult to gain any positions back. I think I dropped to 21st and only gained a few positions in the end, so it is very disappointing. We had high hopes today, but that was the race.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet) – finished 18th: “Tough weekend for the No. 14 ABC Supply car. No matter what we changed, we couldn’t get a good direction on our setup, so it ended up being a survival race. We’re going to regroup this week and analyze what we’re missing in order to make it better. Looking forward to going to Pocono in a couple of weeks and putting on a good show for our sponsors.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 19th: “Today was a tough day. We just didn’t have the pace the entire race. We just tried to bring home the car and I did the best that I could. We are still struggling to find the speed on road courses. We will focus on figuring this out for next year and for the rest of the season. We will keep working hard and figuring out how to be quick.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation Sirius XM MSR with SPM Honda) – finished 20th: “We had a high-risk, high-reward type of strategy. The race summed up our weekend, in that at sometimes we were OK, but then others we were struggling a lot. Our day was a combination of not being quick and not getting the yellows (flags) we needed. The team has been working hard and I think that only doing a few races this year is a challenge, but we are making the best of it and I know we will make progress during Portland.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 HD Pellets Chevrolet) – finished 21st: “It was a tough race and it was a really long one. We had a decent race and a good start at the beginning. Our strategy was working well with the Firestone red tires and we were able to make up some positions. Even though we did not finish where we hoped to, I am pleased overall and this has been a great experience running in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

CONOR DALY (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – finished 22nd: “I think we had a reasonable pace all race long. We put in a little too much wing on the first stop, so the second stint was really tough because the car was really loose. After that, we started making up some good ground on track and the car was pretty quick. The (Max) Chilton machine really messed with us when he was already a couple laps down. I’m sort of unsure as to why that was acceptable, but it is what it is. It’s a shame what happened by running out of fuel, but these things happen. Racing is a wild sport. The guys did really good in the pits, the pit stops were great and the No. 88 Chevy was great. Now we just move on.”

PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – finished 23rd: “Obviously I feel tired. It’s my first race back and it’s a tough one at Mid-Ohio. It’s really physically demanding here. We started the race and we didn’t have that much pace at first in our No. 19 Paysafe car, so we ended up pitting early, and then I had to let the leaders go by, so we lost a lot of time there. That said, I finished the race and that was my goal with my leg still hurting a bit. It’s still healing. I’m sure that by the time we get to our next road course in Portland, we’ll be a lot better and I’ll be back at a 100 percent, but I’m happy I was able to come here and finish the race. Now we can focus on our upcoming tests and our next race.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – finished 24th: “That was just a really disappointing way to end this weekend at Mid-Ohio after hitting such a high note yesterday with our Firestone Fast Six qualifying effort. We had a good start at green flag, but it turned for us pretty quickly after Race Control gave us a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact with (Takuma) Sato. We were hoping with how quick the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet was that we would be able to recover and fight back through the field, but with no yellows (flags) and some issues in pit lane, we just couldn’t move forward at all.”

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IndyCar has big plans on, off track for first test at Thermal Club: ‘It’s an amazing facility’

IndyCar Thermal Club test
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Quantity isn’t a problem for NTT IndyCar Series drivers seeking source material for their first test on track at The Thermal Club. There’s plentiful video of the drivers making laps on the private track that bills itself as a world-class facility.

It’s quality that’s an issue with trying to do homework for their first (and possibly last) test on the 17-turn, 2.9-mile road course.

Thermal is billed as a motorsports country club of sorts, giving the rich and famous an opportunity to drive and store vintage cars at racing playground that has more than 200 members and $5 million, 30,000-square-foot homes sprouting constantly.

IndyCar’s arrival Thursday and Friday for its first full-field open test in the preseason since 2020 will mark a new era of professional racing at Thermal, which primarily has catered to amateurs (often in a fantasy camp-type setting).

Colton Herta tried doing some YouTube research on Thermal recently but gave up after watching the third lap of “some dude in a Ferrari” navigating the course that is nestled in the Coachella Valley just south of Joshua Tree National Park and north of the Salton Sea.

“It’s difficult to watch some of the onboards because it’s not really professional drivers, and they have like the cones set out on the track, where to turn in and where to get on the brakes, so it’s kind of irrelevant,” Herta said. “Yeah, I watched a little bit before I got too bored and turned away. But the track walk will be important. That’s going to be the biggest thing.”

The track walk happened Wednesday afternoon after two days of wall-to-wall media obligations at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Conor Daly and Scott McLaughlin were among many drivers who were antsy to head southeast to the ritzy track (where many drivers have been staying in high-end casitas on the 470-acre property this week). Herta said his main concern was having enough runoff area as drivers knock off the offseason rust because “you do tend to drop a wheel here and there, have a spin if you’re getting back in the car for the first time in a few months.”

“I sort of don’t really know where the track goes,” McLaughlin said. “I feel like I’m going to get lost out there.”

With IndyCar increasingly limiting test time, Daly said sessions such as Thermal “are really, really important. We can train all we want, but there’s nothing like getting in these cars to drive to really prepare yourself for the first race. It’s going to be important to try to do as many laps as possible.”

Of course, what makes Thermal even more rare is that it’s not on the IndyCar schedule nor has it been a testing venue in the past. Sebring International Raceway also doesn’t play host to a race, but it’s become a tried and true place for teams seeking to hone their setups.

An IndyCar Series hauler is unloaded Monday at The Thermal Club track ahead of preseason testing Thursday and Friday (Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images).

Thermal will be the first time IndyCar is learning an entirely new track since the streets of Nashville nearly two years ago, but in this case, it’s unknown how applicable it’ll be in the future. Some drivers speculated that it could translate to Portland with its length (lap times are projected at more than a minute and 40 seconds), but it’s an unknown how slippery the surface will be for tire wear (probably 20-lap stints, which are relatively short).

“It’s hard when it comes to just two full days of testing because obviously some people will adapt to it quicker than others,” Daly said. “You might feel like a hero, then the next day you might feel like a zero because some people have caught up.

“But these days are important because hopefully it is an indication for us on all the permanent road circuits that we go: Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, Indy GP. Hopefully it’s helpful for us in all those scenarios. We’ll see what happens, I guess. It doesn’t matter to us how fast we go, as long as we get something out of it, right? How do we judge some changes? If that’s great for a certain section of the track, right, that could represent a section of another road track we go to. There’s a lot that we can learn, for sure. Realistically we kind of have to keep ourselves  in check with our expectations.”

Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden said drivers “probably shouldn’t come out of here either too excited or too demoralized depending on how it goes because it is not incredibly relevant when it comes to at-track performance. We’re never going to run here again. Well, I shouldn’t say that. We’re not going to run here this year for a points-scoring race. From that standpoint, it’s not relevant.

“What it is relevant for and what I’m excited about is just being on track. We definitely need it on the 2 car. We have a lot of new people. We’re going to maximize this time by just treating it like a race weekend in that we’re doing all the things we would do on a normal weekend to be fast and work well and efficient together. When we come out of the weekend we’ll have something to look at, what did we do well or not well. We have a good, relevant conversation piece to take into (the season opener at) St. Pete. From that standpoint it’s excellent. If we finish 15th on the charts, yeah, maybe we shouldn’t read too much into that.”

Said Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal: “I’m not sure how much (the Thermal track) relates. We’re running a Barber tire, similar to the Laguna Seca tire. Who knows what the track grip is like in the desert here. If you look at a lot of the corners, a lot of hairpins, a lot of slow speed corners, but then you’ve got like the end of the back straight is quite a fast left-hander. But they’re varying shapes of corners, decreasing radius, on increasing radius. We don’t have any tracks that do that traditionally.

“We’ve got to pick and choose exactly what we get out of it, but I’m all on board for the Thermal thing, so I don’t want to sound like I’m not. I think it was great to have change. We’ve kind of gone to the same places time and time and time and time again. It’s good to see something new.”

IndyCar also will be measuring the results of the test beyond timing and scoring.

The Indianapolis Star reported there have been informal talks about having a pro-am event in the future. With the test closed to the general public but open to its high-dollar clientele, there could be potentially millions of liquid capital at stake for future team investment if the Thermal Club’s members take a shine to IndyCar.

Thermal was throwing a posh welcoming event Wednesday night that was expected to have drivers, series executives and residents mingling with dancing and drinks.

Simon Pagenaud, who has explored the concept of starting a motorsports country club in his native France, is intrigued by the long-term marriage of IndyCar and Thermal.

“This kind of racetrack — what they do with their members, the passion of cars —  is really something,” Pagenaud said.

Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson likes the appeal of testing in Southern California instead of Central Florida.

“This time of the year, it’s really hard to find places for us to go testing,” Ericsson said. “I’ve only been here for four years, starting my fifth year, and I feel like I’ve done I don’t know how many days of testing at Sebring.

“For me, this is a lot better to come here. I like the idea a lot of having the preseason testing back on the calendar to get all the teams and drivers together.”

Said Alexander Rossi, who will be making his debut in an Arrow McLaren Chevrolet this week: “It’s always a difficult situation in January, February, in the United States to find a track that has the appropriate climate. Not only do we have a beautiful place to come with seemingly good weather, but you’re introducing IndyCar to obviously a demographic that has an interest in racing, with some decent capital behind them. They may not know of IndyCar. They may have known of IndyCar but never seen it in person.

“We’re able to bring and showcase what we believe is the best series in the world in front of people who are passionate about motorsports, participate in motorsports themselves, and maybe haven’t seen it before.”

McLaren teammate Felix Rosenqvist already has been staying at the villas inside the track all week.

“It’s an amazing facility,” he said. “I’ve never been here before. I was really blown away by how neat and tidy everything looks.

“I don’t know if there’s ambitions to race here in the future. That could be an option. I’m just pumped to be in California in January. There’s worse places to be.”