NHRA Brainerd: Billy Torrence, 60, earns 1st career win; Beckman, Kramer, Krawiec also win

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NHRA Media Release

BRAINERD, Minn. – Billy Torrence picked up his first career Top Fuel victory with a win on Sunday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the 17th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Torrence, whose son, Steve, is the points leader in the class, went 3.756 seconds at 329.99 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster to defeat three-time world champion Antron Brown on a holeshot in the final round.

Making his 27th career start, Billy Torrence, who was also the No. 1 qualifier for the first time in his career this weekend, knocked off Terry Totten, Scott Palmer and Mike Salinas to face off with Brown in his first career final round appearance.

“To come out here and be able to win a event, and give back something to those guys who give me a good operation when I come out, that’s just a blessing,” Torrence said. “At this level, there’s pressure on everyone to win. I just wanted to win and Antron is a tremendous racer, and you just have to be on your game. We prepare well and we have a great team put together, and a great car. We have all the right parts and pieces.”

Steve Torrence maintained his points lead in the class despite falling to Brown in a tight semifinal race. Brown, who won the previous race in Seattle, is now a point out of fifth place, beating Luigi Novelli, defending world champion Brittany Force and S. Torrence to reach his 121st career final round and third straight at Brainerd.

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman secured his second victory of the season and 28th of his career in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T with a run of 3.961 at 325.69 against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round. Beckman, who recorded his first career Brainerd victory, also posted wins against Matt Hagan, Shawn Langdon and points leader Courtney Force.

“We have struggled, it’s no secret we haven’t had the car we had early in the season,” said Beckman, who moved to fourth in Funny Car points. “We weren’t exactly stellar Friday and Saturday and we didn’t have lane choice all weekend long. (But) I feel a heck of a lot better today than I did yesterday. To put it back in the winner’s circle again, it just reaffirms we have a contending car. I like the way we picked away at things and we got significantly better every time down the racetrack today.”

Johnson clinched his spot in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship on Sunday, advancing to his second final round of the season with victories over Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson and J.R. Todd, who also secured his spot in the playoffs.

In Pro Stock, Kramer grabbed his second career victory in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro after going 6.652 at 207.56 in the final round to defeat Tanner Gray. Kramer’s first career win came earlier this year in Topeka, while Sunday’s path to the winner’s circle also included round wins against Vincent Nobile, Alex Laughlin and Jason Line. Kramer clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship on Sunday as well.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Kramer, who made his third straight finals appearance this season. “I know how good you have to be to win in this class. You just have to be ready every time you go to the starting line. There’s no free shots. You have to be competitive, and if you’re not competitive on the tree and you’re not competitive on the track, you’re not going to win, you’re going to go home. We just continue to do that and hopefully it works out for us more than it doesn’t.”

Gray, who remained second in points, advanced to his second straight finals at Brainerd with victories over Dave Connolly, Fernando Cuadra and points leader Greg Anderson. Line, Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman all secured their spots in the Countdown to the Championship.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, in an all-Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson final round, defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Krawiec earned his fourth victory of 2018 and 47th of his career with a run of 6.897 at 195.14 to beat teammate Andrew Hines. Krawiec moved within 11 points of Hines for the points lead with his fourth career Brainerd victory, one that also included round wins against Ryan Oehler, Mark Paquette and Hector Arana Jr.

“It’s about building momentum right now,” Krawiec said. “We know where we are and we’re in a great position. I think as long as you have that great drive and have that upbeat spirit, you have everybody all excited and that’s what it’s about right now. I have a good motorcycle under me. I know if it’s not winning, it’s most likely because of me. It’s just great to come out and run well. We had a consistent motorcycle and that’s what you need to win races.”

Hines’ path to his fifth final round this season included wins against Karen Stoffer, Jerry Savoie and Angie Smith. No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith also clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship.

The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 29-Sept. 3 with the last race of the regular season, the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Final finish order (1-16) at the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Mike Salinas; 5. Brittany Force; 6. Tony Schumacher; 7. Scott Palmer; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Terry McMillen; 10. Chris Karamesines; 11. Leah Pritchett; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Terry Totten; 14. Luigi Novelli; 15. Bill Litton; 16. Doug Kalitta.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3. J.R. Todd; 4. Courtney Force; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Jonnie Lindberg; 7. Tim Wilkerson; 8. Robert Hight; 9. Bob Tasca III; 10. Matt Hagan; 11. Ron Capps; 12. Bob Bode; 13. Del Worsham; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. John Force; 16. Jim Campbell.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer; 2. Tanner Gray; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Jason Line; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Alex Laughlin; 7. Fernando Cuadra; 8. Mark Hogan; 9. Bo Butner; 10. Vincent Nobile; 11. Dave Connolly; 12. Drew Skillman; 13. Alan Prusiensky; 14. Jeg Coughlin; 15. Dave River; 16. Chris McGaha.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Hector Arana Jr; 4. Angie Smith; 5. Jerry Savoie; 6. Angelle Sampey; 7. Matt Smith; 8. Mark Paquette; 9. LE Tonglet; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Hector Arana; 12. Joey Gladstone; 13. Scotty Pollacheck; 14. Karen Stoffer; 15. Jim Underdahl; 16. Ryan Oehler.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Sunday’s final results from the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 17th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL: Billy Torrence, 3.756 seconds, 329.99 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.751 seconds, 329.10 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.961, 325.69 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.031, 319.67.

PRO STOCK: Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.652, 207.56 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.897, 195.14 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.903, 193.99.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Final round-by-round results from the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 328.70 def. Terry McMillen, 3.803, 325.61; Clay Millican, 3.788, 327.27 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.051, 265.69; Antron Brown, 3.803, 326.00 def. Luigi Novelli, 4.460, 187.08; Billy Torrence, 3.900, 312.78 def. Terry Totten, 4.254, 205.69; Steve Torrence, 3.787, 327.35 def. Bill Litton, 4.460, 182.08; Mike Salinas, 3.807, 321.73 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.662, 161.40; Brittany Force, 3.910, 255.97 def. Richie Crampton, 4.178, 260.61; Scott Palmer, 3.837, 325.06 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.068, 276.92;  QUARTERFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.781, 320.74 def. Palmer, 3.798, 324.59; Brown, 3.768, 329.58 def. Force, 3.746, 326.24; Salinas, 3.817, 322.04 def. Millican, 3.813, 327.11; S. Torrence, 3.792, 325.69 def. Schumacher, 3.771, 328.94;  SEMIFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.756, 330.96 def. Salinas, 3.774, 324.59; Brown, 3.733, 323.97 def. S. Torrence, 3.753, 330.88; FINAL — B. Torrence, 3.756, 329.99 def. Brown, 3.751, 329.10.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.990, 321.73 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 6.208, 121.33; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.044, 312.64 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.101, 268.44; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.206, 235.84 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.062, 153.18; Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.070, 316.01 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.382, 202.91; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.988, 320.66 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.691, 204.42; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.019, 320.20 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.032, 320.58; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.973, 326.00 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 12.344, 54.36; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.024, 318.02 def. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.552, 189.15; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 4.022, 318.84 def. Hight, 4.143, 243.28; Johnson Jr., 3.937, 319.60 def. Wilkerson, 4.038, 314.97; Beckman, 3.980, 324.83 def. Langdon, 4.019, 321.42; C. Force, 3.945, 326.48 def. Lindberg, 4.026, 321.12; SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 3.968, 325.14 def. C. Force, 4.040, 320.51; Johnson Jr., 3.950, 323.97 def. Todd, 3.973, 324.05; FINAL — Beckman, 3.961, 325.69 def. Johnson Jr., 4.031, 319.67.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.652, 207.88 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.876, 168.37; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.630, 207.15 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.717, 205.94; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.636, 207.37 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.635, 206.20; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.620, 207.53 def. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.660, 206.80; Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.676, 205.66 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.626, 207.37; Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.835, 201.25 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, Broke; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.627, 206.89 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 7.008, 196.50; Alex Laughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.648, 205.22 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.739, 204.29; QUARTERFINALS — Kramer, 6.641, 207.24 def. Laughlin, 6.637, 206.32; Line, 6.639, 207.15 def. Hogan, 6.879, 193.35; Anderson, 6.631, 207.34 def. Enders, 6.636, 206.73; Gray, 6.753, 178.76 def. Cuadra, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Kramer, 6.640, 206.99 def. Line, 6.673, 206.83; Gray, 6.629, 207.02 def. Anderson, 6.643, 207.40; FINAL — Kramer, 6.652, 207.56 def. Gray, Foul – Red Light.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.951, 190.78 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.996, 192.25; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.947, 191.78 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.986, 192.00; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.970, 191.73 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 7.006, 188.62; Mark Paquette, Buell, 10.401, 79.05 def. Hector Arana, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.916, 193.27 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.017, 189.58; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.910, 194.91 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.006, 191.62; Matt Smith, 6.887, 197.08 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.027, 190.32; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.900, 194.72 def. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.197, 190.14; QUARTERFINALS — Hines, 6.935, 193.57 def. Savoie, 6.965, 190.67; Arana Jr, 6.938, 193.77 def. Sampey, 7.012, 191.27; Krawiec, 6.919, 193.63 def. Paquette, 7.090, 184.52; A. Smith, 6.996, 188.10 def. M. Smith, 7.089, 194.52; SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.950, 192.77 def. A. Smith, Foul – Red Light; Krawiec, 6.912, 193.27 def. Arana Jr, 6.950, 193.16; FINAL — Krawiec, 6.897, 195.14 def. Hines, 6.903, 193.99.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Point standings (top 10) following the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,332*; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,145*; 3. Clay Millican, 1,144*; 4. Leah Pritchett, 1,118*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 1,027*; 6. Antron Brown, 1,026*; 7. Terry McMillen, 791; 8. Brittany Force, 787; 9. Scott Palmer, 701; 10. Mike Salinas, 694; 11. Richie Crampton, 692; 12. Blake Alexander, 522.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 1,372*; 2. Ron Capps, 1,177*; 3. Robert Hight, 1,154*; 4. Jack Beckman, 1,110*; 5. Matt Hagan, 1,102*; 6. (tie) Tommy Johnson Jr., 987*; J.R. Todd, 987*; 8. John Force, 855; 9. Shawn Langdon, 791; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 747; 11. Bob Tasca III, 723; 12. Cruz Pedregon, 672; 13. Jonnie Lindberg, 649.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 1,262*; 2. Tanner Gray, 1,242*; 3. Erica Enders, 1,146*; 4. Vincent Nobile, 1,084*; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 1,055*; 6. Deric Kramer, 1,045*; 7. Jason Line, 986; 8. Chris McGaha, 983; 9. Drew Skillman, 959; 10. Bo Butner, 930; 11. Alex Laughlin, 741.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 784*; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 773*; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 646*; 4. LE Tonglet, 641*; 5. Jerry Savoie, 588*; 6. Matt Smith, 540*; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 480; 8. Angie Smith, 409; 9. Angelle Sampey, 372; 10. Hector Arana, 353; 11. Jim Underdahl, 343; 12. Steve Johnson, 334; 13. Joey Gladstone, 317; 14. Cory Reed, 310; 15. Ryan Oehler, 300; 16. Karen Stoffer, 277; 17. Mark Paquette, 178.

* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

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.”