Timing of yellow flag costly to Rossi at Detroit

1 Comment

DETROIT – In a timed race, Alexander Rossi was denied victory because Josef Newgarden pitted in the nick of time.

It went down like this:

A torrential downpour delayed the start of Saturday’s Race #1 in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix by nearly 90 minutes, turning Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series contest into a “timed race.”

Because of the delay, the race distance of 70 laps was changed to 75 minutes to help fit it into the NBC broadcast window. The field started on treaded rain tires, but with the track surface drying, Newgarden pitted for racing slicks on Lap 18.

Just as he came to a stop, the race course went full-course caution after Ed Jones stuffed his Chevrolet into the tire barrier in Turn 7.

Newgarden went on to lead the remainder of the 75-minute race, defeating pole-sitter Alexander Rossi by 0.8237-of-a-second.

The pit stop call was made at the right time by Newgarden’s crew at Team Penske, but the timing of the yellow flag left Rossi feeling blue.

“Again, we’re on the wrong side of the yellow,” Rossi said on finishing runner-up again after coming one spot short in last Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500. “It’s part of the NTT IndyCar Series. Josef did a good job, didn’t make any mistakes there on the last stint. I think we were definitely kind of on another planet.

“I tried to push him into a mistake. We were flat out. But he’s a great driver and isn’t going to make mistakes. Ultimately with a one-groove racetrack like that, couldn’t go offline because it’s wet.”

Teams and drivers were trying to determine the right time to bail out on the rain tires because they are much slower on a dry track than the racing slicks. Marco Andretti was the first to make the change and he had to hold on to his car with all he had, because much of the course was still wet.

But,with the surface rapidly drying, Newgarden’s race strategist and Team Penske president Tim Cindric determined Lap 18 was when Newgarden need to change to the dry tires.

Rossi was still on track leading the race, when Newgarden was in his pit box, Jones crashed, and the yellow flag waved.

At that point, Rossi had to wait until the pits were opened during the caution. Per INDYCAR rules, the pits are closed immediately after a caution in order to pack up behind the safety car.

Once the pits were open, Rossi led the field down pit lane to change tires and refuel, but Newgarden could remain on track. That made him the race leader and Rossi was the first car behind him when the race restarted on Lap 22.

Essentially, fate dealt Rossi another detour from Victory Lane.

“It’s annoying,” Rossi said. “That’s now three times, COTA (Circuit of the Americas), Indy and here. It’s part of it. It ebbs and flows. It’s out of our control.

“I think as a team; we did everything right. We executed. We got on pole. We controlled the race in the wet. We had a great pit stop, huge execution moment for the boys in the pits. They did a good job there to ensure we stayed in front of Scott Dixon and Will Power.

“It was a flawless day for the team. Ultimately it didn’t go our way to be on the top step.”

INDYCAR PHOTORossi believes Scott Dixon and himself were the best in the field in full wet conditions. But Newgarden was able to hang tough and got the right call at the right time.

“He just got lucky with the yellow,” Rossi said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We were waiting until we were in a window to make it on one stop. The wets were just about to kind of be at the end of their life. The track was about to be dry. Everything was working kind of as we wanted.

“It’s just the car went into the wall right when Josef was in. Nothing you can do about that. That’s just the way races fall sometimes, the way it works.

“You still have to go out and finish it. Like I said, we were on a different level compared to everyone else. He didn’t make any mistakes, did what he had to do to bring it home.

“I think the best two cars ultimately were towards the front.”

For Rossi and the other 21 NTT IndyCar Series drivers competing at Detroit this weekend, they get to sleep this one off and start all over again Sunday morning with another round of qualifications (10:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN) before the race at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC.

“Obviously we have a really fast car in the dry,” Rossi said. “We’ll go out tomorrow morning and try to execute in qualifying again. Ultimately, we came in farther back in the championship than we went in just because Josef won. So that sucks. But also, the way it is.

“Who knows how it’s going to go tomorrow? Obviously, they have a fast car. Scott is fast. The Ganassi boys are quick. My teammates are quick. It’s going to be tight tomorrow. It’s going to require the normal amount of kind of perfection that we need over an IndyCar weekend to win. I’m not expecting it to be easy, but I think we have a good car.

“If we have a dry race tomorrow, hopefully we can start up front and have, more or less, a drama-free day.”

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

SimMetric Labs
Leave a comment

No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

RACING RETURN: Robert Wickens ‘just excited to drive’

‘BAD FOR MARRIAGE, GREAT FOR QUARANTINE:’ Graham Rahal on iRacing

The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images