INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

IndyCar rookie Rosenqvist works through difficult stretch of the season

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Eight races ago, Felix Rosenqvist kicked off his NTT IndyCar Series rookie season by leading 31 laps and finishing fourth in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

He was so impressive in that debut, the 27-year-old driver from Sweden was considered IndyCar’s next big star.

Now, Rosenqvist finds himself frustrated and disappointed. He equaled his career-best fourth-place finish in last Saturday’s Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, but followed the next day with a crash in Turn 1, six laps from the finish.

It was his second DNF of the season due to a crash. At the Indy 500, he was part of a multi-car pileup on Lap 176. Prior to that, he’d had another serious wreck during Indy 500 practice on May 15.

It is believed that Rosenqvist has a multi-year contract with Chip Ganassi Racing, but when asked, the driver from Sweden would not confirm the details of his agreement. However, he did admit to meeting with the team owner after his two crashes at Indy in May.

“I think he has been supportive,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports.com Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “We had a chat at Indy. It’s normal when you have two or three wrecks, something is not right. Whether it’s your fault or not, it’s not a position you want to be or a position you are normally in.

“But he is supporting me. He believes in me and we are pushing.”

Rosenqvist admits he would like to have better results by now, but he prefers to look forward instead of dwelling on the crashes.

“I try not to think too much about it,” Rosenqvist said. “There has been a lot of ‘could have been’ this year by me. We’ve had really good starting positions almost every race. Then, we’ve had a lot of incidents and crashes, some messy races.

“It’s my first season. If it had gone well, fine, we’ll take it. Now, we have everything thrown at us and it’s time for us to push through and show if we can get through this, we can push through most of our challenges. It’s time to forget about it, reload and try to continue.”

Sweden’s other rookie in the NTT IndyCar Series is Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Ericsson, a veteran of 97 Formula One races, started the season slow but finished second in last Sunday’s Race 2 in Detroit.

“Honestly, for both of us, it has not been a smooth year,” Rosenqvist said. “We would have both enjoyed having better results. Winning is easy. We have all won races, but that’s not the hard part. The hard part is getting through the tough times and that is where we find ourselves right now.”

Rosenqvist called May a tough month, but after his practice wreck, he had what he called one of the best races of his career in the ‘500,’ before he got sucked up in the crash triggered by contact between Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal.

Last Sunday at Detroit, his Honda barely touched the wall at the exit of Turn 11. Then, as he passed the pit area, he turned into Turn 1 and his car snapped.

“It’s one of those things I look back and should have pitted,” Rosenqvist said. “It ended how it ended, but I try to take the positives out it.”

This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Rosenqvist has the daunting task of competing on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval for the first time.

“There is always traffic here, whether you like it or not,” Rosenqvist said. “That is the biggest challenge here. At Indy, you have more respect, but this place is super-fast. In the turns, it feels like your brain is moving to the right because your head is stuck there. It’s high G-forces. The consequences are so high, but it’s a super cool track.

“At this point in my season, I can’t afford to have any more crashes or mistakes. It’s just not worth risking too much.”

Eli Tomac wins Budds Creek, clinches 2019 championship

Vanessa O'Brien (KawasakiUSA)
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Last week Eli Tomac suffered through his worst race of the season and gave Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin a glimmer of hope were the championship was concerned.

On Lap 1 of Moto 1, Tomac did his best to dash that hope. Justin Bogle grabbed the hole shot, but Tomac swept past him immediately and surged to victory.

Moto 2 was much the same. Tomac grabbed the early lead and set his sights on earning maximum points for the weekend. By the end of Moto 2, Tomac had a 15 second lead over Jason Anderson to score his third perfect victory of the season. Tomac also scored a 1-1 at Pala and Washougal.

That was not Tomac’s only victory, however.

With two minutes remaining in Moto 2, Anderson and Marvin Musquin passed Ken Roczen.  That dropped Roczen to 54 points behind Tomac at the time and only elevated Musquin to a 50-point differential. Musquin needed one more position to be able to deny Tomac the championship for one more week, but he was 10 second behind Anderson and unable to make up the gap by the end.

“I didn’t know (I had won the championship) until the last lap,” Tomac said after the race. “I thought I needed one more spot on everyone. I’m just in complete shock right now. All we did today was put our head forward (and) put last week in the past. … Gosh what a way to finish it off. 1-1; it was so cool.”

Tomac is the first rider to win three consecutive championships since Ricky Carmichael won six in a row from 2000-2006.

In Moto 1, Tomac narrowly edged his two points’ rivals. Roczen finished second in that race with Musquin in third.

“It was so special,” Tomac said after he was handed the No. 1 plate that he will affix to his Kawasaki throughout next season. “So many things had to go our way this weekend with having a 1-1 and beating the two guys behind us in second and third (in Moto 1).

Anderson’s pass on Roczen late in Moto 2 was significant for another reason. With a 4-2, he scored a second overall to stand on the podium for the fourth time this season. In doing so, he matched his best finish from RedBud.

“For me, I’m just trying to build my base going into the next Supercross season,” Anderson said afterward. “I feel like I’m getting better.”

Finishing third in both motos was bittersweet equaled a third overall for Musquin. He climbed to second in the points with that finish and if he is able to stay there following next week’s Ironman, it will be the third straight year that he has finished behind Tomac.

Roczen faded to seventh in Moto 2 and with his 2-7 he finished fourth overall. It was a fitting end to his championship hopes because Roczen has faded at the ends of events all season long.

Zach Osborne (5-4) rounded out the top five.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

It’s fair to call Shane McElrath’s 1-1 victory a surprise. Perhaps one can even go so far as to call it a shocker. Entering Budds Creek, McElrath had not stood on the podium yet this year. In fact, he has only one top-five finish that came at Spring Creek two weeks ago.

McElrath got off to an early lead in Moto 1, passing then-leader Ty Masterpool on Lap 3 and refusing to look over his shoulder. It was his first moto victory since Washougal last year and there was speculation about whether he could match that performance. If anything, McElrath looked even better in Moto 2 and he cruised to a 7.7 second lead at the checkers.

McElrath may have been the only rider who was not surprised by the performance and he summed up the drastic uptick in his post-race interview.

“One word: just perseverance,” McElrath said. “It’s been a real test of our faith this year. A real test of our strength. It’s been humbling for sure. … My results this year haven’t been what we wanted, but we just kept at it.”

With a 2-5, Adam Cianciarulo finished second overall despite a disappointing second moto.

He was much better in Moto 1, but even that race had drama. Four minutes into Moto 1, Cianciarulo rode off course and high sided on a berm. He dropped from second to fifth. He climbed into third by Lap 6, but it took the entire race before he would reclaim second.

At the end of Moto 1, Cianciarulo was optimistic about his weekend.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold. “I just want a good result on the day and that’s how I’m looking at it, taking it moto by moto. I’m just disappointed in how I rode there at the beginning.

“Masterpool was riding really good and I just got out of my rhythm. The track’s really slick so you can’t override it – and I really was – I just wasn’t riding good. But I’m glad I was able to calm down and take a breath, make some passes back – get to where I needed to be.

“Championship aside, I really want to do the best I can every moto. … If I leave it all out there, whether I win or lose, I can go to bed at night and sleep just fine.”

Justin Cooper ended the day with a 6-2, which was good enough for third overall. It was not good enough to keep his title hopes alive, however. Ending the day 60 points behind Cianciarulo, he has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Dylan Ferrandis is now the only rider who can challenge Cianciarulo, but he needs to make up six points in Moto 1 at Ironman Raceway next week to keep the pressure on. Like Cianciarulo, Ferrandis’ day was not without incident. In Moto 2, Mitchell Falk got turned around early in the race and knocked Ferrandis down while he was running 11th at the time – one position behind Cianciarulo.

The two points leaders were able to slice through traffic and Ferrandis eventually prevailed over his rival, but he could manage only a fourth-place finish at the checkers. With a 4-4, he finished fourth overall.

RJ Hampshire (3-8) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Masterpool led his first professional laps. He paced the field five times before McElrath overtook him. Masterpool maintained a top-three spot for the next three laps. He finished seventh in that race and 11th in Moto 2 for an eighth overall.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[10] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch II, RedBud I, Washougal I & II, Budds Creek I & II)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, The Wick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (The Wick II)

250MX
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, The Wick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla I)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, The Wick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I, Spring Creek I)
[2] Shane McElrath (Budds Creek I & II)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

Next race: Ironman Raceway, Crawfordsville, IN, August 24

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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