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.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).