INDYCAR: Here’s what drivers said following Sunday’s REV Grand Prix at Road America

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Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s 10th race on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule – the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America:

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – WINNER: “These NAPA guys, what we did overnight, seeing what we were missing in qualifying yesterday, and qualifying hurt; but to be able to go do that (dominate) today was sensational and a huge thanks to the NAPA Andretti Honda team. Man, after thinking about it, that’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven. It was just a win that we needed to do. We’ve been there and thereabouts, but the Penske cars were getting the upper hand on us. To be able to go out and win a race the way we did and state our intentions, we’ll regroup the next couple of weeks and come hard again in Toronto.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 2nd: “Very good result for us. That’s all we had. Alex (Rossi) was on another planet there. The two guys we needed to have a bad day were Alex and Josef (Newgarden) and they keep having good days, so certainly makes it tough to catch up in the championship. We’ll just keep chipping away with the Verizon Chevy to see what we can do.” (About if this will give him some momentum for the remainder of the season): “Absolutely, some of the results we’ve had this year were heartbreaks, you could say, like at COTA (Circuit of The Americas). I’m happy with second.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 3rd: “We did what we could today with the REV Group Chevy. I think Will (Power) and I were just trying to hold down the fort in second or third, but you know, there’s still good effort from everyone. We, obviously, had a little bit of a gap there and Andretti Autosport and Alex (Rossi) did a great job today, so we’ll go back to the drawing board. I think we need to work on our road course (performance), but good effort. Chevy still gave us a great package and having REV Group on this weekend was really nice, so we’ll take a third for today.” (About his comment on working on road courses): “I don’t know. We have to go back and dissect it. I wish I had the answer.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Gehl / Manitou Honda) – finished 4th: “It was definitely a 100 percent effort all day racing with Josef (Newgarden) and Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) there for a little while, and Colton (Herta) on the new reds (Firestone alternate tires) at the finish. Just trying to keep those guys behind you is pretty tough. Our GEHL car was pretty strong today. We’re happy with fourth, but would have liked to be on the podium and thought we could be there for a while. I messed up on one of my out laps and it cost me a little bit of time. Our guys did a great job in the pits.” (About closing on Newgarden at the end for third): “I was a little bit quicker, but he was doing a good job and not making too many mistakes. It’s hard to try to force guys like that into a mistake because, obviously, they’re all veterans up front. Yeah, we were a little quicker, but it’s difficult to get it completed.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 5th: “I think had we not had that issue at the start, getting turned around and losing 10 or so seconds, we may have been fighting for the podium today with the PNC Bank car. We had to kind of work our way back to the front all day. It is what it is, though. It happened and all you can do is put your head down and start to gain back that time. It’s just been one of those years to this point. You just have to keep your head down and keep collecting points. We’ll keep working hard.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 6th: “It was a really well-executed race from the team, especially from the strategy side. I think we nailed it. There wasn’t any safety car this time, so considering that, we went from P18 to P6, it was a really good run. Basically, all overtaking was done on track. There was a lot of tire management in the race and I think that was the main key, especially on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). We managed to get out in clear air on the reds and then I could manage the tires, and I think that was crucial for the race. Fantastic job by the team and we finally had some good momentum in that race.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) – finished 7th: “Kind of story of our year: I don’t think the result was representative of the pace we had. We had a good start, got some guys, made up another spot or two during the first pit sequence. We were really just kind of running lap for lap with Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) there, maintaining the gap, looking after fuel and tires. On that last sequence, we decided to pit one lap early, and ultimately that let Colton (Herta) and Graham (Rahal) get ahead of us, which really just sort of compromised our race from there. When Colton’s tires went off, he made a mistake that ended up costing me two spots. Kind of bad luck, kind of wrong place wrong time, but the car was good and the Arrow guys were awesome in the pits. It’s a shame to leave here without the top five we deserved, but we’ll keep our heads down and keep pushing.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda) – finished 8th: “Tough day at Road America today. We struggled on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, which caused us to lose a few spots at the end of the race. But overall, the No. 88 GESS RNG Biogas Capstone Honda guys were great all weekend. The car was so quick, it was a lot of fun to drive it. Now we shift focus to street course racing in Toronto.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 9th: “We, obviously, got a great start and the Menards Chevy felt fantastic driving up through the field. Then we had contact with (Colton) Herta and there was no yellow throughout the whole race, which really set us back. And my final set of red (Firestone alternate) tires at the end degraded really quickly. We’ve got three tracks coming up (Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio) that I absolutely love, though, so I’m ready to get back out there already.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 10th: “The start was pretty good, but unfortunately, we went side-by-side with (James) Hinchcliffe and he just pushed me off at Turn 3. That was a real pity. I was pushed off and dropped significant places down. I tried to recover the whole race. In the end, I think our tire choice was right and I was able to charge on the last stint to overtake both (Sebastien) Bourdais and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay to take two positions, which was a good part of the race. But we could have finished in the top six and it didn’t happen, so it’s a shame.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 11th: “It feels like a bit of a waste of a weekend, to be honest. We were strong early in the weekend and then had the issue with qualifying. I had a really good start (to the race) and made up a few spots. I tried to go around the outside of Turn 5, then (Scott) Dixon had an issue and checked up. I got into the back of him and we went off track, causing us to fall back to 18th. From 18th we fought back to 11th. I think we made the wrong choice of tires at the end, finishing on the optional (Firestone alternate tires) reds might have been a mistake. A tough weekend overall for the DHL team.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda) – finished 12th: “We had a pretty good start. Then, I was side-by-side with Takuma (Sato) and coming off Turn 3, maybe he got his wheels in the curb or something. He wiggled and his car turned hard right and his sidepod made contact with my left front (tire). After that, the wheel was off and the car felt weird. I don’t know if our race was dictated by that initial contact or by something else, but it was a very average day, starting seventh and finishing 12th. I feel bad for the SealMaster No. 18 guys. They really worked hard all weekend.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) – finished 13th: “I had a good start, got past a car or two. But, then down into Turn 5, there were some cars ahead that got together and spun and I had to avoid them and go wide, which lost me quite a few positions. I had to work my way back into the race and I was getting through the field quite nicely; the Arrow car was feeling really good. I tried a move that was a bit too optimistic, maybe. I just tried a bit too hard and went wide in Turn 5, which put us at the back again and lost touch with the group, so we lost a lot of race time there. We had a lot of catching up to do and I was hoping for a safety car to help put us back in contention to fight because I felt the car was competitive, but there were no cautions today. It was all about trying to make up as much positions as possible and 13th isn’t terrible, but I think there was more pace in the car than what we could show today. We’ll take the positives and move on to the next one.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet) – finished 14th: “Going in, we thought red (Firestone alternate) tires were going to be the way to go. We elected to start on use reds, thinking we would do just one stint on blacks (Firestone primary tires). As it turned out, the reds had a lot of degradation and it was really hard to keep them underneath us. Doing two stints on reds hurt us. The car was really good on blacks and we were pretty fast. Unfortunately, we just made the wrong decision on tires and that’s all it takes to have a bad race. We’ll take the positives from this weekend and move on to Toronto.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) – finished 15th: “While I was buzzing with excitement to get here, the weekend didn’t go as we had hoped. We did have a nice recovery during the race to make up positions from where we had started. We had to save fuel most of the race or we would have found some more speed. We are taking positives out of this race weekend. Everyone at Meyer Shank Racing is doing a great job and a big thank you to AutoNation and SiriusXM. We move on to Mid-Ohio, the home race for MSR, where we hope to deliver a better result.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet) – finished 16th: “I’d say for where we started this weekend having those fuel pressure issues and having to miss a chunk of that first practice, today’s race was a step forward for us. I had an enjoyable battle with Pato (O’Ward) pretty much the whole race – I don’t think we were ever more than two to three seconds apart. We did a great job of managing pace versus fuel mileage and we were able to work our way up six spots from our starting position. I, honestly, felt like I gave it all that I could and was able to get the most out of the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the duration of the race.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “It just wasn’t our day today in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. It was really just a struggle all race long giving it all I had, but I just couldn’t go any faster and I really struggled to get around people. The guys did a good job in pit lane getting me in and out quickly and I think we learned a lot about Road America. Unfortunately, like I said, it just wasn’t our day.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) – finished 18th: “Overall, not exactly the weekend we wished for. We had really good speed here and there. In the race, things just didn’t fall our way. We tried to go one lap longer for a pit stop, but I fell off that last lap. I had a tire that was down to cords. We fell off a ton that last lap and that set us in the back where we spent rest of the day. It is tough to race yourself from 14th, but then, it like we started to do a good job and move forward. We got stuck with the first call and that set our fate for the rest of the day. Team did an awesome job all weekend – congrats to Alexander (Rossi). We will go on to Toronto and try to turn things around there.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda) – finished 19th: “We had a good race car. We had a unique strategy going for us that could have paid off. Unfortunately, during the stint on our second set of reds (Firestone alternate tires), we lost some time because of the tire pressure. We should have had a better race going for our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda. It’s just what we got this weekend. Luck wasn’t on our side, we just have to look forward to the next one.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 20th: “Tough day here at Road America. Just struggling with the car setup. Balance-wise the car was not bad, it’s just that we didn’t have the speed or the pace. We tried a different strategy than most of the guys, four stops, which somehow helped us because I felt our tire degradation was a little bit worse than everyone else. We’re going to focus on the next one, try to qualify better and try to build a better race car.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 21st: “It was a huge struggle today. We lost a ton of time on our second stint on used reds (Firestone alternate tires) and that (decision) blew our strategy.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet) – finished 22nd: “Today was a really tough race for us. We made more adjustments after practice and qualifying, and unfortunately, it didn’t improve things for us on track. We struggled a lot with pace for much of the race. It can only get better for Toronto.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda) – finished 23rd: “The issue seemed to be electrical to me. The car was shortening out. I was getting good runs in the beginning off of the corners, then guys started driving around me. It seemed incurable and we weren’t sure about it. We didn’t want to continue because we didn’t know how to fix it. It’s an unfortunate day for the U.S. Concrete guys, but we’ll work hard to bounce back.”

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NHRA: Steve Torrence’s 2nd Top Fuel title was emotional roller coaster day

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There’s no question Steve Torrence is a proud Texan. When he’s not strapping on his racing helmet, the Kilgore, Texas resident proudly wears a black cowboy hat and shiny boots practically everywhere he goes.

It’s just part of who one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons is.

Torrence also has a great deal to be proud of after winning his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in Sunday’s NHRA season-ending national event at Pomona, California.

In doing so, he joins seven of the biggest names in drag racing history to win back-to-back titles: Don Garlits, Joe Amato, the late Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Antron Brown.

Torrence followed up last season’s 11 wins – including being the first driver to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races – with nine wins in 2019, giving him 36 career wins and 55 final round appearances in his career.

But as he was interviewed shortly after he clinched the championship — even though he lost in the semifinal round of eliminations — instead of being effusive and ecstatic, Torrence was also uncharacteristically somewhat solemn and melancholy at the same time.

After publicly thanking his team – “the best in the business,” as Torrence frequently says – he also quickly paid tribute to a young man from Texas by the name of Brandon Seegers, who was tragically killed in an ATV accident last week (the young man in glasses is pictured in the tweet below).

Torrence wanted the world to know who Brandon was, calling him one of Torrence Racing’s biggest fans. It wasn’t lip service. Brandon – a 15-year-old freshman football player at Carthage (Texas) High School – truly was one of Torrence’s biggest supporters. He’ll be buried Tuesday.

Torrence also paid tribute to Brandon’s parents. The young man’s father has worked 30 years for Capco Contractors Inc., an oil and gas company owned by Torrence’s family. In a sense, because of their close relationship, Brandon and his parents are extended members of the Torrence family.

“This is for the Seegers family, who lost their little boy the Wednesday of last week,” Torrence said. “He was the biggest Capco fan there was. We’re taking the championship trophy home to him. We’re going to give it to all the Capco guys and his family.”

Admit it, when was the last time you heard someone in sports win a championship and then dedicate that effort to a young fan who was tragically killed just a few days earlier in an accident.

But that’s the kind of guy Torrence is, one of the classiest individuals in motorsports. And if you don’t really know who he is, you should, because you might understand why Torrence is who he is.

At the age of 36, Torrence is not just a survivor of the 1,000-foot dragstrips wars from New Hampshire to Seattle to Phoenix to Gainesville and everywhere in-between.

He’s also a survivor of something much more important: Before he was Steve Torrence, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, he was Steve Torrence, cancer and heart attack survivor. That kind of thing gives someone a much different perspective than most other individuals.

Torrence knows how fortunate he is to not only be a two-time champion, but more importantly, to be alive to earn and enjoy both of those titles. He came close, really close, to not being here anymore. That’s why Brandon’s death hit Torrence so hard.

He even tried to keep from choking up when he told the crowd about who his young friend Brandon was.

Torrence spent much of the weekend at Pomona thinking about his young fan. It definitely affected Torrence’s mindset and demeanor, especially on Sunday, with the pressure packed championship on the line.

To illustrate how different Torrence acted, he was involved in an incident after the first round that was completely out of character. While he may be one of the most competitive drivers on the NHRA circuit, he’s also normally a very level-headed, calm and cool persona.

Torrence uncharacteristically slapped young opponent and part-time Top Fuel driver Cameron Ferre in the face at the end of the drag strip after they climbed from their race cars following their first round run and exchanged words.

Normally a fan favorite, Torrence was uncharacteristically criticized on social media and was met with a wave of fan boos after the race when he climbed on stage to accept his championship trophy and the big check that came with it. A contrite Torrence eventually issued a public apology to both Ferre and fans, admitting he was wrong. The NHRA is reviewing the incident and still could penalize Torrence.

“Tensions are high,” Torrence told NHRA.com. “There’s a lot of crap going on out there, but there’s still no excuse for me acting that way. I apologize to every fan, all my racing friends and racing rivals. It was a heat-of-the moment reaction on a day when emotions were high, especially in the Capco camp. I talked to Cameron and we’ll just put it behind us and move on.”

Given the championship pressure and what he was enduring emotionally, Sunday may not have been Torrence’s finest moment or best day professionally or personally. But at the same time, he further cemented why he’s on his way to becoming one of the best drivers in Top Fuel history, that he makes mistakes and was man enough to admit when he made one.

He also cares for others and what they go through perhaps more than most because he himself came so close to not being around to enjoy the success he has enjoyed to date – and all the additional success that he’s likely to continue to enjoy for many more years to come.

 

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