Angry Felix Rosenqvist accuses IndyCar of playing favorites

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MONTEREY, Calif. – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist blasted IndyCar officials after a harsh qualifying penalty hurt his chances of winning 2019 Rookie of the Year.

“They ruined our day,” he told IndyCar on NBC reporter Marty Snider in a rare display of rage for the oft-reserved Swede. “I don’t why. Maybe someone has something against me. Or they want (Colton) Herta to win the rookie championship, whatever. But I guess I have to regroup for the race and find a good strategy starting from the back.”

Rosenqvist spun midway through Group 2 in the first round of qualifying Saturday at Laguna Seca Raceway and failed to advance because IndyCar officials disallowed his fastest two laps (and also prevented him from advancing) on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.

Rosenqvist, 27, will start 14th in Sunday’s season finale, which he enters ranked eighth in the standings as the top rookie and 26 points ahead of Santino Ferrucci.

Colton Herta, the other contender for rookie of the year, will start on pole position. He will enter Laguna Seca trailing Rosenqvist by 49 points in a race that will pay double points.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” he said. “That lap didn’t mean anything for anyone. I had a spin. Then they’re saying I blocked someone while I was spinning. It was like the second lap on blacks, which doesn’t mean anything.

“We’ve been working for three days for this moment. We had the fastest time on track. The guys just did an incredible job. I think it’s pretty unfair for them to just take that away. Honestly one of the most stupid decisions I’ve ever seen.”

An IndyCar spokesman said Rosenqvist was penalized because he interfered with the qualifying run of Hinchcliffe, who went 0.7 seconds slower in the segment after the No. 10’s spin. According to Rule 8.3.6.1, “if a car interferes with the qualification attempt of another car, the best two timed laps shall be disallowed, and the car shall not advance.”

Asked whether Rosenqvist could face further penalty or sanction for accusing officials of playing favorites, an IndyCar spokesman said the series doesn’t announce fines.

Rosenqvist had entered qualifying as among the favorites to win the pole position and possibly break through for his first IndyCar victory. He was fastest in Saturday morning’s practice, second fastest in both practices Friday and third in Thursday’s test.

“He’s been super fast all weekend, you know, and of course he gets fired up,” Scott Dixon said of his Ganassi teammate. “I think all of us are extremely competitive. It’s the environment.

“I can imagine he’s pretty angry. But he’s been knocking on the door all year long, and I think he’s still got a very good shot (Sunday). You can definitely in that position create a very good off-strategy race.”

Points leader Josef Newgarden said he would have liked to have seen Rosenqvist make the Fast Six, not just because it potentially could help his championship bid.

“To be fair to Felix, he has been fast all weekend,” Newgarden said. “He probably would have been in contention for the pole without a doubt. If you look at where Dixon has been, I think he’s been a fair bit quicker than Dixon this week. Just on merit he probably should have been up there.

“But yeah, that’s more beneficial to us if he’s in the mix, more helpful. But I don’t think it changes things dramatically. It just would have been interesting to see him up there in the mix.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.