Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist is ready for an IndyCar ‘quadruple-header’

IndyCar
0 Comments

When IndyCar officials announced the latest revised 2020 schedule last Monday, driver Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden was excited at the addition of a race to the calendar, instead of a subtraction.

Rosenqvist is willing to run as many races as it takes.

“I’m ready for a quadruple-header right now, man,” Rosenqvist told NBCSports.com.

Having as many races as possible in the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season is vitally important to the second-year driver for Chip Ganassi Racing. Rosenqvist believes it’s the best way to determine a true champion in a season interrupted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We’re not losing any rounds and we’re actually gaining a race,” Rosenqvist said. “For my part, all I care about is how many races we do. The important thing is doing a proper championship. I’m all for doing double-rounds and triple-rounds. Whatever you have to cobble together for us to do X number of races is important. I believe we are in good hands because everyone wants the same.”

To accomplish that, extra races have been added to the July date at Iowa Speedway and the September round at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Also, a third race has been added to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on its road course – the Harvest Grand Prix on Oct. 3.

The doubleheader at Iowa Speedway is the first time this format has been used on an oval in the current IndyCar Series. Twin races were held at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, 2011 when two races were held on the same night with half-points paid for each of the twin contests.

That could put extra strain on the crewmembers if a car gets wadded up in the first race, but that’s the risk these drivers are willing to take.

“You can crash in practice as well on Friday,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s not going to be easy. I believe everyone has the determination and will to get going properly when we get going. I don’t think anyone wants to sit at home once we get going. Although I don’t work on the car and can understand the challenges. I think everyone will go together and make this happen if we have to.

“In Formula E, we did back to back races two or three times a year. It was exhausting, really tough on everyone. But we made it happen.”

Also consider the challenge of racing through the famed Corkscrew at Laguna Seca on back-to-back days. That’s like riding the most feared roller-coaster at an amusement park, over and over and over.

“That’s fine,” Rosenqvist said. “The biggest worry right now is which double rounds will be really tough on you physically. Doing a race in IndyCar is nothing easy. It’s hard to recover from one in a day. Laguna isn’t one of the physical ones, but Iowa will be two tough races. It’s like anything, if you prepare for it mentally, you’ll always be able to do it. I’m not too worried.

“As long as we don’t start with a doubleheader. That was going to be the toughest.”

That prospect was eliminated with the cancelation of the May 30-31 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle. That race is scheduled to resume in 2021.

“It’s another street track we are losing and those are always my favorite,” Rosenqvist said. “I’m pretty sad about that. Personally, any races at all, I’m not going to complain at which rounds we get. Even if it is new tracks that we don’t run at, as long as we are driving something, I’m thankful for that.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

That is why Rosenqvist is especially thankful there will be an extra race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. This is the first time in history three IndyCar Series races are scheduled to be held at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I’ve honestly been thinking many times, why don’t we have a winter-season or early season race at the Indy GP track?” Rosenqvist asked. “It’s there. It’s nearby for most of the teams. I think it’s a no-brainer.

“It’s going to be a good one, for sure.”

The driver from Sweden is aware that with the ever-changing nature of the current pandemic, the latest revised schedule may eventually change again. But he has the utmost confidence that series owner Roger Penske and the IndyCar staff are looking at all available options to conducting as many races as possible.

“It’s a big difference compared to when the virus first came, we had dates flying around that weren’t realistic,” Rosenqvist explained. “The schedule that came out two weeks ago was realistic then, but it changes all of the time. We look back with hindsight and realize it might not look good.

“What I think is good is they have a Plan B and a Plan C and the capacity to throw things around if they need to. IndyCar has a good relationship with the tracks and the tracks are willing to compromise and do whatever it takes to get this going. Everyone sticks together in difficult times and whatever we can do, will happen. I’m confident it will be a good turnout.

“If it changes, it does, but I’m sure it will be for the best.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Rolex 24 at Hour 8: Acuras, Cadillacs look strong in GTP; tough times for Tower in LMP2

Rolex 24 at Daytona
James Gilbert/Getty Images
0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The premier hybrid prototype era of the Rolex 24 at Daytona began with a relatively smooth start Saturday through the Hour 8 mark.

Though two of the new Grand Touring Prototype cars fell out of contention within the first six hours, seven cars representing four big-money manufacturers were setting the pace (albeit conservatively at times) after eight of 24 hours in the endurance race classic.

The Cadillacs of Alex Lynn (No. 02, Chip Ganassi Racing) and Jack Aitken (No. 31 of Action Express) held the top two spots with a third of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship completed.

RUNNING ORDER: Standings through eight hours l By class

Brendon Hartley was running third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Renger van der Zande in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

The No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 ’s No. 24  was the first GTP car a lap down, but in better shape than its sister. The No. 25 BMW pulled off track for major repairs near the end of the first hour and was classified 133 laps down in 59th in 61 cars.

Misfortune also befell the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, which was forced into the garage for a battery change with 18 hours and five minutes remaining. The 963 was 19 laps down in 22nd.

But all things considered, the debut of the GTPs had belied the hand-wringing and doomsayer predictions that had hung over Daytona the past two weeks. Cadillac Racing’s three V-LMDh cars had avoided mechanical problems (needing only typical body repairs for the front end of the No. 01 and rear end of the No. 31 for minor collisions in heavy traffic throughout the 61-car field).

Its stiffest competition seemed to be the Acura ARX-06s, which led more than 100 laps in the first eight hours.

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist built a sizeable lead in the No. 60 (which won last year’s Rolex 24) while leading the first 60 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“That was my longest time in the car since we got it,” said Blomqvist, who led the car to the IMSA premier championship last season. “We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”

The No. 60 lost positions when Helio Castroneves spun just short of seven hours remaining but later soldiered back into the lead with Blomqvist.

“That was a wild ride,” Castroneves said. “I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic. It was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far, and we are learning a lot in a short time.”

Two days after predicting the race would be an “old-school endurance race” with conservative driving and setups, Simon Pagenaud said his forecast has been realized.

“Totally,” the Meyer Shank Racing said after completing his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 60 shortly before Castroneves’ incident. “It’s been rare that I’ve been saving equipment this much here. In any of my experience in sports car racing, I’ve rarely driven this cool, basically trying to protect everything. It’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got the advantage having pace with the Acura.

“So for us, this time of the race, we’ve just got to build the foundation of our race. There’s really no need to dive into the Bus Stop on somebody right now. Six hours to go is a whole different story. If we’re there, there’s no problem. We’ll do it. We have the capacity to do that, which is honestly such a luxury. But at this point to me, we’re just going to save the equipment, get there and see where we are because the car is extremely fast.”

Pagenaud was involved in one when he was warned by IMSA stewards for “incident responsibility” on a spin involving the No. 8 Tower Motorsports LMP2 that is being co-driven by Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (two of the 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24).

Tower driver-owner John Farano was in the car at the time, but Pagenaud joked he thought it was Newgarden, his former IndyCar teammate at Team Penske.

“I thought the Tower car, that must be Newgarden,” Pagenaud cracked. “Was it him? Don’t tell me. I know it was him. Doesn’t matter. Let me just take it. I’m going to say it’s him. Please tell him I said that when you see him.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion chalked up the run-in with Farano as “a misunderstanding. He hesitated passing the car ahead of him and gave me the left side, so I dove in on the outside, and he basically released the brake and hit my rear. So you could say it’s on me. You could say it’s on him. Honestly, I was confused as to what happened because I just saw him spin in the mirror. I don’t think we had contact.”

It already was a long day for the No. 8 Tower, which had to pull off the track on the first lap. A water bottle fitting leaked onto the ORECA LMP2 07’s electronic control unit, which malfunctioned. The team lost 10 laps while being towed to the pits and repaired as the first yellow flag flew less than five minutes into the race for the incident.

By the time Newgarden handed off the car to McLaughlin, the No. 8 still was nine laps down with eight hours to go.

Last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 winner, which also featured two IndyCar stars in Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, rallied from five laps down, but Newgarden lamented missing three opportunities to regain a lap under yellow.

“We’re trying to chip away at it; it’s just difficult,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I feel solid, and it’s very fun to be in the mix the first time. Very special to be out there in the action. Just wish we were on the lead lap. Our pace was solid. We were strongest on track, but that’s going to change in the later hours with the hot shoes in the car. It’s not going to be easy to pull laps back on this field. It’s a very stacked contingent. They’re all good teams, lot of good drivers. Put ourselves in a hole not a good situation to be in, keep fighting at it. Felt like our pace was good.

“It’s not looking good now. You get toward the end of race, you won’t gain laps back on pace. There are too many good teams and drivers. … We need 8 or 9 yellows to go our way. It just doesn’t look good. But never say never. What if all the GTPs just blow up? I don’t know what’s going to happen. They look really good right now. This is not what everyone predicted. Let’s see. You just never know in racing.”