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

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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 

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”