Felix Rosenqvist outduels Pato O’Ward for first IndyCar victory

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Felix Rosenqvist outdueled Pato O’Ward for his first NTT IndyCar Series victory Sunday, making a furious charge into the lead with just more than a lap to go at Road America.

Rosenqvist then pulled away in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda to win by 2.8699 seconds in Chip Ganassi Racing’s fourth consecutive victory to open the 2020 season.

Teammate Scott Dixon had won Saturday at Road America along with the season opener at Texas Motor Speedway and July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

‘HE’S A WRECKING BALL’: Rahal, Hunter-Reay critical of Will Power

Rosenqvist, who shook off contact with Graham Rahal on the first lap, became the first Swede to win in IndyCar since Kenny Brack at Mexico City in 2002.

“It feels so good; i’s been a long time, and we’ve been close so many times,” Rosenqvist, who finished second twice last year as a rookie at Mid-Ohio and Portland, told James Hinchcliffe in an NBC interview. “This race was for my 10 car crew. I’ve been really proud to be part of the team this year. We’ve been really good. Every race just hasn’t had the luck until now. Today we just went all for it. Super pace, the car was fantastic.”

O’Ward settled for a career-best second place in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet after the Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports driver started from the pole position at Road America.

“It was really tough,” O’Ward told NBC pit reporter Dave Burns. “The Ganassi cars had a lot of, a lot of pace. We did a really good job managing the whole race but toward the end when we got into a mix with some lapped cars and some dirty air, and that really hurt us. I gave it everything, every little bit I had. I was pushing, pushing, pushing, but I just couldn’t keep Felix behind me.

“The car was really, really good. We just missed that little extra in keeping the rear tires under us. But we’re here. We like running up front. I think we showed that we have everything to do it. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”

Alexander Rossi finished a season-best third (his first podium finish since Portland last September), followed by Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta, who extended his streak of top 10s to four.

“It better be,” Rossi said when asked by Burns if this was the jump-start his season needed. “We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it’s been, but I think the one constant has been this 27 AutoNation Andretti Honda team. There’s never been a question of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. It’s just been problem-solving and just keeping our foot down on the pedal and attacking as much as we can. We knew it would come good at one point. We knew our race pace was all right.

“We’ll take this. It’s not a win, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s what we need to get the momentum going. Going to Iowa, I think we have some of our mojo back, at least a little bit.”

Santino Ferrucci, Alex Palou, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top 10. Will Power finished 11th after being penalized for avoidable contact and spinning in the first five laps.

Dixon finished 12th after starting sixth on the 4.014-mile road course. Two slow pit stops undermined the five-time series champion’s bid to become the first IndyCar driver in 14 years to open the season with four consecutive victories. He still holds a 54-point lead over Herta in the championship standings after four races.

For the second consecutive day, the race had an eventful start as three drivers were penalized for avoidable contact on Lap 1.

The most notable was Power, who ran into Ryan Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 and Rahal on the entry to Turn 3. After being dropped from fifth to 22nd by IndyCar, Power’s miserable start continued on the Lap 4 restart as he veered off course and into a trackside sign in Turn 3 and caused another caution.

Santino Ferrucci, who collided with Jack Harvey, and Conor Daly, who hit Oliver Askew, also were penalized for contact and sent to the rear of the field after the chaotic green flag.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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