Felix Rosenqvist outduels Pato O’Ward for first IndyCar victory


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.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).