First IndyCar victory was meaningful in many ways for Felix Rosenqvist

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The long wait for his first NTT IndyCar Series victory was followed by a long drive for Felix Rosenqvist.

After winning Sunday at Road America, the Swede made the five-hour trip “straightaway” to his home in Indianapolis for a reunion with his girlfriend, Caroline, whose return to the United States had been delayed because of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“She’s been back in Sweden for three months, but she came back in Indy the same day as the race,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports. “(The victory) was actually the best possible way to celebrate after three months being apart.”

IOWA UP NEXT: Information for watching the 2020 IndyCar schedule

It was among many reasons that the Chip Ganassi Racing driver savored the breakthrough in the 21st start of his IndyCar career, which made big headlines in his native country’s major newspapers.

Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Rosenqvist, 28, showed massive potential amidst some major heartbreaks last year for a proud No. 10 team that had gone nearly six years without a victory. He then weathered an agonizing start this season as teammate Scott Dixon opened 2020 with three consecutive victories.

The nadir was a crash while running second with 10 laps remaining in the June 6 opener at Texas Motor Speedway. Rosenqvist spun after forcing the issue on the treacherous outside in Turn 2 while navigating lapped traffic and trying to chase down the dominant Dallara-Honda of Dixon. The move earned a call with team owner Chip Ganassi.

“Obviously it was a situation neither him or me wanted to have,” Rosenqvist said. “We know that we are quick and can do great things, but that whole situation was obviously suboptimal.

“Chip’s very short. He just told me, ‘Let’s try to get the points here. And not do rookie mistakes.’ Because I’m not a rookie anymore.”

Rosenqvist said he appreciated the reminder of Ganassi’s direct and no-nonsense leadership style.

“Even with the tough start we had, he’s been very supportive and hasn’t been any strange feelings or anything,” he said. “He’s just been pushing all of us along. And yeah, I think that’s good with him. He will really credit you when you do well, and then he will try to help you in any possible way when you’re not performing.

“It’s very easy, and it doesn’t take many seconds to have a talk with him because he’s honest. There’s so many people in this business that can say one thing and then mean another behind your back. With Chip, what you know you always will have is full support in trying to accomplish the job and also full honesty. That’s all you can ask for.”

Ganassi’s oft-tweeted motto is “#ILikeWinners,” and Rosenqvist was knocking on the door of becoming one since the March 10, 2019 season opener when he finished fourth and led 31 laps in St. Petersburg, Florida, in his IndyCar debut. Though slower to adapt on ovals, he finished second at Mid-Ohio and Portland en route to sixth in the points standings as the 2019 rookie of the year.

That promise made the mediocre results early in 2020 – his best finish was 15th in three races prior to his victory – even more exasperating, particularly when juxtaposed against Dixon’s hot start.

Felix Roesnqvist won in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda by 2.8699 seconds Sunday at Road America (Joe Skibinkski/IndyCar).

“First of all, I’m happy for Scott because if he does well, everyone is happy on our team, and that’s what drives us forward,” he said. “But obviously it’s frustrating to see the potential the car has, and you’re not able to use it. … When you have your day, that’s when you have to make the most of it. That’s the lesson I’ve learned. Sunday we had one of those days and realized early in the race that, ‘OK, this might be a good chance to win the race, and we have to go get it.’ Every race will not be like that, but the one chance you get, you’ve got to take it.”

It still wasn’t easy as first-lap contact with Graham Rahal damaged the left-front wheel hub of Rosenqvist’s No. 10 Dallara-Honda, costing his pit crew a few extra seconds to change tires on every pit stop.

By running what Ganassi engineer Chris Simmons tweeted were “40 straight qualifying laps,” Rosenqvist still managed to track down Pato O’Ward (who also was seeking his first victory) to make the winning pass with two laps remaining

“That was really big and showed even more what a great race we had that we managed to win it even with that damage,” he said. “I like those kinds of races. You’re not really dependent on other people or how the strategy is. You just get clean air and do what you do best and go fast in the car. That’s what I love. You just go into that rhythm and flow because it’s all going to come down to the last couple of laps and every tenth of a second matters.”

The victory mattered especially to the crew of the No. 10, which won three consecutive championships with Dario Franchitti from 2009-11 but hadn’t been in victory lane since Aug. 30, 2014 in Fontana, California, with Tony Kanaan.

Felix Rosenqvist said longtime No. 10 crew chief Ricky Davis, who has worked at Ganassi for more than 20 years, got choked up Sunday after the victory.

“He has kind of joked that, ‘I didn’t think I would live to see another win,’ ” Rosenqvist said. “He was very emotional about it. He definitely deserves it. Every time we show up he’s just so motivated and ready to go win. That’s why we do it.

“They’ve been fighting so hard for this win. It’s been kind of heartbreaking in the short time I’ve been with the team how close we’ve been, especially with the expectations we had. We felt we can win races. Just hasn’t happened. It was a great monkey off our back. Just a great reminder of how good my crew is. It was so cool to see them celebrating after the race.”

Felix Rosenqvist and his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing crew celebrated their Road America victory in socially distanced style (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

Wayne Taylor Racing, Meyer Shank Racing will run Acura in IMSA DPi

New Acura IMSA teams
Acura Motorsports
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Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing will become new Acura Motorsports teams next season in the Daytona Prototype International class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

In a multiyear deal, each team will campaign a car in IMSA’s top division starting with 2021, essentially replacing Acura’s two-car factory effort with Team Penske that will be ending after a three-season run.

Honda Performance Development president Ted Klaus said drivers for WTR and MSR would be announced later by the teams.

Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac leads the points in the DPi division this season with drivers Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande after opening the season with a victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, its second in the past three seasons in the prestigious sports car event.

Meyer Shank Racing will be moving up to the DPi level after campaigning Acura NSX GT3 entries in the GT Daytona class this season. MSR also fields a full-time Dallara-Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Acura Motorsports

Here’s the release from Acura Motorsports:

Acura Motorsports today announced it will partner with Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing to campaign a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, beginning in 2021.

“It is a pleasure to announce that Wayne Taylor Racing will be joining the Acura ARX-05 IMSA program in 2021, along with Meyer Shank Racing, which will build on our very successful partnership by moving up to the prototype ranks,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura Brand Officer. “We’re confident that both teams will help us build on the successes we’ve achieved to date in IMSA competition, as we continue to apply Precision Crafted Performance to all of our activities – on the race circuits of North America, in our production vehicles, and in the market place.

“We also want to thank Roger Penske, who has long been an important part of the Acura family as one of our great Acura dealers. It has been a privilege to have Roger as part of the Acura Motorsports family over the past three years.”

Defending IMSA GTD class champion Meyer Shank Racing [MSR] is in its third decade of operation. With wins in some of the biggest races in the sport, the Ohio-based team played a key role in the development of the successful Acura NSX GT3 Evo, and has raced the car to victory lane in four consecutive seasons, culminating in the drivers’ and teams’ titles in 2019. Acura and MSR are the current leaders in all three major GTD title championships.

“When Acura and HPD chose Meyer Shank Racing to debut the Acura NSX GT3 in 2017, it was a big moment in our history. I’m really proud of building a championship-winning program and everything that we’ve been able to accomplish together with the NSX,” said Michael Shank, co-owner of Meyer Shank Racing. “As a team, we’ve been working toward the opportunity to go and fight for overall wins for a long time, and I am eager to get going with this program. But we have some work to do first, and we are 100 percent focused on bringing another IMSA championship home with the Acura NSX in 2020.”

“Mike and I are both eager to expand our IMSA program and get to once again work with Acura and HPD,” said MSR co-owner Jim Meyer. “Mike has built such a strong IMSA program over the last decade, and this is another step that we’re looking forward to pursuing.”

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Wayne Taylor Racing [WTR] has built a proven track record of success and ingenuity in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class, including two IMSA driver championships [in 2013 and 2017] and the 2017 IMSA DPi team championship. A three-time champion as a driver in sports car competition and Le Mans winner in 1998, Taylor’s Acura roots stretch back to 1992, when he drove for the championship-winning Comptech Acura team in IMSA Camel Lights competition.

WTR also has played an important role in winning eight IMSA manufacturer championships and has scored multiple victories in endurance racing’s most iconic events – the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans, and Six Hours at Watkins Glen.

“I am extremely excited to have this opportunity given to me by HPD and Acura Motorsports,” said Wayne Taylor, owner of Wayne Taylor Racing. “Since getting to know everyone at HPD and Acura Motorsports, I feel that they have a lot of respect for the Wayne Taylor Racing family. What I really like is that they have the same passion and vision as I do. I am looking forward to running the DPi for the next few years. I am equally excited to be able to bring my long-term partnership with Konica Minolta, Rick Taylor and Michael Mathe to the program. We all can’t wait to get started.”

“We welcome Wayne Taylor Racing into the Acura Motorsports family, and very much anticipate their contributions to our prototype program,” said Ted Klaus, president of HPD, the competition arm for Acura Motorsports. “Equally, we look forward to growing our successful partnership with Meyer Shank Racing, now in DPi. Our intention is to have Acura Motorsports partner with MSR and WTR, to not only continue our championship ways in DPi, but to collaborate to develop the next generation Acura LMDh. Finally, we want to thank Team Penske for their outstanding effort and impressive results together with Acura and HPD these past three years.”

In addition to sweeping all three major IMSA DPi championships in 2019 – for Manufacturers, Drivers and Teams – the Acura ARX-05 has scored six race wins, 14 additional podium finishes, and 11 poles from 25 races in two-and-a-half seasons of IMSA multi-manufacturer competition that has included Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. Acura comes to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course seeking a third consecutive win this season, as well as a third consecutive victory in this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

Acura Motorsports also campaigns the Acura NSX GT3 Evo in the IMSA GTD category, with defending GTD champion Meyer Shank Racing and the Gradient Racing organizations.  Winner of the IMSA GTD driver and team titles in 2019 – and the current GTD championship leader – the NSX program is expected to continue in IMSA competition in 2021.