What IndyCar drivers said after Saturday’s race at Mid-Ohio

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A roundup of quotes and social media posts from NTT IndyCar Series drivers Saturday after the opener of the doubleheader race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Will Power won for the first time and the first time this season:

1st – Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet):  “We’ve had a pretty trying year. Everyone really has, with COVID and all the social distancing that we’ve had this year. The fact we are out here racing and that fact that we have some fans here (in Mid-Ohio) is great. This is what we love to do – we love to drive and we love to entertain. But it’s great to have the Verizon Chevrolet in victory lane. This is probably the first race in 10 years that I’ve just gone hard the whole time. So many other races, we try and save fuel and play the strategy game, and a lot of times it just doesn’t work out. Today, we said, ‘Let’s just go hard.’ We said let’s just go hard and use my race pace and see what happens – and we won the race. This was just a race to put down good laps after good laps. It was just a flawless day and a flawless race. The whole Verizon team did a great job. It’s great to see Verizon in Victory Lane again, because it’s been awhile. It’s also great to finally win at Mid-Ohio – I’m over the moon about that.”

2nd – Josef Newgarden (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a pretty straightforward day. Where we started is where we finished with the PPG Chevrolet. It was good to get by Ryan (Hunter-Reay) right there at the beginning of the race, and that helped us, for sure. But congrats to Will (Power) – he is still Will Power. He’s been knocked down a little bit this year, but he drove really well, and that was a clinic he put on out there today. I’m really happy for him, but we were just a couple of tenths slower than him all day long today. I could kind of tell we were fighting for second today. Team Chevy – one-two for us – so that’s good for them, and I’m proud of that. We just need to be a little better. We picked up some good points today, which is good.”

3rd – Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda): “Yeah, it’s good. We just haven’t had a lot of things go our way. I don’t think we’ve had luck, but we haven’t had pace, either. We’re just really trying to go out and make the most of each opportunity we have for the rest of this year. The 27 NAPA/AutoNation guys did a great job. The car was good. Had we been able to clear Ryan (Hunter-Reay) a bit sooner and get Josef (Newgarden), we could have had a shot at it. The car’s pace was really good. Regardless, it wasn’t meant to be. Starting P6 was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but nonetheless it was a good day for us, and we get to do it all again tomorrow.”


4th – Graham Rahal (No. 15 United Rentals Honda):

“It was super-hot. It’s a good thing it wasn’t a 90-degree July day. I’m awfully proud of the United Rentals guys. I thought our strategy was great, and the car was very good in race trim. I think we were a little quicker than (Josef) Newgarden and (Alexander) Rossi, but I got held up by (Simon) Pagenaud there coming out of the pits on that last stop or otherwise I think we had him (Rossi). I thought we had a good opportunity there to get Alex, but all in all, it was a great run for us. It feels good to get a good result after St. Louis, which was kind of a bruiser. Our guys did a wonderful job in the pits. The last few races, they’ve been lightning fast. We’ve just got to keep at it. It was a tough day. Tomorrow is going to be tougher. Guys are going to fall out of the saddle tomorrow. That is physical. It is hot, there’s not a lot of air, and it was dirty. Tomorrow will be a bruiser. We switch over to the Fifth Third Bank car, so we’re excited about that switch-over. And we raised a lot of money for Turns for Troops today, so all in all, a good day.”

5th – Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We were just missing a little bit of grip today, which was unfortunate. We were sliding around all day, especially that last stint. But it was close, we just missed it on the pit cycle there with the 27. We came out just behind [Alexander Rossi] and then I was fighting it out with Rosenqvist from there. I have no idea how Rahal got up there so it must have been through the pit cycle. We need to do some things to the car for tomorrow’s race because I was speeding around out there for sure. Hopefully we get this 28 DHL Honda further up front tomorrow.”

6th – Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a good race, for sure, starting P7 with a P6 finish for the NTT DATA team. It was good points, as well, but I’m a little disappointed because we had good speed on the reds in the beginning. I could have gotten around a few more guys, I think, and could have been a bit better on the pits than I did. I made a little slip there, but we have more potential in the car, and we’re looking to show that tomorrow.”

7th – Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda): “Really solid day for the Meyer Shank Racing guys. We started fifth and went on a bit of a bold strategy by starting on reds, which was quite a bit of a workout. After that, I thought we were pretty fast, to be honest. After today, we’re feeling pretty good about tomorrow’s race, but hopefully we can finish even better than today.”

8th – Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “Good race. I struggled a little bit at the beginning to get around slower traffic. Once I figured it out, it was really enjoyable. It definitely wasn’t a perfect race, but I’m happy with what we made of it and the speed we had. I think we can do even better in qualifying tomorrow, which will make the race easier.”

 

9th – Colton Herta (No. 88 Captstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda): “It was a solid recovery drive. I think we were on for a better race, but some stuff didn’t fall our way, and it was enough to push us into the back and we got behind some guys that we had to pass in our middle stint. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes. I wish we could’ve had clean track and we had the pace, but the good thing is that we have another race tomorrow.”

10th — Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s was just OK for us today in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. It just didn’t play out the way we thought it would. We went with a cautious move and made sure we ran the red tires first based on what we saw in qualifying. I guess looking back maybe we should have gone the other way, but who knows? Then we got caught up with (Colton) Herta on the pit exit, and I’m not sure what happened there or why he slowed up or whatever, but I thought we might have broken the front end after that. I hit him pretty hard, but I guess at the end of the day we made up seven or so spots, and that’s a small win.”

11th — Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “Yeah, we had a really messy day today. Not starting toward the front doesn’t make your life any easier. We had some clutch issues in the pits, which caused us to stall. That made it really difficult for us to get out of the box. We made up as much time as we could on track. We were very fast, and I think the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet was one of the best cars out there. We just didn’t quite perfect the little things that get you to the front today. We will work on that for tomorrow, and we should have a good race.”

12th — Alex Palou (No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “It was a tough day. Things went really well in practice this morning. I was very confident and comfortable with the No. 55 Guaranteed Rate car. Then in qualifying, the first two laps with the blacks were really good. I was P1 at the time, but I went off track and broke the underwing, so that ruined our run on the alternate Firestone tire. Starting 20th , there wasn’t a lot we could do. It was a difficult race just because we were quick but couldn’t overtake much. On the positive side, we gained the most positions of all drivers. At the end of the day, I don’t think there was much more we could do. It was tough, but we have another chance tomorrow to do better.”

13th — Conor Daly (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “We had a really good start, got up to third, which was nice. We struggled with the balance a little bit, but once we settled into fourth, we held our position. It was tough to nail the times we needed on the out laps. Running out of fuel, these things happen sometimes. It was a shame because we would have been in the top 10. Hopefully we can work on some race pace for tomorrow, and thankfully we have another day.”

14th — Santino Ferrucci (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “It was a very physical race. We had a really good start, and the SealMaster crew did a good job in the pits. We tried some things with the setup in practice this morning, but it’s hard with minimal track time. We just have to focus on tomorrow and get the car in the top 10.”

15th — Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It hasn’t been a great day, to be honest. We struggled a lot in qualifying, and we’re not really sure why. The car felt decent, but our lap time just wasn’t there and on the reds, especially. We need to dig into that tonight and see if we find something for tomorrow. There might be some rain, as well, tomorrow, which will turn everything upside down. We definitely have some things to improve on for qualifying. For the race, starting from the back is always difficult. I think we had a decent race and we moved forward, but P15 is not what we’re here for. We will keep pushing, and tomorrow is a new day and a new chance for qualifying and the race. We look forward to fighting back and have a good day tomorrow.”

16th — Max Chilton (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “It was a tough race for us, honestly. We had a fairly decent run at qualifying earlier today, finishing sixth in our group and just barely missing out on a top-10 start for the Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet in Race 1. We lost a few spots at the start of the race, and then after that it was just tough to get around anyone and get those positions back. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t go forward like we would’ve liked, and we definitely have some things to look at tonight. But thankfully we get another chance tomorrow to do it all again, and we’ve already shown in qualifying that we have the speed to be battling with the guys in the top 10.”

17th — Takuma Sato (No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough race and a lot of hard work but didn’t really reflect on the result, which is a shame. There was actually no drama; it was a caution-free race. Strategy-wise, we tried to gain back the positions but were just not quite there. We need to work on it for tomorrow. It was hot, we sweat and lost a lot of pounds and weight. We will have a good recovery tonight and hopefully be OK for tomorrow.”

18th — Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Frustrating day for the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. We had some good pace, but with no cautions and the mistake at the beginning of the race, it was hard to make up the track position. Just spun out and stalled the car and couldn’t get it refired. We tried to short pit and gain some track position, but without any cautions, there wasn’t much else we could do. Hopefully, we can go out there tomorrow and do better.”

19th — Oliver Askew (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “It was a tough day for the entire team. You’re always going into the race on your back foot when you don’t qualify toward the front. The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet felt strong during the race, but it’s always tough to pass at Mid-Ohio and we just couldn’t make up ground. The entire team will put in the work tonight to figure out how we can be better and faster tomorrow. Looking forward to getting another shot at it.”

20th — Zach Veach (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “The race started off really well for us. The first stint we were moving forward and had really good pace. Once we threw the Firestone blacks on, we really just suffered with a loose car. I think our setup favored the reds. As the track progressed, the front kept gripping up more and more, making the rear more and more of a problem. It was just too loose throughout the day, just really hard to keep going forward after that. It was an extremely physical race, too. Not too many tracks make me feel like I’m 5’4”, but this is one place that is really, really tough when you’re small in one of these things.”

21st — Charlie Kimball (No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a really tough day, honestly. We missed it a little bit in qualifying, and I feel like we missed it a lot in the race. The 14 car looked a little more competitive in the race, so we’ll look at what they did and come up with some ideas. The nice thing is that we get to do it all again tomorrow, so I have a lot of faith in the No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing crew. We just have to sit down, put all our heads together and come up with something to start tomorrow.”

22nd — Dalton Kellett (No. 14 K-Line USA / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Not the overall finishing position we’d like, but I think we found some easy time to gain in qualifying for tomorrow. So, hopefully we should be able to qualify a little further up the grid, and that will definitely make it a little easier because when you’re starting at the back there, by the end of the first lap you’re already a significant chunk behind the leaders and it’s a short lap. So, then with the pit cycles, you end up kind of risking going a lap down and getting caught in a pack that’s at a different speed than you, so that can be a bit difficult. So, really the goal for tomorrow is qualifying further up. That will make our lives easier and keep working on the car. I think we’ve made the car better from practice to qualifying to the race and definitely learned some good lessons today that we can take into tomorrow.”

23rd — Marco Andretti (No. 98 Surgere / Curb Honda): “I think the 98 car really had potential today. Our qualifying didn’t quite show our speed. Another lap, and we could have broken the top six. But I think we could have done something from 11th. The race was kind of wasted from the start. We had a mistake with the rear tires, and with the impound rule, the penalty would have been too great if we had fixed it. So, we took the green and hoped to make the best out of it. We were able to gain a couple spots. I held on as long as I could. But we had to pit too far off strategy. It put us into a fuel saving race after already dropping back.”

Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah, good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.”