Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Best of the Month: June 2021

Where has this year gone? June is over! Six months down, six to go. It felt like we tip-toed into January and were uncertain but hopeful for the year ahead. It felt like we were on the cusp of a breakthrough, we just had to get through a few more grueling months. Things took a turn for a better in March and April, and by the start of June things, dare I say, started to feel normal. 

It is a little surreal after the year we have experienced. It doesn't take much to return to normal, but it is still a shock to the system. We will get reacclimated quickly, but I am not sure we will ever entirely forget what it felt like to live the opposite for so long. 

With that said, what has the start of summer brought us? 

IndyCar's young crop of drivers are all likable. 

We see drivers join the scene all the time and there are different personalities. Some will rub off the wrong way. They either are too brash or too inconsiderate or just plain dull. That's fine. Not everyone is going to be your cup of tea. It is ok to be different. 

However, it feels like every driver to enter IndyCar in the last two years is just a good guy. 

I look at Rinus VeeKay, Álex Palou, Patricio O'Ward, Colton Herta, Oliver Askew, Scott McLaughlin and the like and they are all just nice guys. 

I don't think I have seen any of these guys in a bad mood, but even if they are, it does not last long. They are all just not those kinds of guys. 

Take VeeKay. Over his first two IndyCar seasons, he has had ups and downs. Many thought he was blowing his IndyCar opportunity in his very first IndyCar race weekend when he had an accident in practice and then had an accident in the early stages of the race in Texas. We never saw him clam up and become recluse. He remained cheery and that has carried over into 2021, even after he broke his thumb in testing at Indianapolis. 

But I think VeeKay is a genuinely good person. Pit reporter Katie Kiel is expecting her first child and VeeKay surprised her with a gift at the Belle Isle weekend. VeeKay is only 20 years old and that is a mature act of generosity. That shows me he really considers IndyCar his home and the people involved are more than just competitors and colleagues, but as friends and family. 

Every time Palou speaks, I hear a guy who is always joyful and finds positivity in the little things. Has anyone heard him angry? This year has been going the Spaniard's way, but even last year when the results didn't necessarily match his pace, Palou would get out of the car and find a positive out a top fifteen finish when he probably should have had a top ten finish. 

Then you have Scott McLaughlin, who has not only joined a new series but moved to a completely new continent and has jokingly been learning about the United States. McLaughlin comes off as humble and enthusiastic to learn this new place he is calling home. The most endearing things from McLaughlin this season could be at the preseason Texas test when he got out of the car raving in excitement and Josef Newgarden couldn't understand why he was so happy after a test. If that doesn't speak volumes to McLaughlin's personality, I don't know what else could. 

Likability can be found up and down the IndyCar grid. It feels like every driver that is around is in a good mood and is happy to be there. I am not sure if that was always the case. That definitely wasn't the case back in the days of The Split, but I would say especially over the last five or six years, IndyCar has a group that wants to be there, include the new faces. That is a good thing for the series.

Speaking of likability, Ryan Eversley won in IMSA's Michelin Pilot Challenge TC class at Watkins Glen and that comes a week before his announce NASCAR Cup Series debut at Road America with Rick Ware Racing. 

Eversley has been a wonderful sports car driver over the last decade and his success on-track, whether it be in Pirelli World Challenge or IMSA, has been accompanied with off-track success in the form of the Dinner with Racers podcast and Amazon Prime show. 

It is cool to see Eversley getting this opportunity, even if it is with the worst team on the NASCAR grid. There was a time when a road course ringer could enter a NASCAR race and take a car that was struggling to crack the top 25 on a regular basis and put it in the top ten. That is not going to happen this weekend with Eversley and Rick Ware Racing. 

It has been covered before that the true road ringer is dead in the NASCAR Cup Series, as the championship format forces teams to stick with a driver because that driver needs to start all the races to qualify for the playoffs. We also have charters locking teams in, so they don't need to fight in the owners' championship and could use a road course as a boost over a rival team. 

Eversley's attempt would be more exciting if he was in a car such as a JTG Daugherty Racing's #37 Chevrolet. Fifteen years ago, the #37 Chevrolet would be a prime seat for a road course ringer. Ryan Preece likely would not be suited for a great finish, he isn't in contention for a great championship finish, but JTG Daugherty Racing has shown good pace and someone like Eversley could carry that car ten spots up the order. 

There is not much you can get out of a Rick Ware Racing entry. Even James Davison would be better suited in a car like the #37 Chevrolet. I think Davison has shown he is quite suited to a stock car. Davison has been the best Rick Ware Racing driver, but that is only going to get you 30th on a good day, even on a road course.

Eversley will get his name in the NASCAR record book. He might get another start or two and add to it, but one is enough and hopefully we get to see a few more fun additions to the history book, but in better equipment.

MotoE Negligence
I must admit I completely forget the MotoE season was taking place until a week or two ago, and at that point I had missed three races. I missed including three race winners in the Winners From the Weekend section every Monday. I was able to include Eric Granado's victory at Assen this weekend.

Here is a chance to make that right. Alessandro Zaccone won at Jerez, Eric Granado won at Le Mans and Miguel Pons won at Barcelona. 

Zaccone leads the championship with 70 points, seven ahead of Jordi Torres, 17 about of Granado and Dominique Aegerter, 27 points ahead of Mattia Casadei and 28 points ahead of Pons. 

There are three races left, one at the Red Bull Ring on August 15 and a doubleheader at the Misano weekend on September 18-19.

Consider yourself caught up. 

July Preview
I feel like July will be the month of the summer break. 

IndyCar has one race this weekend at Mid-Ohio and then doesn't run again until Nashville on August 8. MotoGP is already on summer break and will race at the Red Bull Ring on August 8. 

Not every series has a break. Formula One's summer break doesn't come until August. 

It has felt like a busy year. Most weekends have had more races than I can keep track of and it doesn't feel like this is how it normally was. These weekends would happen every now and then, but these weekends are coming at two and three consecutive weeks at a time. Before, it felt like this would happen once a month and the other three were manageable. 

The most notable event of July might be the Spa 24 Hours and that doesn't begin until July 31 and ends on August 1. There are a few grand prix and the FIA World Endurance Championship will make its debut at Monza, but July just doesn't have a significant event, one that can't miss. It is rather bland.

Other notable events in July:
Formula One will have races at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and the Hungaroring. 
NASCAR takes the Cup Series to Road America for the first time since 1956. 
Formula E will have races in Brooklyn and London. 
World Superbike visits Donington Park and Assen.
Estonia will get to host a World Rally Championship round.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Musings From the Weekend: IndyCar's Rock and a Hard Place

Formula One had its first weekend of a doubleheader in Austria and Red Bull started with Max Verstappen picking up the victory, his fourth of the season. NASCAR had a doubleheader at Pocono, and there was a gearbox issue and fuel mileage deciding the race. Ryan Norman announced he would be making his IndyCar debut next weekend at Mid-Ohio. IMSA had a lengthy qualifying session at Watkins Glen. The World Rally Championship visited Kenya. Garrett Gerloff became the first American on the MotoGP grid since 2016. I have completely neglected the MotoE championship and Assen was round four of that season. June is almost over, and the halfway point of the year is upon us. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking.

IndyCar's Rock and a Hard Place
Here we are in the middle of 2021, the tenth season of the DW12 chassis and the 2.2-liter, V6-engine era of IndyCar, and after a decade with these technical regulations, IndyCar has been in great shape for years. 

For the last few seasons, we have been talking about this being a golden age for the series. Between having historic drivers in Scott Dixon and Will Power competing against an emerging next generation led by Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi with a wave of even younger and just as talented drivers behind that pair of Americans, IndyCar's long-term future is promising. 

And we haven't mentioned the racing. The DW12 chassis has produced staggering racing across the board. Street courses are passing frenzies. Belle Isle, of all places, has become a fun track. We have seen better racing at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca, two tracks once viewed as not being the liveliest venues for IndyCar and requiring re-configurations to become suitable venues. Ovals have been stellar from thrilling races at breathtaking speeds at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana to dicey races at Iowa and Gateway.

On top of all of that, IndyCar is becoming a destination series with drivers now viewing it as a serious option. Not long ago, Formula One drivers were not looking at IndyCar as a possible landing spot when they lost a ride. In recent years, Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean have joined the series and expressed love for the series. Grosjean called Road America one of the most fun races he has ever had in his career. Kevin Magnussen stepped into an IndyCar as a substitute, a cameo appearance that was unheard of as recently as five years ago. Jimmie Johnson is even in the series on all the road and street courses.

Yet, despite all the excitement around IndyCar and increased interest, IndyCar is being overtaken as Formula One is seeing larger growth in the United States.

Formula One television ratings have shot up in the United States and races are drawing over a million viewers in their live television slot in the morning. Meanwhile, IndyCar has remained in the same ballpark it has always been in. There might be some growth, but it is marginal in comparison and overall viewership is behind Formula One, the series once considered a distant third in this country. Formula One hasn't even had a live race on network television yet and on ESPN and ESPN2 alone, Formula One is beating IndyCar's average, and IndyCar has had six of its first eight races on network television.

Netflix's Drive to Survive series has converted people into full-time viewers of Formula One. They are not interested in how the racing is because they have bought into the story and the drama. The intrigue is there. And though Formula One is frequently put down because of its racing product, the 2021 season has had plenty of thrilling races already and we aren't even at the halfway point in the season. With a possible championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton going to the wire, Formula One could have a record-shattering year in the United States. 

And Formula One is growth despite the absence of an American driver. Hell, Americans didn't even need Haas to be competitive to get interested. Drive to Survive presented the drivers as people and the audience fell in love with the story. Americans don't need Americans to fall in love with a sport. Soccer has been growing in this country over the last two decades and while the likes of the U.S. national teams on the men's and women's level both have played their part, people will tune in for a thrilling UEFA Champions League match or a UEFA Euro knockout game or even a World Cup match between two European countries or a top South American country and a European country in droves. 

Americans help, see what Christian Pulisic's presence at Chelsea has done especially as Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League this year and Pulisic played a key part throughout that competition and was a substitute in the final. 

But Americans are not required pieces and we are seeing that with Formula One. Americans can relate to Hamilton, Verstappen, Daniel Riccardo, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and the rest of them even though they all come from different countries.

While Formula One is bursting onto the scene, the American-based IndyCar feels like just another series. NASCAR is still king, and NASCAR is having successful new events in Austin and Nashville. Formula One is already in Austin and may soon have a race in Miami. IndyCar will be adding a new street race in Nashville, but it also lost Iowa, lost Austin, Richmond's return has been indefinitely delayed, and IndyCar is struggling to keep its head above water as the series navigates these rocky times. While Formula One is adding Turkey to its schedule in place of a lost round and could also possibly add a second race in Austin, IndyCar has decided not to make up the lost Toronto round and the 2021 season will be one fewer race than originally schedule. 

IndyCar might be a fun series with great racing, and it might be getting more respect than it has at any point over the last 30 years, but it just doesn't seem to matter. While the likes of Johnson and Grosjean add recognition to the series, IndyCar does not have as great a wave of momentum behind it as Formula One does right now.

IndyCar has its own lot of young and likable drivers. There is an emerging core of drivers that could be around for the next 20 years. The competition is every part as fierce, and arguably more so, and yet IndyCar is still IndyCar. The masses have abjectly rejected the series regardless of its quality. IndyCar has almost failed selling itself despite the product being equal to or greater than both Formula One and NASCAR.

Even after the great Road America race, The Athletic's Jeff Gluck omitted mentioning it in his weekly Top Five column. The NASCAR weekend from Nashville and the French Grand Prix were mentioned, but IndyCar wasn't. In fairness to Gluck and everyone at The Athletic, they have had broader motorsports coverage over the last year and IndyCar has been regularly mentioned in Gluck's Top Five column and on The Athletic's Teardown podcast, but last week, despite having Álex Palou win his second race of the year, stealing one from Josef Newgarden and Team Penske when Newgarden had a mechanical issue on the restart with two laps to go, and Palou took the championship lead with that victory, it couldn't even get a blurb. 

I am not sure what else IndyCar can do. In three years, Formula One has flipped itself from deep niche to trendy in the United States with people who had never once engaged with it openly talking about it. And Formula One wasn't even trying to do that. It allowed Netflix to film a series, most of the teams bought in, and it caught the attention of the masses. It was a low risk bet and it is paying off. 

It could have been IndyCar. There was nothing stopping the series from taking such a chance. It really had nothing to lose, and yet IndyCar, as IndyCar does best, remained stagnant. I think too often IndyCar cannot see beyond its Midwestern homestead. It lacks the ambition to be greater than it is because it does not want to lose its roots. The only problem is the roots have shriveled to half its original length. Its reach has been far from great for the last 25 years. It has needed to branch out and engage with people from afar and IndyCar is either unable or unwilling to do it. There is almost an unsubstantiated hope IndyCar will one day just blossom again purely from a nostalgic society that will see how great and meaningful IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 once was and people just reincorporate it back into their lives. 

That's not going to happen. There is no aligning of the planets that will lead IndyCar back to general appeal. It requires work and presenting the series as something worthy of interest. But IndyCar has missed its chance. Formula One took the docuseries bet and is reaping the reward. A spin-off, or more accurately a knock-off, of Drive to Survive is not going to be as close to as successful. Although, we do live in a world where there are 800 real housewives shows, so maybe IndyCar having a trashy stepsister series to Formula One's Drive to Survive could work, but I doubt the appetite is that large for docuseries revolving around motorsports series. People likely get their fill on Drive to Survive alone.  

IndyCar has a lot going right for it. As a motorsports series, there is not much more you could ask for, but despite all it does on track and who is driving in the series, IndyCar continues to struggle presenting itself to the masses and attracting an audience. I don't want to say I never thought IndyCar would fall behind Formula One in the United States, but IndyCar could quickly become the third-most popular series behind one that only visits once a year and whose drivers only see it as a vacation spot and not home. Five years ago, that didn't seem like a possibility, but Formula One flipped the script and despite not having any deep tie to the United States it is making in-roads while the domestic IndyCar appears lost in its own backyard. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Max Verstappen, but did you know...

Fabio Quartararo won the Dutch TT, his fourth victory of the season. Raúl Fernández won the Moto2 race, his third victory of the season. Dennis Foggia won the Moto3 race, his second victory of the season. Eric Granado won the MotoE race, his second victory of the season.  

The #55 Mazda of Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito won the 6 Hours of the Glen. The #11 WIN Autosport Oreca-Gibson of Tristan Nunez, Thomas Merrill and Steven Thomas won in the LMP2 class. The #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier-Nissan of Felipe Fraga, Gar Robinson and Scott Andrews won in the LMP3 class. The #3 Corvette of Antonio García and Jordan Taylor won in the GTLM class. The #96 Turner Motorsport BMW of Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and Aidan Read won in GTD class.

Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch split the NASCAR Cup races from Pocono, their third and second victories of the season respectively. Austin Cindric won the Grand National Series race, his fourth victory of the season. John Hunter Nemechek won the Truck race, his fifth victory of the season.

Yann Ehrlacher and Attila Tassi split the World Touring Car Cup races from Estoril. 

Sébastien Ogier won the Safari Rally, his fourth victory of the WRC season. 

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar spends the holiday at Mid-Ohio. 
NASCAR Cup Series returns to Road America for the first time since 1956.
Formula One remains in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix.
IMSA will run a sprint race on Friday evening at Watkins Glen. 
Superbike returns to Donington Park. 
GT World Challenge Europe has a sprint round in Misano.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Let's Look at the League: June 2021

With the recent news IndyCar will not have a replacement race for Toronto, we surpassed the halfway point of the 2021 season at Road America. Nine races in, we take our first look at what IndyCar would look like in a league format with head-to-head matchups

The Toronto alternation does affect this fictitious exercise, as we lose a round, and need to find a replacement. We will make this simple, Gateway qualifying will replace it. 

One, it is simple. Two, it does not retroactively apply say Indianapolis 500 qualifying results to a matchup. Let's look forward, not backward.

What happens if Gateway qualifying is rained out? That round will be decided via entrant points. It's bland, but this doesn't exist. There is no point in creating a headache over make-believe.  

We will start with the top league and how those two conferences are setting up before looking at the second league.

League One Results

Week 1 (BARBER):

#9 Ganassi vs. #29 Andretti (3 to 17)

#5 AMSP vs. #21 ECR (4 to 6)

#12 Penske vs. 18 Coyne (2 to 15)

#22 Penske vs. #27 Andretti (12 to 9)


#2 Penske vs. #7 AMSP (23 to 21)

#26 Andretti. vs. #51 Coyne (22 to 10)

#15 RLLR vs. #10 Ganassi (7 to 1)
#30 RLLR vs #28 Andretti (13 to 24)



#9 Ganassi vs. #21 ECR (5 to 9)

#5 AMSP vs. #29 Andretti (19 to 18)

#12 Penske vs. #22 Penske (8 to 3)

#27 Andretti vs. #18 Coyne (21 to 20)


#2 Penske vs. #51 Coyne (2 to 13)

#26 Andretti vs. #7 AMSP (1 to 12)

#15 RLLR vs. #30 RLLR (15 to 6)

#28 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (14 to 17)


Week 3 (TEXAS):

#9 Ganassi vs. #18 Coyne (1 to 12)

#5 AMSP vs. #22 Penske (3 to 10)

#12 Penske vs. #29 Andretti (14 to 23)

#27 Andretti vs. #21 ECR (8 to 20)


#2 Penske vs. #10 Ganassi (6 to 4)

#26 Andretti vs. #30 RLLR (22 to 9)

#15 RLLR vs. #7 AMSP (5 to 13)

#28 Andretti vs. #51 Coyne (16 to 15)


Week 4 (TEXAS):

#9 Ganassi vs. #27 Andretti (4 to 20)
#5 AMSP vs. #18 Coyne (1 to 22)

#12 Penske vs. #21 ECR (13 to 9)

#22 Penske vs #29 Andretti (6 to 18)


#2 Penske vs. #28 Andretti (2 to 10)

#26 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (5 to 7)

#15 RLLR vs. #51 Coyne (3 to 21)

#30 RLLR vs. #7 AMSP (14 to 16)


Week 5 (GPOI):

#9 Ganassi vs. #22 Penske (9 to 6)

#5 AMSP vs. #12 Penske (15 to 11)

#27 Andretti vs. #29 Andretti (7 to 18)

#18 Coyne vs. #21 ECR (14 to 1)


#2 Penske vs. #30 RLLR (4 to 16)

#26 Andretti vs. #15 RLLR (13 to 5)

#28 Andretti vs. #7 AMSP (12 to 17)

#10 Ganassi vs. #51 Coyne (3 to 2)


Week 6 (INDIANAPOLIS 500):

#9 Ganassi vs. #12 Penske (17 to 30)

#5 AMSP vs. #27 Andretti (4 to 29)

#22 Penske vs. #21 ECR (3 to 8)

#18 Coyne vs. #29 Andretti (28 to 21)


#2 Penske vs. #15 RLLR (12 to 32)

#26 Andretti vs. #28 Andretti (16 to 22)

#30 RLLR vs. #51 Coyne (14 to 25)

#10 Ganassi vs. #7 AMSP (2 to 27)


Week 7 (BELLE ISLE):

#9 Ganassi vs. #5 AMSP (8 to 3)

#12 Penske vs. #27 Andretti (20 to 7)

#22 Penske vs. #18 Coyne (12 to 9)

#21 ECR vs. #29 Andretti (2 to 17)


#2 Penske vs. #26 Andretti (10 to 14)

#15 RLLR vs. #28 Andretti (5 to 21)

#30 RLLR vs. #10 Ganassi (4 to 15)
#51 Coyne vs. #7 AMSP (23 to 25)


Week 8 (BELLE ISLE):

#9 Ganassi vs. #29 Andretti (7 to 14)

#5 AMSP vs. #21 ECR (1 to 18)

#12 Penske vs. 18 Coyne (6 to 17)

#22 Penske vs. #27 Andretti (8 to 13)


#2 Penske vs. #7 AMSP (2 to 25)

#26 Andretti vs. #51 Coyne (3 to 24)

#15 RLLR vs. #10 Ganassi (5 to 3)
#30 RLLR vs #28 Andretti (12 to 11)



#9 Ganassi vs. #21 ECR (4 to 12)

#5 AMSP vs. #29 Andretti (9 to 15)

#12 Penske vs. #22 Penske (3 to 18)

#27 Andretti vs. #18 Coyne (7 to 23)


#2 Penske vs. #51 Coyne (21 to 5)

#26 Andretti vs. #7 AMSP (2 to 24)

#15 RLLR vs. #30 RLLR (11 to 8) 

#28 Andretti vs. #10 Ganassi (13 to 1)

League One Standings
Conference One

1. #5 AMSP (7-2)

    Patricio O'Ward season has him on top through nine rounds. O'Ward opened the season 3-2 with his only losses being to James Hinchcliffe at St. Petersburg and Will Power at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. O'Ward is 4-0 since, which included beating Alexander Rossi in the Indianapolis 500 and Scott Dixon in the first Belle Isle race.

2. #9 Ganassi (7-2)

    Based on his loss to O'Ward at Belle Isle, Dixon is second on tiebreaker. Dixon's other loss was the Simon Pagenaud at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He knocked off Rossi in the second Texas race and Power in the Indianapolis 500.

3. #27 Andretti (5-4)

    Rossi leads a three-way tie with Pagenaud and Power.

Pagenaud won at St. Petersburg over Power and Power won over Pagenaud at Road America. Rossi and Pagenaud split their two meetings. Rossi was on top at Barber and Pagenaud was on top at Belle Isle. Rossi defeated Power in the first Belle Isle race and they will meet in the regular season finale at Gateway. 

For now, Rossi is on top at 2-1, while Pagenaud is 2-2 and Power is 1-2. If they are still tied overall and if they are all 2-2 against each other, the tiebreaker will be best race finish. Power's best finish is second, while Pagenaud has finished third in two races and Rossi has yet to finish in the top five. 

4. #22 Penske (5-4)

    Pagenaud holds the final playoff spot, but the next two rounds will be pivotal. He has O'Ward and Dixon. However, Pagenaud ends with two favorable matchups against the bottom two entries in this conference. 

5. #12 Penske (5-4)

    Rossi could be 4-5 if it wasn't for Power's failure in the first Belle Isle race, and then Power would be 6-3. That gifted Rossi a victory. However, it kind of balances out after St. Petersburg. That flat tire caused Rossi to lose to Ed Jones by a single spot. Without that contact, Rossi likely finishes at least 12 spots ahead of Jones. I expect this to go to the wire. 

6. #21 ECR (3-6)

    While Rinus VeeKay has been a shining star of this season, with a race victory to boot, his head-to-head outcomes have not been in his favor. Three of his losses have been when he has finished in the top ten. In each of those losses, his opponent finished in the top five. Talk about luck of the draw. Oliver Askew tried his best at Road America, but a 12th was no match for Scott Dixon in fourth.

7. #29 Andretti (2-7)

    James Hinchcliffe's horrible season does not fine a silver lining in the land of make-believe. Hinchcliffe won week two at St. Petersburg over O'Ward and at the Indianapolis 500 over Ed Jones. You aren't going to win many when you have two top fifteen finishes through nine races.    

8. #18 Coyne (2-7)

    Jones is last based on Hinchcliffe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Jones' two victories are against Rossi at St. Petersburg and in the first Belle Isle race over Pagenaud. 

Conference Two

1. #30 RLLR (7-2)

    The lucky duckling of the year so far is Takuma Sato. Last year, it was Felix Rosenqvist with an unusually successful record in head-to-head matchups. In 2021, it is Sato, who is tenth in the championship, and yet leads his conference despite being behind four of his conference rivals in the championship, one of which is the championship leader. 


    Sato opened the year 4-0 before losing to Josef Newgarden at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and his second loss was to Ryan Hunter-Reay in the second Belle Isle race.

2. #2 Penske (6-3)

    The defending league champion Newgarden is second, but a few cruel results have kept him from the top spot. One was his opening lap accident Barber, which was an immediate defeat to an underwhelming Rosenqvist. Newgarden was sixth in the first Texas race, but lost to Álex Palou, who was fourth. Newgarden's third loss was Road America, a race he had in the bag, and a head-to-head matchup that was not in doubt over Romain Grosjean until a gearbox issue on the penultimate lap.

3. #51 Coyne (5-4)

    Speaking of Romain Grosjean, his results in the #51 Coyne entry have led to it being in a three-way tie for third. The good news is the #51 Coyne entry is 2-1 over Colton Herta and Álex Palou, giving it third on tiebreaker. Grosjean beat Herta at Barber and Palou at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Grosjean is 4-2 with losses to Newgarden at St. Petersburg, and in the second Belle Isle race to Herta when Grosjean retired from that race. Pietro Fittipaldi is 1-2 in this entry. Fittipaldi defeated Hunter-Reay in the first Texas race. 

With news out that Grosjean plans to run Gateway, he could decide this entry's fate, or he could get put in a third car and it could come down to Fittipaldi.

4. #26 Andretti (5-4)

    Herta takes the final playoff spot for now, as he defeated Palou at the second Texas race. It has been hit or miss for Herta. All his losses have come from finishes outside the top ten. The one saving grace is he has one win while finishing outside the top ten. That was the Indianapolis 500, as Herta was 16th to his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay's 22nd. 

5. #10 Ganassi (5-4)

    How is the championship leader outside the playoff picture through nine weeks? Palou has lost twice while finishing in the top ten. Once was to Herta at Texas and the other was finishing third in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis while Grosjean ended up second. Flip one of those results and Palou is in. Flip both and he is second. Palou will face Grosjean again in Nashville and Herta in Gateway qualifying.

6. #15 RLLR (4-5)

    Graham Rahal has not had a poor year, and a few of these losses are tough to swallow. Rahal was seventh at Barber, but was paired against Palou, who won the race. He crashed out of Indianapolis when his left rear tire was not secured after a pit stop and he was paired against Newgarden. While Newgarden finished 12th, Rahal was looking at a top five finish and a shot at victory. Then in the second Road America race, Rahal lost spots late and Sato passed him on fresher tires as Sato was off-strategy. Let's say Rahal's tire is secure at Indianapolis and the Ed Jones caution does not come out at Road America, Rahal is likely 6-3, a much more respectable record.

7. #28 Andretti (3-6)

    Like Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay's season has been dreadful, yet a 3-6 record is a positive. Hunter-Reay got a break that a 14th was good enough at St. Petersburg. A 12th also worked at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis over Rosenqvist. He got Sato by a spot in the second Belle Isle race, 11th to 12th. All three of Hunter-Reay's wins are from results outside the top ten. He lost the one race he finished in the top ten. It is crazy how these things shake out.

#8 #7 AMSP (1-8)

    It has not been a fun season for whoever drives the #7 AMSP Chevrolet. Felix Rosenqvist is 1-6 with his only victory being week one with a 21st as he was paired with Newgarden, who ended up 23rd. Since then, it has been eight consecutive losses and both Oliver Askew and Kevin Magnussen retired in their starts as substitutes. This entry is in grave danger of relegation. 

League Two Results
Week 1:
#8 Ganassi vs. #48 Ganassi (8 to 19)
#60 MSR vs. #3 Penske (11 to 14)
#59 Carlin vs. #20 ECR (20 to 16)
#4 Foyt vs. #14 Foyt (18 to 5)
Week 2:
#8 Ganassi vs. #3 Penske (7 to 11)
#60 MSR vs. #48 Ganassi (4 to 22)
#59 Carlin vs. #4 Foyt (24 to 23)
#14 Foyt vs. #20 ECR (10 to 16)
Week 3:
#8 Ganassi vs. #20 ECR (19 to 17)
#60 MSR vs. #4 Foyt (7 to 18)
#59 Carlin vs. #48 Ganassi (21 to 11)
#14 Foyt vs. #3 Penske (24 to 2)
Week 4:
#8 Ganassi vs. #14 Foyt (12 to 19)
#60 MSR vs. #20 ECR (17 to 11)
#59 Carlin vs. #3 Penske (24 to 8)
#4 Foyt vs. #48 Ganassi (23 to 15)
Week 5:
#8 Ganassi vs. #4 Foyt (10 to 20)
#60 MSR vs. #59 Carlin (23 to WD)
#14 Foyt vs. #48 Ganassi (19 to 24)
#20 ECR vs. #3 Penske (25 to 8)
Week 6:
#8 Ganassi vs. #59 Carlin (11 to 24)
#60 MSR vs. #14 Foyt (18 to 26)
#4 Foyt vs. #3 Penske (23 to 20)
#20 ECR vs #48 Ganassi (5 to 10)
Week 7:
#8 Ganassi vs. #60 MSR (1 to 16)
#59 Carlin vs. #14 Foyt (22 to 11)
#4 Foyt vs. #20 ECR (18 to 13)
#3 Penske vs. #48 Ganassi (19 to 24)
Week 8:
#8 Ganassi vs. #48 Ganassi (9 to 21)
#60 MSR vs. #3 Penske (19 to 20)
#59 Carlin vs. #20 ECR (22 to 15)
#4 Foyt vs. #14 Foyt (23 to 16)
Week 9:
#8 Ganassi vs. #3 Penske (6 to 14)
#60 MSR vs. #48 Ganassi (17 to 22)
#59 Carlin vs. #4 Foyt (10 to 25)
#14 Foyt vs. #20 ECR (16 to 20)

League Two Standings

1. #8 Ganassi (8-1)

    When you win a race and are eighth in the championship with six top ten finishes, you will likely be 8-1 and leading league two. Marcus Ericsson's one loss is to Ed Carpenter in the first Texas race and that was after Ericsson had a botched pit stop and a tire was not properly secured. Ericsson was set for a top ten that day.

2. #60 MSR (7-2)

    Though Jack Harvey has not been as putting up the best results, Harvey's losses are the second Texas race when he had to retire due a wheel bearing issue and the first Belle Isle race, when he was paired with Ericsson and Ericsson won. 

3. #14 Foyt (6-3)

    For the rotten luck Sébastien Bourdais has had, he keeps getting the results in the head-to-head meetings. Two of his losses are the Texas races where Newgarden run over him in race one and he was collected in the start line accident. The other loss was to Harvey in the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais is 6-0 on road/street courses and there are three left with Gateway and Gateway qualifying the final two rounds.

4. #20 ECR (6-3)

    Ed Carpenter is 3-0. Conor Daly is 3-3, but Daly has won two of the last three rounds. 

5. #3 Penske (5-4)

    Scott McLaughlin's foray into IndyCar has been good. McLaughlin has hit a rough patch in recent weeks. He is 3-0 on the ovals. 

6. #48 Ganassi (2-7)

    Tony Kanaan is 2-1. Jimmie Johnson is 0-6. The one loss for Kanaan was to Carpenter at Indianapolis when Kanaan was tenth and Carpenter was fifth. 

7. #59 Carlin (1-8)

8. #4 Foyt (1-8)

    Dalton Kellett's only win was over Max Chilon at St. Petersburg. Kellett was 23rd with an engine failure after 67 laps. Chilton retired after 18 laps due to a hydraulic issue and was classified in 24th. 

    Max Chilton avenged that loss at Road America, as Chilton was tenth and Kellett retired with another engine failure after 19 laps. They are tied head-to-head; therefore, the tiebreaker is best finish, and Chilton takes it with a tenth to Kellett's 18th. 

Where do we go from here?
This is my third year doing this exercise and this is the closest I can recall it being through half a season. 

There were years where one of the relegated teams was already clear. While the #7 AMSP entry is in danger, it could easily turn it around. Meanwhile, the #29 Andretti entry and the #18 Coyne entry are tied, the #21 ECR entry, which won a race, is only one victory to the good and there is a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots in each conference and the overall championship leader could be out. 

A lot will change. We will see some teams fall and other rise. With the way this season has been playing out, we cannot rule anything out. It would not be surprising to see the entire standings flips once we get through Gateway.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Musings From the Weekend: Plug It In, Plug It In

Álex Palou is back on top of the IndyCar world. Team Penske continues to find new ways to lose races. Red Bull pulled a page out of the Mercedes playbook. Gene Haas took some time off from his disappointing team in the United States to visit his disappointing team in France. Things looked familiar in Germany. Formula E visited a new venue in Mexico. The NASCAR Cup Series visited a new venue in Tennessee. SRX had its first dirt race. Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters had its first race weekend under GT3-specs. There was a first-time winner in Super Formula. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking. 

Plug It In, Plug It In
A week ago, IndyCar was coming off a thrilling and yet displeasing weekend at Belle Isle. While two races produced two stunning winners, the surrounding circumstances took over the conversation afterward and the finish of Saturday's race was still a live wire days later. 

IndyCar's decision to red flag the race to ensure an attempt at a green flag finish brought the field to pit lane with five laps to go. When it came time to restart the race, the leader Will Power was unable to re-fire. Out of the lead he fell and Marcus Ericsson made the easiest pass for victory in his career. Ericsson led the final five laps and Power wound up 20th. 

While speculation heat caused Power's car to fail to restart, it was actual an improper shut down sequence that confused the ECU and prevented the car from re-firing when it was time for the race to resume. With only two crew members allowed to be at the car under a red flag, Power's team was not able to have a Chevrolet engine technician plug into the car and work out the technical error. 

This error also caused Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay to stall on the grid for the 2020 season opener at Texas and forced all three to serve penalties on the opening lap for receiving unapproved assistance on the grid.

It was an inconvenient error, but from the sounds of it one that can be easily rectified with the allowance of engine technicians to be at each car during a red flag. Each team has an engine technician provided from the manufactures. Everyone would have equal opportunity to make sure their cars properly restart and it is an amendment IndyCar should make, especially if it is red flagging races for the sake of a finish. 

If IndyCar wants to ensure an attempt at a green flag finish then it should also ensure all the cars properly restart because of its decision. 

The difference in how IndyCar and pretty much every North America series regulate a red flag and Formula One is notable. In North America, once a red flag is out, no one is allowed to work on the cars, and work is a pretty broad term. Inadvertently touching the car could be ruled an infraction. Officials are strict when it comes to it. In Formula One, a red flag comes out and every crew member is rushing to the car.

A Formula One car is a complex machine and it needs all that attention to make sure it will properly run when the race restarts. Those cars cannot idle for long before it overheats and it is race over. Formula One allows the teams to keep the car operational. An IndyCar is not the same level of technological wizardry, but it is not as simple as flicking a switch. IndyCar does not have on-board starters. Outside assistance is always necessary, and if it is always necessary, why prevent essential personnel from servicing the car?

IndyCar does not need to adopt Formula One's level of freedom when it comes to the red flag, but with the introduction of the aeroscreen and this possible shut down error that can cause the ECU to become unresponsive, IndyCar should adjust its red flag policies. 

I think the red flag rules are a little out of date. These aren't the 1960s or 1970s, and the introduction of the aeroscreen only makes the current IndyCar a more complex car than its predecessor. Heat is a greater obstacle now, and with hotter cockpit temperatures, the drivers should get more attention under a red flag. Drivers should not be broiling sitting still while IndyCar cleans up an accident. The teams should be able to aid the drivers and make sure they are in the best conditions for when a race resumes. 

But it brings me back to the question that has always flummoxed me, why is no one allowed to work on a race car under a red flag? I can understand the rule in NASCAR because they have on-board starters and can park on the back straightaway under a red flag away from the pit crews. If the field is on the back straightaway and two or three cars are on pit lane, two or three cars would have an unfair advantage. But in IndyCar, everyone has to come to pit lane. Everyone would have equal opportunity to work on their cars. If everyone has equal opportunity to work on their cars, why not let them? 

Again, it doesn't have to be the level of Formula One freedom where teams are allowed to change tires, but why can't IndyCar allow teams to make minor adjustments and tweaks? If a team wants to make a front wing angle change, or fix a suspension piece, clean out their radiator inlets, just let them. All the teams are on pit lane and have equal access to their cars. It doesn't make any sense to prevent them all from doing anything. 

There are certain things that can be disallowed. No tire changes, no re-fueling, even no replacing wings, but I don't think the current red flag rules fit IndyCar in 2021. 

Devil's advocate to all this is of all the cars that stopped under the first red flag for Felix Rosenqvist's accident and the second red flag for Romain Grosjean's accident, only one failed to restart, and that was Will Power. Out of 40-plus re-fires, there was only one error. It just happened to be the race leader with five laps to go. 

If Power had been 12th, he likely would have still be frustrated and disappointed, but we likely don't notice it or give it the time of day. When it is the leader though, then a discussion has to take place. 

I don't think a driver should lose a race because he or she shut down the car too quickly when going under the red flag. Drivers make errors but confusing a computer should not be devastating to a race result even if only one driver did it.

There are plenty of adjustments that can be made to IndyCar's red flag procedures, but one is obvious and should have already been made: Allow the engine technicians to plug in to the cars under red flag conditions. Let's ensure all these cars can rejoin the race, especially if IndyCar is stopping it for the sake of a green flag finish. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Álex Palou, but did you know...

Max Verstappen won the French Grand Prix, his third victory of the season.

Aleksandr Smolyar, Arthur Leclerc and Jack Doohan split the Formula Three races from Circuit Paul Ricard.

Marc Márquez won MotoGP's German Grand Prix, his first victory since the 2019 finale at Valencia and his 11th consecutive victory at the Sachensenring. Remy Gardner won the Moto2 race, his third consecutive victory. Pedro Acosta won the Moto3 race, his fourth victory of the season. 

Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas split the Indy Lights races from Road America. Manuel Sulaimán and Christian Rasmussen split the Indy Pro 2000 races. Kiko Porto and Thomas Nepveu split the U.S. F2000 races. 

Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup race from Nashville, his third consecutive victory. Kyle Busch won the Grand National Series race, his 100th victory in NASCAR's second division. Ryan Preece won on his Truck Series debut.

Liam Lawson and Kelvin van der Linde split the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters races from Monza. 

Nirei Fukuzumi won the Super Formula race from Sportland SUGO, his first career Super Formula victory.

Lucas di Grassi and Edoardo Mortara split the Formula E races from Puebla. It was both of their first victories of the season. 

Chaz Mostert won the first Supercars race from Darwin and Shane van Gisbergern winning the two Sunday races. Van Gisbergern has won eight of 14 races this season.  

The #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini of Ricardo Feller and Alex Fontana and the #163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini of Norbert Siedler and Albert Costa split the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup races from Zandvoort. 

Tony Stewart won the SRX race from Knoxville. 

Coming Up This Weekend
Formula One will have a second annual Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. 
The Dutch TT returns to the MotoGP calendar. 
IMSA has its third endurance race of the season with the 6 Hours of the Glen.
NASCAR has its only doubleheader at Pocono.
The World Touring Car Cup will be at Estoril for round two of its season. 
The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship for the first time since 2002.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

First Impressions: Road America 2021

1. Sometimes everything falls your way and Álex Palou was the man who capitalized on another unfortunate finish for Josef Newgarden. 

Newgarden's gearbox seized up at the restart with two laps to go and this allowed Palou to take the lead into turn one. Palou had been in Newgarden's footsteps all race. He just couldn't get ahead of Newgarden. Newgarden had been flawless all race and with 32 laps led, it should have been his. Newgarden expressed concern about a sticking third gear on his first stint, but the problem subsided as the laps went on. It could not have reared its head at the worst possible time. 

Palou deserved a good day, and he was set for a podium result. A victory was a gift, but one he would take. Even without a victory, today is when Palou firmly asserted himself as the championship favorite. His bad days are few and his good days are stellar. Patricio O'Ward appeared to have taken the clubhouse leader position when he became the first repeat winner of the season last week, but Palou responded and got his second victory. Not only was it Palou's second victory, the Spaniard also has five podium finishes and seven top ten finishes from nine races. He has led seven of nine races and he has been no worse than third in the championship. 

This victory puts Palou back on top in the championship, and I don't think he is going to fade. If he is not champion, it is because someone beat him.

2. Colton Herta has fallen back into the same rut of only being good that he was in early last year. Herta had a bunch of top five and top ten finishes last year, but didn't have enough to be a race winner. He already has a victory this year but he had not been on the podium since that victory. He entered this weekend with only two top ten finishes in the last six races, both happened to be top five results, but it is still not good enough. 

Herta lost a few spots early on the alternate but climbed up to third in the late stages. He just didn't have the pace for Newgarden and Palou. It is a good day, but there is still speed that needs to be found.

3. Will Power gets to be the top Penske finisher today after Newgarden's disaster. Power was in the top five all race, but, like Herta, had nothing for the top two. Also like Herta, Power needs to string some good races together. This is a good result to build from.

4. Scott Dixon stopped with 16 laps to go for his final pit stop and it leapfrogged him up the order. After looking like he might sneak into the top ten, Dixon launched himself into the top five and got a fourth-place result. He went 15 laps on his first stint, longer than anyone and he ended on 16 laps, longer than anyone. 

Unfortunately, Dixon's teammate won another race. Taking a tenth and turning a fourth is a great day 99 times out of 100 for Dixon, but he continues to lose ground and he will need to win a handful of races in the second half of the season.

5. Romain Grosjean was strong all race and he was fifth. Grosjean has looked strong in every race. He is in the top ten in almost every session. He didn't have a great middle stint, but he made up for it in the closing laps. He will be a factor in every race for the rest of the season.

6. I am not sure how Marcus Ericsson finished sixth in this race. Ericsson started 18th, was mostly outside the top ten, spun on his own, caused a caution and then made his final pit stop on lap 41 and ended up sixth. I don't know how he did it, but good for him.

7. This is another puzzling day for Alexander Rossi. He started well but didn't have a great end to his first stint. He jumped on the alternate tire and the Ericsson caution worked in his favor as he could get off that tire early and avoid dropping off the cliff. Back on the primary tire, he looked great and gained a few spots and was fourth when the caution came out when Kevin Magnussen's car ground to a halt. 

After the final pit stop, Rossi lost ground. Power, Dixon and Grosjean cycled ahead of him, and Ericsson passed him on track. He should have picked up his first top five of the season, instead he is seventh again!

8. Takuma Sato went off-strategy and was always going to make his final stop with about eight laps to go. Sato was set to cycle back to 15th and that final caution for Ed Jones' suspension failure put him in prime position to get spots on fresh tires. He worked up to eighth, a better day than he was set to get.

9. Patricio O'Ward ended up ninth. That is where O'Ward was stuck all race and the championship lead is now gone. 

10. Max Chilton gets his first top ten since Watkins Glen 2017, 44 starts ago. Chilton was on the same strategy as Sato, and Chilton led seven laps, his first laps led since Portland 2018. They went off-strategy under the Magnussen caution and then went hard. That paid off and they could sprint to the line. Chilton wasn't going to finish in the top fifteen if it wasn't for this strategy. It paid off and he finally had a good day.

11. Graham Rahal lost out with that last caution and Sato and Chilton were able to get ahead of him with fresher tires. Even before that, Rahal did not finish well. He lost out spots on the pit cycle and dropped from the edge of the top ten to outside the top five.

12. Oliver Askew was on the Magnussen-caution pit strategy and he was on pit lane when Jones spun and brought out another caution. This went from Askew being outside the top fifteen to running up to 12th.

It was a good weekend for Askew, and it should put Conor Daly on the hot seat. Askew was quicker than Daly all weekend. Rinus VeeKay has already been head and shoulders ahead of Daly for two seasons. Daly also stopped under the same caution as Askew but decided to try and stretch the fuel to the finish. Daly did stretch it, but he finished 20th. Daly was behind Cody Ware. 

Askew has about five days in an IndyCar this year. Daly has been in the car all season and Askew was better. 

13. Ryan Hunter-Reay was off in the second half of the race. At one point, Andretti Autosport had three of the top six runners and Hunter-Reay looked like a top five contender. He just got worse as the race went along and on his final stop he lost more spots in the pit cycle. Then Sato, Chilton and Askew, three drivers Hunter-Reay was miles ahead of all race were ahead of him. 

Hunter-Reay was one of the fastest cars all weekend and this result does not represent that.

14. Let's blow through some other drivers, Scott McLaughlin had another anonymous weekend in 14th. That honeymoon is over. James Hinchcliffe didn't get mentioned once and was 15th. What is going on at Andretti Autosport. Both A.J. Foyt Racing cars suffered mechanical issues. Dalton Kellett had to retired after 19 laps. Sébastien Bourdais lost a lap for repairs, but the cautions cycled him back to the lead lap. All Bourdais could pull out was 16th. 

15. Bourdais also stopped under the Magnussen caution with 19 laps to go. He also tried to conserve fuel, but ultimately took a splash. Jack Harvey was the best car in the running order of those that stopped and that was a mistake. Harvey was in the top ten, looking at a top five result. He rolled the dice and then bailed out. You are not going to save four laps of fuel at Road America. His best bet was driving all out and taking the splash with four or five laps to go. This was a dumb move because Harvey could have used a top ten result and the team took one that was basically guaranteed away from him. 

16. Simon Pagenaud bailed out on the lap 36 strategy by stopping at lap 41 with the rest of the leaders. It left him in 18th. Oof. 

17. Cody Ware didn't do anything wrong and finished 19th. His lap times were not stellar, but he completed all 55 laps and gets to say he finished ahead of Josef Newgarden, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Magnussen. 

18. We haven't even gotten to Josef Newgarden. This was killer. This is the second consecutive race he dominated and lost late. The strategy was off at Belle Isle, but this was the car letting him down. If that final caution doesn't come out for Jones, does he win? Does the gearbox hold up? Was it the restart that killed it? 

Through nine races, Team Penske does not have a victory and the team arguably should have won the last three with two of them belonging to Newgarden. 

19. Jimmie Johnson spun again and was in the way on a restart. I want to see Jimmie Johnson in an Indy Lights car. How would he do? Would he get a better handle? I am curious where he stands in terms of open-wheel car comfort. If he isn't competitive in an Indy Lights car, then let's go down to Indy Pro 2000 and there is always U.S. F2000 after that. 

20. Ed Jones had his left rear suspension break, and he could have been in the top ten. He was solidly in the middle of the field all race. 

21. Kevin Magnussen did not follow the leaders when pit stops came at lap 24 under the Ericsson caution and he led six laps. Magnussen was set to a normal three-stop strategy and his hope is everyone that stopped under the Ericsson caution would be forced to make a fourth stop. Of course, his car failed on him, and we will never know how that strategy would have played out. 

It was cool to see Magnussen take this chance. He decided to run an IndyCar with zero days of testing and he showed that he was not on pace with the leaders, but he made up notable ground over the weekend. Ten years ago, the guy who just won the most recent Grand-Am or American Le Mans Series race wasn't going to take on an IndyCar substitute role the following weekend. 

IndyCar is getting cool substitute drivers again! It's not quite Alan Jones in for Mario Andretti, coincidentally at Road America, but this is what we want to see. We want top-notch drivers saying yes when offered an IndyCar ride. I don't know if we will get to see Magnussen again. He has the Ganassi sports car ride, and he will be a part of the Peugeot hypercar program next year. This could be the one time we get to see Magnussen run an IndyCar. I am glad to have seen it. I hope comes back someday. I bet he hopes he returns as well.
22. We get a week off and then it will be Independence Day weekend at Mid-Ohio. The summer is only getting started and this season is far from over.

Morning Warm-Up: Road America 2021

Josef Newgarden aims for Team Penske's first victory of 2021

Josef Newgarden picked up his 13th IndyCar pole position with a lap of 1:46.019 in Saturday's Fast Six session from Road America. Newgarden took pole position on the primary tires, a bold strategy call counter to the rest of his competitors. It is Newgarden's third pole position at Road America, his most pole positions at a single track. He has won three races from pole position in his career, including his only Road America victory in 2018. Newgarden has the most laps led at Road America since IndyCar returned in 2016 as he has led 91 laps. Newgarden is one of two drivers with at least five top ten finishes from the last six Road America races. Newgarden is one of two drivers to have completed all 325 laps run at Road America since IndyCar returned in 2016. The other is his teammate Simon Pagenaud.

Colton Herta will start on the front row for the third time in four Road America starts, as Herta was 0.243 seconds off Newgarden in the final round of qualifying. Herta has not finished worse than eighth in three Road America starts. Herta has finished in the top five in seven of nine front row starts in his IndyCar career. He has eighth top ten finishes in nine front row starts. The one blemish was his 16th-place finish in this year's Indianapolis 500 after he started second. Despite two front row starts prior at this 4.048-mile road course, Herta has never led a lap at this track.

Jack Harvey qualified in the top five for the third time this season and he will roll off from third position. This is his 11th top five starting position in 42 IndyCar starts. Harvey's best Road America finish is 15th, which came in 2019. Last year, he started on the front row in race one, but a brakes failure took him out of the race. He suffered contact at the start of race two and that sent him backward from a ninth place starting spot. Harvey had to settle for 17th. 

Will Power broke a bad trend with his fourth-place qualifying effort. In the previous five races that have had qualifying, Power had started outside the top five in all of them, outside the top ten in four of them and outside the top fifteen in three of them. He started outside the top ten in only two races in all of 2020. Power has won from fourth starting position four times in his IndyCar career, most recently at Gateway in 2018.

Álex Palou returns to the track of his first podium finish and Palou will start fifth. He was third last year in race one, the third start of his IndyCar career. He followed up that third-place finish with a seventh-place result. Road America is one of three tracks Palou has multiple top ten finishes at. The others are the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Texas.

Simon Pagenaud will be making his 175th IndyCar start this weekend from sixth on the grid. He will be the 38th driver to reach this milestone and he is the second Frenchman to reach it. Sébastien Bourdais has made 216 starts, the 26th most in IndyCar history. Pagenaud's best finish in a quarter-century milestone start is fifth, which was in his 150th start at Gateway in 2019. 

Romain Grosjean will be making his sixth IndyCar start from seventh on the grid. Grosjean missed out on the Fast Six by 0.0445 seconds to Pagenaud. Grosjean will look to bounce back from his toughest weekend in IndyCar after Grosjean finished 23rd and 24th at Belle Isle. It was the first time Grosjean was the worst finishing Dale Coyne Racing driver.

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified eighth, only his third top ten start of the season. Hunter-Reay has four top five finishes in eight Road America races. Since IndyCar returned to Road America in 2016, Hunter-Reay has alternated with a top five finish in each of his odd-numbered Road America start and finishing outside the top ten in his even-numbered start. He was taken out in turn one of the last Road America race, ending up 22nd, his worst finish at the track. 

Alexander Rossi takes the ninth spot on the grid. This is the location of Rossi's most recent IndyCar victory. In the 29 races since that victory, Rossi has seven podium finishes, eight top five finishes, 16 top ten finishes and he has led 84 laps. Rossi has only two top ten finishes at Road America, his victory and third last year in race two. The only time Rossi has won from outside a top three starting position was his Indianapolis 500 victory in 2016, when he started 11th.

Championship lead Patricio O'Ward ended up tenth in qualifying. O'Ward could become the first driver to three victories this season. Five of the last six drivers to be the first to three victories have won the championship. A third victory would move O'Ward up to second all-time among Mexican drivers in victories. Only Adrián Fernández has more than three with 11 victories. Only once did Fernández have at least three victories in a season. That was 2004, his final full season when he won at Kentucky, Chicagoland and Fontana. 

Sébastien Bourdais ended up 11th in qualifying. Since finishing on the podium of his first four Road America starts, Sébastien Bourdais has finished outside the top ten in his last three trips to the track. His best finish was 12th in 2019. He led 92 of his first 186 laps around the track. He has led zero of his last 159 laps. 

This is the third consecutive race Ed Jones made it out of the first round of qualifying, as Jones will start 12th today. He has started on row six for all four of his Road America starts. Jones has top ten finishes in three Road America starts. He was seventh and ninth in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Scott Dixon missed out on advancing from round one by 0.03241. This is Dixon's worst starting position at Road America. Dixon scored his second Road America victory last year in race one and he has four top five finishes in the six Road America races since 2016. A third Road America victory would tie Dixon with Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti for most at the track. A victory for Dixon would match the worst starting position for a Road America winner, tying Alex Tagliani's mark from 2004. It would also be the first time IndyCar had three consecutive winners from starting outside the top ten since Toronto, Fontana and Milwaukee in 2013.

For the first time in Graham Rahal's IndyCar career, he will start outside the top ten at Road America, as Rahal starts 14th for today's race. He had seven consecutive top ten starts here. Last year, Graham Rahal suffered his worst Road America finish when he was spun off course on the opening lap and was classified in 23rd. Prior to that he had finished no worse than eighth in his first six Road America starts. 

Conor Daly leads an Ed Carpenter Racing sweep of row eight with Oliver Askew to his outside. Daly has an average finish of 18.75 in four Road America starts. His best finish was 15th in 2017. He has retired from two of his four races, and he had started 19th or worse in his last three Road America races . 

Oliver Askew will make his first start with Ed Carpenter Racing in place of Rinus VeeKay from 16th. Ed Carpenter Racing's best Road America finish is eighth. Josef Newgarden did it in 2016 and Spencer Pigot did it in 2018. Askew was 15th and 21st in the Road America races last year.

Scott McLaughlin will start 17th, matching his old Supercars number. McLaughlin has been the third-best Penske finisher in five of eight races this season. He has been the worst Team Penske finisher in two races. One of those was his 11th at St. Petersburg. The other was the second Belle Isle race. He was the top Penske finisher with his runner-up result in the first Texas race. 

Marcus Ericsson qualified 18th, his third consecutive start outside the top ten. Ericsson has started in the top ten of only nine of his 38 IndyCar starts and his only top five start was fourth for the first Gateway race last year. In the nine races he has started in the top ten, Ericsson has finished in top ten only four times. 

James Hinchcliffe's top ten drought is up to 11 races and Hinchcliffe will have some work to do from 19th on the grid. This is the fifth time Hinchcliffe has started 19th in his IndyCar career. His best finish from 19th was 11th at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis last year. He has finished in the top ten of his last two Road America starts. 

Takuma Sato matched his worst Road America starting position of 20th. Sato has four consecutive top ten finishes at Road America. He has completed 324 of 325 laps in his six Road America starts. His best finish in the ninth race of a season is seventh, which has happened twice, first at Milwaukee in 2013 and then at Texas in 2018. 

Kevin Magnussen makes his IndyCar debut from 21st. Magnussen will become the third Danish driver to make an IndyCar start and the first since Ronnie Bremer ran the 2005 Champ Car season finale at Mexico City. Bremer is responsible for Denmark's best IndyCar finish, a sixth at Edmonton earlier in that 2005 season. Kevin's father Jan was the first Dane to start an IndyCar race. Jan's best finishes seventh at Vancouver in 1999 and Jan started 21st in that race. 

Max Chilton qualified 22nd. Chilton has one top ten finish at Road America, a ninth in 2017. In his other five Road America starts, his best finish was 15th in last year's second race. He has finished on the lead lap in the last five Road America races. Chilton has not finished on the lead lap this season and he has finished outside the top twenty in his last four starts.

Jimmie Johnson has yet to start in the top twenty in his IndyCar career and he will start 23rd at Road America. This will be the first time Johnson has raced in Wisconsin since Sunday July 1, 2001, when Johnson ran in the NASCAR Busch Series at the Milwaukee Mile. Johnson ended up 26th, six laps down in the #92 Herzog Motorsports Chevrolet. Greg Biffle won that race. One other notable competitor was the 23rd-place finisher, current A.J. Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt

Dalton Kellett qualified 24th. Kellett ran two identical races last year in the Road America doubleheader. He started 23rd and finished 20th, one lap down, in each race. 

Cody Ware will make his IndyCar debut from 26th on the grid. Ware will become the first North Carolina-born driver to make an IndyCar start since Randy Lewis ran the 1991 CART season finale at Laguna Seca. Lewis drove for Dale Coyne Racing that day and finished 26th after retiring 11 laps in because of a brakes issue. Only one North Carolinian has won an IndyCar race. Jim Packard won at Springfield on August 20, 1960.

NBCSN's coverage of the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America begins at 12:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 12:40 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 55 laps.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Track Walk: Road America 2021

A new championship leader takes IndyCar into Road America

The ninth round of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season brings the series to Road America. IndyCar got its first repeat winner of the season at Belle Isle but there have still been seven different winners, four of which were first-time winners. Only two of the seven winners from the 2020 season have won a race through the first half of 2021. Five different teams have won a race this season, including a first-time winner. The Road America grid will feature 25 drivers, 19 of which have not won this season and 11 of those 19 are looking for their first IndyCar victory. Two of those drivers will be making his IndyCar debut, one from a NASCAR background and a second-generation driver fresh into his second career after exiting Formula One.

Time: Coverage begins at noon ET on Sunday June 20 with green flag scheduled for 12:40 p.m. ET.
Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Kevin Lee and Townsend Bell will be in the booth. Dillon Welch and Dave Burns will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule 
First Practice: 5:00 p.m. ET (45 minutes)*
Second Practice: 11:00 a.m ET (45 minutes)*
Qualifying: 2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have taped coverage at midnight ET)*
Final Practice: 5:30 p.m. ET (30 minutes)*
Race: 12:40 p.m. ET (55 laps)

* - All practice and qualifying sessions are available live on Peacock.

O'Ward vs. Palou
Eight races are complete in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season and two drivers have had nearly identical seasons. Patricio O'Ward and Álex Palou lead the way with only one point separating the top two drivers in the championships. 

How similar are the two? 

They are first and second in average finish this season, O'Ward leading at 6.25 with Palou at 6.5. Both drivers have four podium finishes with O'Ward leading in victories with two to Palou's one. O'Ward has six top five finishes from eight races with Palou on five. The two drivers are tied with six top ten finishes.

Palou led a lap in the first six races of the season and the Spaniard still ranks third in laps led. O'Ward has led in five of eight races including the last three races. Palou has led 30 more laps than the Mexican driver. They are nearly identical in average starting position as well. Palou holds the edge at 8.667 with O'Ward averaging ninth on the grid. 

Both drivers are looking for their first championship, but both are also only in their second full seasons in IndyCar. Neither driver has been in this battle before and there are plenty of races left for tides to swing. But how do these two drivers compare to other recent past champions?

Since reunification, nine of 13 champions were ranked first or second in the championship through eight races. Through eight races, 12 of 13 champions had at least one victory, seven champions had at least four podium finishes, nine champions had at least five top five finishes and ten champions had at least six top ten finishes. 

Eight champions since reunification have average a finish better than seventh after eight races with the lowest average finish coming last year when Scott Dixon averaged 3.125 from the first eight races. Dixon's four victories last season were also the most through eight races since 2008. 

Only one champion since reunification was outside the top five in the championship after eight races. Scott Dixon was seventh after eight races in 2013. Dixon was also winless, had one podium finish, four top five finishes, four top ten finishes and his average finish was 10.125 that season. Other than his number of top five finishes, these are the worst totals through eight races for champions since reunification. The one thing that makes 2013 an outlier is it was the longest season since reunification at 19 races. Dixon went on to win four of the final 11 races with five podium finishes, six top five finishes and his average finish was 6.72.

Is the 2021 IndyCar championship a two-horse race with at least eight races remaining? Probably not. 

Palou went from championship leader, 37 points ahead of O'Ward entering the Belle Isle doubleheader to second in the championship, one point back. That is a 38-point swing in two races. Dixon remains 36 points back and the top six drivers are within 56 points. Ninety-seven points cover the top nine drivers. 

With at least eight races remaining, 432 points are left on the table. If a replacement is found for the cancelled Toronto round, that total would increase to 486 points. O'Ward and Palou have done everything right through eight races, but there are plenty of opportunities for others to make a run at the Astor Cup.

Unprecedented Territory for Ganassi
It is not often Chip Ganassi Racing gets to make history, but the organization did just that at Belle Isle. 

Marcus Ericsson's victory in race one from Belle Isle gave Ganassi three victories on the season, but it was also the first time Ganassi has had three different drivers win in a season. All three race winners are in the top ten of the championship. Palou leads the way in second with Scott Dixon in third, 36 points off O'Ward and Ericsson's victory has the Swede seventh in the championship, 88 points back. 

In an unfamiliar position, Dixon is not the team leader heading into summer. He is still in the top three of the championship, and despite dropping a spot in the championship after seventh was his best finish at Belle Isle, Dixon did not lose any ground to the championship leader. The only difference is he now trails O'Ward instead of his teammate Palou. 

Ericsson's Belle Isle weekend has lifted him to seventh in the championship. The Swede's victory was his fifth top five finish in 38 IndyCar starts. One of his top five finishes was a fourth in the second Road America race. Last year, Ericsson's left Road America sixth in the championship, his best championship position since joining IndyCar. 

Dixon has not had a podium finish since his victory at Texas five races ago. He has not gone six races without a podium finish since 2016 when he went from Barber to Road America without one. Dixon opened that 2016 season with two podium finishes in his first three races, but then did not get another podium finish until the tenth race of the season at Iowa. That was Dixon's worst season in the last 15 years, as Dixon went on to finish sixth in the championship. 

Ganassi swept the Road America races last year and the organization has won three of the six Road America races since the track returned to the schedule in 2016. Though the team swept the races last year, these were not dominant victories. Josef Newgarden had a healthy lead in the first race before Jack Harvey brought out the caution for an accident. A botched pit stop dropped Newgarden from the lead and set up Will Power in first with Dixon in second. Dixon took the lead on that restart and held firm on the two restarts that followed, leading the final 16 laps. 

Felix Rosenqvist had to fight from behind last year but using a strategy that put himself on the primary tires for the final stint, the Swede was able to chase down Patricio O'Ward, who had led 43 of 55 laps. O'Ward had taken the alternate tire for the final stint and lost the lead on the penultimate lap. Rosenqvist had overcome an eight-second gap in the final 15 laps of the race to take his first career IndyCar victory.

Andretti's Dearth of Success
It has been a painful season for Andretti Autosport. 

While Colton Herta has a victory and was competitive at Belle Isle, Herta is Andretti's best driver in the championship in ninth. Alexander Rossi does not have a top five finish this season. Ryan Hunter-Reay's best finish is tenth and James Hinchcliffe's best finish is 14th. 

Santino Ferrucci and Hélio Castroneves are both ahead of Hinchcliffe in the championship despite combining for four starts while Hinchcliffe has started all eight races this season. 

Herta does have three top five finishes, but he has finished outside the top ten in his other five starts. Rossi has four top ten finishes, but each time Rossi has finished in the top ten he has been the top Andretti finisher and the only top ten finisher for the team. Hunter-Reay has started outside the top fifteen in five of eight races this season. If it wasn't for Herta's fourth-place finish in the second Belle Isle race, the team would be heading to Road America on a four-race drought without a top five finish. 

Rossi has not won in two years, going back to a dominant victory at Road America where he was 28.43 seconds clear of Will Power and led 54 of 55 laps. While Rossi won that race, his three Andretti teammates finished outside the top ten. Last year, between the two Road America races and five Andretti entries, the team had four top five finishes but six finishes outside the top fifteen. 

Rossi did finish third in the second race last year while Herta was fifth on both days. Hunter-Reay was fourth in race one last year and was in a good fight for the final podium spot with Palou. 

Andretti Autosport has combined to lead 116 laps this season and Herta is responsible for 110 of those laps; 97 of 110 of those laps were in Herta's St. Petersburg victory. The team has had multiple top ten finishers in only one race, the second Texas race when Herta was fifth and Hunter-Reay was tenth. The second Belle Isle race was the first time this season Andretti Autosport had all four cars finish in the top fifteen. Andretti has not had multiple cars start in the top five this season. 

Hello Team Penske
Halfway through the IndyCar season and Team Penske is without a victory. A Penske driver has been runner-up in five of eight races this season. 

Josef Newgarden is responsible for three of those five runner-up finishes and Newgarden is the top Penske driver in the championship in fourth. The two-time champion finds himself 51 points off the top spot. 

Simon Pagenaud does not have a runner-up finish, but Pagenaud has been on the podium twice, with finishes of third at St. Petersburg and the Indianapolis 500. He is tied for fifth in the championship with Rinus VeeKay on 243 points, but VeeKay holds the tiebreaker based on the Dutchman's Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory. 

Will Power might have been the closest Penske driver to victory this season. Power was leading when the red flag came out with five laps to go in the first Belle Isle race. He would lose the lead and nay shot at a respectable finish when his car would not restart when the race returned to yellow flag conditions. 

A dip in form has Scott McLaughlin 12th in the championship on 164 points, but McLaughlin is only five points behind Power. While McLaughlin is averaging a tenth-place finish on ovals, his average finish on road and street courses is 14.4. His lone top ten finish on a road course was eighth in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. 

This is the first time Team Penske has not won one of the first eight races of a season since 1999 when the team was in the middle of two winless seasons to close the 1990s. Penske has won two of the last six Road America races. Newgarden has an average finish of 6.2 at Road America and he has five top ten finishes in his six starts. Power won IndyCar's return race in 2016 and he has three podium finishes. He has started no worse than eighth in the last six Road America races and Power is still looking for his first pole position of the season. Pagenaud's results have been mixed. His best Road America finish since 2016 is fourth and he has finished outside the top ten in three of six races. He has started 14th or worse in the last four Road America races. 

The Shuffle
Road America will see some different faces on the grid this weekend, as a few injuries have forced changes.

Oliver Askew will substitute for Rinus VeeKay in the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet at Road America after VeeKay broke his collarbone in a cycling accident on Monday. VeeKay underwent surgery, but he was not medically cleared to compete this weekend.

VeeKay is fifth in the championship, 56 points off the championship leader O'Ward. On top of his Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory, he was second in the first Belle Isle race, and he has six top ten finishes through eight races. He is one of seven drivers with at least six top ten finishes this season. 

Askew will be back for his second race of the season and his second fill-in role of the season. Askew stepped into the #7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet for the second Belle Isle race after Felix Rosenqvist was not cleared to compete after Rosenqvist's turn six accident in race one. Askew qualified 23rd and had to drop out of the race after 46 laps due to an engine issue. He was classified in 25th, the last-place finisher. 

In seven road/street course starts, Askew's best finish is 15th, which happened twice last season, first in the first Road America race and then in the second Mid-Ohio race. For all of Askew's Road to Indy success, he never won at the 4.048-mile track and his best finish was third, one of which was in U.S. F2000 and one in Indy Lights. 

Coincidentally, Askew and VeeKay raced with each other entirely up the Road to Indy system. Askew won the 2017 U.S. F2000 championship by seven points over VeeKay. Askew drove for Cape Motorsports while VeeKay drove for Pabst Racing Services. In Pro Mazda the following year, VeeKay had a better start to the season and he won the championship with Juncos Racing, 109 points ahead of Askew in third. Askew switched to Andretti Autosport for Indy Lights and the American took that 2019 championship by 21 points over the Dutchman. 

In the 48 Road to Indy races Askew and VeeKay competed in, the two drivers combined for 31 victories with VeeKay having the edge 16 to 15, but Askew won more in U.S. F2000 (seven to three) and Indy Lights (seven to six). VeeKay did have more breathing room in podium finishes with 36 to Askew's 31. 

Felix Rosenqvist has not been cleared to return to the #7 AMSP Chevrolet, and with Askew moving to Ed Carpenter Racing the team has been forced to call in a different driver to deputize for the Rosenqvist. 

Kevin Magnussen will make his IndyCar debut in place of Rosenqvist. Magnussen is driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in IMSA's Daytona Prototype international class and the Dane is coming off his first career victory last week at Belle Isle with co-driver Renger van der Zande in the #01 Cadillac. This is Magnussen's first season in IMSA after leaving Formula One where he made 119 starts for McLaren, Renault and Haas. 

This is a homecoming of sorts for Magnussen. His first 19 Formula One starts came with McLaren in 2014 and he finished second on debut in the Australian Grand Prix. His father Jan made 11 starts between two seasons in IndyCar. One of those starts was at Road America in 1996 driving for Hogan Penske Racing. Unfortunately, Jan Magnussen's race lasted all of three corners when he went off course with broken right front suspension after contact at the start. 

Magnussen's victory last week in IMSA was his first since October 20, 2013 when he won at Barcelona in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. His father Jan won two American Le Mans Series races at Road America, both n the GTS/GT1 class. The first was in 2003 driving a Prodrive Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello with David Brabham. The other was in 2008 driving the #3 Corvette with Johnny O'Connell.

On top of Askew and Magnussen, Cody Ware will make his IndyCar debut in the #52 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Ware has made 39 NASCAR Cup Series starts, including 16 this year. He has made 27 starts in NASCAR Grand National Series and seven Truck Series starts. Ware also has LMP2 Am class victories in the Asian Le Mans Series. Last year, Ware picked up his best career finish in NASCAR's Grand National Series when he was seventh in NASCAR Grand National Series at the Charlotte roval. Despite his NASCAR experience, Ware has never made a start at Road America. 

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series are back on the undercard for Road America. 

The Indy Lights championship has tightened up after Belle Isle. 

Linus Lundqvist took the championship lead with runner-up finishes in both Belle Isle races and four points cover the top three. David Malukas fell to second, one point behind Lundqvist. Kyle Kirkwood swept the Belle Isle races and he is now four points behind Lundqvist. These three drivers have combined to win all eight races this season.

While the top three breakaway, Toby Sowery is settling into fourth in the championship as Sowery has finished four consecutive top four finishes, but he is 45 points off Lundqvist. Devlin DeFrancesco moved into the top five in the championship after Alex Peroni retired from the second Belle Isle due to an accident. 

Danial Frost his not had a top five finish in the last four races and Benjamin Pedersen still had not had a top five result since the season opener. Robert Megennis has dropped to ninth in the championship with Sting Ray Robb rounding out the top ten. 

Indy Lights will race at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday June 19 and at 9:50 a.m. ET on Sunday June 20.

With victories in four of the last five races, Christian Rasmussen holds a 13-point championship lead over Braden Eves in Indy Pro 2000. Rasmussen swept the U.S. F2000 races at Road America last year. Eves won at Road America in U.S. F2000 in 2019. Rasmussen has six podium finishes in eight races while Eves has five podium finishes. Reece Gold is third in the championship, also on five podium finishes, but Gold has yet to score a victory despite having started on pole position in the last four consecutive races. 

Artem Petrov sits fourth in the championship, 48 points behind Rasmussen. Hunter McElrea rounds out the top five on 151 points. Manuel Sulaimán was third at Indianapolis Raceway Park last time out and he is 90 points back. Jacob Abel sits in seventh, 103 points behind Rasmussen.

Indy Pro 2000 opens its weekend at 1:10 p.m. ET on Saturday June 19 with race two scheduled for 10:55 a.m. ET on Sunday June 20.

Yuven Sundaramoorthy returns home to Wisconsin as the U.S. F2000 championship leader with 177 points. Sundaramoorthy leads U.S. F2000 with three victories and he has a seven-point lead over Kiko Porto in the championship. Christian Brooks is the only other driver with multiple victories and he is 13 points back in third. Michael d'Orlando won his first U.S. F2000 race at Indianapolis Raceway Park and he is tied with Brooks for third in the championship. 

Josh Pierson rounds out the top five in the championship, 19 points back, but Pierson is still looking for his first victory. Prescott Campbell got off the snide at IRP with his runner-up finish and he is 37 points behind Sundaramoorthy. Josh Green and Spike Kohlbecker are tied on 112 points. 

Thomas Nepveu has 98 points in ninth, while Jace Denmark's third place finish at IRP has him tenth in the championship on 89 points. 

Race one for U.S. F2000 will be at 12:15 p.m. ET on Saturday June 19. Race two is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. ET on Sunday June 20.

Fast Facts
This will be the eighth IndyCar race to take place on June 20 and first since Tony Kanaan won at Iowa in 2010. It was Kanaan's final victory with Andretti Autosport. 

Sébastien Bourdais won on June 20, 2004 at Portland. 

This will be the first race of summer. Last year, Scott Dixon became the first driver to win the first race of summer and go on to win the championship since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012. 

Since reunification, the only other driver to win the first race of summer and the championship was Dario Franchitti in 2009.

Eight drivers have had their first IndyCar victory come at Road America (Héctor Rebaque 1982, Uncle Jacques Villeneuve 1985, Jacques Villeneuve 1994, Dario Franchitti 1998, Christian Fittipaldi 1999, Bruno Junqueira 2001, Alex Tagliani 2004 and Felix Rosenqvist 2020 race two).

There have been four first-time winners through the first eight races in 2021. The last season with at least five first-time winners was the 2002 Indy Racing League season when Jeff Ward, Airton Daré, Alex Barron, Tomas Scheckter and Felipe Giaffone were the first-time winners. 

The average starting position for a Road America winner is 3.806 with a median of third. 

Last year, the two Road America races were won from ninth and seventh. Prior to last year six consecutive Road America races had been won from inside the top five. Only five of the first 29 Road America races had been won from outside the top five. 

Only one Road America race has been won from outside the top ten. Alex Tagliani won from 13th in 2004.

The average number of lead changes in a Road America race is 4.0967 with a median of four. 

The second race last year had eight lead changes, the fourth most all-time for a Road America race. 

The most lead changes were 11 in 1983.

Only three Road America races did not feature a lead change (1987, 1993, 2003).

Since IndyCar returned to the circuit in 2016, every race has featured at least two lead changes and three of the six races have had five lead changes or more. 

The average number of cautions in a Road America race is 2.0667 with a median of two. The average number of caution laps is 6.4667 with a median of 4.5.

Two of the last four Road America races went caution-free. Eleven of 29 Road America races have been caution-free. 

Only two Road America races have featured only one caution. Seven Road America races have featured exactly two cautions. 

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon is one victory away from tying Mario Andretti for second all-time with 52 victories.

Scott Dixon is one podium finish away from his 125th podium finish.

Will Power is one victory away from the 40-victory milestone.

Alexander Rossi is one podium finish away from his 25th podium finish. 

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 43 laps to reach the 2,700 laps led milestone.

Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead 47 laps to reach the 1,600 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 19 laps to reach the 800 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 46 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Josef Newgarden makes up for last year and gets his first victory of the season. Newgarden will also end this race on the primary tire. Alexander Rossi gets his first top five finish of the season, but he will be the only Andretti Autosport driver in the top ten. Patricio O'Ward extends his championship lead over second. Scott Dixon is back to being the top Ganassi finisher. Kevin Magnussen finishing position will be at least five spots better than his first practice result. Jack Harvey will not be involved in any accidents. Will Power will not be mad at race control. There will be at least one car in-between Jimmie Johnson and Cody Ware in the final results. Sleeper: Graham Rahal.