NTT IndyCar Series: Rev Group Grand Prix Preview

Scott Dixon races past the fans in turn five at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Scott Dixon races past the fans in turn five at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

by Paul Gohde

The NTT Indy Car Series begins the second half of the 2021 season at what most of its drivers claim to be their favorite series’ track: Elkhart Lake’s Road America. With Pato O’Ward having taken over the points lead by just one marker over Alex Palou at the Detroit doubleheader last weekend, the likes of Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden will quite likely want to show the series’ youngsters the short way around “America’s National Park of Speed”.

Race Facts: Road America has played host to 31 Indy-style races since its 1982 inaugural for CART. The natural road course sweeps and dips around 4.04-miles of glacial terrain just outside of the village of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, about an hour north of Milwaukee…Sunday’s race will run around 14 turns for 55 laps (220.77 miles). The one-lap qualifying mark among currently active drivers was set by Sebastien Bourdais in 2007 at 143.525 mph, while Alexander Rossi holds the race record at 132.894 mph set in 2019.

Recent Race History: In 2020 Road America hosted an IndyCar doubleheader due to many Pandemic-cancelled races on the schedule. The Saturday/Sunday events were won by veteran Scott Dixon and F1 vet Felix Rosenqvist. Saturday’s Race 1 saw Dixon capture his third consecutive season win over Will Power and Alex Palou while leading the final 16 laps…Sunday Rosenqvist fought a thrilling battle with pole winner Pato O’Ward who led for 43/55 laps. That lead disappeared when O’Ward’s tires went away, allowing Rosenqvist to fight past with two laps remaining for a 2.86 second win. The victory was his first in IndyCar.

2020 Season So Far: NTT Series Standings: 1) Pato O’Ward, two wins/two poles/299 points…2) Alex Palou, 1/1/298…3) Scott Dixon, 1/2/263…4) Josef Newgarden, 0/1/248…5) Rinus VeeKay, 1/0/243… Manufacturers: Chevrolet, 3 wins, 652 points…Honda, 5 wins, 643 points.

Race Entries: Twenty-five drivers are entered for Sunday’s race with most being the usual road course bunch. However, Dale Coyne Racing with RWR brings rookie Cody Ware to Elkhart Lake and Oliver Askew will sub for Rinus VeeKay (see Notes below). F1 veteran Kevin Magnussen will make his IndyCar debut, replacing the recovering Felix Rosenqvist at Arrow McLaren SP.

Notes: TV: Qualifying, Saturday, NBCSN taped, Midnight (ET)… Race, Sunday, NBCSN live, Noon (ET)… Roger Penske told the Detroit News last week that Team Penske will likely stay as a four-car team for 2022. With Newgarden, Power and Scott McLaughlin signed for the future and Simon Pagenaud in his final contract year, Penske stated that he hopes the Frenchman will continue with the team…It was announced that ticket holders will be able to enter the paddock this weekend at Road America…The Vintage Indy series, Radical Cup, Pro 2000 and USF 2000 will support the IndyCar series through the weekend…Dixon is the active RA win leader with two (2017 and 2020)…As of this writing, Rinus VeeKay’s status for the weekend puts him temporarily out at Ed Carpenter Racing after he sustained a clavicle injury on June 14th while on a bicycle training ride.

Our Take: Just like Road America itself, the IndyCar grid is a real up and down list with both foreign and domestic drivers with F1, NASCAR or oval track/road course represented. With many of those entered having had a taste of F1 success, one has to look ahead and wonder which of them might pull off a surprise win Sunday. Wouldn’t that be something if Magnussen, in his first IndyCar run, would snatch a win for McLaren…or maybe Romain Grosjean at Dale Coyne with RWR? Look for that surprise winner on the top step of the podium Sunday afternoon.

“They Said It”, Scott Dixon No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda: “Road America is definitely a fan favorite. Also, a driver favorite, for sure. I think we’re very lucky to race on some of those old-school American road courses. This one is definitely at the top of the list. You still have kind of grass next to the track and walls. It’s kind of high-risk, high-reward, which is how it should be. The race I think, for this formula now, it races very well because of the long straights, big braking zones…The fans will be amazing. So cool to see them back here this weekend. Everybody loves to get to Elkhart. Such a fun place to be.”

Next IndyCar Series Race:  Honda Indy 200, Mid-Ohio Raceway…July 4





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