Arrow McLaren SP delivers tough weekend
It’s the type of performance that defines a championship winning effort in the most competitive era in NTT INDYCAR SERIES history.
Not only did Pato O’Ward become the first driver to win multiple races this season, he did so on a weekend where Arrow McLaren SP could have derailed after Felix Rosenqvist’s vicious crash in Turn 6 in the Chevrolet Dual Race 1 in Detroit at Belle Isle Park.
Since Rosenqvist was unable to compete in Sunday’s second race and the team suffered a setback in qualifying for the NTT P1 Award when O’Ward slapped the wall, no one on the Indianapolis-based team panicked. Oliver Askew was ready to drive in Rosenqvist’s place, and the back corner of O’Ward’s car was fixed.
O’Ward closed the weekend moving up from fifth to third in the first lap after the final restart, then sending second place Gainbridge Honda No.26 from Colton Herta and finally replacing race leader Josef Newgarden in Team Hitachi No.2 Penske Chevrolet for his second career victory in the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet Series.
Team president Taylor Kiel was all smiles as he prepared for the traditional winner’s swim in the Scott Fountain.
“I don’t think there are words (for it),” Kiel said. “Anytime you spend a weekend like (this) in motorsport, you’re living in recovery mode, trying to make the best decisions you can.
“Certainly I’m delighted with the work the team has done in trying to get the car back on track and even more delighted that Felix is fit, healthy and coming back to us soon. But, yes, what an effort from Pato. He pushed his butt.
Rosenqvist spent Saturday night at DMB Detroit receiving hospital for observation and was not on the track for the race. However, the team announced that he was released from the hospital and that no injuries are expected to persist. His status for this Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, will be determined at a later date. Practice for this event begins at 5:15 p.m. ET Friday (live on Peacock).
Kiel turned to Askew because of the team’s familiarity with him. 2019 Indy Lights champion Askew competed in 12 of last year’s 14 races in the # 7 McLaren SP Arrow now nominated for Rosenqvist. He was in Detroit to help coach Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights driver, and like any well-prepared but unemployed driver, he had his helmet on.
Askew borrowed driving shoes from Alex Palou (No.10 in the American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) and used an Arrow McLaren SP suit designed for Juan Pablo Montoya, who drove for the team during the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge last month. Neither the suit nor the car suited Askew’s taste, but he made the most of both by driving the 14-corner, 2.35-mile course for the first time.
The few laps of Sunday morning’s qualifying session were his first not only on the track but this season (he tested with Michael Andretti’s side at Sebring on February 1). Ironically, Askew might not have been available if Indy Lights hadn’t made its first appearance in this event since 2000.
Askew said he got information on the car setup from O’Ward and the team’s consultant Robert Wickens and joked that he took the track “advice” of the Indy Lights pilots he had trained.
“We were here until 1am – I was, and the guys on the crew stayed (and) probably slept an hour or two last night,” Askew said. “We did a trail walk late last night – I couldn’t see much – but it was good. But there’s not much you can do until you’re on the trail and feel it.
Askew ran competitive laps in the race but retired on lap 46 when the team saw something in the telemetry data that they didn’t like. The car finished last in a 25-car field, but it was nonetheless a victory of persistence and determination – worthy of this dip in the fountain.
Ferrucci, RLL is recovering from a morning crash
If the situation surrounding Arrow McLaren SP’s No.7 car was heroic, the same could be said of what Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing did in preparation for his No.45 Honda Hy-Vee.
Santino Ferrucci, who finished sixth in Saturday’s opening race, hit the wall on the last lap of the morning qualifying session. With extensive damage to the car, the team turned to Takuma Sato’s back-up machine, replacing the engine within two hours.
“We pulled one off the top of the hauler in two hours flat and made it through this race,” said Ferrucci.
With the car still in the speedway setup, Ferrucci moved from 12th to ninth on the first lap when three drivers in front of him got tangled up, and his 10th place was nothing short of remarkable.
Lap 1 entanglement in favor of Ferrucci involved series rookie Romain Grosjean (No.51 NURTEC ODT Honda from Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) getting stuck in Scott Dixon (No.9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda by Chip Ganassi Racing) by the inner movement of Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport (No.27 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda). Grosjean and Rossi’s cars sustained slight damage, with Dixon recovering from his car being turned on its side.
Dixon was seventh. Rossi, who suffered damage to the front wing, settled for 13th place.
Grosjean: a firefighter too
Grosjean continued to have problems, and on lap 57 he stopped his car and quickly got out with both front brakes on fire. He first recovered a fire extinguisher from a local employee in a personal attempt to put out the flames, but for his own safety he was quickly stopped by a member of the AMR INDYCAR security team. This team has finished the job.
Grosjean, who got out of a fiery Formula 1 crash last November, took to social media after that race to show off a t-shirt signifying him as a Detroit firefighter.
“I care about my race cars,” he said on Twitter, using a heart emoji for effect.
- Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) won the 12th NTT P1 Award of his INDYCAR career in Sunday morning session. It was his first pole since the second race at Iowa Speedway last year, 16 races ago.
- Graham Rahal (No. 15 Honda of United Rentals) ended a successful weekend with a second straight top-five spot.
- Marcus Ericsson (# 8 Honda Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing) said he “had a hard time falling asleep” on Saturday night after winning his first INDYCAR SERIES race. “I was still buzzing,” he said. And yes, Ericsson dove into the Scott Fountain, wetting his entire body, including his face. He finished ninth in race 2.
- Max Chilton (No.59 Chevrolet Carlin) got caught in a problem with another driver on the first lap. Sébastien Bourdais (No.14 Chevrolet ROKiT / AJ Foyt Racing) bounced off the sidewalk in turn 3, slowing his momentum. As James Hinchcliffe (No.29 Genesys Honda) slowed in reaction, Chilton struck the back of Hinchcliffe’s car, smashing his front wing and lifting the front of his car into the air. He fell by one lap one day when he finished 22nd.
- Jack Harvey (AutoNation # 60 / Honda SiriusXM) spun and suffered a puncture in the right rear following contact with Grosjean. Harvey made the same contact with another driver during Saturday’s race. “Why do I keep getting hit in this corner,” he asked his team radio. Grosjean was penalized for avoidable contact.
- Rinus VeeKay (No.21 Chevrolet Sonax / Autogeek from Ed Carpenter Racing) also suffered a tire cut and was forced to return to the pit after contact with Ericsson. VeeKay, who finished second in Saturday’s race, was 18th in Race 2. The latter dropped him to fifth place in the standings, one position behind Newgarden.
- Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood finished the weekend leading the Indy Lights doubles program, again finishing ahead of Linus Lundqvist of Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports. Lundqvist is the series points leader, but the top three drivers are only four points apart. David Malukas of HMD Motorsports, who finished third in Race 2, is second in the standings with Kirkwood third. Kirkwood’s victory was his third of his Indy Lights rookie season.