It still feels very strange to say this, but, indeed, it is Race Day at Indianapolis! The morning warm-up session has just concluded, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag. It is zero surprise that Josef (with an “f”) ended up the session atop the timesheet, but seeing him immediately followed by Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Lundgaard is something of an eyebrow-raiser.
It was a bit surprising that very few drivers and teams elected to run on the red alternate Firestone tires in this session, but given that both ambient and track temperatures are well below what is expected for this afternoon’s race, they may have all decided it simply wouldn’t give them any valuable feedback. Most people feel this will ultimately be a race that favors the alternate tires, but no one yet knowns for sure.
There was a fairly lengthy section in this portion of the post with my thoughts and impressions of this overall weekend and some ideas of how I can spend other people’s money to make it all better. Rather than keeping that here, I will share those thoughts in a separate post in a couple days as I have more of a chance to look back on the event as a whole and take a higher-level view of the activities.
The 2022 Gallagher Grand Prix is in the books, and for the first time in 1,133 days, Alexander Rossi stands atop the podium. Rossi crossed the line 3.5 seconds in front of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard, who posted his career best finish of second. Rounding out the podium is new NTT IndyCar Series points leader Will Power.
What looked like it could be a promising day for Arrow McLaren SP quickly turned bleak as Pato O’Ward was spun in the first turn, quickly dropping him from 3rd to 25th. He was able to rejoin the rear of the field without significant damage and recover well enough to finish 12th.
Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist led early on for seven laps but quickly fell through the field and was unable to keep pace with the leaders. An otherwise uneventful day yielded only a ninth place finish for the Swedish pole sitter.
On the other side of the coin, Team Penske returned to standard form at IMS with Power, Scott McLaughlin, and Josef Newgarden bringing the team cars home in third, fourth, and fifth, probably the best three-car combined result for the team this year and (very) partially removing some of the bitter taste left in their collective mouths after an extremely disappointing Month of May.
The other team leaving here with their heads held high will be Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The RLLR guys brought Lundgaard and Graham Rahal home second and seventh, respectively, continuing a recent strong run of results that started at Toronto. A strong final pitstop by his #30 crew brought Lundgaard to within 2.5 seconds of Rossi in the final 15 laps of the race, but Rossi was simply too strong to allow Christian to close the gap.
In the Ganassi camp, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson were each able to salvage decent results of eighth and eleventh after starting 20th and 25th, respectively. Sandwiched between them was teammate Alex Palou, who finished tenth after starting seventh. None of them were ever contenders throughout the race, an odd thing to say about Ganassi at Indianapolis. The combination of Ericsson’s eleventh-place finish and Power’s third leave Ericsson was enough for Ericsson to yield the championship lead. He now finds himself nine points in arrears of Powers.
The heartbreak of the race undoubtedly goes to Colton Herta. Herta was a dominant car early on, starting ninth but working his way into the lead by Lap 8. He would go on to lead 17 laps on the day before a clutch issue forced him out of the race from the lead on Lap 43. It’s not hard to wonder if the bad luck voodoo that bit Ryan Hunter-Reay in his last few years with Andretti Autosport was passed down to the younger Herta as it seems he is bit week after week by random oddities beyond his control. Herta continues to run strong while he car holds together, so it won’t at all surprise me to see Colton win two or three of the final five races this season.
While every race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is special, it is unlikely that today’s Gallagher Grand Prix will go down as a classic. A decent crowd showed up on an absolutely perfect day to watch what was mostly a processional race without a whole lot of action, particularly at the front of the field. There was some decent racing throughout the pack, but based on texts I received from my son during the middle portions of the race, I’m guessing that not a lot of it found its way onto the TV broadcast.
That’s going to be a wrap for the on-site coverage this weekend from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now that the NASCAR Xfinity race has kicked off, I’m going to take this opportunity to get out of Dodge and head back toward Champaign tonight. I’ll be back in a couple days with my overall thoughts from the event and look forward to next weekend’s race in Nashville.