INTERVIEW: Felix Rosenqvist – "It's time to prove what I can do in IndyCar"

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INTERVIEW: Felix Rosenqvist – "It's time to prove what I can do in IndyCar"

You may have seen the Felix Rosenqvist Instagram post that went up earlier today: “Will literally be driving a beast this weekend at Gateway! What do you guys think? #MonsterEnergy @MonsterEnergy.

After crawling from the wreckage after a wicked opening lap crash at Pocono last Sunday, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist will meet the green flag this weekend at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway outside of St. Louis.

The top rookie thus far in the 2019 IndyCar Series, the 27 year-old Swede will look for big things on the 1.25 mile oval when, for the first time in 2019, he climbs into a matt black and green festooned Dallara DW12 sponsored by the Monster Beverage Corporation. A company that lives on the rallying cry “Unleash the Beast!”, that’s exactly what Rosenqvist will try to do as he has designs on winning his first IndyCar race for a team owner that has won 12 open-wheel championships.

Q: First and foremost, how are you feeling?

FELIX ROSENQVIST: I’m very well. I mean I had that little crash there last week, and I think I’ve been recovering pretty well. I’ve done the last couple of few medical checks and everything, and I got released yesterday evening and IndyCar basically said I’m good to race, so yeah, I’m trying to rest and make sure I’m back to 100 percent ready for Gateway.

Q: Was the crash as bad as it looked?

FR: I mean, it wasn’t a massive impact. I think it was more about what could have happened if I got up into the fence. I kind of closed my eyes. I didn’t really know if I was up in the fence at all. I hit my head pretty hard because the car had kind of a flip motion under the nose and smacked down into the barrier, and that’s when my head flipped around a little bit. I had a massive headache afterward. I watched my own video afterward and that’s kind of when I actually realized what had happened, because when you crash at that speed, you just close your eyes and hope for the best.

Q: You’ve been cleared to race at Gateway this weekend and you’ll be doing so in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing entry backed by Monster Energy.

FR: Yeah, man. It’s going to be awesome. The car looks fantastic. I saw a picture today. The car has already been transported to Gateway and it looks amazing. I think it’s cool that Monster wants to do this with us at Chip Ganassi Racing. I think it’s great that Monster has an interest in IndyCar. I’ve always loved action sports, so I understand and am very familiar with Monster from the sports that I followed, so it’s cool that they chose to do this with us. Obviously Monster has the Kurt Busch partnership in NASCAR, so hopefully we’ll do a good thing this weekend.

Q: Over the last decade you’ve pieced together a very eclectic racing career. How did you end up with Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar?

FR: I’ve spent most of my career in Europe, and my manager [ED: Stefan Johansson] works with Scott Dixon and he kind of told me that maybe I should try to go to Indy Lights because it could be a good chance to get picked up by one of the good teams of IndyCar. That was back in 2016. So we actually did that. We raced in Indy Lights for a couple of races. We didn’t race the whole season because I had a commitment in Europe. However my results in Indy Lights got me a test with Ganassi, and that’s basically where it all started. But it took some time. That was three years ago, and we had discussions back and forth, and I had some other things lined up such as Formula E. However, we got back in touch before this season and said, “Hey, should we finally do something together?”

I think the timing was perfect, so yeah, it’s one of the really, really good teams over here in the U.S. and also worldwide, you know? The team has a great history and has won some of the greatest races in the world like the Indy 500, the Daytona 24 Hours, Le Mans and all that. It’s cool to be a part of all that history. Now I’d like to write some new history with them.

Q: What’s amazing to me is that you come to America and IndyCar via Formula E. That has to be one hell of a radical change…

FR: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s probably as radical as you can get! It was cool. Formula E was always street tracks, which I think helped me for IndyCar because we ran on four race tracks that made up a big part of the calendar, one of the events being a two-race weekend in Detroit. I think all that has helped me a lot, and obviously my best performances this year have also been on street tracks. It’s the ovals that are the big challenge, for sure. The ovals are still something that I’m learning every weekend, but I feel like I’m getting better and better. Unfortunately, last weekend we had some bad luck, but Gateway should be a good time to finally make a good result on an oval, as well, because that’s what you need if you want to become a good IndyCar driver. You need to be good at everything.

Q: There is a hell of a lot going on and all sorts of moving parts in IndyCar, huh?

FR: There are. I mean IndyCar is hard to describe. You have to be very varied, but it is also a very ‘manly’ form of racing. [Laughs] You’ve got the bumps and the walls and the speeds. It’s pretty raw racing. I also think it’s pretty cool that every team has a chance to win races. That’s something quite rare, at least in Europe where there are usually only one or two teams that can win races. Over here, even if you’re back in 16th place, you’re still fighting just as hard as you do if you’re up in the top five. It’s just really good racing. I think that’s what attracted me to IndyCar. There are no politics. IndyCar will let you race, even if you touch wheels. There aren’t too many penalties going on at the races. They put on a good show for the fans and I think that’s what the drivers like. It’s pretty cool, man. I love it and I’m here to stay.

What’s your take on the drivers you go wheel-to-wheel with in the IndyCar series?

FR: It’s a mix. I think the level is very high all over. Everyone is saying this is the strongest year in IndyCar history if you look through the field. You have new drivers like me, you have very experienced rivers like [Scott] Dixon and Will Power. There are a couple of them who have been there more than 10 years, which really makes them specialists in IndyCar racing. That’s why it’s so tough. You’ve got the young guns coming in and they’re hungry and they want to win, and you have the old foxes that are still there to prove their point. There seems to be a very wide range of drivers, and what I notice in IndyCar is that whenever you leave the door open, there is somebody there to try and take the position. That’s been a change for me, as well, and I think I’ve definitely more aggressive this year. You learn to really take what is there all of the time.

I definitely think IndyCar is the hardest form of racing. I’ve raced in some championships where you have big manufacturers and some of the best drivers over in Europe, but I still find this demands more of you as a driver in terms of strategy. You also have to be in very good physical shape. I think it is the most difficult form of racing to put everything together in.

Q: You’re currently ninth in points and have been running all over the top 10 this summer. How do you feel about your results thus far?

FR: I’ll always crave more. I’m never been happy. I don’t think I’ve ever been happy about my results my entire career! Starting off at St. Petersburg this year, I was leading that race and we were actually close to winning it and that kind of made me maybe expect too much of myself. The reality came slowly over the next few races, and I realized that you don’t just jump in and win in the beginning. You have to learn the hard way. During the middle of the season I wasn’t really happy with my performance, but the last couple of rounds at places like Road America, Toronto and Mid-Ohio, we’ve been top five in almost every single session. So yeah, the end of the season has been very promising. We have the three rounds left: an oval at Gateway and two road courses (Portland and Laguna Seca), and I think this is really the time to prove what I can do in IndyCar.

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