PRUETT: Notes from Road America

Image by Burke/Motorsport Images

PRUETT: Notes from Road America

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: Notes from Road America

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  • This Incognito-Colton-Herta thing is an ongoing oddity. Nothing close to pole- or race-winning pace for him so far, and yet, with finishes of seventh, fourth, fifth, and fifth, he’s become Dixon’s top rival for the title in the early days of the championship.
  • Sticking with Herta, if he’s going to reel in Dixon, podiums and wins will be needed, which is known, and while Andretti Autosport’s overall lack of race-winning pace has been a surprise, Herta – an old soul – has clearly taken the lessons from Dixon and Dario Franchitti to heart. As other challengers rise and fall around him, the kid from California continues to put quality points in the bank on the days where spraying champagne isn’t an option. The tactic has worked as the rest of his teammates – often through no fault of their own – have been all over the map. Of the six cars in the Andretti stable (adding in Harvey’s affiliated MSR entry), Herta holds second in the championship while the next closest teammate is Ryan Hunter-Reay in 11th!
  • Speaking of Harvey. A thought at the end of Saturday: Scott Dixon winning three in a row? Check. Jack Harvey with nothing to show for three races in a row? Check. The Meyer Shank Racing driver was never comfortable at the 1.5-mile Texas oval that opened the season, qualified on the front row at Indy and got hosed by the mid-race yellow, and had his second-place start and fifth-place position in Round 1 vanish when a brake failure caused the No. 60 Honda to spear off the road after 37 of 55 laps. From Indy, finishes of 16th, 17th, and 23rd were more brutal than the team deserved, and with a Round 2 finish of 17th when a rough opening lap saw Harvey plummet from ninth to 19th, it’s safe to say MSR’s first experiences with being a full-time IndyCar team has tested its resolve.
  • How about that James Hinchcliffe guy on the NBC/NBCSN broadcasts?
  • Had to feel happy for Rosenqvist’s crew chief, Ricky Davis, whose experience and wisdom has been a rock that’s kept Ganassi’s No. 10 Honda entry tethered in times of adversity. And how about CGR’s new performance director, Chris Simmons, who deputized for Rosenqvist’s race engineer (and team technical director) Julian Robertson, who remained at the team’s base and stayed connected via teleconferencing? And team manager Barry Wanser, who calls race strategy for the car, and absolutely nailed every decision on how long to use each set of tires? In the CGR family, Dixon and the No. 9 team are the shiny objects that have gotten the majority of the attention – and they deserve it – but it was nice to see the talented team behind the No. 10 get their first of many days in the sun.
  • Every race has its Invisible Driver X. At Round 1, it was Simon Pagenaud. In Round 2, it was…also Simon Pagenaud, which is a rarity. The last time he had bad back-to-back races was in 2017.
  • Just as it’s rare for Pagenaud to have two bad races in a row, Graham Rahal must be wondering if he’s allowed to have more than two good races in succession.
  • His team is probably asking the folks at Road America and the series why something as simple as bales of tires weren’t placed in front of the concrete barrier he clobbered on the outside of Turn 3. Whatever the cost might be to cushion the blow, it pales in comparison to the $100,000 or more it will take to get Rahal’s No. 15 Honda back in working order.

Rahal’s crash was costly in more ways than one. Image by Cantrell/Motorsport Images

  • Will Power wasn’t playing on Saturday’s first pit stop. Wanting to get after teammate Josef Newgarden in the lead, Power’s lap 12 stop came to an end when he decided it was over; although his crew chief was standing adjacent to the left-front tire with both arms extended towards the cockpit telling him to hold as teammate Simon Pagenaud approached to stop in front of the No. 12 Chevy, the Penske veteran kept an eye on his refueler Quentin Washington and dropped the clutch once he was done. Brassy move.
  • Great to hear Ann Bixler, Laguna Seca’s longstanding and universally revered VP of track operations, who was released by its new management team late last year, got the call to fly out and help Road America with its biggest event of the year.
  • Saturday’s clash and crash involving Conor Daly and Pato O’Ward gave the Ed Carpenter Racing team a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. The No. 20 Chevy was a mangled mess after it sailed into the barrier on the exit of Turn 7, and according to Daly – a former high school wrestler – his shoulder popped out of the socket in the whipping impact. So, who was at fault for the crash? Meh. Shouldn’t have happened in the first place. When was the last time two IndyCars went side-by-side in Turn 7 and successfully reached the other side fully intact? Never, I’d suggest. Having learned this lesson in Round 1, O’Ward conceded Turn 7 a bit earlier when Rosenqvist attempted and completed the race-winning pass there on Sunday.
  • Did Daly provide a little bit of payback in Round 2 by passing and holding up O’Ward to the benefit of Rosenqvist? I know there were complaints that running in the wake of Daly’s faster car on new Firestone primaries caused O’Ward’s car to torch his used alternates. I also know that on pure pace over the last eight laps of the race, Daly was faster than O’Ward seven times, and in calculating their respective lap times over the eight tours to close the race, Daly went 7.39s faster. As to the question of motive, that can only be answered by the driver in question. As for speed and potential between their old and new tires, the No. 5 AMSP Chevy and the No. 20 ECR Chevy were in different leagues.
  • A number of fans have noted how the yellow Liberty Mutual sponsor logo placed atop the NBC Sports graphics on the left of the screen makes it look like the race is under caution.
  • I’m told Dixon’s stall during his final pit stop wasn’t a case of the driver fumbling the clutch release. The stall is said to have been a result of the No. 9’s fuel tank being so dry upon entering pit lane, the motor coughed and died as the new fuel attempted to fill the fuel rails.
  • Trying to follow the Round 1 lap chart for Josef Newgarden is like tracking a dragonfly in a hurricane. He was first, he was 10th, he was sixth, he was eighth, he was 17th, and then he was 14th. A late, fourth pit stop is what ruined his day as he surrendered sixth with 12 laps to go and didn’t have the time to overcome the loss.

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