Pruett's cooldown lap: Detroit

Cantrell/Motorsport Images

Pruett's cooldown lap: Detroit

Insights & Analysis

Pruett's cooldown lap: Detroit

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A pole for Pato O’Ward. A win for Marcus Ericsson. A pole for Josef Newgarden. A win for Pato O’Ward. A win for Honda. A win for Chevy. A crash for Romain Grosjean. A podium for Rinus VeeKay. A red flag where every engine starts. A red flag and every engine but one starts. A red flag that felt like it should have been a yellow. A fire for Romain Grosjean. A crash for Felix Rosenqvist. A suit from JPM and boots from Palou. A start for Oliver Askew. A crash for Santino Ferrucci. A replacement chassis for Santino Ferrucci. A furious interview from Toowoomba’s finest. A litany of complaints about broadcast delays. And Will Power wants to fight Kyle Busch.

You know an event took off and went absolutely crazy when Friday’s big news – of the Aussie having an interest in post-race boxing matches – gets completely lost in all that went down in the D.

With the Road America race just days away, we’ll skip some items and go deep into others as there’s not a lot of time to dwell on the past.

ALL YOU COULD ASKEW FOR

Oliver Askew’s first lap in a car at Belle Isle was his first lap out of the pits for qualifying on Sunday morning. As expected, knocking off months of IndyCar rust after doing a one-day test for Andretti Autosport in February wasn’t going to achieved in the 10-minute qualifying session. While learning the circuit and getting re-acclimated to the No. 7 Chevy, Askew gave the team more than anticipated by claiming 23rd out of the 25 drivers onsite.

The 24-year-old climbed as high as 17th in the race before engine problems intervened and called an end to his day. The lasting memory from Askew’s 46-lap race should be what he achieved with pace: His fastest race lap of 1m17.2889s was better than Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Santino Ferrucci, and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, along with a handful of others.

Even teammate and Race 2 winner Pato O’Ward, who scythed through the field and ran away once he took the lead, wasn’t that far ahead of Askew with a best lap of 1m17.0989s – just 0.1900s better.

Considering all of the drivers who spun, hit others, and hindered their final Sunday results, I hope some team owners take a moment to appreciate how the one guy thrown into the deep end at Detroit that had every excuse to make mistakes, was clean, fast, and smooth.

And he’ll get another chance to prove it this weekend at Road America.

Rosenqvist’s crash meant an Oliver twist for AMSP, and Askew will get another shot with ECR this weekend. Motorsport Images

WOMEN ENGINEERS ROCK

There were a couple of cool “firsts” on Saturday at Belle Isle. Not only did Marcus Ericsson take his first IndyCar win – and reach victory lane for the first time since 2013 — but his race engineer Brad Goldberg also made his first visit to the top step of the open-wheel podium since 2013. That was an interesting time match.

Two other important firsts came with the Swede’s win with the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with Angela Ashmore, Goldberg’s assistant race engineer, who scored her first IndyCar win. And that wasn’t all for women engineers. Nicole Rotondo, Ericsson’s Honda Performance Development engine engineer, also joined in with the group pool party as she got her first victory as an engine tech.

It goes one step further for Goldberg: He’s won races with Angela Ashmore and her husband Craig Ashmore, who was his Roush engine engineer on the former Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA GT Le Mans program, where Goldberg oversaw numerous wins.

And while it was by no means a first win for AMSP’s Kate Gundlach, who won the 2018 championship with Scott Dixon, it was great to see O’Ward’s performance engineer celebrating in the same fountain as Rotondo and Ashmore after Round 2.

There are a lot of first-timers in that fountain. Owens/IndyCar

POINTS THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

Leaving the Indy 500, this was your top 10:
1. Alex Palou, 248 points
2. Scott Dixon, 212, -36
3. Pato O’Ward, 211, -37
4. Simon Pagenaud, 201, -47
5. Rinus VeeKay, 191, -57
6. Josef Newgarden, 184, -64
7. Colton Herta, 154, -94
8. Graham Rahal, 148, -100
9. Scott McLaughlin, 143, -105
10. Marcus Ericsson, 138, -110

Leaving Detroit, here’s how good and bad fortunes shuffled the deck:

1. Pato O’Ward, 299 points
2. Alex Palou, 298, -1
3. Scott Dixon, 263, -36
4. Josef Newgarden, 248, -51
5. Rinus VeeKay, 243, -56
6. Simon Pagenaud, 243, -56
7. Marcus Ericsson, 211, -88
8. Graham Rahal, 209, -90
9. Colton Herta, 202, -97
10. Takuma Sato, 181, -118

Of the major takeaways, Palou’s rough Saturday and a pair of finishes behind O’Ward surrendered the championship lead, as he went from +37 to -1 with the AMSP driver. Dixon, remarkably, maintained the same 36-point deficit to first after a pair of decent top 10s.

On the strength of a 10th and second, Josef Newgarden was the second-biggest mover up the standings from sixth to fourth; Marcus Ericsson used the points from his win to vault the farthest from P10 to P7. And going in the opposite direction, Simon Pagenaud had the big points haul at Indy to hold fourth to start Belle Isle, but a relatively unspectacular event saw him drop to sixth. Similar for Colton Herta, who rallied with a fourth on Sunday, but that 14th on Saturday hurt and moved him from seventh to ninth. An unforgiving weekend for Scott McLaughlin meant surrendering 10th to Takuma Sato on the way to landing in 12th.

The only other decent mover in the full-time field was Sebastien Bourdais, who improved from 18th to 15th after the doubleheader.

PRE-FAMULATED AMULITE, TWO SPURVING BEARINGS, AND SIX HYDROCOPTIC MARZLEVANES

What caused Felix Rosenqvist’s crash? We don’t know, other than the Swede was cleared of any blame, and to be honest, that part was obvious from the in-car footage.

The car simply took off, and if he’d mistakenly mashed the throttle to the floor instead of hitting the brakes, which is rather hard to do in the Dallara DW12s, there was no sign of lifting before impact. But since AMSP said Rosenqvist had no part in the crash, we can safely assume he did nothing wrong with his hands or feet. The same goes for Chevy, which received the all-clear from AMSP, and like Rosenqvist, there’s no reason to question the Bowtie here.

The other obvious item that stood out was the lack of braking to slow the car, lock the tires, and drag the engine down from banging away on the rev limiter at 12,000rpm. The all-blue LED lights seen atop his steering wheel were telling him to upshift. Without black streaks from his skidding Firestone tires leading to the crash site, and in the absence of a clear explanation from the team – which was requested, and awaits response – we’re left to draw our own conclusions.

Within moments of the car being hauled away from the crash site, I’d heard that something wonky was found in the pedal assembly. It could be wrong, or it could be right; don’t take it as anything other than a sharing of what was relayed.

On the topic, this is what AMSP had to say: “The sequence of events has been clearly established and the root cause identified as a singular, non-recurrent mechanical fault.”

(Full credit to the team for watching the legendary ‘Turbo Encabulator’ clip before assembling that word salad!)

The lack of braking makes me think there was a braking malfunction of some kind, but that doesn’t answer why the engine rocketed to maximum revs and hurled Rosenqvist into the wall. In the same release, AMSP said Chevy was not to blame for anything related to throttle issues. That is assumed to mean the engine side of the throttle system, not the chassis side, as Chevy has nothing to do with the pedal’s electronics.

The DW12 relies on a drive-by-wire electronic interaction between the throttle pedal and its partner on the engine that opens the throttle butterfly through a motor that’s operated electronically in reaction to the pedal’s movement.

At the pedal, an electronic potentiometer is attached, and as the pedal is moved by a driver’s foot, the shaft in the potentiometer moves. Purely for the sake of example, if one inch of throttle pedal movement equates to the engine cracking open to 10 percent throttle, it’s actually the electronic potentiometer’s movement that gives the instruction to the little motor on the engine that opens the throttle butterfly.

And as more than one IndyCar electronics specialist has suggested since the crash, if things were to come loose in the pedal assembly, and in particular, the throttle potentiometer came loose from the pedal while in the wide-open position, a driver would have no control over the engine and an unfortunate maximum-throttle situation like Rosenqvist’s could occur.

It’s worth restating that in the absence of a concise explanation from the team, what you’ve just read are hypotheticals and not facts.

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