The Golden Bowling Ball award
He was the only driver to bowl a strike at Portland, so welcome to the TGBB club, Romain Grosjean.
Leaders Circle update
Breaking news: I’m an idiot.
OK, that’s not exactly a secret. Turns out I’ve relied on incorrect information about part-time entries being eligible for earning Leaders Circle contracts, and that’s entirely my fault. Part-timers are not eligible, and despite that rule making no sense, apologies are due for my aforementioned idiocy in past LC updates.
With that in mind, let’s clear the slate and take a fresh look at who’s on target to earn one of the 22 contracts and which entries are in jeopardy of missing out on the roughly $1 million in guaranteed prize money. CGR’s No. 48 Honda entry is on the bubble in P22 at 178 points, and ahead in P21, the No. 7 AMSP Chevy is looking safe at 189 points.
The other two full-timers, Carlin Racing’s No. 59 Chevy at 144 points and A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 4 Chevy at 130 points, have almost no chance of making the cut by the end of Long Beach. As the old song goes, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”
• Pato O’Ward wondered aloud over the radio if his Chevy engine was down on power. After checking in with his team and manufacturer after the race, both say there was nothing found in the data to support that notion, and the same engine will stay in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP entry to complete the season.
• If we disregard the Turn 1, lap 1 stuff, it was great to see AMSP’s Rosenqvist deliver in qualifying with P4 to lead the team and find his way back to P6 in the race. It’s the third time this year he’s finished ahead of O’Ward.
• My favorite stat from the Portland GP: Will Power, seven pit stops, finishes P13! Makes you wonder what in the hell those behind him, who weren’t part of the lap 1, Turn 1 crash, and who didn’t have to pit for a new nose and front wings, managed to get wrong with their two- or three-stop strategies.
Power also found himself in an unfamiliar position all weekend as he took part in the Portland Grand Prix lacking his ever-present wife Liz by his side. The Aussie said it was the first time in 14 years he’s been to an IndyCar race without his bride.
• Jack Harvey matched his best finish of fourth. The Briton has stemmed a brutal run of eight forgettable results with three straight top 10s.
• Jimmie Johnson is making solid gains to close the year. In a season of baby steps, the last few outings have shown growth and improved pace, which bodes well for 2022.
• Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing engineer Brandon Fry, who looks after the No. 45 Honda, shared a fun note that Portland was by no means the first time he’s worked with Oliver Askew. Fry ran Askew and Indy Lights title contender Kyle Kirkwood at a karting event back in 2014!
• Sticking with Askew, there were moments of significant promise at Portland, but that solo spin and stall to open the race made his day rather hard. It leaves two races to convince RLL he’s their guy for the No. 45 car next year.
• Another odd weekend for Ed Carpenter Racing where both entries weren’t in the mix when it mattered.
• Ed Jones certainly shined in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan entry. I wish it happened more often earlier in the year for the 2016 Indy Lights champ.
• On a Wednesday morning conference call with Honda officials, Takuma Sato’s future representing the brand in IndyCar, sports cars, or anywhere else was raised for comment: “That’s personal choices, team choices,” Honda Performance Development reps said. “We value Takuma tremendously. He’s won the Indy 500 twice, which is no small feat, so we want to do what we can to help. It’s an ongoing discussion with many different parties, but no news to share.”
• What a wonderful way to spend the limited downtime between Portland and Laguna Seca: The Hunter-Reay family got to the Monterey circuit early, set up in one of the camp sites, and has been having fun with their sons racing RC cars in the dirt and savoring the coastal climate before practice gets under way on Friday.