Like clockwork, at least one NTT IndyCar carrying high expectations to perform in the new season comes up short at the first round, and at St. Petersburg, it was Arrow McLaren SP and Meyer Shank Racing who left with deficits to overcome.
AMSP unloaded on Friday and were off the mark with Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevy and Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 7 Chevy, struggled on Saturday when O’Ward hit the wall in qualifying and Rosenqvist lacked speed, and with their respecting starting positions of P16 and P21, O’Ward charged on the opening lap to improve to P9, but ultimately settled for P12. Rosenqvist improved to P17, but altogether, the team that won two races and vied for the 2021 title with O’Ward wasn’t satisfied with Round 1 of the 2022 championship
“The end result made it a tough day,” AMSP president Taylor Kiel said. “Both Arrow McLaren SP cars moved forward through the field, which passing in traffic here at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a difficult thing to do. Track position is king. With that in mind, we took an alternate strategy very early in the race with both cars. That put us P2 and P6 on that strategy, but turns out it split the field in half and we were on the wrong end of it. No fault of anyone, as the yellow fell when it did and ultimately brought the other strategies back into play.
“I’m proud of everybody for their work in the offseason, and I feel that we have strong cars. When we were able to show it in clean air, we had as good of pace as anybody. It was just a tough weekend based on how we qualified and we knew it was going to be an uphill battle. We will take this one and move on to Texas.”
At MSR, Sunday was a strange affair for its debuting twosome of Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud starred in qualifying, placing the No. 60 Honda in P6 as Castroneves wasn’t as fortunate with the No. 06 Honda which earned P17. At the start, Pagenaud went backwards and his fortunes did not improve as he finished in P15, directly behind his teammate.
“The goal was to put some points on the board and that’s exactly what we did,” Castroneves said while adding a positive twist. “Obviously 14th is not where we wanted to be; however, some days that’s what you get as a result. We are going to take what we learned here and use it for Long Beach — but first we have Texas and that’s where we need to collect a lot of points.”
Pagenaud was happy to get the opening round over and move onto improving when the series reconvenes in March at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I’m disappointed with my start and dropped back a few spots,” he said. “And then we opted for three stops and defended to (Josef) Newgarden and the two-stop strategy actually worked better. I think it was great to get my first race in the books. There’s a lot to learn from it and a lot of potential which I’m excited about.”