Rahal and Rossi stay cool after contact
The respect between two veteran NTT INDYCAR SERIES riders meant that fallout from a flat right front tire was not a hot topic.
Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal were vying for a spot as they approached Turn 4 of the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg on Sunday when Rahal dove inside Rossi in an attempt to draw alongside him. Their contact cut Rossi’s tire, preventing him from spinning his # 27 Honda NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation as they came to turn 5. They struck two more times before coming to a stop.
Rahal was able to roll back his No.15 United Rentals Honda to continue within a fairly short period of time, but many positions had already been lost as both riders’ chances for good results wore off. Rahal finished 15th, Rossi 21st in the 24-car peloton.
“I think it was a bit of a racing incident,” said Rahal. “Obviously I had a little slow pit stop (just before the contact); I think he could have too. We thought we were just going to (pass) him.
Rahal said he “had to make the trip” when entering Turn 4 as there were only three legitimate passing zones on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit.
“(The contact) is happening,” Rahal said. “Alex is a fair enough guy so I don’t think there is any hard feelings. It’s a shame for the flat right front because I think we both could have gone perfectly well and continued our days. But that’s what it is.
Rossi said he was still on cold tires and therefore not yet at full speed when the initial incident occurred.
“I feel like I gave him room – I didn’t have him on the sidewalk or anything,” said Rossi, driver for Andretti Autosport. “It’s one of those racing things.
“Obviously, watching (the TV broadcast), it’s unfortunate that he ended up outside of me when I had the tire flat. I wasn’t trying to drive it into Turn 5. The ignition in Turn 4 is what caused our problem, and it’s one of those things – you’re running for the same ground.
Rossi’s poor result brought him back to 16th in the standings after two races, not the position he hoped to be in after struggling through last year’s winless season. But he refused to bow his head.
“I think the rise in frustration in the past has cost us,” he said. “The good thing is the car is fast. This is usually the most difficult problem to solve. It’s very different from last year when we had these issues and we didn’t have car speed.
“The car is fast this year, and at some point things will work out for us.”
Bourdais delivers another strong result
Members of AJ Foyt Racing have made a habit of calling Sébastien Bourdais the ‘Million Dollar Man’ after his fourth place finish in last year’s season-end race in St. Petersburg secured their place in the INDYCAR’s Leaders Circle program for 2021. This bonus is worth approximately $ 1 million per entry per year.
Bourdais still pays dividends to the team that signed him last year, with a 10th place Sunday nicely paired with the fifth place he won last week at Barber Motorsports Park.
After two races, the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet ROKit is tied for sixth place in the standings, just 16 points behind the lead.
Bourdais, who lives about a mile north of the track in St. Petersburg, finished that 100-lap race when it looked like he couldn’t even start. He sat on the pit lane during both warm-up laps while the crew turned off the radio in the car’s foot box.
Then, on the first trip into tight turn 1, Bourdais had nasal contact with Josef Newgarden’s No.2 Chevrolet Hitachi and lateral contact with fellow Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud in the No.22 Menards Chevrolet / Australian Gold. Remarkably, Bourdais didn’t even lose position despite damage to the nose of his car, with an on-board camera hanging up front for most of the race.
Bourdais should get used to driving an injured car. Last month he drove the final segment, winning the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring sports car race with a damaged rear wing, and he finished last week’s Barber race with sidepod damage.
On ‘Road to Indy’
David Malukas of HMD Motorsports finished the Indy Lights weekend presented by Cooper Tires with a second podium, winning Sunday’s race after finishing third on Saturday. The victory was his second of the season, having won the second race last week at Barber Motorsports Park. Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti Autosport, who won Saturday’s race, was second in it.
Jay Howard Driver Development’s Christian Rasmussen claimed a convincing 7.3-second victory in the 2000 Indy Pro race on Sunday. The victory was his first in the series in three starts; he finished second on Saturday.
Up Next for INDYCAR
Fans of next weekend’s double INDYCAR schedule at Texas Motor Speedway will get a preview of the pit stops on Friday at an event directly behind the Fort Worth Library. The 2nd Cowtown Pit Stop Challenge will feature Team Penske vs. Chip Ganassi Racing in a four-crew battle.
Josef Newgarden and Will Power will represent Team Penske while Tony Kanaan and Alex Palou will compete for Team Ganassi. The event begins at noon local time on 2nd Street between Taylor and Burnett Streets.
The Genesys 300 takes place on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and the XPEL 375 on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Both races will be broadcast live on NBCSN with practice sessions and qualifying on Peacock Premium, NBC’s streaming service available at www.peacocktv.com.
The field of INDYCAR competitors will certainly be different. Kanaan will take Jimmie Johnson’s place, Carlin will announce this week who will drive his # 59 Chevrolet that Max Chilton drives in road and road races, Ed Carpenter looks back on his # 20 Chevrolet driven so far this year by Daly , and Pietro Fittipaldi replaces his compatriot Romain Grosjean in the # 51 Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR. Twenty-four car-driver combinations are expected again.
Dixon dominated the race in Texas last year, leading 157 of 200 laps in three-game winning streak to open his victorious sixth season. Dixon has four wins on the 1.5-mile oval, tied with Helio Castroneves for the sport’s all-time lead on the track.
- Chip Ganassi Racing’s # 10 NTT DATA Honda rider Alex Palou continues to hold the series lead, but his advantage is only two points over two former series champions – teammate Scott Dixon and Will Power from Team Penske. Power claims second place in a tiebreaker because he has the best result this season, second last weekend at Barber. Dixon, who rides the No. 9 Honda PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing, got off to a good start in his attempt to win a record-breaking seventh INDYCAR Championship, finishing fifth on Sunday after a third place at Barber. Power finished second and eighth in the No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet. After winning the Barber race, Palou finished 17th in the second round.
- No.5 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward had one of the strongest cars at Barber, where he won pole and finished fourth. But this weekend was different. He never seemed to have his car run the same way, and his starting sixth place was reduced to 19th after a late race contact with Ed Jones, Dale’s No.18 Honda SealMaster rider. Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan.
- Takuma Sato was one of the biggest drivers in the race in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s # 15 Panasonic / Shield Cleaners Honda, advancing nine spots in the race to finish sixth. Right behind him was Marcus Ericsson in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No.8 Huski Chocolate. He too improved nine places to finish seventh. Power has improved 12 places from its 20th starting position.
- Overall, the INDYCAR rookies did quite well given they had no pre-season track time on this temporary street circuit. Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske (# 3 DEX Imaging Chevrolet) finished 11th, with Romain Grosjean of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR (# 51 Nurtec ODT Honda) in 13th and Jimmie Johnson (# 48 Carvana Honda) 22nd . Johnson had an early start in the race as the last turn approached, then turned into Turn 3 at the end of the race. It was his first race of any kind on a street circuit.
- Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay (No.21 SONAX / Autogeek Chevrolet) finished seventh in the second street-racing race of his INDYCAR career. He finished 15th in this event last year.
- A pair of NFL receivers had ceremonial roles for Sunday’s race. Marquez Valdes-Scantling of the Green Bay Packers gave the command to start the engines while Scott Miller of Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers rode with Mario Andretti into Ruoff’s fastest mortgage seat in tandem sports.