Road America Race Wrap-Up

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If you were wondering if Team Penske was snake-bit, wonder no more. After leading thirty-two of fifty-laps, Josef Newgarden saw that lead disappear on a restart at the beginning of lap fifty-four. Newgarden explained afterwards that he could not get the car to shift into sixth, while heading into Turn One. That allowed Alex Palou to sweep past Newgarden on the outside, just before Turn One. Newgarden later explained the car then got stuck in first gear and he mainly focused on not getting collected . Newgarden finished twenty-first.

This was eerily reminiscent of what happened to Will Power at Detroit one week ago, when his leading car would not re-fire after a red flag. Then the next day, Newgarden was the victim of a flawed tire strategy that saw him lose the lead to Pato O’Ward with three laps to go. At least he was still able to salvage second place. Today was as bad for Newgarden as last Saturday was for Power at Belle Isle.

Newgarden was understandably and visibly upset after the race. His quest for the championship is not mathematically over, but he certainly has his work cut out for him being down eighty-eight points to the new points leader – Alex Palou.

Third-place finisher Will Power was in the media center for the post-race press conference and was bemoaning the terrible run of bad luck Team Penske is going through. He said one thing that really caught my ear, when asked if he changed his setup to replicate that of Newgarden’s. He said he changed his setup and his driving style to be more Josef’s. The moderator, thinking he was joking, asked if he was serious. Power said “Absolutely”. Interesting.

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Second-place finisher Colton Herta was also in the press conference, but really said nothing earth-shattering. He mostly said it was good to be on the podium for only the second time as a non-winner. That means he either wins or has mid-pack finishes.

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When Alex Palou showed up, he was beaming for obvious reasons. He is once again the points leader by twenty-eight over Pato O’Ward, and also leads teammate Scott Dixon by fifty-three points. When asked how he wanted to celebrate today’s win – he said he wanted some fried chicken.

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The NTT IndyCar Series has become fairly unpredictable this season. It is becoming more and more obvious that the charge of the young drivers is real, and not just a thing for the media to harp on. Six of the nine race winners in 2021 are twenty-four or younger. Two of them have been over forty and Marcus Ericsson is the only driver to win this season that is in his thirties. The young drivers are making their mark and seem to be here to stay.

That is going to do it for us today. The rain that was talked about throughout the race broadcast, is now here and it appears it is here to stay. As I type away in the dry media center right at the start-finish line, I can look across and see the teams scurrying to pack away their equipment. It will be a longer trip for some than others. For Chip Ganassi Racing, the trip back will be a breeze. For Team Penske, there will be a lot of soul searching.

Congratulations to Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou is the new points leader and is the first Ganassi driver not named Scott Dixon to win multiple races in a season since Dario Franchitti did ten years ago in 2011. And to think that seat only became vacant because Felix Rosenqvist gave it up in the offseason.

I’ll have an abbreviated Random Thoughts here on Monday. I’ll close with some of the excellent photos that Susan got of the Newgarden and Palou battle earlier in the race, and then Palou celebrating in Victory Lane after the race. Thanks to everyone who followed along throughout the weekend. This was our sixth straight year coming to Road America. Once again, it did not disappoint.

George Phillips

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3 Responses to “Road America Race Wrap-Up”

  1. Talón de Brea Says:

    Thanks, George! I appreciate the blog post “documentaries” that you provide — a race fan relating events to other race fans (as opposed to, say, past ABC coverage of races). The restaurant references are great, as well!

  2. Carburetor Says:

    Thank you George & Susan for allowing those of us who cannot attend these races in person, to live a bit vicariously through your experiences. It is fantastic that you continue to provide us with your perspectives and reports. Safe journeys!

  3. Enjoyed your weekend reports and photos. Can you send me some of that rain!

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