The NTT IndyCar Series made their annual visit to what is a fan favorite venue, Road America, which did not disappoint as the Sonsio Grand Prix was an outright battle of the fastest driver. It was the eighth round of 2022 and it sends the championship off into a two week break.
Josef Newgarden led 26 laps en route to his second career victory in Elkhart Lake after starting alongside the pole-sitter, Alexander Rossi. He had a helping hand to get the lead from Rossi, when majority of the field pitted at Lap 15 of 55.
IndyCar has now completed their stretch of three consecutive races, here’s what we learned before the long summer that is around the corner:
1. Newgarden Back on Form
In a previous edition of takeaways, it was mentioned that Newgarden had a hot and cold start to this year.
The 31-year-old Tennessee native bagged two wins in the first four races, but the other two finishes were both outside the top 10.
The No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet crew locked in back-to-back top 10 finishes, the first since those pair of victories. Newgarden has started the last two races on the front-row with a pole for the Detroit Grand Prix a week ago, but the wrong choice of strategy gave him a fourth-place finish.
Newgarden’s qualifying speed carried over and a race where strategy was a non-factor, the win at Road America was up to the pace that he could set. It was plenty enough as along with the win, he earned the $1,000,000 bonus from the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge.
In order to earn that prize a driver has to capture checkered flags at each of the three style of tracks the series runs on — ovals, street and road courses.
The championship is still very much up for grabs and Newgarden boosted himself from fifth to third, 32 points behind the lead.
2. A Legitimate Championship Contender?
Earning double points from one Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis elevated Marcus Ericsson right at the top of the championship picture.
Now, two races removed from the Indianapolis 500, it’s had a lasting effect on this year’s title hunt. Ericsson will not simply shy away as he reassumes the points lead following Road America.
A brief time spent in second, three points behind Will Power after Detroit, the Chip Ganassi Racing pilot now sits with the second largest championship lead of the season at 27 points. He stands with four straight top 10s, three of which are top fives.
Defending champions, CGR are no strangers to having a driver in competition for the Astor Cup. The question remains, can Ericsson persist in the top spots and breakout with more wins on the road and street courses?
3. Rossi’s Resurgence Continues
While the drivers listed above have both won (a) race(s) this year and are in top three of the points, Rossi is a driver trying to make up the gap.
Three consecutive top five finishes for the outgoing Andretti Autosport driver, with a pair of those being podiums — his first two on the season. The Indy 500 was Rossi’s reset and once he formally announced that he would join Arrow McLaren SP next year, he quickly became his current organization’s top driver.
It was a missed opportunity on the day for the No. 27 Andretti Honda team, a pole start that parlayed into a third-place finish. Rossi claimed that he had the second best car after he looked like the odds on favorite for the race after qualifying.
Rossi entered and left Road America seventh in the standings, 75 points behind the leader. He has a win and three podiums in seven starts at Mid-Ohio, which is the next event on the schedule.
4. Rosenqvist Representing
Felix Rosenqvist has been circled as a driver that may not return to the series next season as Arrow McLaren SP is not sure who will fill their No. 7 Chevrolet.
To ensure the 30-year-old Swede keeps his IndyCar seat, four straight top 10 finishes will only make the team think that they have to keep their asset. In the last these four starts, he has bested his teammate, Pato O’Ward in half of the races.
Rosenqvist could be on the highest form of his career thus far, he had previously never reached four consecutive top 10s.
5. Paretta’s Return
The three-race schedule for Paretta Autosport kicked off this past weekend and as much as it was a trying effort, they continued to improve all the way to drop of the checkered flag.
Simona De Silvestro made her first start on a track not named Indianapolis for the first time since the second race of the 2015 season. On Saturday, learning the new car on a road course was where most of her struggles originated from.
It has taken full-time IndyCar drivers and proven winners time to adjust to the new aero screen and that is a piece of safety De Silvestro has never competed with. She slotted last in the first practices and qualified there ahead of her first series start in slightly over a year.
De Silvestro put her prior experience to good use and was able to capitalize on the issues of fellow drivers and outlast the likes of Dalton Kellett, Jimmie Johnson and Tatiana Calderon. The No. 16 Paretta Chevrolet accomplished 21st place.
The outfit will be back for the two races on the schedule at Mid-Ohio and Nashville.