There is a new championship leader and new challenges ahead as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES begins the second half of this competitive season.
Pato O’Ward’s victory in the second race of last weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit pushed the Arrow McLaren SP driver into the series lead heading to the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR on Sunday, June 20 at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. O’Ward is one point ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou with eight races remaining. Practice begins at 5 p.m. (ET) Friday (live on Peacock).
However, the initial focus of the Road America weekend centers on two injured drivers and their replacements.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay will not be medically cleared for this event following Tuesday’s surgery to repair a broken left clavicle injured in a cycling accident Monday. VeeKay, fifth in the season standings, is being replaced in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew, who replaced Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist in the second Detroit race after the Swede was hospitalized in a crash in Race 1. As Rosenqvist is still not ready to return to the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, he will be replaced by Kevin Magnussen, a veteran of seven Formula One seasons who won last weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit.
VeeKay is the second ECR driver in six years to suffer such an injury. In 2016, Josef Newgarden broke his clavicle in a crash with Conor Daly at Texas Motor Speedway. Newgarden returned to the car 12 days later at INDYCAR’s next event — ironically, it was at Road America. If VeeKay follows a similar recovery timeline and can manage the pain, he could be back for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 2-4).
VeeKay is one of seven INDYCAR drivers to win a race this season. He captured his maiden series victory in the GMR Grand Prix on May 15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Magnussen, 28, started 119 F1 races for the McLaren, Renault and Haas teams from 2014-20. His best finish came in his first race – second place in the Australian Grand Prix for McLaren. He spent four years as a Haas F1 teammate of INDYCAR rookie Romain Grosjean, who now drives the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR.
This weekend’s field stays at 25 car-and-driver combinations as NASCAR Cup Series and sports car driver Cody Ware makes his series debut in the No. 52 NURTEC ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR. Ware completed his first INDYCAR laps earlier this year in a test at Sebring International Raceway and recently participated in a rookie test day at Road America.
In addition to the INDYCAR SERIES, the REV Group Grand Prix weekend includes all three levels of the Road to Indy program.
Sunday’s 55-lap INDYCAR race opens with the television broadcast at noon (ET) on NBC Sports Network. The INDYCAR Radio Network will have all the action on INDYCAR.com, the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA and SiriusXM 205.
O’Ward brimming with confidence
O’Ward became the first INDYCAR driver to win multiple races this season, ending a run of seven different winners to start the year. The way O’Ward muscled past four other standout competitors in the final seven laps of Sunday’s race illustrates the strength his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet should have in the second half of the season. He also snared a third-place finish the weekend’s first race, one of six top-four finishes in eight races this season.
A return to Road America should push O’Ward’s confidence to yet another level. He won his initial NTT P1 Award for last year’s second race at the picturesque 14-turn, 4.014-mile circuit, then finished second to Rosenqvist – then driving for Chip Ganassi Racing – in the race. That effectively was O’Ward’s breakout moment in INDYCAR, and he has seven top-three finishes since then. He has a pair of poles this season and has won two of the past five races.
O’Ward was not surprised to learn he had taken the series points lead when asked about it just after driving away from the field late in Sunday’s Detroit race.
“Yes, I can (believe it),” he said firmly. “The (crew has) been doing a great job. They deserve this. There’s still so much to go; we just need to stay on it and continue pushing.”
Like O’Ward, Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) is in his second full INDYCAR season and is in the championship fight for the first time. Palou won the season-opening Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 18 and has remained in the top three of the standings since. He finished 15th and third, respectively, in the Detroit races. He earned his first career podium in Race 1 at Road America last year.
How will Kevin Magnussen do?
He never tested or race an IndyCar. Yet former F1 driver Kevin Magnussen is being thrown directly into the fire subbing the last minute for an injured Felix Rosenqvist – on loan from Chip Ganassi Racing where he is driving in IMSA this year.
He has been wanting to get into IndyCar and now he gets his first break, even though it is last minute.
Magnussen said it will be a “big challenge to go straight into a race having never driven an IndyCar before”.
“But I couldn’t say no to the opportunity,” he added.
Track of Champions
Road America stands out as a track where INDYCAR champions reign.
The circuit in central Wisconsin, which opened in 1955, has hosted 31 races for U.S. open-wheel racing’s top division, and 25 times the winner was either a champion at the time or soon would be. That included a streak of 13 consecutive years from 1986-1998.
The championship-winning drivers to have won there includes three-time winners Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti, double winners Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy and Scott Dixon along with single winners Danny Sullivan, Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti, Cristiano da Matta, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
The Variety Show
There have been seven different winners in eight NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Palou (Barber Motorsports Park), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500) and Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1) have all won in 2021.
The modern era record (1946-2021) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
There are a handful of conspicuous absentees on the 2021 win list who all could contend for victory Sunday at Road America. The Team Penske trio of past season champions – Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – each are looking for their first victories. So is the Indy 500-winning duo from Andretti Autosport – Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Graham Rahal and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato also are still looking to enter Victory Lane for the first time this season.
An impressive variety of winners is a trend that started at the end of the 2020 season. Stretching back into last year, there have been nine different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, adding Power (Harvest GP-2) and Newgarden (St. Petersburg) from last October.
Different weekend schedule
INDYCAR returns to its regular three-round knockout qualifying session, which will air live on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday. NBCSN will televise the replay at midnight.
Unlike in Detroit, there will be two 45-minute practices, at 5 p.m. (ET) Friday and 11:10 a.m. (ET) Saturday. A final 30-minute practice, which serves as the race warmup, will be held after qualifying Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (ET). All practice sessions can be viewed on Peacock.
Indy Lights, Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 will have two races each, the first on Saturday and a second on Sunday.
The rest of the season
There are eight races completed and eight scheduled races remaining to settle the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.
O’Ward and Palou are separated by a single point with Dixon, a six-time series champion, 36 points out of the lead in third. Newgarden is fourth in the standings, 51 points behind O’Ward. VeeKay and Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) both are five points behind Newgarden.
Sunday’s race at Road America is the first of four permanent road course events to end the season. There are two temporary street races remaining with a short oval remaining. The schedule:
Sunday: REV Group Grand Prix at Road America (road course)
Sunday, July 4: Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (road course)
Sunday, Aug. 8: Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee (street circuit)
Saturday, Aug. 21: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway (oval)
Sunday, Sept. 12: Grand Prix of Portland (road course)
Sunday, Sept. 19: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (road course)
Sunday, Sept. 26: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (street circuit)
Race weekend: Friday, June 18 – Sunday, June 20
Track: Road America, a 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course (clockwise), in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Race distance: 55 laps / 220.77 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate for use during the race weekend. One additional set of primary tires may be used by teams fielding a rookie driver. Teams must use one set of primary and one set of new (sticker) alternate tires for at least two laps in the race.
Twitter: @RoadAmerica @IndyCar, #REVGROUPGP, #IndyCar
Event website: www.roadamerica.com
INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com
2020 race winners: Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) and Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda)
2020 pole winners Josef Newgarden (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), 1 minute, 45.5191 seconds, 136.964 mph and Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet), 1:44.8971, 137.758 mph
Qualifying record: Dario Franchitti, 1:39.866, 145.924 mph, Aug. 19, 2000
NBC Sports telecasts: Qualifying: Midnight ET Saturday, NBCSN (taped); Race: Noon ET Sunday, NBCSN (live). Kevin Lee will serve as the lead announcer for NBCSN’s REV Group Grand Prix telecast alongside analyst Townsend Bell.
Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analysts Davey Hamilton and Nick Yeoman. Jake Query and Michael Young are the turn announcers with Ryan Myrehn and Joel Sebastianelli in the pit lane. The REV Group Grand Prix will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
At-track schedule (all times Eastern Time):
Friday, June 18
5 – 5:45 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1, Peacock Premium
Saturday, June 19
11:10 – 11:55 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2, Peacock Premium
2:30 – 3:45 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (Three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium/NBCSN (Taped, midnight, June 20)
5:30 – 6 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Final Practice, Peacock Premium
Sunday, June 20
12:05 p.m. – Driver introductions
12:38 p.m. – Command to start engines
12:45 p.m. – REV Group Grand Prix (55 laps/220.77miles), NBCSN (live)
- There have been seven different winners in eight NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500) and Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1) have all won in 2021. The modern era record (1946-2021) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
- There have been nine different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves and Marcus Ericsson) The only repeat winner in that stretch is O’Ward (Texas-2, 2021 and Belle Isle-2, 2021).
- The REV Group Grand Prix will be the 32nd INDYCAR event conducted at Road America since it hosted its first INDYCAR event in 1982.
- Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Alexander Rossi are the only entered drivers who have won an INDYCAR race at Road America. Rossi won in 2019, Newgarden won in 2018, Dixon won in 2017 and the first race of 2020’s doubleheader. Power won in the INDYCAR SERIES return in 2016 – the first race at the track since 2007 when Bourdais won at Road America. Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi have the most wins by an INDYCAR driver at the track (three).
- Twenty drivers entered this weekend have previously raced in INDYCAR SERIES events at Road America. Nine of those drivers have led laps at the track (Sebastien Bourdais 92, Josef Newgarden 91, Will Power 60, Alexander Rossi 54, Pato O’Ward 43, Scott Dixon 42, Graham Rahal 5, Marcus Ericsson 2 and Simon Pagenaud 2).
- Eight drivers have won the Road America race from the pole: Mario Andretti (1983, 1984 and 1987), Danny Sullivan (1989), Paul Tracy (1993), Jacques Villeneuve (1995), Bruno Junqueira (2003), Sebastien Bourdais (2007), Will Power (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2018).
- Drivers who have won at Road America have gone on to win the INDYCAR championship six times in the same season: Mario Andretti (1984), Michael Andretti (1991), Jacques Villeneuve (1995), Alex Zanardi (1997), Cristiano da Matta (2002) and Sebastien Bourdais (2007) and Scott Dixon (2020).
- Team Penske has won five times at Road America (1989, 1992, 1993, 2016 and 2018) and is one of three current teams with wins at the track. Chip Ganassi Racing has also won five times at Road America (1997, 2001, 2017, 2020-Race 1 and 2020-Race 2), while Andretti Autosport won its first race in 2019. Newman/Haas Racing won a record 10 times at Road America.
- Rookies Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Magnussen, Scott McLaughlin and Cody Ware will race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at Road America for the first time this weekend. Magnussen and Ware will make their series debuts.
|1||2||Josef Newgarden||Nashville, Tennessee||Hitachi Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|2||3||Scott McLaughlin (R)||Christchurch, New Zealand||PPG Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|3||4||Dalton Kellett||Stouffville, Canada||K-Line Insulators / A J Foyt Racing||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Chevrolet|
|4||5||Pato O’Ward||Monterrey, Mexico||Arrow McLaren SP||Arrow McLaren SP||Chevrolet|
|5||7||Kevin Magnussen (R)||Roskilde, Denmark||Arrow McLaren SP||Arrow McLaren SP||Chevrolet|
|6||8||Marcus Ericsson||Kumla, Sweden||Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|7||9||Scott Dixon||Auckland, New Zealand||PNC Bank Grow Up Great||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|8||10||Alex Palou||Barcelona, Spain||NTT Data||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|9||12||Will Power||Toowoomba, Australia||Verizon 5G Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|10||14||Sebastien Bourdais||Le Mans, France||ROKiT / A J Foyt Racing||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Chevrolet|
|11||15||Graham Rahal||New Albany, Ohio||Hy-Vee||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Honda|
|12||18||Ed Jones||Dubai, United Arab Emirates||SealMaster||Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan||Honda|
|13||20||Conor Daly||Noblesville, Indiana||U.S. Air Force||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet|
|14||21||Oliver Askew||Jupiter, Florida||Direct Supply||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet|
|15||22||Simon Pagenaud||Montmorillon, France||Menards Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|16||26||Colton Herta||Valencia, California||Gainbridge||Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian||Honda|
|17||27||Alexander Rossi||Nevada City, California||AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS||Andretti Autosport||Honda|
|18||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||DHL||Andretti Autosport||Honda|
|19||29||James Hinchcliffe||Toronto, Canada||Genesys||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||Honda|
|20||30||Takuma Sato||Tokyo, Japan||Panasonic / Mi-Jack||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Honda|
|21||48||Jimmie Johnson (R)||El Cajon, California||Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|22||51||Romain Grosjean (R)||Geneva, Switzerland||NURTEC ODT||Dale Coyne Racing with RWR||Honda|
|23||52||Cody Ware (R)||Greensboro, North Carolina||Nurtec ODT||Dale Coyne Racing with RWR||Honda|
|24||59||Max Chilton||Reigate, England||Carlin||Carlin||Chevrolet|
|25||60||Jack Harvey||Bassingham, England||AutoNation/SiriusXM||Meyer Shank Racing||Honda|