Photo: Colin J. Mayr/ASP, Inc.

Road America Notebook

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The NTT IndyCar Series weekend in Wisconsin is complete, with Team Penske pulling off a podium sweep and Will Power breaking a nearly two-year winless streak in the process.

In addition, there were a number of drivers happy with the way things went at Road America and others that left with nothing but hurt feelings.

Two drivers that needed a pick-me-up of a weekend were Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean and Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Graham Rahal.

Grosjean started the weekend with his No. 77 Chevrolet buried windshield deep in the tire barrier after crashing in practice and making for a long night of work to get his car repaired for the following day.

The Frenchman rolled off from 14th place on Sunday and found himself in the top-10 in short order after avoiding the chaos in Turn 1 on the opening lap. From there he was able to just run a steady race and bring home his car in one piece with a much-needed finish inside the front quarter of the field.

His seventh-place result on Sunday marks his best finish of the season, one position better than his previous season-best of eighth at Long Beach.

“I think it’s what we needed,” Grosjean said. “It’s such a great race track. There’s so much passing you can do. The car was outstanding. Wind is not easy, the conditions were not easy, but we had a great setup and I’m really happy with what we were able to do.

“The pit stops were great. We executed as much as we could. Obviously there’s more that we want to learn. The only problem today was Penske was too strong for everyone else.”

As for Rahal, he had his work cut out for him to start the day, starting all the way back in 24th place, but despite the long odds of making something out of the day, he was able to do just that.

Methodically, Rahal inched his way forward through the field, putting himself within striking distance of the top-10 as the final round of pit stops played out. When all was said and done, Rahal was able to move up to 10th place with nine laps to go and held onto the spot all the way to the finish.

With the 14-place differential between the start and finish, Rahal was the biggest mover of the day, scoring his second top-10 of the season.

“It was an awesome day; it was fun,” Rahal said. “Physically I felt good; I felt like I could attack the whole time which was awesome. Yesterday in the rain, it was a bummer to not have a better result in qualifying because I felt all three of us had solid cars.

“Today, I thought we had a wonderful race car and everybody on the No. 15 Hendrickson Honda did a great job. It’s nice to get a top-10. Top 10’s in this sport are hard-earned every time. I feel like we should legitimately have six of them this year. It’s a nice boost for us to get this result. The car was great today.

“I think everybody in the engineering department did a wonderful job and the guys in the pits did a great job. The stops were super solid. After getting spun on the start, I didn’t really know what to think but right away those first few green laps, I could tell that we had speed and were able to pass guys right away, so it was awesome.”

Herta, Newgarden Agree to Disagree About Opening Lap Contact

Colton Herta has had enough.

The driver of the No. 26 Andretti Global Honda consistently has a fast car week in and week out, but the end result doesn’t show it. And Sunday was just another example of that.

Herta was fast in practice and started the race on the outside of the front row, but it didn’t take until the first turn on the opening lap for things to go sideways for the 24-year-old.

As the field stormed into Turn 1, polesitter Linus Lundqvist was turned by teammate Marcus Armstrong, and as Herta slowed for the incident, he was struck by Josef Newgarden, spinning him off track.

He was able to get going again, but the next caution on Lap 4 also included him due to debris from Herta’s car on track, as some of the rear diffuser strakes got ejected from underneath his Honda when he ran off track and over the rumble strips in Turn 1.

Herta was able to rebound up to sixth-place by the finish, but the opening lap contact with Newgarden was still on his mind, taking umbrage with Armstrong getting penalized for turning Lundqvist, but not Newgarden.

“I just got punted by Josef,” said Herta. I don’t understand how it’s a penalty for Armstrong right in front when he takes out Lundqvist, but I get the same thing done to me. It wasn’t even close. You see me slowing down and he doesn’t even attempt to slow down, just dumps me.

“How that isn’t a penalty is beyond me. I don’t understand it. But that’s the decision they made and we’ll roll with it.

“It’s disappointing because this is the third week in a row. Whether it was self-inflicted or not, I thought we should win and we didn’t. And the third week in a row where the Gainbridge Honda has been so fast and we have relatively nothing to show for it.

“I mean, I’m not happy with sixth-place with the car we had today, with the pace we had in the car. I don’t know what to say. Disappointing.”

Asked about the contact after the race, Newgarden chalked it up to a racing incident, but was apologetic about how the contact affected Herta’s race.

“From what I remember, I remember just everyone checking up on the exit of the corner. I sort of center punched Colton. I hate that most likely affected his race. I’m sure he went spinning because of it,” said Newgarden.

“I don’t know why everyone checked up on the exit. I didn’t see that. I saw people going on the outside. I’m sure something was going on in front of him. It must have been. That’s the only thing I can remember without seeing the actual replay.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.