By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Swearing on the radio, an exasperated Felix Rosenqvist was doing everything in his power to get lapped traffic away from the lead battle as Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 was drawing to a rapid close.
Try as he might, the Swedish sensation was unable to overcome his deficit to teammate Scott Dixon and finished second by only .00934 seconds after 90 laps, the closest Indy car racing finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Rosenqvist had to play catch up to Dixon after making three stops to Dixon’s two stops. Rosenqvist was on the primary Firestone black sidewall tires after pitting on Lap 67. Dixon’s stop on Lap 60 put him on the alternate red sidewall tires that provide more grip, but wear out quicker.
As Dixon’s tires fell off, Rosenqvist managed to close the gap to within a couple of seconds, but there was a problem. There were multiple lapped cars between the Chip Ganassi Racing teammates and they were all faster than Dixon as the laps dwindled down.
Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Max Chilton were trying to get around Dixon to get back onto the lead lap but Rosenqvist was making aggressive moves, even having contact with Andretti at one point. The No. 10 Clover Honda managed to get alongside Dixon on the last lap but the New Zealander stayed ahead through some crafty defending of his own.
“I thought [Dixon] was struggling both with fuel and especially tires,” said Rosenqvist. “He braked kind of early into (Turn) 2 and I thought he actually kind of let me go because he was going a lot slower at the time, and then he kind of veered in at the last moment and we hit a little bit. Yeah, just kicked up a lot of dirt on my tires. I couldn’t really make the attack I wanted for the last couple of corners. But yeah, he’s clever and he’s never going to be easy to pass even when he’s running out of tires.”
Attacking Dixon isn’t easy for any driver to do, much less for a rookie teammate. The 2008 Indianapolis 500 champion is third on the all time Indy car wins list with 46 and has five series championships to his credit while Rosenqvist is in his 13th Indy Car race. Trying to pass lapped traffic that’s faster than the leader while dealing with a rapidly finishing race can be too much for a rookie to handle but Rosenqvist handled everything as well as one would hope.
“With those five lap cars in front of us it was going to be difficult,” said Rosenqvist. “I was really frustrated on the radio, and Barry (Wanser), my strategist, tried to really keep me calm and tried to pick off one by one, so I used a lot of Push-to-Pass to get through (Max) Chilton and Marco (Andretti) and whoever was in front of me.”
Rosenqvist’s second place finish is remarkably his first podium in his young Indy car career. A career that had its beginnings in a test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course back in 2016 during his brief stay in Indy Lights.
“There’s always been a good flow for me at this track,” said Rosenqvist. “Maybe it reminds me a bit more of the European tracks, kind of flowing, pretty smooth. It’s not as bumpy as most of the tracks we have here. Yeah, it just keeps bringing me good memories here at Mid-Ohio. It’s an awesome place, and I also want to thank all the fans for coming out. Like it’s one of the races you really think about fans when you’re in the car because you can see them everywhere. Yeah, it’s cool that everyone comes out to this race every year.”
Rosenqvist will have another opportunity for his first win in Indy car competition at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 18th.