By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – The spotlight of the NTT IndyCar Series is shining brightly on Arrow McLaren, in large part of their ambitions of becoming one of the sport’s elite. They’ve got the drivers, resources and a core group of people to achieve such goal.
Leading up to Sunday’s 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, the four-car organization are touted as one of the favorites to beat powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing. One driver out of that stable is quietly having a strong month and it’s third-place starter Felix Rosenqvist.
As his other teammates have garnered the spotlight such as Pato O’Ward having legions of fans supporting him and Tony Kanaan bidding farewell to INDYCAR, Rosenqvist has done all the talking at the 2.5-mile circuit.
After finishing fourth in last year’s 500, the 31-year-old Swede feels motivated in bringing the team its first Indy 500 win. During Media Day, Rosenqvist explained that spending time up front has molded him into an even better driver. Not just himself, but the team as a whole, especially when the stakes are high all race long.
“I think it was good experience to be up front because you never really know what that’s like until you’re there, and we spent half the race last year in the top 3 and ultimately leading the final stint after the pit sequence,” said Rosenqvist.
“I think the lesson there was if you want to win the race, you need a car that is quick in clean air, not only in traffic because as soon as you’re leading you just get passed again, and that’s kind of what happened to us.
“You learn also that the further up you go, man, the harder it is to stay — like it’s just more competitive. The drivers are better, the cars are better, and to hang on to that position gets multiplied very quickly like how difficult it is.
“But it was an awesome experience for both me and Pato, and I feel like that really gained us more confidence going into this year.”
As Arrow McLaren continues making noise, it’s made them a hot commodity for drivers to considering driving for. Ganassi drivers Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson have been heavily touted as top prospects of joining the team.
Naturally, folks have circled Rosenqvist as the man on the hot seat where quality race results are vital to his INDYCAR career. Heading into the sixth round of the championship, Rosenqvist sits 13th in points, 77 markers behind championship leader Palou.
Certainly, an Indy 500 will be a huge boost in the value of Rosenqvist, the driver. Despite those rumblings, he knows that no matter who the driver is and what team they drive for, you must deliver results.
“I don’t think anyone’s sitting, coasting and collecting in INDYCAR,” said Rosenqvist. “In the car, you have to fight for it every weekend.
“I feel like a lot of people ask me that, ‘Do you feel like you need to prove yourself?’
“Yes and no.
“I think I need maybe some good results, which I feel like they’re coming. I mean we’ve been on the front row three times this year. The GP, Texas and here. It’s really coming together well.
“You need the results to back it up and I feel like the rest of the season is looking pretty bright for us, so I’m not really worried about it. I just kind of try to jump in the car and do my thing, and everything else will work itself out.”
Sunday’s race has the writing on the wall that Rosenqvist’s quest towards Indy glory could line up. As he sees it, the car and Chevy-powered engine are there and everyone in the organization have progressed compared to 2021 when he first joined Arrow McLaren. But the wild unknown boils down to how the package will deliver on Race Day.
“We’ve always had a really good race car here. Even the first year I was with the team, we had I’d say probably a top-5 car,” said Rosenqvist.
“I feel like we just have the whole package in a different way. Obviously we’re starting higher, which makes it easier. We have our pit crews are better. I think Chevy has brought their A-game this year, which is awesome. It’s just all the little details working a little bit more in our favor, so I think would be fair to have a bit more confidence going into this one.
“But at the same time, everyone else is just better, as well, because the whole series is going like this. It’s not only our team. Maybe we’ve been growing quicker and we’ve become a bit better more rapidly than some other teams. We’re still fighting against some giants, and they will not be easy to take on race day.”
Before Race Day, Rosenqvist will stay at the track, but intends on shut everything out and enjoy other activities. Once the day comes, it’s his time to get into the zone and vie for his first INDYCAR win since Road America in 2020.
“I stay here at the track,” said Rosenqvist. “Normally I go home, but I just try to avoid the traffic, so I’ll stay here on race day, just kind of try to isolate yourself a bit from the race, not think too much about it, watch a movie, eat something good.
“It’s simple really. There’s no magic to it, you just have to sleep, and that’s it.”