By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. — Putting on a complete race has been Felix Rosenqvist’s Kryptonite all season.
Luck was finally on the Arrow McLaren driver’s side as Rosenqvist finished second to Alex Palou in Sunday’s BitNile.com Grand Prix of Portland.
It marked his second podium of the year and his best finish since joining Arrow McLaren in 2021. A much-needed result for the Swede as he’s expected to sign with a new team in 2024.
As far as his race weekend is concerned, things clicked for Rosenqvist’s No. 6 team the moment they unload the Chevrolet-powered machine off the transport. Despite rolling off 11th, there were plenty of reasons to smile this weekend in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s been a really good weekend for us. The Arrow McLaren SmartStop was really good rolling off the truck,” said Rosenqvist, who led three laps.
“I was really bummed yesterday after qualifying. We had something break in the steering rack, and we had to pit before we could do our lap in Q2. So there was definitely more in it than our starting position showed.
“What a race. That was really good fun. It kind of went our way as well. We kind of gambled on staying out on reds, but it worked out with the yellow in the end.
“We had to obviously save the tires a bit, so I think it wasn’t the winning strategy, but it was for sure enough for a podium. Really happy with the comeback we did.”
Following the second and final caution period for Agustin Canapino spinning and stalling at Turn 11, track position became a burden for several racers. Especially when lapped cars restarted around lead lap cars which left teammate Pato O’Ward irate. Some see it as favoritism for the Hondas letting Honda cars go through with ease whereas making it tough for Chevrolet.
Rosenqvist didn’t see it that way as the caution and race traffic favored him as he didn’t dealt with lapped cars like Scott Dixon.
“I feel like it doesn’t really matter manufacturer-wise. It seems equally frustrating whoever you’re trying to pass, but you saw with Pato, he finished 19 seconds behind me, and I don’t think he was 19 seconds slower than me, so that’s how big of an effect it has,” said Rosenqvist.
“It played into my favor. I felt like I got through traffic pretty smoothly. I followed Scott and we managed to kind of get through quicker than normal because you can really get stuck behind people for the whole stint.
“Sometimes it works in your favor. Sometimes not. I feel like this race everything kind of flowed for me, so I’m thankful for that. For sure frustrating for some guys.”
In the end, Rosenqvist simply couldn’t match Palou’s strong pace nor his primary compounds, as his victory was enough to clinch his second INDYCAR championship in three years.
“It was a pretty straight shot in a final restart, and I was on the reds. He was on the blacks. Both fairly new tires,” Rosenqvist on the final green flag period.
“I thought I had a shot, but honestly the blacks were kind of as good as the reds in the restart. That’s at least from my point of view. I had some really good restarts on blacks.
“I just couldn’t really attack him. Once I realized he was pulling away, I probably have to save my tires now because otherwise I risk actually falling through the field in the last five laps.
“I was just kind of managing after a couple of laps, and I think I pretty much did the optimal stint time that I could with those tires. It was kind of frustrating, but it could have been worse.”
With one round remaining and likely the last for Rosenqvist at Arrow McLaren, he sits 12th in points as his chances of finishing in the top-10 in points is still possible.
However, he has his work cut out for as the gap between him and 10th place Colton Herta is 37 points. A huge task indeed as live coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.