By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The final race of a busy July heads home to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its second visit at the road course. Last time around, weather plagued the race but it certainly created excitement all across the board. Weather will be much ideal as there’s no sign of rain, but mostly sunny conditions is expected.
Track conditions aside, the news going into the Gallagher Grand Prix once again focuses on the drama involving Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing. This Wednesday, the team sued their driver who won last year’s NTT IndyCar Series champion as the team rest assure that Palou will still be their driver in 2023.
While the rumors of Palou may be out of a ride for the rest of the year were running rampant, the Spaniard is still slated to drive for the No. 10 team.
One other driver’s future is sealed as Juncos Hollinger Racing announced Thursday that Callum Ilott will be with the No. 77 team in a long-term deal.
“After seeing the results that we have been able to put forward at JHR for most of the year and the work that has been going on in the background by Ricardo and Brad to improve for the years beyond, made sense to continue with the team and keep building,” said Ilott in a press release.
“The potential that we have shown as a one car team can only get better as we grow and expand this program. I am super happy to continue working with all the team members at JHR, we have created a great foundation together this season. The effort that everyone puts in and the working environment that they have is amazing. From where we started at a year ago, to where we are now, I am confident that we will find more success together.”
The other headline is the status of Josef Newgarden, who won the opening race at Iowa but crashed out in the second race while leading.
While Newgarden was heartbroken and was uninjured, he had a frightening moment after the race when he fell outside of his transporter. He sustained head abrasion and was airlifted to a local hospital in Des Moines, where he stayed overnight for observation.
While the scans came out negative, Team Penske announced on Monday that Santino Ferrucci will be on standby. Ferrucci is slated to drive in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race for Sam Hunt Racing hours after the grand prix.
On Thursday, INDYCAR cleared Newgarden to run practice and will be re-evaluated to see if he’ll be race ready and conquer the 85-lap challenge that lies ahead.
As for the championship trail, the crash relegated Newgarden from possibly taking the points lead to tied with Scott Dixon for third in points.
On the other hand, Marcus Ericsson was able to retain his championship lead going to Indianapolis. The last time the Swede competed at IMS was in the 106th Indianapolis 500 where he won.
With five rounds remaining and barely holding onto an eight-point lead over Will Power, earning max points is critical should he leave Laguna Seca in September as champion.
“I think I probably need to win at least one more race. That’s sort of my mindset,” said Ericsson. “But at the same time, I think we have the best consistency in the field so we just need to keep doing that. If we keep being consistent, inside the top 10, even since the month of May I think we’ve been in the top eight every race.
“We need to be there all the time, then we have some strong tracks coming up, try and grab a win or two would be nice to try and close up the championship. “But it’s going to be tough. We just need to maximize every weekend, yeah. That’s the name of the game, right?”
The Brickyard has had wild moments in the past and this Saturday will be no different with the headlines entering the weekend.
By the Numbers
What: Gallagher Grand Prix, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 13 of 17
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Speedway, IN (Road Course Opened: 2000; First INDYCAR Race: 2014)
When: Saturday, July 30, 2022
TV/Radio: NBC / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 211) Noon ET
Track Size: 2.439-mile road course
Race Length: 85 laps, 207.3 miles
2021 Brickyard Winner: Will Power – No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started second, 56 laps led)
2022 Grand Prix Winner: Colton Herta – No. 26 Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda (Started 14th, 50 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Will Power – No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet (67.7044 seconds, 129.687 mph – May 12, 2017)
From the Driver’s Seat
Scott McLaughlin – No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
“We’re actually rolling with a very similar setup in some ways because we actually looked at the temperatures and they are actually cooler than what we had in May, which is surprising. It was a freak week we had there in May.
“It’s going to be interesting. Obviously last year we found out the NASCAR rubber was a little bit different on the track, how it felt for me in the race car.
“Practice and qualifying, we’re really the only cars on track until after qualifying. From a pure speed perspective, we won’t really know what the track’s going to do until we get out for warmup in the morning, on Sunday morning. The race is actually straight after NASCAR qualifying.
“It’s a little bit more of a punch in the dark because our car setup is a little bit different than last year. But I think we’re just going to go there with a very similar philosophy to what we had in May.”
Last Time in Indianapolis
Last year marked the first time both INDYCAR and NASCAR hosted a race at the grand prix circuit. The madness racing provides were there as the grand prix saw two major headlines.
The first being championship leader Alex Palou’s No. 10 Honda losing an engine during the second half of the race. In a year that he appeared unbreakable ended that day, but would ultimately hoist the Astor Cup at season’s end.
Following Palou’s retirement, it was all Will Power, who had a frustrating 2021 campaign up to that point. Whether it’s ECU issues at Belle Isle or unable to catch a break under any circumstances, Power’s luck changed that day.
He was able to rack up yet another win at the Indy road course in what turned out to be his only win of the season.
“It’s a big relief. I think it’s great for the team, especially the guys on my car. They’ve been working hard. They’ve been flawless this year. They’ve really done the job, and I haven’t,” said Power. “If we’d had that sort of performance in the pits and just prep and all that last year, we probably would have won a lot more races.
“Very happy for those guys, and just happy to be in victory lane, man. You always start to wonder when is the next one coming. It always comes down to doing your homework, working hard and putting it together, staying focused.”
Fast forward to May, rather than the focal point being on the championship picture. It was all about the weather where drivers were pushed to their absolute limit. Look no further than Colton Herta.
For much of his career, Herta either has been unbeatable out front or when the pressure stacks up, he’ll make a costly mistake. Herta pulled an Initial D move just to save his car early on and kept marching forward.
From there, strategy and surviving the wet circuit favored the Andretti Autosport racer. While his teammate Alexander Rossi was unable to pull off multiple strategies that would’ve put him in a winning position, it was Herta who capitalized.
When the final caution came out for Juan Pablo Montoya, the race had reached the two-hour window and was the race cut short. Behind the safety car, Herta went on to capture his only win thus far in 2022.
But the madness certainly didn’t end as rookies and top-10 finishers Christian Lundgaard and Callum Ilott crashed after crossing the line. Both drivers were okay and while their days were crushed, Herta was on cloud nine.
“It was really just the call for wets to slicks. Again, the call for slicks to wets that made the difference,” said Herta. “I think we gained 15 spots on that transition. We pitted on lap three. Everybody pitted on lap four or five. We gained 15 spots in that transition to go from 15th to first.
“It was really cool. Really cool to be a part of today. The team did a tremendous job. They gave me such an incredible car.
“The most interesting thing is you never have a car that works in the wet and the dry. It’s just not possible, but it happened today. It was very interesting. Felt comfortable in all conditions. Yeah, it was fun to do it.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, July 29
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice (9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. – Peacock)
Saturday, July 30
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (8:15 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. – Peacock)
- Gallagher Grand Prix (Noon to 3:00 p.m. – NBC)