By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A few silly season puzzles were solved this past weekend at Belle Isle. This time, the shift focuses on Road America, the longest circuit of the NTT IndyCar Series calendar.
Back on top of the championship trail is Will Power who capitalized on a rough Indy 500 by capturing his first win of the season. With his victory, he regained the points lead and is ahead of Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson by just three points as we’re near the end of the first half of 2022.
Despite the 500 hiccup, Power’s confidence level remained balance and looks to continuing the trend in Elkhart Lake. Much like each race he’s completed in 2022.
“It’s different every weekend. But we have been really strong at pretty much everywhere except Indy this year,” said Power after winning at Belle Isle.
“I think engine is really good. I think the team is good. It has been. Everything is just flying nicely for us now. We want to be competitive for the rest of the year. We want to be in the championship hunt. That’s the goal.”
Callum Ilott will return behind the wheel in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet after being sidelined with a wrist injury. It was confirmed Wednesday the British rookie will run at the four-mile road course for the first time in his INDYCAR career.
“We looked quite extensively at my hand and the risk of further damage is a lot lower. It’s still a factor, but the track surface in Road America is a lot less bumpy than Detroit,” said Ilott.
“Looking at Road America, I haven’t been there yet, but it’s a good high speed fun track and quite long as well. There are some good overtaking zones, so it should be a fun weekend with a lot of action. I am super excited to get back in, coming off the momentum we had at the INDY GP we should be on for a good weekend.”
Finally, Sunday will mark the road course debut of Paretta Autosport, who’ll make their first INDYCAR start since last year’s Indianapolis 500. Simona de Silvestro will be back behind the wheel of the No. 16 Chevrolet but only this time, the organization will be aligned with Ed Carpenter Racing.
The Swiss driver hasn’t raced at Road America since 2009 as she’ll make her first road course appearance in an Indy car since Sonoma in 2013 wen she drove for KV Racing Technology.
Her main expectation is doing the best job she could as they’ve not tested at all and is aware that the season is almost halfway completed.
“All these guys and girls have been running half the season already. We need to see where we kind of stack up,” said de Silvestro.
“I think for me in a sense, I’m really looking forward to getting back in an INDYCAR. So from that point of view I think I’ll push quite hard to get up to speed as quickly as I can.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I think if we do our job correctly, I think we can be on the competitive side for sure. I don’t think we can win the race or be a podium. I think that’s really unrealistic. Even if we see Will (Power) qualifying 16th and stuff like that, I think the field is super deep.
“From that point of view, I think we have to be realistic. We just need to do our job correctly and just kind of keep chipping away at it, finishing the race. I think if we do everything correctly, I think the race could be all right.”
A field of 27 strong will look to navigate around one of the sport’s most popular venues with some looking to build on momentum while others are eager of establishing themselves as potential mainstays in INDYCAR.
By the Numbers
What: Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 8 of 17
Where: Road America – Elkhart Lake, WI (Opened: 1955)
When: Sunday, June 12
TV/Radio: NBC 3:00 p.m. ET / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 160)
Track Size: 4-mile road course
Race Length: 55 laps, 220.55 miles
2021 Race Winner: Alex Palou – No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (Started 5th, five laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Dario Franchitti – No. 27 Team Green Honda (1:39.866, 145.924 mph – August 19, 2000)
From the Driver’s Seat
Alexander Rossi – No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
“I think the 27 car in particular has some good momentum going right now into one of our best tracks frankly at Road America. We feel good about the position we’re in. We’ll just have to go out and continue that.”
Last Time in Road America
Similar to the previous two Belle Isle races, Team Penske again had the race in control at Road America. Josef Newgarden once again appeared on the verge of winning the race until Ed Jones lost control in Turn 12, bringing out a quick late-race caution on Lap 52.
INDYCAR Race Control wasted no time and went back to green not that long after, but problems arose for Newgarden. He fell off the pace as Alex Palou took advantage of such woeful moment as Newgarden dropped like a rock and finished 21st out of the 25-car field. It turned out to be gearbox issues that did Newgarden in from winning at Road America.
Meanwhile, Palou would beat Colton Herta to score his second of three wins en route to his 2021 championship.
On the site where Palou got his maiden podium in 2020 for Dale Coyne Racing w/ Team Goh, the Spaniard didn’t thought much about Newgarden’s issues. But having a win on what was a great weekend never hurts.
“I just went for the outside. It was quite close. Even if he was a bit slower, I was super close so I had to just turn in quite aggressively, and then I just ran,” said Palou.
“I didn’t know if my tires were good enough to keep the lead. It was only two laps, but those two laps when you’re in the lead, they can take forever. But no, the car was really good, and we actually took some of that.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, June 10
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 1 (4:25 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. – Peacock)
Saturday, June 11
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 2 (10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Final Practice (5:20 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. – Peacock)
Sunday, June 12
- Indy Lights Race (10:35 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. – Peacock)
- Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – NBC)