Felix Rosenqvist outduels Pato O’Ward for first IndyCar victory
Felix Rosenqvist outdueled Pato O’Ward for his first NTT IndyCar Series victory Sunday, making a furious charge into the lead with just more than a lap to go at Road America.
Rosenqvist then pulled away in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda to win by 2.8699 seconds in Chip Ganassi Racing’s fourth consecutive victory to open the 2020 season.
Teammate Scott Dixon had won Saturday at Road America along with the season opener at Texas Motor Speedway and July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
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Rosenqvist, who shook off contact with Graham Rahal on the first lap, became the first Swede to win in IndyCar since Kenny Brack at Mexico City in 2002.
“It feels so good; i’s been a long time, and we’ve been close so many times,” Rosenqvist, who finished second twice last year as a rookie at Mid-Ohio and Portland, told James Hinchcliffe in an NBC interview. “This race was for my 10 car crew. I’ve been really proud to be part of the team this year. We’ve been really good. Every race just hasn’t had the luck until now. Today we just went all for it. Super pace, the car was fantastic.”
O’Ward settled for a career-best second place in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet after the Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports driver started from the pole position at Road America.
“It was really tough,” O’Ward told NBC pit reporter Dave Burns. “The Ganassi cars had a lot of, a lot of pace. We did a really good job managing the whole race but toward the end when we got into a mix with some lapped cars and some dirty air, and that really hurt us. I gave it everything, every little bit I had. I was pushing, pushing, pushing, but I just couldn’t keep Felix behind me.
“The car was really, really good. We just missed that little extra in keeping the rear tires under us. But we’re here. We like running up front. I think we showed that we have everything to do it. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Alexander Rossi finished a season-best third (his first podium finish since Portland last September), followed by Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta, who extended his streak of top 10s to four.
“It better be,” Rossi said when asked by Burns if this was the jump-start his season needed. “We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it’s been, but I think the one constant has been this 27 AutoNation Andretti Honda team. There’s never been a question of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. It’s just been problem-solving and just keeping our foot down on the pedal and attacking as much as we can. We knew it would come good at one point. We knew our race pace was all right.
“We’ll take this. It’s not a win, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s what we need to get the momentum going. Going to Iowa, I think we have some of our mojo back, at least a little bit.”
Santino Ferrucci, Alex Palou, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top 10. Will Power finished 11th after being penalized for avoidable contact and spinning in the first five laps.
Dixon finished 12th after starting sixth on the 4.014-mile road course. Two slow pit stops undermined the five-time series champion’s bid to become the first IndyCar driver in 14 years to open the season with four consecutive victories. He still holds a 54-point lead over Herta in the championship standings after four races.
For the second consecutive day, the race had an eventful start as three drivers were penalized for avoidable contact on Lap 1.
The most notable was Power, who ran into Ryan Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 and Rahal on the entry to Turn 3. After being dropped from fifth to 22nd by IndyCar, Power’s miserable start continued on the Lap 4 restart as he veered off course and into a trackside sign in Turn 3 and caused another caution.
Santino Ferrucci, who collided with Jack Harvey, and Conor Daly, who hit Oliver Askew, also were penalized for contact and sent to the rear of the field after the chaotic green flag.