Felix Rosenqvist makes late-race pass for first career IndyCar win

Felix Rosenqvist chased down rookie Pato O’ Ward in the remaining laps of the REV Group Grand Prix in Race No. 2 at Road America for his first career IndyCar win.

Rosenqvist pitted with 13 laps to go to take black tires, while O’Ward pitted for red tires. With around five laps to go, O’ Ward started pushing harder trying to keep the Swedish driver in his rear-view mirror. By pushing hard and catching lap traffic, Rosenqvist erased a 5.5 seconds lead and passed O’ Ward for the win with two laps to go. It was all she wrote, as the Swedish driver held on for the victory in just his 21st start of the series.

“It feels so good. It’s been a long time,” Rosenqvist said. “We’ve been close so many times. This race was for my 10 car crew, the NTT DATA crew. Also Honda. I’m really proud to be powered by NTT and Honda this year. It’s been really good. Every race just hasn’t had a lock, just hasn’t come together until now. Today we went all for it. Super pace, the car was fantastic. It’s four out of four for Ganassi, which is huge.”

While Rosenqvist and O’ Ward were the talk of the game, when the laps started to wind down, race No. 2 of the doubleheader at Road America got off to a frantic start.

A major pile-up occurred at the entry of Turn 1, which saw several drivers involved. When the wreck occurred, it looked as though Ryan Hunter-Reay just lost the car and slammed into the sand trap. However, after a replay was shown by NBC, Will Power in the No. 12 Team Penske machine, made contact with Hunter-Reay which sent him spinning. Power also made slight contact with Graham Rahal, who hit the wall hard after Hunter-Reay’s incident. Rahal crashed hard, but thankfully, he would be checked and released from the care center. Unfortunately, the Ohio native’s day was cut short and he was credited with a last-place finish.

Due to causing the incident, Power was penalized for avoidable contact and sent to the back of the field. Conor Daly was also involved and awarded a penalty for avoidable contact as well. The day would go from bad to worse for the Dale Coyne driver as he was penalized again for working in a closed pit area. Daly would be served a drive-thru penalty. Santino Ferrucci received a penalty for avoidable contact too when he made contact with the No. 60 of Jack Harvey.

After the early melee, two restarts occurred, but a full course caution flew on Lap 4 for Power as the No. 12 machine stopped on track when he hit a sign in Turn 13. The Australian brought the car down pit road for repairs after the contact and his Team Penske crew made a front wing change.

Once the slow start was out of the way, O’Ward began to check out as the race leader by two seconds. The first round of green-flag pit stops took place on lap 11 when Josef Newgarden pitted for a scheduled stop. On Lap 15 during the pit stop cycle, O’Ward would pit from the lead and Rosenqvist stayed out an additional lap before he made his pit stop. At Lap 18, stops were completed and Power was the leader with O’Ward in second. With fresher tires, O’Ward made a clean pass on Power (when Power made a pit stop) and took the lead.

Through the rest of the race, O’Ward and Rosenqvist would swap the lead with each other numerous times when both drivers made their pit stops. Though, Rosenqvist would try to stay out a lap later in hopes of gaining an advantage and coming out the leader once his stop was complete. On one of the initial stops, Rosenqvist faced problems when his Chip Ganassi Racing crew accidentally dropped the jack as the team was changing tires. Despite that issue, he kept a manageable pace 5.5 seconds back behind leader O’Ward.

The Chip Ganassi driver began his late charge with eight laps to go. Rosenqvist cut O’Ward’s lead down little by little, lap after lap. With O’Ward the leader, he started to get into lap traffic, which eventually helped Rosenqvist cut the deficit. With five laps to go, Rosenqvist had the lead down to 3.2 seconds. O’Ward eventually used up his fresh Firestone tires and Rosenqvist was there with two to go. When the white flag flew, the Swedish driver had a one-second lead. Rosenqvist had a perfect last lap and got the checkered flag over O’Ward for the first time in his career. And with the victory, he gave Chip Ganassi Racing a weekend sweep, as teammate Scott Dixon won Saturday’s event.

“It was a lot of hard-earned seconds there that we lost in the pit a couple of times,” Rosenqvist said about the miscue on his pit stop. “But we had so much pace. We kept closing in half a second every lap. And then when they said Pato (O’Ward) was on the used reds (Firestone alternate tires), you obviously get a lot of faith that he might drop off in the end, and that’s what happened. Just stay cool, and then we went for it, really. Used all my push-to-pass on one lap and got him. So, it was a really good fight with him there. Got a little squirrelly coming out of Turn 5 there, but good show and good fun. We came out of (stops) in clear air. Whenever this guy (strategiest Barry Wanser) gave us clear air, we were really fast. We showed that before. Amazing feeling.”

By getting the victory, Chip Ganassi earned their 112th win as a team in the NTT IndyCar Series. Rosenqvist also became the first Swede driver to win in over 18 years, with Kenny Brack the last to do so at Mexico City in 2002.

Rosenqvist led four times for eight laps en route to victory.

There were two cautions for four laps and eight lead changes among nine leaders.

In the penalty box, there were five penalties. Power, Daly, and Ferrucci were penalized for avoidable contact, and Daly penalized again for working in a closed pit. Dixon was penalized for a safety violation.

Official Results

  1. Felix Rosenqvist, led eight laps
  2. Pato O’ Ward, led 43 laps
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. Marcus Ericsson
  5. Colton Herta
  6. Santino Ferrucci
  7. Alex Palou
  8. Takuma Sato
  9. Josef Newgarden
  10. Charlie Kimball
  11. Will Power, led four laps
  12. Scott Dixon
  13. Simon Pagenaud
  14. Rinus VeeKay
  15. Max Chilton
  16. Zach Veach
  17. Jack Harvey
  18. Conor Daly
  19. Marco Andretti, 1 lap down
  20. Dalton Kellett, 1 lap down
  21. Oliver Askew, OUT, Off Course
  22. Ryan Hunter-Reay, OUT, Contact
  23. Graham Rahal, OUT, Contact

Scott Dixon continues to lead the championship by 54 points over second place Colton Herta.

Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Iowa Speedway for another doubleheader scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday night July 17 and 18. Race No. 1 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET live on NBCSN.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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