Tuesday, May 3, 2022

INDYCAR: Calderon edges Ilott for last at Barber

PHOTO: A.J. Foyt Racing via Twitter
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Tatiana Calderon finished last for the first time in her NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park when her #11 Rokit Chevrolet finished the race, completing 88 of 90 laps in the event.

The finish came in her third series start.

A native of Bogota, Colombia, Calderon started her racing career in go-karts at age nine and worked her way through the Colombian ranks. From there, she moved to the United States and Road to Indy at age seventeen, driving in the then-Star Mazda Series for Juncos Racing. After a couple seasons in America, Calderon contested the European F3 circuit for three seasons, scoring a podium at Nurburgring in 2013. From there, she tried a number of different pursuits, driving in India, Dubai, in the Euroformula Open, and a number of GP3 seasons. She even signed a deal with Sauber F1 team and tested an old F1 machine in 2018. Other series Calderon has experience in include Formula 2, Super Formula, and IMSA, making a 24 Hours of Daytona start in 2020. After a mid-2021 test, A.J. Foyt Racing signed Calderon for the road courses of the 2022 IndyCar Series season.

The beginning of the season has been filled with growing pains for both Calderon and the entire Foyt team, and Barber was no different. Calderon was at the tail end of the field in first practice, the only driver in the 1:09 time bracket. Saturday practice was much of the same story, with Calderon at the bottom of the charts in second practice as well. During qualifying, Jimmie Johnson had an abnormally slow lap, the only driver in the 1:09-second range, although Calderon would start alongside him in the final row of the field. Calderon, however, also suffered a shunt in one of the warmup sessions on Saturday, forcing repairs to her AJ Foyt Racing machine.

The initial start of the race was waved off, leaving lap two as the first green-flag lap of the race. From the outside of the thirteenth row, Johnson drew even with Calderon in the first couple of turns and cleared her by the middle of the lap. The Calderon machine eventually lost touch with Johnson, who was running with the tail end of the main pack behing Conor Daly. Calderon continued to lose ground, falling sixteen seconds in arrears to leader Rinus VeeKay by lap five.

The first round of pit stops on lap eleven threw some change into the last-place battle. Marcus Ericsson and Helio Castroneves took turns in 26th before a long pit stop for Kyle Kirkwood left the rookie driver a lap down on pit exit, the only car in the field in that scenario at that point. He was the only car a lap down for about a dozen laps, when teammate Calderon pitted and reemerged behind her teammate Kirkwood.

On Lap 31, Ilott was running right after a pit stop and was battling with Castroneves. In the middle of a left-right-left turn sequence, Ilott ran off the racing line, into the grass, and looped it into a gravel trap. The car stalled, and it took the better part of two laps for the response team to restart the car. Ilott continued on after the incident, but it wound up being the lone notable off-track excursion for the race, leaving Ilott seemingly headed for last.

However, with two laps to go, Ilott passed Calderon, who had fallen two laps down on pace, saving himself from a potential first last-place finish of his career. Johnson rounded out the Bottom Three, the last of three cars a lap down.

26) #11-Tatiana Calderon / 88 laps / running
25) #77-Callum Ilott / 88 laps / running
24) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 89 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet, Honda (2)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing (2)
2nd) Andretti Autosport, Dale Coyne Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing (1)


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