Monday, August 14, 2023

INDYCAR: Gearbox issues sideline Felix Rosenqvist from Gallagher GP

PHOTO: Mike Dinovo / USA Today Sports

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Felix Rosenqvist finished last for the 5th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit when his #6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet fell out with a gearbox failure after completing 68 of the race’s 85 laps.

The finish came in his 76th series start and was his first since the second Iowa race last year, 20 races ago. Across series history, it was the sixth for the #6, the 110th for Chevrolet, and the 13th due to gearbox issues.

Rosenqvist has soldiered on as the least notable entry of the McLaren stable. While Pato O’Ward was a central figure in the 100 Days to Indy docuseries that aired this spring, which also profiled teammate Alexander Rossi, Rosenqvist was almost an afterthought. His results have also been more or less the same as a year ago. A promising oval pole at Texas early in the 2023 season failed to materialize when Rosenqvist crashed out of the race. Another strong run in the Indianapolis 500 was wiped out in a late accident. A strong podium run at Detroit was backed up with a less-than-stellar 20th place at Road America. With Alex Palou rumored to be taking Rosenqvist’s seat at McLaren - although not as much as of late - there is a sense that the Swedish driver has been driving for his IndyCar career this year, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing among the most frequently mentioned destinations for him to land in 2024. Rosenqvist was not entering Indianapolis on a high note, either – the last race at Nashville resulted in a 22nd-place finish after yet another crash.

There were no significant changes to the entry list. Simon Pagenaud was still not cleared for return to competition, so Linus Lundqvist took another turn filling in for him. Meyer Shank Racing stole some headlines as well when, on Friday, the team announced that Tom Blomqvist will replace Helio Castroneves in one of the team’s entries next year. Castroneves, for his part, will still run the Indianapolis 500 and will join the team’s ownership group.

In first practice, Graham Rahal set the pace with a best lap of 1 minute, 9.84 seconds. Rosenqvist was second at 1 minute, 9.92 seconds, just barely off of the session lead. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Benjamin Pedersen was last with a lap of 1 minute, 11.38 seconds. With qualifying scheduled before second practice, Sting Ray Robb was slowest, putting down a lap of 1:11.56. Pedersen’s quick time was a 1:11.29, but he was in Group 2, which meant that he drew the 27th and final starting spot. Rosenqvist advanced out of Round 1 and ran the 10th-fastest time in Round 2, securing his starting spot for the following day. Second practice saw eventual race winner Scott Dixon pace the field, turning in a hot lap of 1 minute, 10.98 seconds. Rosenqvist was 19th with a lap of 1 minute, 11.96 seconds and Robb was last, the only car in the 1 minute, 13 second range.

Initially, two cars did not fire at the command on race day: last week’s winner Kyle Kirkwood and Pedersen. Kirkwood stalled his car twice but eventually got going. Pedersen’s car didn't - even when the green flag dropped - and he sat on pit road as a chaotic first lap unfolded. A number of cars spun about halfway through the lap, with Josef Newgarden going up over the nose of Marcus Armstrong. Newgarden's car was the only one to lose a lap, stranded with a broken nose before the safety team could get his car restarted. Marcus Armstrong also lost a lap due to the incident, although that happened after he was away from the crash site.

It was midway through the ensuing caution before Pedersen’s car was ready to go. Four laps down, he wouldn't benefit from a race that went caution-free. Even though Newgarden and Armstrong lost another lap during the course of the race, Pedersen remained far out of touch from the rest of the field.

After the early caution, Rosenqvist ran fifth before his first pit stop. He cycled up to seventh before his next pit stop, and continued to be a top-ten car for most of the day. With 20 laps to go, the #6 car started running slower and sounded noticeably different from the rest of the field. He dropped to 12th before he brought the car to pit road, where the team retired the car. Rosenqvist’s post-race press release noted that he had battled gearbox issues over the course of the race and that it finally became too much near the end.

*Rosenqvist is the fifth driver to finish last in the #6. All have been from different countries – Eliseo Salazar (Chile), Sam Hornish Jr. (USA), Katherine Legge (United Kingdom), Sebastian Saavedra (Colombia) and Rosenqvist (Sweden).
*This is the first last-place finish due to gearbox issues since May 26, 2019, when Colton Herta dropped out of the Indianapolis 500 after three laps.
*The 68 laps completed are the most for a last-place finish at the Indy road course since Dalton Kellett completed 73 laps on October 3, 2020, a race that he finished running.

27) #6-Felix Rosenqvist / 68 laps / gearbox
26) #55-Benjamin Pedersen / 79 laps / running
25) #2-Josef Newgarden / 83 laps / running
24) #11-Marcus Armstrong / 83 laps / running
23) #14-Santino Ferrucci / 84 laps / running

1st) Honda (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)

1st) Dale Coyne Racing (5)
2nd) Chip Ganassi Racing (3)
3rd) A.J. Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2)
4th) Arrow McLaren SP, Juncos Hollinger Racing (1)


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