Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Title Contenders Have Trouble at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis.—Three of the top five drivers in NTT IndyCar Series points going into Sunday’s (June 12) Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America ran into trouble, immensely jumbling up the championship battle.

Will Power was the points leader, Pato O’Ward was third ahead of Alex Palou in fourth. After 55 laps at Road America, Power finished the best of the trio in 19th position.

O’Ward was 26th ahead of Palou in 27th and last while Josef Newgarden won, having come into the race fifth in points. It wasn’t exactly an expected result for the trio, so let’s look at what happened to each driver.

Palou was running in third place on the fourth lap of the race when Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson attempted a pass on the inside in turn 5.

The pair collided, breaking a part of the left front suspension on Palou’s car. The No. 10 Honda required a trip back to the paddock to repair the broken toe link. The defending race winner at Road America went back into the race with a repaired car, but retired after completing 36 laps when it was clear that Palou would not gain any more positions.

His frustration with Ericsson, who finished second, was clear as he spoke outside the medical center for a precautionary check.

“I think everybody saw that, so yeah. I just think he was trying to win the race on the third lap, and yeah, the car broke. That’s it, game over.

“It was just bad luck, but yeah, we can play this game as well, so, we’ll see.”

After the race, Ericsson shared his view after an apology.

“First of all, I’m really sorry, you never want to have contact with a teammate so I feel super sorry that Alex had to retire there,” Ericsson told Kevin Lee after the race was over. “From my point of view, the door was open and I’m already side-by-side as you can see in the video, or even further than side-by-side, and I made the corner fine so from my point of view it was a nice racing move.”

Shortly after Palou had his issue, Power then had some contact of his own in the same area of the track.

The No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet had a fierce battle with Devlin DeFrancesco for 15th place. The pair had some contact as Power defended going toward turn 3, and as the pair approached the downhill approach to the left-hander, there was contact that spun Power around to the right side of the track, damaging the front wing and causing Power to get massively upset at the rookie.

Power pitted for a new nose but his race never really recovered. Instead of chasing a top-10 finish, the 2014 IndyCar champion finished in 19th place right behind DeFrancesco. The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner could do no better after the contact with the No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda.

“Obviously made our day way harder, I don’t know what happened there, yeah,” Power said on pit road as he watched the replay of the incident. “Nothing I could do about that one, but that is IndyCar and yeah, not the best day, you have them, just move on to the next one.”

DeFrancesco and Power had a bit more contact after the race as the field headed to turn 1 after the race. The former Road to Indy competitor said that Power moved a bit in the braking zone heading to turn 5.

“(Power) had a bad run out of (turn) 1, and then I had a run on him into (turn) 3 and I went to go to the outside of him,” DeFrancesco said on pit road after the race. “We banged wheels a little bit, racing incident you know. And then I had a big big run on him into (turn) 5, he went to the inside which he has his complete right to, I went to the outside and then I saw him moving back over to the right so I went to divebomb him as I made the move a couple of times earlier in the race and we made contact. I need to look at it better, but that’s what I saw from my vantage point.”

As for O’Ward, the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet was running most of the race in the lower half of the top 10. As O’Ward approached Canada Corner on lap 47, the engine went silent and the car coasted to a halt, bringing out a full course yellow.

“We had a failure, which will put an end to anyone’s race,” O’Ward said in a team release. “We weren’t having the smoothest of days anyway. We made some mistakes in the pits that cost us positions and we didn’t really have much pace to attack. Just not our day today.”

Per a Chevrolet spokesperson, the engine fired up in the car in the teams’ work area in the paddock and will be inspected in Detroit. The engine is expected to be reused later in the season after a new engine is installed.

Instead of keeping the points lead, Power is now 27 points behind Ericsson who retakes the points lead he had after winning this year’s Indianapolis 500. O’Ward dropped to fourth in points and Palou is two points behind O’Ward in fifth.

Top Five in IndyCar points:

  1. Marcus Ericsson 293
  2. Will Power 266
  3. Josef Newgarden 261
  4. Pato O’Ward 248
  5. Alex Palou 246

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About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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