ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Scott Dixon’s winning streak ended at three, but team owner Chip Ganassi Racing scored his fourth-straight win to open the NTT IndyCar Series season Sunday.
This time, it was Felix Rosenqvist’s turn to win for Ganassi in the second race of the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America.
It was Rosenqvist’s first career IndyCar victory. The driver from Sweden defeated Pato O’Ward by 2.8699 seconds.
Rosenqvist was in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda and O’Ward was in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Despite dominating most of the contest, O’Ward was on used Firestone Reds at the end while hard-charging Rosenqvist was on Firestone Blacks.
Rosenqvist was finally able to put enough pressure on O’Ward to use up his tires. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver made the pass in turn six with two laps remaining.
The 21-year-old O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, was attempting to become the first driver from that nation to win an IndyCar Series race since Adrian Fernandez drove to victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in 2004 in the Indy Racing League.
O’Ward started on the pole and was leading in the closing laps before seeing victory slip away when Rosenqvist passed him for the win just two laps from the checkered flag.
It was Rosenqvist’s first victory since Formula E in 2018.
“We’ve been close so many times, this race was for my crew,” Rosenqvist said. “We’ve been really good every race, just didn’t have the luck. We are four-for-four for Chip Ganassi this season and that is huge.
“We had so much pace and when Pato was on the used Reds, we thought that might happen. It was a good show and so much fun,” Rosenqvist added. “Whenever we get into clear air, we can go really fast and we proved it today.”
O’Ward led 43 laps in the 55-lap contest at the 4.014-miles, 14-turn Road America race course. But the decision to finish the race on a used set of Reds, combined with Rosenqvist’s hard charge to the front, determined the outcome.
“It was really tough,” O’Ward said. “I think we did a really good job managing the race, but when we got behind some lapped cars in some dirty air, that really cost us. I was giving it everything we had. We pushed and pushed and pushed.
“We’re here. We got some good points this weekend and we are looking forward to Iowa. We like running up front and we have the ability to do it. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season,” O’Ward continued. “Today, we executed. I’m ecstatic. When second place is disappointing, it’s a good day. I started on pole and wanted to win. We have something to work on and we are going to keep working hard.”
The second-place finish was O’Ward’s career-best in IndyCar.
Alexander Rossi was able to turn around his recent misfortunes and finished third in the No. 27 Honda.
“It better be the turnaround,” Rossi said. “We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it has been but there has never been a question of what we are doing, it’s keeping our foot on the pedal and attacking as much as we can.
“We’ll take this. It’s a step in the right direction to go to Iowa. We have some of our mojo back and we’ll keep at it.”
Another Chip Ganassi Racing driver from Sweden, Marcus Ericsson, was fourth in a Honda.
Colton Herta of Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport rounded out the top five in another Honda.
Dixon, who started the season with three-straight wins, finished 12th. He was in the running for victory before he stalled his No. 9 PNC Bank Chevrolet on the final pit stop of the race on lap 41 – 14 laps from the finish.
The race got off to a very sloppy start as O’Ward brought the field slowly to the green flag. That bunched up the field and by the time they charged into Turn 1, calamity ensured.
Will Power drove into the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Honda, sending it sailing thought the gravel pit and into the wall. Power’s Chevrolet also bumped Graham Rahal’s Honda, sending it into a massive crash into a concrete wall not covered by the SAFER Barrier.
Rossi was able to avoid contact and continue. Power was penalized for avoidable contact. He finished 11th.
It was the second race of a weekend doubleheader and a sizeable crowd of spectators was in attendance – the second race this season and first venue of the year that allowed on-site spectators since the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports back in mid-March.