After crashing out of second-place in the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season-opening race at Texas Motor Speedway, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist has stated that he is “really disappointed” to have ended what was his “breakthrough on ovals” in retirement. Rosenqvist was trying to catch his team-mate, Scott Dixon for the lead of the race when he crashed with just over ten laps remaining in Saturday night’s Genesys 300.
After securing the rookie of the year honours in last year’s championship, Rosenqvist would have hoped to kick-off the delayed 2020 season with a bang to kill two bird with one stone. A strong result at Texas would get his 2020 IndyCar campaign off to a strong start, whilst also showing that he has improved on the oval-side of the series; with his oval performances in 2019 perhaps being his only stumbling block during what was an impressive rookie year.
With just one practice session to prepare for the season-opening race at Texas, Chip Ganassi Racing looked to have strong cars. Veteran Dixon would claim second-place on the grid in qualifying, with Rosenqvist taking a decent ninth-place. The third car, driven by Marcus Ericsson, would have to settle for seventeenth after being the first driver to make a run in qualifying.
A great start to the race saw Rosenqvist quickly move up into the top five after pulling off clean passes and also capitalizing on pre-race issues for Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal. With overtaking being at a premium – largely due to the high line being ultra-slippery because of the left-over traction compound from the NASCAR Cup Series race in November – Rosenqvist would spend much of the second stint of the race running behind third-placed Simon Pagenaud for Team Penske. He would finally pass the Frenchman just before a debris caution on lap seventy-seven, with the ensuing pit-stops during the caution then promoting Rosenqvist to second-place, behind Newgarden and ahead of Dixon.
A slow restart for Newgarden saw Rosenqvist forced to slow in turn one, allowing Dixon to re-take second place around the outside. Dixon would then pass Newgarden and re-take the lead soon after, with Rosenqvist not quite able to follow his Ganassi team-mate through. Almost twenty laps later, Rosenqvist would finally get by Newgarden, who was struggling with long-run pace, but Dixon was now over ten seconds up the road.
Lapped traffic allowed Rosenqvist to reel in Dixon in the closing stages of the race. As the pair prepared for their final pit-stops with under twenty laps remaining, the pair were almost nose-to-tail. Rosenqvist would pit with fifteen to go, but Dixon remained out on the track for a further three laps to use the clear air to his advantage before pitting. When Dixon emerged, he was over a second clear of Rosenqvist, with both now running in heavy traffic.
Determined to catch back up to Dixon, Rosenqvist found himself bogged down behind the lapped car of James Hinchcliffe. When the Andretti Autosport driver slowed in turns one and two, Marco Andretti, also a lapped car, drove around the outside of both. Rosenqvist then popped to the outside to try and follow Andretti by Hinchcliffe, but Felix found himself in the low-grip area of the track. His #10 Honda would be sent spinning into the outside wall, with the Swede’s race coming to an unfortunate and abrupt end there and then. The sheer frustration was evident, with Rosenqvist slamming his steering wheel in anger before climbing, thankfully unhurt, from the cockpit.
Ultimately, Dixon would come home to secure the victory for Chip Ganassi Racing. Rosenqvist, meanwhile, would be classified in twentieth place after his crash with just ten laps remaining. Post-race, Rosenqvist would take full responsibility for the incident, saying that he would not blame the lapped car of Hinchcliffe as it had been his own choice to try and make the pass.
“I can’t blame others for whatever situation I have,” a disappointed Rosenqvist said last night. “Obviously, we came out on new tires, and I don’t know if James [Hinchcliffe] was on really old tires there. It’s my judgment. I went for the outside, and I probably shouldn’t have done it. It’s one of those things where you sit there and you’re going like 40 mph slower than you want to go behind another car. It’s kind of tempting to just move up one lane, but it was just so slippery.
Hinchcliffe would also comment on the incident after the race, saying: “We got involved with that deal with Felix [Rosenqvist]. I was just super loose, and I was trying to save the car, and he went on the outside. I tried to stay out of it. I feel bad for him. It’s a tough break when you’re running that well.”
Rosenqvist went on to explain how disappointed he was to have ended the race in retirement, as he believed that the race had been his “breakthrough on ovals” after struggling last year.
“I just feel really sorry for my guys,” Rosenqvist said, “Our NTT DATA car was just unbelievable tonight. It was really my breakthrough on ovals, I think, and I had a really good shot there and I threw it away. Really disappointed. We pitted earlier and had clear track. I think we did one (lap) 215 mph and one (lap) 214 mph in a row there. We had a really good two out laps there. Not sure where that put us. Scott (Dixon) was really, super quick, as well. It was going to be close.
“But even a second-place tonight, I would have taken it. I didn’t feel like I was going crazy for the win. I just kind of wanted to roll in on a good finish with good points, and just one silly thing screwed everything up. Tough.”
The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will continue in just under a month’s time with the second round of the season, the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway‘s Grand Prix circuit, on Saturday, July 4.