Alex Palou once again ended a 2023 NTT IndyCar Series championship stop in victory lane, extending his lead from 51 points to 74.
On Sunday, his drive around Road America was another stellar performance, but came on the heels of a bad strategy call from Andretti Autosport.
Polesitter Colton Herta had the dominant car of the day in his No. 26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda, leading from the start, holding off challenges on restarts, and only losing the top spot through a pit cycle under full course caution. Despite that, he was able to retake the top spot on Alex Palou and an-off pit sequence Will Power. Herta led a race-high 33 laps in all on Sunday.
For the final pit stop of the race, the No. 26 crew called in Herta on lap 40, with him bolting the new Firestones and last splash of Shell renewable fuel coming to take 15 laps remaining. Herta’s lead over Palou began to shrink dramatically after the American Legion No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda made his final service in the pit box.
Alex Palou made the race-winning pass on Herta diving into the first turn with eight laps remaining. An outside lunge into the ninety-degree right-hander was enough for the faster No. 10 to stick, as Herta was in peril. The No. 26 was set to a different engine number because of the one-lap difference in pitting.
Around the slick and fast 4.048-mile, the one lap of fuel mattered everything for the California pilot, allowing the Spanish series point leader by, and nearly the rest of the top-five competitors. The No. 26 crossed the finish line in fifth-place, “coasting” the final five laps to the checkered flag; Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon finished second through fourth today in the Sonsio Grand Prix.
For the second straight event, Kyle Kirkwood was on the wrong foot from the opening lap. Today, entering the first turn the AutoNation No. 27 Andretti Honda made up multiple positions and dove too deep, locking up into the rear of Pato O’Ward, shaking the No. 5 out of control briefly. The contact spun Kirkwood out and stalled the Florida driver’s machine, displaying the first of several full course cautions on the 55-lap affair.
Despite the spin and ensuing penalty for avoidable contact with the Arrow McLaren No. 5, Kirkwood was forced to stay in the back after the restart. Methodically, Kirkwood drove to a 9th-place finishing-position.
Will Power’s frantic and viral weekend will end with a 13th-place result in the box score; however, that doesn’t even begin to tell the story for the Australian driver at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In Saturday morning practice, Power was struck by Scott Dixon’s No. 9, nearly binning both Dallara chassis. The incident stemmed from Power following Romain Grosjean on-track down the back straight. Grosjean pulled a daring block on the No. 12 Team Penske Chevy, keeping him back. That also let Grosjean hold on to the clean track ahead. Then, in the turn famously dubbed-Canada Corner, Dixon spun ahead of the two.
When attempting to re-join the track, Dixon sharply veered left. That blindsided the Verizon Chevrolet and shot both it and the PNC Bank Honda off-track into a concrete barrier.
Dixon had no idea Power was following Grosjean. A heated Power jumped and showed displeasure before cooling off and talking it out with the New Zealander.
Both teams hastily rushed repairs. For Power, the No. 12 was completely rebuilt. While for Dixon, the No. 9 team went to a spare car.
Felix Rosenqvist struggled in the final stint of the Grand Prix Sunday. The No. 6 AMIT Chevrolet was once up front under caution utilizing strategy following a spin resulting from Rinus VeeKay. However, he fell off a cliff lap time-wise relative to the field racing around him. He took the checkered in 20th.
Rookie driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, Marcus Armstrong, led 5 laps today, all-off sequence from the race leaders all race. There was top-five speed for Armstrong’s Ridgeline No. 11 Honda most of the day. However, a questionable strategy call led to the British driver struggling mid-pack.
Then, he spinning off course twice late, including the final lap.
Race Results – 2023 Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America
1 – (10) Alex Palou / 7th Career IndyCar Victory
2 – (2) Josef Newgarden / 50th Career Podium Result
3 – (5) Pato O’Ward / 17th Career Podium Result
4 – (9) Scott Dixon / Qualified 23rd
5 – (26) Colton Herta / Led 33 of 55 Laps
6 – (8) Marcus Ericsson
7 – (45) Christian Lundgaard
8 – (3) Scott McLaughlin
9 – (27) Kyle Kirkwood
10 – (7) Alexander Rossi
11 – (15) Graham Rahal
12 – (21) Rinus VeeKay
13 – (12) Will Power
14 – (60) Simon Pagenaud
15 – (06) Helio Castroneves
16 – (14) Santino Ferrucci
17 – (20) Ryan Hunter-Reay
18 – (77) Callum Ilott
19 – (78) Agustin Canapino [R]
20 – (6) Felix Rosenqvist
21 – (55) Benjamin Pedersen [R]
22 – (51) Sting Ray Robb [R]
23 – (29) Devlin DeFrancesco
24 – (11) Marcus Armstrong [R] / 54 Laps
25 – (28) Romain Grosjean / 54 Laps
26 – (30) Jack Harvey / 54 Laps
27 – (18) David Malukas / Out, 24 Laps