Rosenqvist comes 'out of his shell' by running sixth at Spring Training

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AUSTIN, Texas — Felix Rosenqvist exudes quiet confidence as the Chip Ganassi Racing rookie immerses himself into the NTT IndyCar Series.

Much like his teammate, five-time series champion Scott Dixon, the 27-year-old driver from Sweden doesn’t prefer to talk too much, especially when the 2015 European Formula 3 champion is trying to learn a new car and series in North America.

“I’m a guy who wakes up when I’m in the car,” Rosenqvist said. “I’m sort of half asleep the rest of the time.”

One competitor not sleeping on Rosenqvist’s talent nor surprised by his No. 10 NTT DATA Honda finishing sixth on the overall speed chart after two days of testing this week for INDYCAR Spring Training at the Circuit of The Americas is Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach. They’ve been friends for three years since racing against each other in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.

“I’ve never known Felix to have a guard,” Veach said. “In the past month, we’ve probably spent about 24 hours together playing video games.

“The guy is a hell of a driver. It’s impressive. It’s good to have him as a friend. You want the really good guys as friends because that’s always going to help you along.”

Dixon has had his share of teammates in a legendary career, so it's somewhat fitting that the calm and cool champion known as the “Ice Man” has a teammate who is similar in demeanor.

“It will be interesting when he comes out of his shell,” Dixon said. “A lot of times with Felix, even when I first met him, he can be quite quiet. He’s super fun, very funny, a bit of dry humor there. Especially in the American environment, I think he’s going to come out of his shell a lot.”

Felix RosenqvistRosenqvist smiled when advised of Dixon’s “shell” observation.

“We’re both the same in that sense,” Rosenqvist said. “We don’t brag. We can have good fun with each other. I don’t feel like we try to hide stuff. We’re pretty open when it comes to the work. We just try to help each other. It’s very natural.

“It takes time, but I really enjoy when I’m on the team and you get really close to each other and it starts to feel like a family. I’m Scandinavian, I don’t become best friends with someone in a day, but we’ll get there. Scott is right. It will take some time, but I’ll come out of my shell.”

Rosenqvist and fellow Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson live in the same Indianapolis apartment complex, so they’re getting to know each other, too. Veach hopes to spend more time there with them because the pool is better at their complex than where he lives.

“He’s a racer, which is the most important thing,” Veach said of Rosenqvist. “His background, he’s driven a lot of things, sports cars or open-wheel cars, whatever it is, he gets in and he’s competitive. The miles that he has for his age is extraordinary. The miles that he has, you would probably think he’s 50 because the guy is always in a car. That’s important because once you get to INDYCAR, we don’t get all that much time. It’s great to see him picking it up so quickly.”

Both Swedish drivers look forward to learning the nuances of driving on high-speed ovals.

“The ovals are like the really big steep learning curve for me this season,” Rosenqvist said. “I don’t have any experience driving these cars on ovals, so it’s going to be starting fresh. It’s good to have Scott (as a teammate). You never know how it’s going to be until you’re racing, but I expect he will be quite helpful. He wouldn’t hide things because he seems like a guy who works in the best interest in the team and not only for himself, which I think is a recipe for success on any team, when you have more guys that work for the same goal. That requires you to give up some of the secrets sometimes. We get along well.”

As for what’s reasonable to expect from this first season, Rosenqvist doesn’t get too caught up in praise already bestowed upon him. It’s still early in the process. He graciously accepted a compliment for how quickly he’s adapted so far.

But he shrugs about the challenge of facing high expectations while driving for one of the series’ most successful teams.

“I certainly have a lot of pressure on me, but I don’t feel it,” Rosenqvist said. “I just feel like everything is great at the moment, everything is going well with the team, and that’s the main thing. We’re working really closely together on a day-to-day basis. I’m spending a lot of time here in the U.S. now, to get to know everyone and work between the races.

“It’s always fun when people think you’re going to do well. I think I’ve had good preparation, but also I didn’t think I’d have such high expectations in my rookie year. It’s been really fun and it’s really exciting times just learning more every day. I have a great teammate in Scott and a great team around me in Chip Ganassi Racing to get me up to speed.”

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10 (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

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