The NTT INDYCAR SERIES stages the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR this weekend on what will be the 40th anniversary of the first series race at the iconic road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Among current series venues, only Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course have a longer history with INDYCAR than Road America.
Hector Rebaque of Mexico was the surprise first winner at Road America, a race in which he led only the final lap as others in front of him, including race leader Al Unser, ran out of fuel. That proved to be the only series victory for the Formula One veteran from Mexico City.
Michel Jourdain Jr., Adrian Fernandez, Mario Dominguez and Pato O’Ward followed Rebaque as Mexican-born drivers to win races in the series.
O’Ward is third in the championship standings as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES nears its halfway point. He is one of six drivers to have won a race this season, his victory coming in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on May 1.
The 27-car field includes Paretta Autosport, which is making its season debut with veteran driver Simona De Silvestro, who last competed at Road America in 2009. The pairing competed in the 2021 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and have the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 3 and the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, the Nashville street race, on Aug. 7 on their schedules later this season.
Here are five things to watch this weekend at Road America.
Watch Ganassi Cars, Newgarden, Power
Most often, a track’s history suggests some drivers will have the edge. At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it’s Scott Dixon, who has won a record six races. At World Wide Technology Raceway, Josef Newgarden has won the past two races and three overall.
Road America? No driver has dominated the seven NTT INDYCAR SERIES races since the event was renewed in 2016, but it has been Chip Ganassi Racing’s victory lane in recent years. Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist and Alex Palou have won the past three for Chip Ganassi’s organization, and Dixon also won in 2017.
Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) is coming off his first podium finish of the season – he was third in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear – and Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) is still riding the emotional wave of winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Ericsson, Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda) and Dixon are second, fourth and sixth in series points.
Outside of CGR, Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) has been fast on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course, winning three NTT P1 Awards as the fastest qualifier. He was on the pole last year and led a race-high 32 laps before his car was struck by an electrical issue to drop him to 21st. He also won the 2018 race from the pole and finished second in 2017.
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) won the 2019 race, his most recent victory in the series. Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) won in 2016 from the pole. He also has a pair of second-place finishes (2019 and 2020 Race 1) plus a third-place finish last year.
Last year’s podium was Palou, Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian) and Power.
Newgarden Again Aims for $1 Million
With victories on a street course and an oval already this season, Newgarden has a chance this weekend to win a road course race, the final leg to him capturing the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, which carries a $1 million bonus.
The PeopleReady prize rewards the first driver to win on all three types of circuits – road courses, street circuits and oval tracks – in 2022. If earned, the $1 million will be shared, with $500,000 going to the team/driver and $500,000 donated to their chosen charity.
Newgarden remains the leading candidate to capture the prize as he is the only driver two-thirds of the way to the requirement. He won the XPEL 375 oval race March 20 at Texas Motor Speedway and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach street circuit race April 10. Newgarden has finished 14th and 25th in the first two road course events of the season and has five more opportunities to check the road course box.
Five other drivers have single victories this season. Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet) and Ericsson have won on oval tracks, Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) and Herta have road course wins, and Power won last week’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear street race.
The trifecta feat has been accomplished five times since 2016, twice by Newgarden and four times by Team Penske drivers.
Lundgaard, Malukas Lead Rookie Race
Christian Lundgaard (No. 30 Fleet Cost & Care Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) are atop the Rookie of the Year standings through seven races, but it figures to be a tight race to the finish.
Lundgaard leads Malukas by 10 points, and they rank 17th and 19th in the overall standings, respectively. Kyle Kirkwood (No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet of AJ Foyt Racing) is third among the rookies, 36 points behind Lundgaard, with Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 PowerTap Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) fourth, 45 points out of the lead.
Callum Ilott, who missed the Detroit race with a broken right wrist, returns to the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet this weekend. He is fifth in the rookie standings, three points behind DeFrancesco. Tatiana Calderon (No. 11 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) is only competing on the road courses and street circuits this season.
De Silvestro, Paretta Make Season Debuts
Simona De Silvestro, a veteran of 69 career NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, rejoins the action in the No. 16 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet, which is partnered with Ed Carpenter Racing for three races this season. She last competed in this series in the 2021 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
De Silvestro’s presence boosts the field to 27 car-and-driver combinations. The 33-year-old Swiss driver knows she faces a hearty challenge as she last drove a series race on a road course in 2015, and she hasn’t raced at Road America since 2009 while competing in Atlantics.
De Silvestro and Calderon give the NTT INDYCAR SERIES two women in the field for the first time since the 2015 Indianapolis 500. Both drivers have multiple series races scheduled this season.
This will be the eighth of 17 races on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule, which means the season is nearing its halfway point.
The first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice of the weekend is Friday at 4:25 p.m. (ET), and it will span 75 minutes, which is longer than most first-day practices during the season.
Saturday’s action begins with a practice at 10:45 a.m. (ET). NTT P1 Award qualifying is at 1:45 p.m. (ET) with the final practice at 5:20 p.m. (ET). The 55-lap race is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires opens its weekend with a Friday practice at 3:30 p.m. (ET). Saturday’s schedule has a practice at 9:45 a.m. (ET) and qualifying at 1 p.m. The 20-lap race is Sunday at 10:40 a.m. (ET).
All NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights action will be available on Peacock Premium, NBC’s streaming service.