Paddock Buzz: Vips Shifting to Attack after Switch from F2

  • Racing News
Juri Vips

Juri Vips now sees the difference between the cars driving the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and those used in the FIA’s Formula 2 Championship, and they’re immense.

These cars are capable of attacking, he said, and that takes a readjustment.

“I just generally need to push more than I’m used to because the car allows it here,” said the driver who won three F2 races in his career. “I was definitely, like, uncomfortable attacking Turn 10 and stuff like this.

“(It’s how) much these cars allow you to (do) – it’s a very different way you attack the corners in these cars compared to an F2 car. You can really push in these cars.”

Vips admitted he is still gaining confidence at Portland International Raceway. While he tested Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s No. 30 Honda in April at Barber Motorsports Park as a stand-in for the injured Jack Harvey, he hasn’t raced any car since last November due to being dropped from the Red Bull Junior program after he used a racial slur while playing an online video game. He has been undergoing sensitivity training in the United States and United Kingdom.

“One thing is, I haven’t driven in a while, another is I’m used to the F2 car,” he said. “It’s definitely impressive what these cars can do, and it was a big wakeup call for me.”

Vips will start a respectable 18th in the 27-car BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland field in the Kustom Entertainment-sponsored entry. And with teammates showing well – Graham Rahal won the NTT P1 Award in the No. 15 PeopleReady Honda and Christian Lundgaard paced Friday’s practice in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda – there is reason to be optimistic for his first race in the series.

Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Tom Blomqvist is making his second series start. Driving Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda as a stand-in for Simon Pagenaud, the defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship champion will start at the rear of the field after his car was dealt a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change in preparation for this race.

CGR Piling Up Championships

Chip Ganassi Racing doesn’t know if Alex Palou or Scott Dixon will be crowned the series champion next week at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but one of them will be. Which means, the Indianapolis-based team will win its 15th series championship, a total which ranks second only to Team Penske’s 17 in the history of the sport.

But dig a little deeper to see just how strong Chip Ganassi’s team has been. Ganassi formed it in 1990 and won its first season title in 1996. That makes this championship CGR’s 15th in the past 27 years, a run of excellence no other team – past or present – can match.

Team Penske has eight championships in that span, Andretti Autosport four. Newman/Haas Racing won five in that period in Champ Car (four with Sebastien Bourdais, one with Cristiano da Matta).

Dixon has won six titles for Ganassi, Dario Franchitti three, Alex Zanardi two and one each for Jimmy Vasser, Juan Pablo Montoya and Palou, who is on the cusp of his second. He leads Dixon by 74 points with two races remaining.

Team Penske’s championships since ’96 have come from four drivers: Two each from Gil de Ferran, Josef Newgarden and Will Power, plus single titles from Sam Hornish Jr. and Simon Pagenaud. Michael Andretti’s organization has had single titles in that span with Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda) can secure this title on his own Sunday by finishing third or better.

A Comeback Specialist

Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) is trying to make a valiant comeback late in the season to win a record-tying seventh NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.

The deficit is massive, for sure, but Dixon has come from behind late to win three of his six series championships (2003, 2013, 2015). In ’15, he was in third place and trailing by 47 points heading to the final race, which offered double the usual number of points.

Dixon won the race at Sonoma Raceway to tie Montoya in points, and he held the tiebreaker.

Odds and Ends

  • Rahal’s pole came with his father, Bobby, the team’s co-owner, at home following recent knee replacement, the driver said.
  • Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda) and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet) had side-by-side contact in Saturday’s first practice. Grosjean had gone slightly off track on the right side and then bumped Ilott’s car off to the left as he returned. Neither car suffered damage.
  • Grosjean was disappointed to not advance from the first qualifying group, citing traffic ahead of him. “We didn’t have an awesome car, but it was good enough to (advance),” he said. Earlier, Grosjean told he will not return to Andretti Autosport next season following a two-year stint with the Indianapolis-based organization.
  • Ilott, who made his series debut at this track in 2021, earned the eighth starting position, his best effort of the season. “It’s a shame because I thought there was a lot more in there, and I thought we could make the (Firestone) Fast Six,” he said. His previous best qualifying effort this season was ninth last week at World Wide Technology Raceway.
  • Josef Newgarden will start 12th in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet after hitting the Turn 12 tire barrier in the second round of qualifying. “Just unfortunately made a mistake,” he said. “I got in a little too hot – I knew I got in hot – I tried to get off the brake and got wide and into the wall.”
  • Newgarden rebounded from his crash in qualifying to lead final practice with a lap of 59.4533. Ilott was second at 59.5342. Pole winner Rahal was 18th at 1:00.3841.
  • Palou’s weekend is being directed by veteran Chip Ganassi Racing executive Mike O’Gara, who is filling in for another longstanding member of the organization, Barry Wanser, who is undergoing treatment for curable cancer.