Felix Rosenqvist didn’t need to see the statistics to know how his stack up in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and he knows his must improve as his career progresses.
“I think finishing races has always kind of been a topic for me,” he said. “I think I’m probably one of the highest (non-finishers) in the field if you look back at the last two, three years.
“That’s something I want to change.”
Entering Season 6 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Rosenqvist is driven to make them change. Such a turnaround is foremost on his list of to-dos for the 17-race season that begins March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.
The 32-year-old Swede has never had a season in this series where his average finishing position was better than his average starting position. Last year, the difference was nearly six positions (his average starting position was 8.7 but his average finish was 14.5). He failed to finish five of the 17 races, including both races where he started on the pole.
Rosenqvist won the NTT P1 Award in qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway and at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca yet he finished 26th and 19th, respectively, in those races. Last year, he finished 15th in laps completed; the year prior he was tied for 22nd.
The Swede has finished on the lead lap just 47 times in 79 career series races, part of the reason he has been ninth or lower in the standings each year since finishing sixth as a rookie.
Rosenqvist has driven for quality teams, too: His first two seasons were with Chip Ganassi Racing, the past three with Arrow McLaren. This year, he is with Meyer Shank Racing’s Honda-powered program.
“I think it’s probably both down to driver and reliability,” he said of the finishing woes. "But that’s something I want to see (improve) this year. If you can take a (12th-place finish), you take (it). You don’t have to risk everything to get one more spot. There will be times when you have chances for big results, and I think you always have to go for it.
“But (for me) it’s about not improving the peaks but improving the valleys, so to speak. That’s my plan.”
Perhaps that starts with Rosenqvist having a different role with Meyer Shank Racing. Teaming with sports car ace Tom Blomqvist in his first full season will put Rosenqvist in much-anticipated leadership role. At Chip Ganassi Racing, Rosenqvist paired with the legendary Scott Dixon, who now has six series championships and 56 career race wins. At Arrow McLaren, the team’s focus began with Pato O’Ward and last year included Alexander Rossi, the winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Only at this year’s “500” will Rosenqvist be overshadowed by a teammate. That’s where four-time event winner Helio Castroneves again will drive for MSR.
“I look forward to being in that role (as a team leader),” Rosenqvist said. “It’s a role I haven’t really been in for six years – since I drove Formula E. (You) can kind of call the shots a little bit more. Maybe get your engineering team to build a car more around you, like the foundation of the car setup … hiring people and that kind of stuff.”
When this season begins, Rosenqvist will be one of at least 14 drivers who have won a series race, and his talent has never been questioned. He won races and season championships throughout his junior category days – he was a three-time race winner in INDY NXT by Firestone in 2016 – and he was the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ Rookie of the Year in 2019.
Rosenqvist expects the team co-owned by Michael Shank and Jim Meyer to be “really, really strong” on the street circuits, and he has frequently competed near the front on road courses, which supports his optimism. Rosenqvist said he wants to get back to “top-10 territory.”
The oldest adage in motorsports is to finish first one must first finish. It’s true, and Rosenqvist knows that. But it comes with no additional pressure, he said.
“You’re always under pressure in professional sports, (so) don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But as I said before, I feel like what’s expected of me is pretty clear (from the team), and my own expectations are pretty clear.”
Finishing races should lead Rosenqvist to where he wants to go in this series.