Steady Ericsson continues to rack up points
The hottest driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES over the past year and a half happens to be the driver at the top of this year’s leaderboard.
Clearly, Marcus Ericsson (#8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) has done more in the last 20 races than winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May. He leads the series with an average of 7.45. Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) has an average of 7.95.
In those 20 races, he has eight top-five finishes and 17 top-10 finishes, and he has finished in the top seven in the last six races.
Ericsson has a 35-point lead over Will Power (#12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) in the standings with seven races to go, starting with Saturday’s Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash (4 p.m. ET, NBC and the Network INDYCAR radio). Ericsson has held the series lead after the last three races and four of the last five races dating back to Indy.
Ericsson finished 11th, 9th and 9th in his three Iowa Speedway races.
“We have a lot of confidence and momentum,” he said. “For us in car 8, we are still leading the championship, he extended the last time out (finishing fifth last weekend at the Honda Indy in Toronto). It can be important this weekend – double races, double points.
Ericsson posted the sixth-fastest lap in Friday’s 90-minute practice at 171.819 mph, but don’t read too much into a single lap or how the drivers qualify in Saturday’s qualifying session (10.30am, Peacock Premium) . This track creates one of the highest tire degradations, which in turn creates big speed gaps later in green flag races. In Race 1 of 2020, Simon Pagenaud (#60 Meyer Shank Racing AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) started last – 23rd – and won the race.
Heat up the big story
Friday was a hot day in Newton, Iowa, and Saturday the numbers will be warmer, with a high approaching 100 degrees. In response, the pilots delivered hot descriptions.
“It’s hotter than the devil’s sub-britches, that’s for sure,” said Conor Daly, who set Friday’s second-fastest lap (173.239 mph) in Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet BitNile. Racing.
“Damn, man, it’s going to be a long, tough weekend,” said Scott McLaughlin, who set the third-fastest lap (173.083 mph) in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet. “It will (will be) a test of the fittest, and I can’t wait for it.”
The good news, Sunday’s forecast calls for cooler temperatures for Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google (3 p.m. ET, NBC and the INDYCAR radio network).
- Power not only set the fastest lap of the day (173.285 mph), but he also had one of the most succinct quotes. “It’s a tough track to win (on) when Josef Newgarden is in the game,” he said. Power also said Iowa Speedway is his “favorite oval” because it offers a variety of lanes.
- Team Penske will be the group to watch in qualifying. He’s seen one of his drivers start at No. 1 nine times at the series lead in Iowa’s 15 races, including three of the last four, with Power taking three poles in total. Newgarden took pole in the final NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, Race 2 of 2020.
- The entry list for this weekend’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES dual program is significantly higher than for both Iowa Speedway races in 2020. There were 23 car-driver combinations that year; there are 26 this weekend.
- Partly because Iowa Speedway didn’t host an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race last year, there are more drivers than normal who don’t have series experience at that track. Nine drivers (34.6%) made their series debut at the short oval on Friday, led by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda). Johnson was ninth on the speed chart at 170.795 mph.
- Dalton Kellett (#4 K-LINE/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) has never started an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Iowa Speedway, but he has had four starts in lower divisions.
- Not among the nine Iowa Speedway rookies is a driver who hasn’t raced the track since 2017. Of course, this driver knows the track well: Helio Castroneves (#06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing ) won the 2017 race. Castroneves won the poles here in 2009 and 2015.
- NTT INDYCAR SERIES action resumes on Saturday with qualifying. Drivers will complete two timed laps, with the first lap setting the order for Saturday’s first race (4 p.m.) and the second doing the same for Sunday’s second race (3 p.m.). Both races will be broadcast live on NBC and the INDYCAR radio network.
- Linus Lundqvist (#26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing) posted the fastest lap at Friday’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires at 158.229 mph. Andretti Autosport drivers Matthew Brabham (157.978 mph), Hunter McElrea (157.762 mph) and Christian Rasmussen (157.661 mph) complete the top four. Abel Motorsports’ Jacob Abel finished fifth at 157.619 mph.