Simona De Silvestro needed little time to reacclimatize to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Friday at Road America.
Yes, the #16 Autosport Chevrolet Paretta driver was 27th in the speed charts with a best lap of 1 minute, 48.7490 seconds, but she was trailing her competition after more than seven years out of the cockpit of an NTT INDYCAR car. SERIES on a road course.
De Silvestro competed in the Indianapolis 500 twice and once at Phoenix Raceway, both ovals, between Friday and her previous non-oval NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, which took place on the streets of St. Petersburg, where she finished 18th at the start of the 2015 season.
“It was definitely a lot faster and braked a lot better than anything I’ve ridden in the last five years,” said De Silvestro. “It was really good. I’m really happy to be back in an INDYCAR, especially here. It’s pretty special. I think Road America is one of the coolest tracks we’ve been on and one very fast. I feel really fast at the moment.
De Silvestro was proud of her and the Paretta Autosport team’s performance in Friday’s practice session given that the other 26 combinations of cars and drivers are in the middle of their seasons, while De Silvestro competes. in his first of three races this season for Paretta Autosport.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars are very different from the last time De Silvestro drove one on the road or the street, and they are very different from the sports cars she has driven recently – her last competitive race was in October.
For this reason, De Silvestro described driving in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES today as essentially a new experience.
“To be honest, it was like everything was new,” she said. “Even like the pit limiter, how to do that. Just go and drive. When you turn, the car really turns. At first it surprises you a bit because it’s so nimble. In addition, the braking is really powerful. It took me a few turns just to sort that out.
Paretta Autosport has a technical alliance with Ed Carpenter Racing, and team owner and driver Ed Carpenter was in the De Silvestro pit alongside team owner Beth Paretta during Friday’s practice, which according to De Silvestro, surprised her but appreciated Carpenter’s additional knowledge in her ear.
Ilott returns, returns to pre-Indy form
Callum Ilott appears to be back in his pre-Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge form after opening practice for the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR, broken right hand and all.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie placed 15th on the practice chart with a best lap of 1 minute, 46.7679 in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. At the start of the session, Ilott topped the chart and flirted with the top 10 throughout the 70-minute session.
This is Ilott’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race since finishing 32nd in the Indy 500. He crashed out of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on lap 68 and the hand injury kept him out of last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Santino Ferrucci replaced him and finished 21st.
Heading into the 2.5-mile oval, Ilott was on the best stretch of his young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. He started 11th at Barber Motorsports Park and was on his way to a top-10 finish until an error knocked him off course. He finished 25th.
The following race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was the best career result for the native of Cambridge, England. He started seventh and finished eighth in the GMR Grand Prix.
Now back on a road course – the 14-turn, 4.048-mile Road America course that mimics many of the permanent road courses Ilott grew up on in Europe – he’s apparently returned to his comfort level that produced solid results for the single. – Juncos Hollinger Racing team car.
Rosenqvist and VeeKay return to Road America
Two drivers are making their Road America debuts this weekend in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. Two others are just happy to be back after missing last year’s race.
Felix Rosenqvist and Rinus VeeKay missed the 2021 race with injuries. Rosenqvist crashed his #7 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP the previous event at The Raceway in Belle Isle while VeeKay, who drives Ed Carpenter Racing’s #21 Chevrolet XX, broke his collarbone in a biking accident .
Rosenqvist was particularly disappointed not to race Road America – he was replaced by Kevin Magnussen – given that it was there he scored his first – and still only – series victory in Race 2 of 2020 .
“We know what it takes to be competitive, so we’re quite motivated to come back and try to continue our streak of good speed and good results that we’ve had recently,” he said.
Rosenqvist is one of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers to score three consecutive top-10 finishes. He was sixth in the GMR Grand Prix and fourth in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge — both races taking place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — and finished 10th in the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit presented by Lear last weekend.
Marcus Ericsson (#8 Ganassi Racing Honda Huski Chocolate Chip) and Simon Pagenaud (#60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda AutoNation/SiriusXM) are the other two drivers with top-10 streaks in three consecutive races.
Ilott and Christian Lundgaard (#30 Fleet Cost & Care Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) are the two NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers making their Road America debuts this weekend.
VeeKay: Turn 6 is Road America’s toughest turn
Race teams always perform a track walk of each circuit before the first practice. Due to the length of this circuit, competitors used golf carts. VeeKay allowed a videographer to follow him.
VeeKay said he thought Turn 6 was the hardest at Road America.
“It’s a tough corner,” he said. “It’s so blind at the entrance and (it) just plateaus at the top. So you have a lot of grip, and (then) it wears off.
Kellett gets a new take on Road America
Dalton Kellett used the first part of Friday to work on his photography skills.
The No. 4 K-Line/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet driver (pictured above) followed Racer.com motorsports journalist Marshall Pruett around some of the track’s most iconic corners to photograph USF2000 cars on track.
Veterans Program Receives Over $2 Million
ABC Supply and AJ Foyt Racing have collaborated on a donation drive for the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge to support the Homes For Our Troops organization.
The program was featured on the No. 11 Homes For Our Troops/ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet which JR Hildebrand drove to a 12th place finish.
Over $1 million was donated and ABC Supply matched the donations to bring the total to over $2 million. Homes For Our Troops builds homes and helps rebuild the lives of seriously injured veterans after 9/11. Learn more about HFOT at hfotusa.org.
The average finishing position of NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole winners this season is 10.86, the highest since 2016. In 2017, the average position was 9.56. The lowest was 4.06 in 2016.
Honda-powered cars have won the last four Road America races, including Chip Ganassi Racing’s last three (Alexander Rossi in 2019, Scott Dixon and Rosenqvist in 2020 and Alex Palou last year).
· Qualifying this high on the grid is always paramount, but remarkably this is not a track where a front row start was crucial. Since 2016, only two drivers (Will Power in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2018) have taken pole. But the seven race winners since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to Road America in 2016 have been won by drivers starting in the top nine.
· Friday was Scott McLaughlin’s 29th birthday.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires leader Linus Lundqvist of HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing had the fastest car in Friday’s opening practice at Road America. He has won four of the last five races in the series and holds an 84-point lead over teammate Benjamin Pedersen, who drives the Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports.
Juncos Hollinger Racing took the top two spots in Indy Pro 2000 qualifying on Saturday. Reece Gold took pole with Enaam Ahmed second. Gold has won two of the nine races contested this season.
· Both USF2000 qualifying sessions on Saturday were repeat top-three finishes. Cape Motorsports’ Michael d’Orlando won both poles with Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark and Exclusive Autosport’s Billy Frazer second and third, respectively, in each session. D’Orlando won the most recent race of the series, the second which took place last weekend in Detroit.
· The NTT INDYCAR SERIES begins action Saturday at 10:45 a.m. (ET) with the first of two practices. The second, at 5:20 p.m., follows the NTT P1 Award qualifiers at 1:45 p.m. All the action can be viewed on Peacock Premium, NBC’s live streaming platform. The INDYCAR radio network will also have coverage on the INDYCAR mobile app and racecontrol.indycar.com.