IndyCar setup sheet: Road America

IndyCar setup sheet: Road America
IndyCar setup sheet: Road America

What: Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America / Race 8 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series

Where: Natural road course at Elkhart Lake, Wis.

When: Sunday, June 18, 1:00pm ET (green flag 1:15pm ET)

From the near-flat and often flat-out turns of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to the first and second-gear point ’n’ squirt, bump ’n’ grind street course in Detroit, to the hold-your-breath open sweepers and technical medium-speed turns at Road America this weekend. There’s no sequence in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule where the series more obviously demands its drivers to be the most versatile racers on earth.

People — drivers and fans alike — wax lyrical about Road America, calling it the United States’ greatest road course, with frequent comparisons to Formula 1’s Spa-Francorchamps. And with good reason, too: huge elevation changes, varied track surfaces, and unforgiving corners. Even where there’s runoff it can be hard to return to the asphalt without damaging the car; and where there is runoff, it’s often a gravel trap. Road America has barely changed since the year it was opened in 1955 — certainly its 4.048-mile configuration remains as it was, with only the curbing and the amount of asphalt and grass on either side of it shifting over the decades.

This venue is a mecca for campers, who are spoiled for choice as far as sightlines are concerned. Stay for the full three days, and you can move around the track and capture hugely different views for all five of the IndyCar sessions. 

At Road America, race engineers who’ve seen their cars qualify badly tend to look gloomy on Saturday evening as they contemplate the chances of getting their car back up front through strategy. The length of the course means the race is only 55 laps long, which makes it a fairly obvious three-stop strategy, especially given the yawningly long pitlane. The scope for strategic variations is naturally limited. 

Yet, time after time, we’ve seen that it takes just a single yellow in any of the three stints to allow the drivers to turn up the fuel mixture and let fly. And a driver who’s struggling on fuel strategy or who’s burned off their Firestone alternate-compound tires too soon cannot indefinitely fend off a close pursuer, for the track is wide, making for obvious passing opportunities at Turns 1, 3, 5, 6 and 10. 

Last year at Road America, the top four teams looked very evenly balanced in terms of pace, with the top 10 on the grid containing three cars from Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing, and two from Team Penske and Arrow McLaren. Andretti’s Alexander Rossi took his first pole for three years, putting himself in frame to score his first win over the same period.

Fellow front-row starter Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Penske crew scotched that idea at the first round of stops, when he emerged from pit lane ahead of Rossi — as did Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson when he stopped a lap later, although Rossi got past him when the Swede ran wide at Turn 7.

Through the second and third stints, Rossi kept nibbling at Newgarden’s lead, and a late caution gave him a last chance to get fully on terms. Instead, he turned from hunter to hunted, with Ericsson slipping past him to claim second, 3.3710s behind winner Newgarden (below). Still Rossi headed a 3-4-5 for the Andretti team, followed home by Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta.

You can follow all the practice and qualifying action on Peacock on Friday, June 16, and Saturday, June 17, and the warmup on the morning of Sunday, June 18. Then the 55-lap/220.55-mile race will be carried on the USA Network as well as Peacock. And to get even closer to it all, grab the best seat in the house with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA and its 14 race day live onboard cameras.   

TUNE IN

Friday, June 16 / 4:00pm – 5:15pm ET – Practice 1 – Peacock

Saturday, June 17 / 10:55am – 11:55am ET – Practice 2 – Peacock

Saturday, June 17 / 1:55pm – 3:25pm ET – Qualifying – Peacock

Sunday, June 18 / 10:15am – 10:45am ET – Warmup – Peacock

Sunday, June 18 / 1:15pm – 3:45pm ET – RACE – USA Network, Peacock

• All sessions and the race are also available as audio commentary on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio.  

Ride along with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA

Taking you inside the action, 14 drivers will be carrying in-car cameras. During the race, you can live-stream every one of them with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. You choose who you ride along with, and you can switch drivers at any time. The App’s free to download for fans worldwide and you can find out more HERE. If you’re not already onboard, take your viewing experience to a whole new level HERE.

Bringing you the onboard action from the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America are…

Alexander Rossi / No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Rossi deserves to be excited about this race, for it’s the scene of his most recent pole position, in 2022, and the seventh of his eight NTT IndyCar Series wins, in 2019. The high-commitment corners are his forté and his willingness to get the throttle down early and clamber over curbs can produce considerable rewards on Road America’s medium-speed turns. He’s still seeking his first win for the Arrow McLaren team, after seven years with Andretti Autosport, and currently lies sixth in the championship.

Colton Herta / No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda 

Herta has endured a difficult year so far, with his highest finish a fourth at Long Beach, but reassuringly he knows that Andretti Autosport has good road course setups and he can be exceedingly quick around Road America. In his rookie season of Indy NXT — then called Indy Lights — he took pole position and a podium finish here, while in IndyCar, he took his first-ever pole here in 2019. He used up his tires a tad too enthusiastically come race day, but he learned, and has since delivered top 5s each time, including a runner-up finish in 2021.

Pato O’Ward / No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

After finishing runner-up in three of the first five races, O’Ward knows that DNFs at Indy and Detroit (below) have been a setback in his championship quest. As well as his outright pace, the spectacular Mexican is also very smart, and has a genius race engineer in Will Anderson. He occasionally lets his emotions steer his racing instincts, but nowhere near as often as his critics suggest. He took pole and finished second at Road America in his first full IndyCar season in 2020; he has every right to believe he can take the “W” this weekend.

Will Power / No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet

Since Road America reappeared on the IndyCar calendar in 2016, Penske’s reigning and two-time champion Power has shown pretty well here, notching up a pole, a win, two seconds, a third, a fifth, and a couple more less satisfying results. The Aussie, like all the aforementioned drivers, is seeking his first win of 2023 but as last year proved, he has a resolute calmness to simply get the best out of any given day, whatever fate throws at him. Is he a potential winner? Always.

Romain Grosjean / No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

Statistics suggest he’s going to finish on the podium this weekend. The former F1 driver took fifth at Road America in his rookie year of 2021 with Dale Coyne Racing and he backed this up with fourth in his first year with Andretti Autosport. Now? Well, his pole position at Barber Motorsports Park this year suggested he and engineer Olivier Boisson have made the breakthrough required for road courses, where Grosjean needs the front end of the car to feel positive and planted. After six podium finishes, this weekend could see Grosjean’s first open-wheel win in a dozen years,     

Felix Rosenqvist / No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

If you want to see how keen Rosenqvist is to remain in IndyCar next year, regardless of decisions made by McLaren CEO Zak Brown, just watch the final 20 laps of the Detroit Grand Prix in which he finished third. Then savor the prospect of the Swede trying to beat his teammates O’Ward and Rossi this weekend. Road America is of course the site of the Swede’s sole win at this level, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing back in 2020, when he outdueled none other than Pato to snatch victory.

Scott McLaughlin / No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
With four wins and three seasons under his belt, McLaughlin should feel comfortable pretty much everywhere, but never more than on road courses. An immensely strong addition to the Penske stable, he doesn’t merely scoop up the remains when his teammates have bad days; the Kiwi is a bona fide star. He led Power and Newgarden at Barber, the most recent undulating road course on the calendar, to take his first win of the season, and could grab a second on Sunday. 

Kyle Kirkwood / No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

Two wins in USF2000 for Cape Motorsports, two wins in Indy Pro 2000 for RP Motorsport, and one win in Indy Lights for Andretti Autosport. Safe to say that the 2021 Indy Lights champ Kirkwood knows how to be a contender around the varied turns presented by Road America. The American’s pole and victory at Long Beach displayed his composure, but Detroit was arguably a bigger test. His crash in qualifying was his fault, his lap 1/ Turn 1 tangle emphatically not, but he stormed from last to sixth after that, and was the most impressive driver of the weekend aside from winner Alex Palou and Power.  

Graham Rahal / No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

If you want to know what frustration looks like, watch Graham Rahal interviewed on TV or follow him on Twitter. Yet we know there’s a talented driver trying to shake off the shackles of recalcitrant cars, self-inflicted snafus, and uncertainty when heading into a race weekend. A buildup of all three can certainly sap the confidence. Yet Rahal, like Rossi, always drives with a certain sense of liberation at Road America, unafraid to make bold passing attempts, and this is a track that can reward such self-belief.

Christian Lundgaard / No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Like teammate Rahal, Lundgaard seems very at home around Road America, and in his rookie season last year he qualified 13th and finished 10th. While this has been a very trying year for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan squad, the Dane should be heading into this weekend with some confidence, given his performance on natural road courses in the recent past. In 2022, he qualified fourth at Portland and finished fifth at Laguna Seca; this year he qualified and finished sixth at Barber and took pole and finished fourth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Simon Pagenaud / No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion has never looked completely comfortable at Road America, despite three top 10s in 2017-19. Thing is, Pagenaud likes a stable rear end to his car in order to commit and show his fabulous precision, and this course’s long straights require the removal of drag-inducing downforce. That said, he remains an impeccably smooth driver and should it rain this weekend, he could even be contending for his 16th career IndyCar win and his first for Meyer Shank Racing. 

Jack Harvey / No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Harvey qualified on the front row at Road America in 2020, and was third on the grid in ’21, but in ’23 he’s struggling to show his form, especially in the RLL team, which is suffering the same paroxysms of competitiveness and recalcitrance. On his best days, the Brit (below) remains a force to be reckoned with, and this track is more likely than most to bring out his best.

Agustin Canapino / No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

One of the most talented touring car drivers of the current era continues to prove he’s one of the most surprisingly adept open-wheel converts. Three times in seven races this year, rookie Canapino has finished in the top 15 from a field of 27 cars, and how many so-called experts would have predicted that pre-season? The 33-year-old Argentinian can also enjoy a confidence boost knowing that his teammate, Callum Ilott, qualified 12th and finished 11th last year. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay / No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet 

The 2012 champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner was far from a spent force when he was cut loose by Andretti Autosport at the tail end of ’21. Now Hunter-Reay, at the age of 42, gets to make his comeback as replacement for Conor Daly at ECR. Despite his impressive outing for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at the Indianapolis 500, this weekend will be a challenge for Ryan after 18 months away from an IndyCar cockpit on a road course. But he’s a highly motivated former champ and has a fine reference point in teammate Rinus VeeKay.

The INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA is free to download and access, so don’t miss out – CLICK HERE to get started.


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