ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Rule No. 1 regarding job security: If the boss is happy, you’re happy.
Felix Rosenqvist’s boss is very happy.
“I’d say that’s a pretty good day,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in the pits Sunday afternoon after his latest hire finished fourth in his first NTT IndyCar Series race. “A good, solid day for both the (No.) 9 car and the (No.) 10 car. It’s something we can build on. Second and fourth? I’ll take that.”
Ganassi’s “other” driver, five-time champion Scott Dixon, finished second behind Josef Newgarden, who won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Strong finishes are expected from Dixon, but Rosenqvist was the team’s unknown coming into the 2019 season opener.
Rosenqvist answered the questions loudly. He started by qualifying third fastest Saturday and following it with a clean run through Sunday’s 110-lap race. Considering he had little experience with live pit stops and rolling starts before the race, the 27-year-old rookie impressed
“It’s a lot to take in,” Rosenqvist said. “I’m worn out. These cars are tough to drive. I’ve never driven anything like it, but it’s a dream come true just to be here.”
Rosenqvist, a native of Varnamo, Sweden, won three Indy Lights races in 2016, including one at St. Petersburg. The transition to the top level has taken some adjusting and time, and Rosenqvist admits he still has room for improvement.
“We have a lot to work on,” Rosenqvist said. “I think I underestimated how much the track grips up. Still a lot of things to learn, but P4 is a great way to start.”
After he stepped out of the car, Rosenqvist complained of pain in his right arm, saying it bothered him during the late laps of the 110-lap race. Considering the heat and humidity – and the fact that only two cautions slowed the race – it was a solid rookie effort.
Rosenqvist wowed the St. Pete crowd and those watching on NBCSN when he completed a dive-bomb move on pole sitter Will Power heading into Turn 1 to take the race lead on Lap 24 following a restart. He impressively led 31 laps, second only to Newgarden’s 60 on the day.
Still, Rosenqvist was his own harshest critic.
“I think I could have done better,” he said. “I have to work on the driving, especially at the end of the race. My right arm was fading at the end of the race. I don’t know why. My seat was pinching into my shoulder. I just really tried to hang on there. The last 20 laps are where I think we could have finished a little bit closer to (third-place finisher) Power.”
In the end, he finished less than two seconds behind Power and 14.5858 seconds off Newgarden’s winning pace. The boss is happy. And if the boss is happy, everyone is happy.
“We kind of had our eye on him for a couple of years,” Ganassi said. “Glad to finally get him in the car.”
Rosenqvist and the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series drivers are back in action March 22-24 in the INDYCAR Classic, the first Indy car race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Practices will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Qualifying airs live at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 23 on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass. The race from the 3.41-mile permanent road course airs live at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 24 on NBCSN.