Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist stood in the paddock last month at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and proudly smiled for a picture with his second-place trophy in the Honda Indy 200.
The sun was so bright, there was too much shadow at a particular angle. But Rosenqvist happily obliged in shifting positions for more pictures. He relished the moment and the accomplishment.
The 27-year-old Swedish driver in his first season with Ganassi's team had just pushed eventual winner, teammate and five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon to the finish, including touching wheels. But as much as Rosenqvist appreciated his first IndyCar podium finish, he couldn’t help but think about what might have been.
“It’s always bittersweet when you’re second, right?” he said. “I think we had a good chance at winning. I think we had the quickest car on track. I think we had the right strategy. The big challenge was getting through the lapped traffic. That was what made it exciting. Big credit to Scott and the team for letting us race freely at the end, side by side. That’s what everyone comes out to see.”
After winning for the sixth time at Mid-Ohio, Dixon reiterated his respect for Rosenqvist and how his new teammate has been a solid addition. The NTT IndyCar Series’ top rookie has continued to impress. Dixon, a rookie way back in 2001, has had his share of teammates over the years, but likes Rosenqvist because they favor similar racing set-ups.
“Again, I keep saying it, but he's a big talent,” Dixon said. “He's going to win a lot of races. He was super fast all weekend. I'm not sure why they switched to the three (stop) strategy unless he just wasn't getting the fuel mileage. But they were darned fast in the race.
“Felix found some really good pace. It's been fun working with him and having a lot of similarities and things that we like. It's been a little bit of time since I've had teammates like that. That definitely helps, I think, not just right now but also for the future of the team and development.”
There were times early this season when Rosenqvist’s aggression caused him to slide off track. But then he overcompensated.
Mid-Ohio proved to be an important step. Dixon struggled in practice to find the pace, but Rosenqvist locked in on a solid set-up to help his teammate. Rosenqvist qualified sixth while Dixon started eighth. Then Rosenqvist returned to his normal instincts in the race to push to the front.
“I think you have to be aggressive,” Rosenqvist said. “I felt like I had been too passive the past couple of races. This time, I just said, ‘Let’s look forward. Let’s not look in the mirrors. Let’s not worry about the back.’ Even with Scott, the team told me, ‘It’s your teammate, but go for it.’ That’s what we did. We touched a little bit, but he raced me really good and I think I raced him good. It was a good run. That’s how you want to race.”
He praised Dixon for being able to hold him off despite driving on badly worn tires in saying, “That’s why he’s getting the big bucks.”
Rosenqvist, who improved to ninth in the points with four races remaining, impressed team advisor Dario Franchitti with his bold driving.
“He was really happy, and I think he likes when I'm going for it, you know, when I'm not playing it safe and not thinking about too much ahead, just trying to attack and be aggressive,” Rosenqvist said. “It was the same at the Indy 500 when we started in the back and I was fighting my way forward, and even if we had a crash in the end, he was just super happy, and it was like, you could see he's over the moon when you have a good performance.
“Actually in the race he doesn't talk to me, but during the weekend, he's a great support, and I think both on the road courses and especially the ovals, he's always there, and he's been to almost every session I've done in an Indy car. So yeah, we really have a good relationship, and he's also to thank for this good result.”
Rosenqvist departed Mid-Ohio feeling optimistic after a much-needed result. He had finished outside the top 10 in three of his previous five starts.
“I've been struggling a little bit mid-season, had sort of flashes of speed all the time, never managed to put it together, but this weekend everything just came together for both of us,” he said. “It's a big relief, especially for the 10 car crew to get that podium. It's been a long time, and you can see they're hungry for it every weekend.”
The next chance to see Rosenqvist drive the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing is Sunday with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. NBCSN will have television coverage at 2 p.m. ET (green flag at 2:45 p.m. ET). The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network provides the radio call, with coverage on SiriusXM Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970). NTT P1 Award qualifying is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (delayed on NBCSN until 2:30 p.m.).