Simona De Silvestro required little time to reacclimate to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Friday at Road America.
Yes, the driver of the No. 16 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet was 27th on the speed charts with a best lap of 1 minute, 48.7490 seconds, but she was right on the heels of her competition after more than seven years out of the cockpit of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car on a road course.
De Silvestro has competed in the Indianapolis 500 twice and once at Phoenix Raceway, both ovals, in between Friday and her previous non-oval NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, which came on the Streets of St. Peterburg, where she finished 18th at the start of the 2015 season.
“It was definitely much faster and braked much better than anything I've driven the last five years,” De Silvestro said. “It was really good. I'm really happy to be back in an INDYCAR, especially around here. It's quite special. I think Road America is one of the coolest tracks we get to and one of the fastest ones. Definitely feels really fast at the moment.”
De Silvestro was proud of her and the Paretta Autosport team’s performance during Friday’s practice session given the 26 other cars and driver combinations are in the middle of their seasons, while De Silvestro is in her first of three races this season for Paretta Autosport.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars are vastly different since De Silvestro last drove one on a road or street course, and they are much different that the sports cars she has been driving as of late – her last competitive race was in October.
Because of that, 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 pit limiter, how to do that. Just going and driving. When you turn, the car really turns. In the beginning it kind of surprises you because it's so agile. Also, the braking is really powerful. It took me a few laps just to get that sorted.”
Paretta Autosport has a technical alliance with Ed Carpenter Racing, and team owner and driver Ed Carpenter was on the pit stand for De Silvestro alongside team owner Beth Paretta during Friday’s practice, something that De Silvestro said surprised her but was appreciative of the added knowledge of Carpenter in her ear.
Ilott Returns, Gets Back to Pre-Indy Form
Callum Ilott looks 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. Early in the session, Ilott was at the top of the board and flirted with the top 10 throughout the 70-minute session.
It 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 prevented him from competing in last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Santino Ferrucci replaced him and finished 21st.
Before the race on 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 a mistake took him off course. He finished 25th.
The following race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was a career-best finish for the Cambridge, England native. 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 racing on in Europe – he is seemingly back to his comfort level that was producing solid results for the single-car Juncos Hollinger Racing team.
Rosenqvist, VeeKay Back at 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 sat out the 2021 race with injuries. Rosenqvist had crashed his No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet the event prior at The Raceway at Belle Isle while VeeKay, who drives the No. 21 XX Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing, had broken his collarbone in a cycling accident.
Rosenqvist was particularly disappointed to not compete at Road America – he was replaced by Kevin Magnussen -- given that it was where he scored his first – and still only -- series victory in Race 2 of 2020.
“We know what to do to be competitive, so we’re pretty pumped to get back and try to continue our streak of good speed and good results that we’ve had lately,” he said.
Rosenqvist is one of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers to have scored three consecutive top-10 finishes. He finished sixth in the GMR Grand Prix and fourth in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – both races held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and was 10th in last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) are the other two drivers with top-10 streaks of three consecutive races.
Ilott and Christian Lundgaard (No. 30 Fleet Cost & Care Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) are the two NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers making their Road America debut this weekend.
VeeKay: Turn 6 is Road America’s Toughest Corner
Race teams always take a track walk of each circuit prior to the first practice. Due to the length of this circuit, competitors used golf carts. VeeKay allowed a videographer to follow him around.
VeeKay said he believes Turn 6 is the most difficult at Road America.
“It’s a hard corner,” he said. “It’s so blind on entry and (it) just plateaus o top. So, you have a lot of grip, and (then) it just fades away.”
Kellett Gets New View of Road America
Dalton Kellett used the first part of Friday to work on his photography skills.
The driver of the No. 4 K-Line/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet (pictured above) followed motorsports journalist Marshall Pruett of Racer.com to some of the track’s most iconic corners to shoot USF2000 cars on track.
Veterans Program Receives More Than $2 Million
ABC Supply and AJ Foyt Racing collaborated in a donation-match campaign 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 that JR Hildebrand drove to an 12th-place finish.
More than $1 million was donated and ABC Supply match donations to bring the total to more than $2 million. Homes For Our Troops builds homes and helps rebuild lives for severely injured, post 9/11 veterans. Learn more about HFOT at hfotusa.org.
Odds and Ends
· 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 past four Road America races, including the past three by Chip Ganassi Racing (Alexander Rossi in 2019, Scott Dixon and Rosenqvist in 2020, and Alex Palou last year).
· Qualifying as far up on the grid is always paramount, but remarkably this hasn’t been a track where a front-row start has been pivotal. Since 2016, only two drivers (Will Power in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2018) have won from the pole. But all seven of the race winners since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to Road America in ’16 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 quickest car in Friday’s first practice at Road America. He has won four of the past five series races and holds an 84-point lead over teammate Benjamin Pedersen, who drives the Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports entry.
· Juncos Hollinger Racing took the two top positions in Indy Pro 2000 qualifying Saturday. Reece Gold won the pole with Enaam Ahmed second. Gold has won two of the nine races held this season.
· USF2000’s two qualifying sessions Saturday had a top three repeat. Michael d’Orlando of Cape Motorsports won both poles with Jace Denmark of Pabst Racing and Billy Frazer of Exclusive Autosport second and third, respectively, in each session. D’Orlando won the series’ most-recent race, the second held last weekend in Detroit.
· The NTT INDYCAR SERIES begins its Saturday action at 10:45 a.m. (ET) with the first of two practices. The second, at 5:20 p.m., follows NTT P1 Award qualifying at 1:45 p.m. All of the action can be viewed on Peacock Premium, NBC’s live streaming platform. The INDYCAR Radio Network also will have coverage on the INDYCAR Mobile App and racecontrol.indycar.com.