2022 Writers’ Roundtable, Vol. 39: Best Untitled Contestant?

2022 Writers' Roundtable, Vol.  39: Best Untitled Contestant?

Today’s question: There were many interesting storylines in the second half of the recently completed NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Apart from the championship candidates, which driver and his program were you most focused on?

In short: For me it was Felix Rosenqvist and his program at Arrow McLaren SP. It looked to be one saga after another for the likeable Swede, and early in the season it looked like he would be moved out of the No. 7 Chevrolet in favor of Alex Palou and assigned to a seat in Formula One. E-program of the organization. But as Palou’s situation with Chip Ganassi Racing took several interesting twists and turns, Rosenqvist delivered one of the best seasons of his career, taking top-10 finishes in 10 of the last 13 races and a third-place finish in Toronto. He was squarely in contention late in the Indianapolis 500 hosted by Gainbridge, where he finished fourth, and he added the second and third rounds of poles of his career in a season that finished with him finishing ninth in the points standings. Had Arrow McLaren SP not locked up Rosenqvist before 2023, he would have been the most coveted free agent of this off-season with potentially his choice of several quality series. It was quite the drama to watch, and Rosenqvist came out quite well, increasing his stock going forward.

Joey Barnes: Well, it would be easy to pick Will Power and his consistency, or Josef Newgarden’s onslaught of wins, so to distance himself from the title contenders makes this question unique. I think in this situation you should always go with someone who makes you want more because the potential to achieve something special is just on the horizon. Frankly, I know it was tough putting it together in the race for this group, but I have to go with Callum Ilott and Juncos Hollinger Racing. Ilott, a man who probably should have looked more closely at opportunities in Formula 1, has come into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and has helped to be the center of the only full-time one-car team that we all know works as hard as she. get into this business. Ilott had several strong practice sessions placing the No. 77 JHR Chevrolet in the top half of the field and making his mark in the qualifiers, including narrowly missing pole and starting a career-best second in the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna seca. Oh, and giving the team its first – and second – top 10 in North America’s premier open-wheel championship is certainly commendable, too. If this team didn’t suffer from the ill-timed mechanical issues or didn’t run into trouble on the track, we might have been talking about another driver winning Rookie of the Year.

Paul Kelly: I don’t think I can include Scott McLaughlin because he was a title contender during the season finale. Scotty Mac was the most impressive driver of the season, period, for me because of what he accomplished in just his second full season of open wheel racing, let alone just second year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. But among the drivers who didn’t compete for a title at Laguna Seca, Christian Lundgaard impressed me because he boosted the resurgence of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the second half of the season, which earned him the Rookie of the Year award. Both Lundgaard and team-mate Graham Rahal managed six top-10 finishes in the last 10 races of 2022, but Lundgaard finished on the podium with his second result at the Gallagher Grand Prix, and he also took the Firestone Fast Six three times in the qualification. in the last four road/street races. Rahal has only managed twice this season, in Toronto and Portland. Anyway, this isn’t a comparison between Christian and Graham, who both did a great job in the second half. But rookie Lundgaard gets the nod for me within RLLR because of his inexperience in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. He also caught my attention more than fellow Rookie of the Year contender David Malukas, who found more speed in the second half and whose performance at World Wide Technology Raceway was fantastic. But Malukas was not as consistent as Lundgaard in races down the road. I am excited to see Lundgaard and Rahal continue to drive RLL’s resurgence, and the prospect of Lundgaard and Malukas continuing their friendly duels next season is also exciting.

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