By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
My post-race feature for The Open Wheel continues with a collection of random thoughts following the INDYCAR weekend at Watkins Glen International for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.
- Rossi Delivers Dominant Weekend Fresh Off Contract Extension – Alexander Rossi had himself a week! His multi-year extension with Andretti Autosport and sponsor NAPA was announced on Friday. He won his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole on Saturday. He led 32 of 60 laps at Watkins Glen on Sunday for his second Verizon IndyCar Series victory and first since his incredible win in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Rossi has been on a hot streak lately and finally got the victory he deserved but it didn’t come without adversity. Rossi had to pit off sequence in the middle portion of the race after building a big lead due to a malfunctioning fuel probe not getting all the necessary fuel into the car on an earlier stop. However, thanks to a big gap and a well-timed caution Rossi retook the lead and never looked back even after needing to out duel Watkins Glen-master Scott Dixon on a late restart.
- Newgarden Error Tightens Championship Fight – Josef Newgarden didn’t have a great weekend at Watkins Glen but he had a solid enough race going to keep most of his championship lead before an incident on pit road changed the championship picture. Newgarden leaves Watkins Glen with just a 3 point lead over Dixon, 22 over Castroneves, and 34 over Pagenaud. With double points on offer at Sonoma, the title is truly up for grabs at the series finale.
- Harvey Solid In Road Course Debut – Jack Harvey made his road/street course debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend and did a respectable job in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 7. Not only did he a bring an exciting new pink livery to the series (cheers to not being blue and white), but he delivered a solid performance all weekend long and gave himself plenty to build upon heading into the series finale at Sonoma. Harvey didn’t finish last in any practice session, out qualified the far more experienced Marco Andretti and JR Hildebrand in his qualifying group, and drove a nice race to finish in P14 from a P18 starting spot.
- Kaiser Seals Deserved Lights Title – Kyle Kaiser won the Indy Lights championship at Watkins Glen simply by starting the race after an impressively consistent 2017 season. The 21 year old American finished on the podium in 8 of 16 races with 3 wins for the season. The two races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course were his only non-Top 10’s of the season and he finished all but one lap for the season. That incredible consistency won him the championship and he deserves the Verizon IndyCar Series opportunity he’s earned for 2018.
- Franzoni Wins Pro Mazda Title For Lights Scholarship – Victor Franzoni won both Pro Mazda races at Watkins Glen over the weekend to win the championship in Pro Mazda. Franzoni will move up to Indy Lights next year following as good of a season as can possibly be expected. The 21 year old Brazilian won 7 of the 12 Pro Mazda races in 2017 and finished second in the other 5. That’s incredible! As Juncos Racing’s champion Indy Lights driver Kaiser makes the step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, the team could do much worse than to bring Franzoni into that same seat in Lights next year and see what he can do after an astounding year in Pro Mazda. Runner-up Anthony Martin delivered what would have likely been a championship-worthy effort in any other year and should be in play for a ride in Indy Lights next year.