SALINAS, Calif – Felix Rosenqvist left the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday fuming mad. He felt like the NTT IndyCar Series Race Control cost him a shot at a win for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
See, Rosenqvist spun his No. 10 Honda during his qualifying run in the first round of knockout qualifying on Saturday afternoon. He felt like he didn’t impede anyone and was early enough in qualifying that it wouldn’t matter. Then, he was questioning why he was penalized his top two laps, not just a single lap around the 2.258-mile northern California road course.
Despite pleads to alter the punishment, it came to no avail. Rosenqvist, would start Sunday’s season finale 14th. He knew how hard it would be come through the field from Row 7.
13 of the 16 race winners this year came from the Firestone Fast Six. 18 of the 22 Indy Car races in Laguna Seca were won from the front row. Eight of the last 12 races on natural road courses were won from the front row as well.
He had a car to make the Fast Six with him being third quickest in both test sessions on Thursday, second fastest in both practice sessions on Friday and fastest in final practice on Saturday. Now, he’d have to come from 14th instead of a likely top five starting spot.
To add fuel to his fire, Colton Herta earned the pole. Rosenqvist, had to charge at least eight spots on a track where passing was difficult. If he couldn’t, Herta, not Rosenqvist, would win Rookie of the Year.
That point was moot pretty quickly.
Just seven laps into the race, Rosneqvist was already inside of the top 10. By the end of the second stint, the Swede was in the top five. At the end, he earned a fifth place finish and took home Rookie of the Year honors. Furthermore, he’d finish sixth in the final standings.
That’s impressive since Herta won twice in 2019 while Rosenqvist didn’t reach victory lane at all. Still, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver had three top five finishes over the final five races including six in 17 starts this season. He also had 10 top 10 finishes as well and becomes the first Ganassi driver since Juan Montoya (1999) to take home the top rookie award.
The last three Ganassi drivers to do so?
Alex Zanardi (1996), Montoya (1999) and now Rosenqvist. That’s some elite company.