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IndyCar Afterburn: Alabama 2024 - Will Power fights off food poisoning to claim second but McLaughlin gets redemption

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30th April, 2024

Hot on the heels of an instant classic at Long Beach, a shocking midweek revelation of Team Penske cheating at the season opener in St. Petersburg, and the start of docuseries 100 Days to Indy’s second season, the energy around IndyCar felt turbocharged going into this year’s Grand Prix of Alabama.

Barber Motorsports Park is always one of the most demanding courses on the calendar, and it was especially so this time around.

There was wheel-to-wheel action up and down the field, constant contact between drivers, and some unexpected names getting a chance to shine.

McLaughlin’s redemption

No one needed a good weekend in Alabama more than Scott McLaughlin. His retroactive disqualification for illegal use of push-to-pass back in St. Petersburg wiped out his podium finish and set him back to dead last in the drivers’ championship standings.

McLaughlin, for his part, took that punishment on the chin, then responded by taking the honest road back to success.

The Kiwi dominated the day like he used to do in V8 Supercars, starting on pole, leading 58 of 90 laps, posting the day’s fastest lap, and surviving a nail-biting final two laps to claim victory in Birmingham for the second straight year.

With that successful defence of his local crown, McLaughlin rebounded to rise twenty places in the season standings and sent a message to the rest of the paddock about his ability.


The only question now is how they’ll respond.

Power soldiers on for second

The racing gods rewarded Will Power for being Penske’s cleanest driver with two silver medals in one week, one retroactive and one he grabbed himself.

But they made the Australian work for it, as he fought off food poisoning, a race day engine change, and his own overheating body to finish where he started and steal an extra point for a lap led along the way.

It still doesn’t end his search for another win, but he’s knocking more fervently at the door with each race, and Chevrolet won’t complain about his contribution to taking back the Manufacturers’ Cup lead.

Lundqvist’s bronze breakthrough


Starting from the exhibition in Thermal, a different Chip Ganassi driver has finished best among the Hondas at every event, and while it didn’t mean a win, it did make for a breakout performance for Linus Lundqvist.

The Swedish rookie qualified at an unassuming 19th, but thanks to some composed driving and fortunate race strategy, he carved all the way to the front of the field to lead four laps, and, after pitting, managed an overtake on reigning champion Álex Palou to secure his first career podium in IndyCar.

Surrounded by some of the best in the game, Lundqvist drove like he belonged among them and earned a slingshot to eighth in the standings, as well as clear frontrunner status in the Rookie of the Year race.

The question is, now that he’s thrown down the gauntlet to his classmates, which one will be the first to mount a response?

Rosenqvist recovers nicely

After squandering his Long Beach pole thanks to braking issues that plagued him for the entire race, Felix Rosenqvist got back on track by ensuring all of Honda’s points for the day came from Sweden.

Meyer Shank’s top man started fifth, made a crucial late pass on Palou to ensure he finished fourth and even snagged a bonus point for leading the 30th lap.


With so much to prove after the move from McLaren to MSR, Rosenqvist is off to the strongest start of his IndyCar career, and if he keeps this up, we should see him on the podium again soon.

Ferrucci blinks in the spotlight

Perhaps emboldened by the news of his retroactive top-ten, Santino Ferrucci made his presence felt from the start, fighting off much bigger stars to claw out of the midfield, climb ten spots to finish seventh and lead the second-most laps of the day.

But perhaps the most telling of those came on lap 58. Having never led under caution before, Ferrucci jumped the gun on returning to full speed and got the yellow flag extended by a lap.

The Connecticut native still has time to enshrine himself as an IndyCar star, rather than an F2 flameout, but sloppy moves like that in the limelight won’t do him any favours.


Herta climbs just high enough

After taking silver at Long Beach last Sunday and a retroactive bronze at St. Petersburg, Colton Herta had a much quieter day at Barber, as he spent much of the day lost in the midfield shuffle.

But after reaching P10 in the final ten laps, the Californian made good on his opportunity and snuck up into eighth.

In the process, Herta secured just enough points to lead the drivers’ championship standings for the first time in his career.

It’s yet another sign that the Andretti Global stalwart is fully out of his funk and ready to take this team to the top of the mountain.

Canapino troubles

It was an up-and-down day for Agustín Canapino, who saw more of the top five than he has all year but also got into more trouble than the past few races combined.


First, he spun out of a release on pit row, nearly causing multiple DNFs.

Much later in the race, Canapino punted Christian Rasmussen, and as the Argentinian was receiving word of his drive-through penalty, he ran smack into Marcus Ericsson, nearly compounding his trouble.

Ultimately, Canapino would finish where he started in 20th, his worst performance of the year thus far, and he’ll certainly be working hard to avoid a repeat of this mess next time out.

O’Ward goes Launchpad McQuack mode

Pato O’Ward arrived in Birmingham already a winner, as the overturned results at St. Petersburg made him that race’s new champion.

Unfortunately, his second peak of the race week came on Saturday – all that awaited him Sunday was valleys.


His fourth-place qualification evaporated almost immediately, as a turn gone wrong sent him careening off the track.

His usual aggression turned to desperation the rest of the way, and it led to multiple collisions for the star McLaren driver, culminating on the last lap, when he ran into his own teammate, Théo Pourchaire.

As a result, O’Ward suffered his second penalty of the day, giving up his spot to the French fill-in to finish a brutal 23rd and sealing an absolute disaster day for Arrow McLaren.

The Nuevo León native remains sixth in the season standings, but if he doesn’t figure out a way to recover fast, he’s not going to stay that high for long.

The Sicko’s Guide to DNFs: McLaren give and receive, Robb returns to form

One driver who might especially want to impede O’Ward’s return to form is Pietro Fittipaldi.


On just the sixth lap of the race, O’Ward didn’t hit the apex on turn 13 so much as jump it, and his crash-landing earned himself an eventual drive-through penalty, but not before sending the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing No. 30 spinning into a wall and out of contention.

This makes back-to-back bottom-five finishes for the Brazilian, and it leaves St. Petersburg as Fittipaldi’s only non-disaster of what’s shaping up to be a snakebitten year.

The McLarens’ woes continued at the halfway point of the race, when Alexander Rossi’s pit crew left a loose nut on his left rear wheel.

Upon leaving pit row, the wheel decided it was a bird and went flying off the car, ruining Rossi’s streak of top-ten finishes and solidifying McLaren as the meme team of the race.

Finally, to the delight of sickos everywhere, Sting Ray Robb finally went back to being a human wrecking ball after back-to-back SoCal races where he drove normally.

A first-turn shove from Rinus VeeKay nearly took Robb, Jack Harvey, and Kyffin Simpson out all in one go, but where the latter two bounced back to finish 13th and 14th, respectively, Robb struggled in the backfield until his steering wheel gave up on him and broke, sending the car straight into a wall.

Fortunately, Robb was okay and in good spirits for his post-crash interview, so we can look forward to him appearing again in this section soon.


Miscellaneous Misfortunes: contenders humbled and dolls destroyed

Josef Newgarden had a major target on his back after that disqualification took his St. Petersburg win away, and he didn’t exactly thrive under that pressure.

The No. 2 suffered an eight-spot skid, punctuated by a shove off the road from Marcus Armstrong.

Team Penske haters around the world jumped at the chance to say to Newgarden what he so often says after a controversial pass: “Welcome to IndyCar, Josef! It gets tight.”

After winning last week in Long Beach, Scott Dixon found himself saddled with gearing issues all weekend.

Not helping matters was Dixon running into Graham Rahal, who inadvertently punted the New Zealander into the gravel and essentially ended Dixon’s hopes of back-to-back wins on the spot.

But the most painful hit of the day happened to Georgina, a mannequin hanging off a walkway over the track. Midway through the race, she fell from her perch and landed next to the track, where Luca Ghiotto ran over and destroyed her hand.


The poor thing’s plight wasn’t even enough to merit a partial yellow, and the safety crew had to swoop in and pull her away under a green flag.

Hopefully, Ghiotto wasn’t psychologically scarred by the incident, and by the time we come back next year, Georgina will have a new hand and a new spot on the walkway to hang from so she can safely watch the race with the track’s other art installations.

Championship Collage: Herta, Chevy, New Zealand on top

After three points races, Colton Herta leads Will Power for the Astor Cup by a single point, with third-place Álex Palou trailing Power by three.

In turn, Scott Dixon sits four points behind Palou, and Felix Rosenqvist rounds out the top five. With four teams represented in the top five, there’s reason to hope the usual top dogs won’t have it so easy this year.

In the Manufacturers’ Cup race, the win, podium, and one-two finish all helped Chevrolet retake the lead.


They now sit twelve points ahead of Honda, ten points up from what it was between the finish at Long Beach and the penalties for Team Penske.

Finally, in the official unofficial Nations’ Cup tally, New Zealand extends its lead over the United States to 29 points, while Australia, Spain, and Sweden sit at 99, 98, and 97 points respectively.

Further down the board, Denmark makes a four-place jump to 9th, and Italy enters at the back of the line with nine points to its name.

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Future Flames: back home in Indiana

The most anticipated month on the schedule beckons, as IndyCar returns to its namesake state for two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the single highest-capacity sports venue on the planet.


But before we run the oval, we’ve got another road course race, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, to attend.

With one last chance to gain momentum before the 500, drivers will be going hard for every point they can grab, and we as fans should be in for a great warmup to the greatest spectacle in motorsport.