Race Report: GMR Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS (May 14, 2022) -- "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs..." wrote Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem "If".
Rookie driver Tatiana Calderón did just that to score her best finish of the season -- 15th -- in the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet in the GMR Grand Prix which will be remembered as one of the most chaotic in recent history. Calderon also led her first lap in the NTT INDYCAR Series, lap 35 of the 75-lap race around the 14-turn, 2.43-mile IMS road course.
"Larry [Foyt] told me over the radio, 'You are the leader!' And then he said, 'Box, box.' And I had to pit," the Colombian rookie said, allowing that she would have liked to have led at least another lap before being told to pit.
The joy in Calderón's eyes is evident as her sister Paula (aka manager) congratulates her.
“I think it’s been the craziest race that I’ve been part of really," said Calderón who started 25th. "To start the race with wet tires, then go to slicks, it was raining but we weren’t sure what to do in terms of to stay on dries or go to wets. I think we did the right call by staying on dries as much as we could because I was just struggling quite a lot on the wet tires at the beginning of the race. I think that the team did a really good call on strategy and their reading of the conditions was really good today. The car felt really good in both semi-wet conditions and dry on the reds, so I had a really good feeling there.
Calderón listens to A.J. Foyt after the race as good friend (and team sponsor) Marlyne Sexton looks on.
"I had a good fight with Montoya, with Ericsson, with a few of the top guys which is nice to see where you are in terms of pace, so I really enjoyed that. Unfortunately, in the last couple of restarts I got hit from behind, got in the gravel and we lost a lot of positions [seven] because I think we deserved to be a little bit higher up, but that’s racing. The last time the visibility was so poor so I’m happy we just finished and we brought the car home in one piece because it was really tough just to do that. A good progression since Barber in terms of the car and myself so I hope we can keep going in this direction. I just wish the team the best of luck for the Indy 500. I will be watching with great interest.”
Dalton Kellett was having a good race after starting 26th and moving into 17th by lap 27. Pitting on lap 31, Kellett came out in 23rd as the pit cycles began. Two laps later, he posted his quickest lap of the race but then had his misfortune when he spun coming out of turn six. He slid into the tire barriers on the backstretch of the course and damaged his suspension, forcing him to retire. He placed 27th.
The young Canadian explained: “Coming out of Turn 4 into the kink in (turns) 5 / 6, I was setting up Malukas who was on cold tires, trying to get a run on him. Got a good run out of 4, got on push-to-pass and when I transitioned from turning right out of 4 to making the left into 5, the rear kind of let go and it just kind of tank slapped and I lost it basically. It went pretty suddenly so it was a bit of a surprise. It was too bad because we were definitely having a good race going up until that point. That’s not how we wanted to end it. There’s still a good amount of positives that we can take from that. Really walking away with my head held high than being dejected and kind of mad about it because we haven’t really been where we wanted to all weekend and I think we were able to at least race well up until that point.”
Kyle Kirkwood had an interesting race where he had a couple of off-track excursions (like so many others in the field) ) but he managed to bring the car back on track without causing a yellow. He didn't get to lead like Calderón but he did run as high as second from lap 36 to 43 and then his team told him to pit when it started to rain. They put on the rain tires but the rain remained light and then Kirkwood had to pit seven laps later for slicks because the rain tires wore out quickly on the drying track. Two laps later on lap 54, he was tagged from behind in Turn 12. The hit was hard enough that he couldn't continue. He placed 26th.
"Starting off, we actually had quite a good car I think both in wet conditions and in dry conditions," said the 23-year-old Floridian. "I made a couple mistakes that didn’t ruin our race but it set us back a couple places. Fortunately, the way strategy worked out, we cycled up forward but I guess we were maybe a little too smart for the weather because we were planning on rain coming down quite a lot so we went to rain tires and so did many other people, but it went dry immediately afterwards. We ended up cycling pretty far back and after that we were one of the last ones to get back on to dry tires hoping that it was still going to rain. Somehow the rain just dissipated right as it got to us and when I came back out on track on the out lap, I got hit from behind by another competitor and that was the end of our race right there.
“I wish we would have been able to finish the race in those wet conditions," he continued. "I like running in the wet but it really wasn’t wet for any of the time that I was out there. In the beginning it was not wet enough really to run wet tires. It was sunny, drying. That’s why you saw everyone come in and put dry tires on really quickly, but it was just a mixed condition the entire race so unfortunately, we were just on the wrong end of it, it seemed like every time.”
The race, which ran 10 laps short of the scheduled distance because of the eight cautions that slowed the race, was forced to become a timed race as to not exceed two hours on track per INDYCAR rules.
Colton Herta led 50 laps including the last one to win the race. Simon Pagenaud, who started 20th, finished second. Rounding out the top five were pole winner Will Power, Marcus Ericsson and Conor Daly.
Practice for the Indianapolis 500 starts on Tuesday, May 17th. The 106th Running of the Indinapolis 500 will be broadcast on NBC starting at 11 am ET.
Calderón hugs her crew chief Shawn Ford after the wet and wild race.