In many ways, 2021 has been a turning point in my career. First of all, because it is my 10th season in INDYCAR, but also because it marks the end of my time with Team Penske, a team I have achieved so much with. Together we have accomplished 11 race wins including the Indianapolis 500, 12 pole positions, and an INDYCAR SERIES Championship.
This year we finished 8th in the championship, which of course was not what we set out to achieve. Bottom line, we lacked performance throughout the season. Overall, we were pretty good on street circuits and ovals, but we were not where we needed to be on road courses. We had our share of bad luck more than once this season when it came to clashes or strategies that did not always pay off.
2021: the highlights
We started the season off middle of the pack with a 12th place finish at Barber, followed up with a podium finish in St. Pete. This put us in the top 5 of the championship hunt. The next four races went pretty well as we collected four top 10s, with the Indianapolis 500 as a highlight, where we finished third after an incredible come-back from 26th place. That moved us to P4 in the championship contention.
The middle part of the season was a bit more complicated with only one top 10 in four races. We were able to do some damage control in Detroit, but unfortunately we lacked pace at Road America and Mid-Ohio despite good qualifying performances. We then managed to regain some performance in Nashville, but were victims of two contacts that totally destroyed our race. From Nashville we returned back to Indianapolis for the second Grand Prix of the season. We had a good car but a restart at the end of the race, while we were one of the only ones on black tires, took us from P8 to a 16th place finish. Sometimes strategy doesn’t always work out the way you planned.
Finally, things got a lot better towards the end of the season with three top 10s in the last four races. To end the season strong, we had a solid performance in Long Beach where we finished P5, resulting in an overall 8th position in the championship.
2021: the review
Nevertheless, I am quite happy with the final result. We worked hard all season and made a lot of progress compared to 2020. Even though our final standings were the same as 2020, the feeling and performance of our car was much better this year. We had some great qualifying sessions, but we just lacked that little something extra it takes to win races.
Today, I end one chapter and start the next, as I look forward to joining MSR next year, a young team that is brimming with talent and ambition. I will never forget the memories of these last seven years spent with Team Penske. We shared some incredible moments and I met some fantastic people along the way. But most of all, I was able to make my childhood dream come true by winning the Indianapolis 500.
I appreciate all the support I have received over my career. Let’s continue this ride as I start this next chapter. We have so much more to accomplish together. See you in 2022.