Felix Rosenqvist flipped the narrative from a qualifying error with a cracking drive to fifth in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey to lock up the NTT IndyCar Series rookie of the year title.

The 27-year-old Swede saw a sure shot for the pole evaporate when he was penalized for causing an incident in the session.

That dropped him to 14th on the grid for today's 90 lap race, but he made hay early as he picked up two spots on the opening lap and cracked the top ten six laps later.

He fluctuated throughout the top ten the remainder of the day before ending up fifth at the checkered flag. Fellow rookie of the year rival Colton Herta won the race.

"One of the most fun races in a long time," he said. "I didn't really think too much about championships. You had to try to really be on top of the tire or race and then attack when we could attack when it had opportunity."

In light of his mistake in qualifying, the former Mercedes DTM driver admitted that a higher starting position was crucial to contending for a victory. 

"Whoever came off in first would probably have the best chance," he said. "When they have that clean air, it's just so much better for the tires. I think we were slightly worse on the degradation. It seemed like Scott also struggled a little bit then, and I couldn't keep Simon behind me after passing him."

The meticulous drive to fifth delivered him IndyCar's rookie of the year title and vaulted him to sixth in the final standings – five points ahead of race winner Colton Herta.

The highlights of the two-time Macau Grand Prix winner's maiden IndyCar campaign were two runner ups at Mid Ohio and Portland along with six additional top-ten finishes.

He received compliments after the race from Chip Ganassi Racing Team Manager Mike Hull as well as driver coach Dario Franchitti. The most significant praise of all came from team owner Chip Ganassi who also lauded his resilience from his qualifying gaffe on Saturday.

"He got rookie of the year, and he finished sixth in the points so I'm really happy," Ganassi said. "I was a little mad at him yesterday after all that. I'm really happy with today's performance."

The praise from his boss gave Rosenqvist another reason to smile heading into his sophomore run in 2020.

"They've given me really good equipment this year," he said. "They taught me a lot. I can't thank my guys enough, Mike (Hull) and Chip, everyone that's been around me to help me through this rookie year that started off really rough and then it's just been going better and better.

 

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