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NTT IndyCar Series Coming To Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course This Weekend

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Chris Jones/IndyCar Series

LEXINGTON, OHIO (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT IndyCar Series is racing this weekend at The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Mid-Ohio is the closest track the NTT IndyCar Series gets to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, just a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Downtown.

This will be the 35th IndyCar race held at Mid-Ohio.  Alexander Rossi is the defending race winner.

“We’ve been hosting this event for a number of years,” Mid-Ohio President Craig Rust told Pittsburgh Racing Now.  “It’s a staple on the NTT IndyCar Series and it’s always a great event here.  We’re excited about it.”

The IndyCar race is not the only event being held at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course.

“We’re running Indy Lights over the three days,” said Rust.  “We also have Indy Pro 2000, USF 2000 and basically they’re feeder series.  A lot of the drivers you see today in the IndyCar Series started in the feeder series.”

In addition to the “Road to Indy” feeder series, you’re going to see some trucks this weekend at Mid-Ohio.

“We also have something new this year, Robbie Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks,” said Rust.  “This is something brand new for us.  We have not run them here before, but they put on a great show.  We’re excited to add them to the schedule.”

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If you’re interested in spending the weekend at the track, tent and motorhome camping is available but take your party decorations with you.

“We do a promotion every year with Honda, where it’s actually a contest to decorate your motorhome,” said Rust.  “The drivers go around and act as judges.  This year it’s ‘family gras’, kind of like a family mardi gras theme.  We change that theme every year.”

Last year’s “Pirate” theme would have hit close to home for Pittsburghers.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey visits with several campers at their Pirate theme campsite at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2018

The family atmosphere is a big part of the Mid-Ohio weekend and it also friendly to the budget as kids 12 & under get in for free all weekend.  There is an autograph session on Friday and another way to get up-close and personal with the teams and drivers.

“I suggest people purchase a Paddock Pass,” said Rust.  “That gets you inside the Paddock where the teams work on the cars.  It really is one of the motorsports series that is very accessible to the fans, so it is really a fun thing to do.  If you want to spend time with the family, 12 & Under are free and they also can get into the paddock area, so it really is a family event.”

Rust encourages all fans to get their tickets and especially their camping early because camping is subject to sell out.  The easiest way to take care of that is by going onto the track website, www.midohio.com, or by calling 419-884-4000.  You can also view the complete on track schedule and fan activities on the website.

“We get huge crowds for the Honda Indy 200,” said Rust.  “People start coming in Thursday afternoon and getting parked so they’re ready to go Friday morning.  Over the three days there’s basically something on track at all times.  We’d love for the Pittsburgh area sports fans to take the drive over whether it’s for the weekend, a day or for Sunday’s main event.”

IndyCar

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.

Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.

“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”

“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”

Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda.  Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position.  Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag.  The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!

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O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.

The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.

Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase.  Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.

Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021.  Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.

Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.

Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.

Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title.  Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.

“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”

The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field.  O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.

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“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”

Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.

“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right?  I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”

“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”

Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

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Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca

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Joe Skibinski

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey giving him back-to-back victories two decades after his father accomplished the same feat.  Herta beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by 1.9747-seconds to pick up his second victory of 2021 and fifth of his career.

“Alex, really the whole race, was right there,” said Herta. “Then Grosjean at the end pressured Alex, therefore pressured me. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”

Palou continued his march towards his first series title with a second place after last week’s win at Portland, which gives Palou and the No. 10 NTT DATA team a 35-point lead ahead of second place Pato O’Ward.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace that Colton had,” explained Palou. “I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn’t go as fast as him without losing my tires.”

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Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.

“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

Herta’s victory clinched the Manufacturers Championship for the fourth consecutive season.

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