LONG POND, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Pocono Raceway is gearing up for the return of the NTT IndyCar Series with this weekend’s ABC Supply 500.
Track President Ben May says he and his staff are excited to play host to America’s premier open wheel series.
“We’re fired-up,” exclaimed May. “Really excited to have the IndyCars in town. The sense of speed is amazing. They’re fast, they’re brave, it’s a really cool event.”
Pocono is the 2.5-mile three-turn track nestled in the Pocono Mountains known as the “Tricky Triangle”. The track was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Roger Ward and each turn is modeled after three historic IndyCar venues.
“This place was built for IndyCars,” said May. “It’s fast, it’s flat, it’s really similar to Indianapolis in that regard. 220-some miles-per-hour, they look light fighter jets out there. It’s amazing.”
The three unique turns make Pocono Raceway distinctly different from Tri-Ovals like Daytona and others. Turn one and it’s 14-degrees of banking is modeled after Trenton Speedway. Turn two and it’s 9-degrees of banking, also known as the “Tunnel Turn”, is modeled after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Turn three and it’s 6-degrees of banking is modeled after the Milwaukee Mile.
“The fact that it was built for IndyCars really lends itself to being some of the best racing we have here at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ each year,” said May.
The track played host to IndyCars (under the USAC and CART Sanctioning bodies) from 1971 to 1989 and returned in 2013 and has played host to IndyCar ever since.
The track offers a number of budget-friendly options for fans to take in America’s premier open-wheel series.
“Really excited about this weekend,” said May. “Kids 12-and-under are free, a family 4-pack of tickets at $125 so a great value, good entertainment. We have a free carnival, free parking, coolers are welcome, so we feel good about what we are doing, and we’re excited to have the stars of IndyCar here.”
In addition to the value the track is offering in regard to tickets, May says racing offers something amazing for everyone that other sports do not.
“When you look at racing and motorsports compared to other sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, the access we offer to the cars and the drivers is unparalleled,” said May. “If you have a paddock pass this weekend you can get down into the garage area and you can get right next to the cars, see them working on the cars the whole weekend and on race day. The access to motorsports is fascinating. For those who haven’t been to a race live, in-person it’s one of the coolest things you will ever do. It’s something you take away, you leave going ‘wow that’s amazing. I can’t believe I was right next to a car before it was going 225 miles-an-hour’, that’s some really cool stuff.”
Fans with the Paddock Pass will quickly find out that race car drivers and crews are different from other athletes when it comes to approachability.
“That’s one of the things that separates motorsports whether it’s NASCAR, IndyCar, Moto GP, or whatever,” said May. “The fans understand that their support of the driver, the sponsor, the products and services the sponsors offer, is what keeps their driver on the track so it’s a little different from a LeBron or a Michael Jordan.”
The track is extremely fan and family-friendly and includes the nearly 6,000-square foot Pocono Mountains Inclusive Playground, which is recognized as a national demonstration site, making it one of the top 100 inclusive playgrounds in the Country!
The Paddock Pass is not the only way Kids and adults can get up-close and personal with the Teams, Crews and Drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series.
“One of the coolest things that IndyCar does as a series is where they have a full-series, full-driver autograph session in the fan zone on race day,” said May. “That’s something that we hope people take advantage of, arrive early and get to see the guys before they hop in the cars a couple of hours later.”
Campers and people who own recreational vehicle can also enjoy the weekend by staying at the track. Pocono’s huge infield is perfect for RV’s and campers.
“Weather is looking solid for this weekend,” said May. “Grab the tent, grab the camper, one last hurrah before the kids go back to school before Labor Day. As it goes people don’t use their vacation days in this country so exercise a few of those days and come check out the ‘Tricky Triangle’. Brittany in our ticket office does an amazing job in explaining the options for camping by calling 1-800-RACEWAY or www.poconoraceway.com.”
A full day of track activity for the IndyCar Series starts on Saturday with a first practice session from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Qualifications follow from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. with a Final practice session from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday’s schedule includes the NTT IndyCar Series Autograph Session in the Firestone Fan Village from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Driver introductions at 2:00 p.m. and The ABC Supply 500 (200 laps) from 2:45 p.m. to approximately 5:45 p.m.
Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.
Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.
Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.
“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”
“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”
One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge. The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.
The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.
“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”
Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event. Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Rescheduled
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled from its traditional March date to April 23-25, 2021.
The move to a later spring date is being made in the hopes that a greater number of fans will be able to attend the event, which takes place on the streets of St. Petersburg and the Albert Whitted Airport.
“I want to thank our friends at INDYCAR and our partners at Green Savoree for putting the health and safety of fans first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “Each of these races takes an incredible amount of work from hundreds of dedicated professionals, and I know the decision to move the date of the race is not made lightly. I appreciate the drivers, teams, staff and most of all the fans for their patience and understanding. I look forward to welcoming everyone to the next Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The COVID-19 Pandemic forced the 2020 event to be moved from the season opening race to the season finale, where Josef Newgarden picked up the win and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon was crowned the series Champion for the 6th time.
“It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” said Penske Entertainment Corp President and CEO Mark Miles. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC Network televison.”
The April 23-25 date on the INDYCAR Schedule announced last fall was originally supposed to be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach but that event has been moved to the season finale, which opened the date for St. Pete.
“We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, Chairman and CEO fo Green-Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast of the race on NBC.”
The shifting of race dates moves Barber Motorsports Park to the season opener on April 11th. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg follows April 25th with Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader May 1st and 2nd.
An updated listing of green flag times will be announced at a later date.
Aldo Andretti Passes Away
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Aldo Andretti has passed away at the age of 80. Andretti was the twin brother of Mario Andretti and a racer himself who survived two bad crashes, the second of which in 1969 book his jaw, 14-bones and his right eye socket.
“Though Aldo’s life took a different direction than brother Mario’s, Aldo forever shared a passion for racing and was a true motor enthusiast and entrepreneur,” Andretti Autosport said in a release. “He could often still be found on the racing circuit supporting and following the careers of the family.”
Mario Andretti took to his twitter page to express his grief:
Aldo Andretti, my loving twin brother, my partner in crime and my faithful best friend every day of my life was called to heaven last night. Half of me went with him. There is no eloquence. I'm shaken to my core. pic.twitter.com/NJ3fZxklNo
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) December 31, 2020
One of those careers Aldo passionately followed was that of his son John (pictured with above) who raced in INDYCAR, NASCAR, Sports Cars and Drag Racing. John passed away in January after a long battle with colon cancer.
“Nothing mattered more to Aldo than family, and it brought him great pride to share his life with wife and high-school sweetheart Corky and their five children Carolyn, Mark, John, Mary Jo and Adam.” the Andretti Autosport release stated.
Aldo’s nephew, 2020 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Marco Andretti, also shared his feelings on social media.
RIP uncle Aldo. One of the toughest guys I have ever met. I have never heard him complain, a trait that he passed down to John. Always so positive and upbeat and raised an amazing side of our Andretti family. 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/D6p3RyTdkG
— Marco Andretti (@MarcoAndretti) December 31, 2020
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon on Jan. 5 at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg. The family will receive friends from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4, at Stevens Mortuary in Indianapolis.