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.
Alex Palou Wins The Honda Grand Prix of Alabama In His Debut With Chip Ganassi Racing
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Alex Palou’s teammates have multiple Championships but on Sunday Palou accomplished something those Champions didn’t, winning in his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Palou beat Will Power by 0.402-seconds to capture the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opening Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Palou’s teammate and defending Champion Scott Dixon finished third, giving CGR 2 of the 3 podium spots.
“It was an amazing weekend,” said Palou, a native of Spain. “I’m super, super proud of the team. The team did an amazing job. Today they gave me the best car. I just had to do the obvious things right as Chip likes to say. I’m just super, super happy.”
Palou started third behind pole sitter Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
The race was barely green when Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden got loose and spun in front of half the field.
“I got loose coming over the hill,” said Newgarden. “I just got loose in the wake. I thought I had the car (saved) and then touched the grass. I think once I touched the grass it pitched me sideways. Obviously my mess created a bigger mess.”
Ryan Hunter Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Rinus Veekay all suffered some type of damage. Veekay was able to continue. Chilton, Rosenqvist and Herta eventually returned to the race several laps down after making repairs.
The race restarted on lap 8 with O’Ward leading Rossi, Palou, Power and Dixon making up the top 5. The field appeared to settle in at that point until the second caution of the day came out when Jimmie Johnson spun the No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“As we got two yellows it was clear,” said Palou of the possibility of a two-stop strategy. “As soon as the first yellow came I was already thinking two stops. I was trying to save as much fuel as possible there.”
The race restarted on lap 13 and saw no change in the top 5 until O’Ward and Rossi hit pit road on lap 20 for their first pit stops, handing the lead to Palou.
“To be honest I saw that Rossi and Pato, they were not saving that much fuel and I was wondering, ‘are they going to not even try to do it or do they just know how to do it and not me?’ I was surprised that they didn’t go for a two-stop because I think it was fairly easy after the two yellows. Hey, I didn’t call a two-stop, it was the team. They just told me now is the time to push. Do 15-more laps and this is the target for fuel mileage that you have do. That’s what I did and it worked.”
Palou made his first pit stop on lap 32 for the Firestone primary black sidewall tires with Power inheriting the lead followed by Dixon, Ericsson and Romain Grosjean, who all made pit stops in the following three laps.
O’Ward came to pit road on lap 42 for his second stop handing the lead back to Palou with 48-laps to go. Rossi hit pit road a lap later.
Palou stayed out front and the only question was whether the race would remain caution free to allow the strategy to play out.
The first driver on the two-stop strategy to make his final pit stop was Ericsson, who pitted for the final time on lap 61 while running fourth. Palou and Dixon pitted a lap later.
Power pitted from the lead on lap 62 followed by Graham Rahal and Grosjean. Power came out behind Palou but ahead of Dixon with O’Ward inheriting the lead but needing one more pit stop.
O’Ward pitted on lap 67 and came off pit road and settled into the fifth spot behind Ericsson.
Palou inherited the lead followed by Power and Dixon. Palou built a lead of 2.4-seconds but in the waning laps got caught behind traffic allowing Power and Dixon to close the gap but neither was able to challenge Palou.
The next event is the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 (live coverage starts at noon ET on NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). The first practice starts at 4:15 p.m. (ET) Friday, April 23 (live on Peacock Premium).
— Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc (@sycamorefilms) April 18, 2021
INDYCAR Season Preview: Scott Dixon Chasing History; Stacked ‘Rookie’ Class; Highly Competitive Field
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The green flag drops on the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season Sunday with the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and the season is full of storylines race fans are going to want to watch and follow until the checkered flag falls at Long Beach in September.
PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the reigning and six-time Series Champion, is seeking a record-tying seventh title in 2021. A seventh title would tie INDYCAR legend AJ Foyt for the most Championships in the history of the sport. Foyt won the last of his championships in 1979, which means his mark has stood unmatched for 42 years.
Dixon started 2020 with three-straight wins to propel him to his sixth title. Speaking of wins, Dixon sits third on the all-time wins list with 50-career wins. Mario Andretti is 2nd all-time with 52-wins so Dixon could pass Mario this season. Foyt is first with 67-career wins so ‘Super Tex’s’ win record is safe, for now.
“Building on 2020, we had a pretty good start,” team owner Chip Ganassi told Pittsburgh Racing Now about Dixon’s start in 2020. “With his fast start of the season, it was a fast start for our team. If we can do that in ’21 I’ll be stunned. Fingers crossed.”
In addition to Dixon, CGR has Marcus Ericsson returning in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda. Alex Palou joins the team in 2021 taking over the No. 10 Honda and a rookie is going to splitting time with Tony Kanaan in the No. 48 Honda.
The 2021 INDYCAR rookie class is deep, talented and loaded with all kinds of experience. Joining the series in 2021 are seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, who is driving the road and street course schedule for Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing; three-time Australian Super Cars Champion Scott McLaughlin, who is driving the full schedule for Team Penske with sponsorship from Pittsburgh-headquartered PPG Paints; Long time Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean is competing for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
“This might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we see something like this,” said INDYCAR President Jay Frye. “We’re really excited. The good thing about these three is they’re great people on and off the track. They’ve taken this very seriously. It’s going to be amazing to watch their progress over the course of the year. Really excited to have them.”
“Any team owner would want Jimmie Johnson on his team,” said Ganassi. “He’s a damn hard worker. He set the bar at a new level for the amount of work a driver puts in and my hats off to him. He’s always on the simulator, on the computer, on the phone making calls, asking questions, working out, talking to sponsors, talking to the team. The guy doesn’t slow down.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES isn’t slowing down either as Team Penske returns with a 4-car lineup featuring former Series Champions Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud along with the rookie McLaughlin.
Andretti Autosport returns with a 4-car full-time lineup led by former Indy 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The pair will be joined by Colton Herta and James Hinchcliffe, who returns to full-time competition in 2021. Marco Andretti will run a fifth entry in the Indy 500.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will field two full-time cars for two-time 500 winner Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal. RLL will field a third car in the 500 with Santino Ferrucci behind the wheel.
Arrow McLaren SP is on a mission in 2021 to join the ‘Big 3’ (Ganassi, Penske, Andretti) as one of the teams to beat week in and week out. Pato O’Ward returns for his second season with team and starts on the pole position Sunday. O’Ward will be joined at AMSP by former CGR driver Felix Rosenqvist. AMSP will field a third car in the 500 for two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s 10th season of competition finds Conor Daly running the road and street courses and team owner Ed Carpenter in the cockpit for the oval events. Rinus VeeKay remains the team’s full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. The trio will again make up ECR’s three-car lineup in the Indianapolis 500.
Four-time Champion Sebastien Bourdais leads AJ Foyt Racing into 2021 as the affable Frenchman returns to full-time INDYCAR competition in 2021. Joining Bourdais all season long will be second-year driver Dalton Kellett, who made eight starts in 2020. Veteran Charlie Kimball will be joining the team for the GMR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.
Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan will field a car for Ed Jones, who returns to INDYCAR full time in 2021. In addition to Grosjean, DCR with RWR will field an additional entry in selected events in 2021. Cody Ware participated in the recent Indy 500 open test for the team.
Meyer Shank Racing begins its second full-time season with Jack Harvey behind the wheel of the teams full-season entry. Helio Castroneves will be competing in six events including the Indy 500, an event that Castroneves has won three-times.
The schedule is packed with action as the global pandemic has moved a couple of events from their traditional dates to new dates. The season starts with six races in seven weeks.
“I get particularly excited about the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule,” said Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO. “I think it’s a really, really potent start that will get our fans refocused on the INDYCAR SERIES. Can’t wait to be in Alabama at Barber this weekend, but we go from there in consecutive weekends, as everybody knows, to St. Pete. That’s going to be really terrific to be back there, to the Texas Motor Speedway. We have a weekend off, and then we’re at May. We know what May brings. We’ve got the two races and the time trials in between, and all the exciting practice, Fast Friday, Carb Day, all the exciting things in between.”
One addition to the schedule is the inaugural Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.
“I hear every day from fans who want to know how they get their tickets for Nashville,” said Miles. “The anticipation there is fantastic. We think it’s going to be a great event, a terrific addition to the series.”
The green flag drops on the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES at 3 p.m. Sunday on NBC. The race can be heard on the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Pato O’Ward Wins INDYCAR Pole Position At Barber Motorsports Park
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward is on the pole position for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opening race after knockout-style qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park.
O’Ward’s fast lap of ?105.8479-seconds (125.744 mph) was .0698-seconds faster than the No. 27 NAPA Honda of Alexander Rossi who will start second.
“The times you saw today, you don’t see that anywhere else in the world,” said O’Ward of the tight qualifying times. “I was really happy with the car. It was behaving well. You really have to hustle this car to get the speed out of it. We’ve got a good car.”
“I think our best starting spot in year’s past was eighth so a big step up and we have a shot at it tomorrow,” said Rossi.
The newest member of Chip Ganassi Racing, Alex Palou, will line up third in the No. 10 SegiTV Honda after a fast lap of 1:06:0538 (125.611 mph).
“Qualifying was super close as INDYCAR is, it’s amazing to be honest,” said Palou. “The competition here is crazy. We have a good race car so hopefully we can bring back some trophies.”
Team Penske’s Will Power starts fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Power’s best lap was 1:06:1186 (125.230).
PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon begins his quest for a seventh Championship from the fifth starting spot in the No. 9 Grow Up Great Honda after a quick lap of 1:06:3976 (124.703).
Dixon’s CGR teammate Marcus Ericsson rounds out the fast six with a fast lap of 1:06:4102 (124.680) in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda.
Driver’s failing to advance to the fast six included former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean, who will start seventh in his series debut.
Grosjean is one of three, highly-touted rookies who have diverse racing backgrounds.
The second rookie, three-time Australian Supercar Champion Scott McLaughlin will start in there 12th position after failing to make it out of the second round.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson set a goal of not qualifying last in his first attempt in an INDYCAR. Johnson accomplished that goal and will start 21st in the No. 48 Carvana American Legion Honda. Carvana Racing caught up with the rookie-of-the-year contender.
Day ☝️ is done at @BarberMotorPark!
— Carvana Racing (@CarvanaRacing) April 18, 2021
Two veterans who experienced issues and went off track will start deep in the field. Felix Rosenqvist will start 22nd and James Hinchcliffe will start 24th.
Track action for The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama starts at 11:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday with a 30-minute warm-up session (live on Peacock) followed by the race beginning at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.