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.
Josef Newgarden tops first INDYCAR practice as Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is starting INDYCAR Championship weekend off on the right pedal by leading the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session on Friday.
Newgarden’s No. 2 Hitachi Chevy turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 11.4103 seconds (112.824 mph) around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course circuit with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta second-quickest at 1:11:8266 (112.170) in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
“Yeah, just a tricky session,” noted Newgarden. “There was a lot of people going off, there was a lot of dirt on the track, so it was quite difficult to put it together. So not a very straightforward session. But I think very productive in a lot of ways. It’s not a lot of running, and you’re trying to make the most use of just a couple runs, and I felt like we did that, so I was happy about that.”
Championship-leader Will Power was 7th quickest, 1:11:9858 (111.922) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy. Power leads Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon by 20-points heading into Sunday’s season finale.
“Tough track, man,” said Power. “Very low grip. You get one lap on tires, and they’re gone. It’s hard to get a read because the car changes so much over a run.”
Championship contender Marcus Ericsson was tenth fastest in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda at 1:12:0803 (111.775) and trails Power by ??-points in the title fight.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a high-deg (tire degradation) race, and it seems to be that way,” said Ericsson. “Usually our team and myself from my experience, we’re usually pretty good at that. Yeah, the tires seemed to degrade quite quickly here. It was the same in the test and the same today in practice.”
Last weekend’s winner Scott McLaughlin was next in line with a 1:12:0877 (111.764). McLaughlin has an outside shot at the title as he sits ??-points behind Power.
Dixon, the six-time series Champion, was 17th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda at 1:12:3911 (111.295) despite a team test at the track a few weeks ago.
“It’s going to be a pretty high-deg race, man,” said Dixon, who can tie INDYCAR Legend A.J. Foyt for all-time Championships with a seventh.
Determined drive by Scott Dixon in Portland earns podium and shot at 7th Championship
PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is in the fight for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship after a third place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Dixon entered the race in third-place in the Championship fight, 14-points behind Team Penske’s Will Power and 11-points behind Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden. Dixon leaves Portland tied with Newgarden but Power finished ahead of both and now sits 20-points ahead going into the season finale on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.
“Yeah, you know, still in it,” said Dixon. “That’s all that we can hope for.”
Dixon started the race from the 16th position after failing to advance out of the first round of knockout-style qualifying on Saturday. Qualifying has been a bit of an ‘Achilles heel’ for the No. 9 this season.
“We’ve got to work on qualifying and stop making it so difficult on us,” reflected Dixon, who gained more positions (+13) than anyone in the field from the start to finish of the race. “The car was fantastic in Q1 on the box. Didn’t expect too much of a change and thought we would have converted easy and didn’t even make it. We have to stop doing these most improved days, for sure. It’s not that much fun.”
Dixon opened the race on the less-grippy Firestone primary tires while the majority of those starting ahead of him started on the stickier Firestone alternate tires and quickly moved up a couple of spots before being one of the first to come to pit road for his first pit stop on Lap 13.
Dixon’s No. 9 ‘Wolfpack’ crew swapped out the primary tires for the alternate tires, topped the PNC Bank Honda off with fuel and sent the six-time series Champion back out into the fight where he put his foot down and continued to gain positions as various strategies started playing out.
Dixon’s second to last pit-stop saw his crew put on used alternate Firestones, setting him up for new alternate tires for his final pit stop. Dixon was chasing Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi for fifth place when CGR Managing Director and Dixon’s strategist Mike Hull called him to pit road for the last time.
“We had to use a lot of overtake early on, so that definitely changed things up, I think, for the strategy towards the final five there,” said Dixon. “Had a tricky moment with the 10 car coming in front of us in the pit, which kind of screwed us a bit as well, and lost a position that we should have got on Rossi, which was frustrating.”
Dixon’s frustration was short-lived as the caution came out on Lap 84 when Rinus VeeKay misjudged a pass on Dixon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson, pinching the No. 48 Carvana Honda into the wall ending Johnson’s day.
The 4-lap caution period set-up a restart with Scott McLaughlin leading Power, Pato O’Ward, Newgarden, Rossi and Dixon as the green flag dropped. McLaughlin got a great start and Power settled in behind his teammate when O’Ward made an ambitious move trying to pass Power in Turn 1. It didn’t work.
“Yeah, he sent it straight into me,” Power explained. “I left as much room as I could. Inside, inside, and I kept going further, and, bam, he hit me over the curve. I didn’t expect it from Pato, though. He is usually a pretty good racer, pretty smart racer. He was probably needing to win the race to have a shot at the championship, so he probably just went a little bit too far.”
Turn 1 usually produces some memorable highlights at Portland and this restart was no different as right behind the Power/O’Ward tussle, Newgarden and Rossi got together opening the door for Dixon, who didn’t hesitate to take advantage.
“I think when I saw Josef break I was, like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure if he is going to make the corner,'” said Dixon. “He did all that he could to make the corner, but put him at a weird angle, and that, obviously, offset him and Rossi because Rossi had a great run on him out of 12 into turn one. Then, got a great exit.”
Dixon turned hard left, avoided that calamity, and carried the momentum through the turn and set his sights on O’Ward, who was still gaining speed after hitting Power and made a reactionary move to Dixon’s passing attempt, which is a violation of INDYCAR rules.
“I got a run on Pato, and he put a pretty big block on, and a lap later IndyCar called that, and I was able to get past, which thankfully I think the front three, we pulled a ten-second gap on the next pack where we pulled away really quickly,” said Dixon. “It was a great restart. Something that definitely helped us on the points side, and we’ll take what we can.”
Dixon set his sights on Power and was able to get within a second of the No. 12 Chevy but wasn’t able to challenge for the second spot on the podium.
“We did as much as we could today,” said Dixon. “All in all, I think the team did a great job today. Yeah, we’ll see. See what comes next week. I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the INDYCAR Series.”
Ganassi’s Alex Palou won’t repeat as INDYCAR Champion
PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou’s hopes of repeating as NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion is over after Palou was mathematically eliminated after his 12th-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Palou stated the race in the fourth position on Firestone alternate red sidewall tires and ran in the Top 5 through the first stint of the race. Palou however radioed the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants crew during the second stint that something was wrong with the rear of the car. Palou was on the less-grippy, black sidewall Firestone tires.
“Starting fourth, we were running okay in the beginning and then lost a bit of pace,” said Palou. “We’ll check on what went on today and recover next week in Laguna. We still have one race to go, and we will try to win it.”
Palou’s sits 66-points behind championship leader Will Power going into the season finale next Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Palou’s teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson remain in the title fight with Dixon tied for second place, 20-points behind Power and Ericsson 39-points out of the top spot.