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IndyCar At Pocono Future In Doubt; Drivers Want To Return

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Chris Owens-IndyCar Series

LONG POND, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – This past Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway could be the last visit to the “Tricky Triangle” for the NTT IndyCar Series.  The IndyCar Series does not have an agreement to return to Pocono in 2020.

The hot rumor circulating around the garage area and paddock is that the race is going to be replaced on the schedule by Richmond Raceway.

The last few years the IndyCars have raced at Pocono have resulted in accidents and tragedy.  In 2015 Justin Wilson was struck in the helmet by a piece of debris from the car of Sage Karam, who had crashed.  Wilson died as a result of his injuries.

In 2018 Arrow Schmidt Petersen Motorsports Robert Wickens was left paralyzed after a first lap multi-vehicle crash.

This past Sunday, on the first lap, there was multi-car crash involving Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport teammates: Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Arrow Schmidt Petersen’s James Hinchcliffe and NTT Data Services Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist.  Rosenqvist was taken to a local hospital, checked out, released and cleared to drive in the next race at Gateway.

The outrage on Social Media was quick and included Wickens and Karam.

All three drivers that finished on the podium, who are also Series Champions, came to the track’s defense and placed some of the blame on the competitors.

“Honestly I feel bad for Pocono…” said Five-time Series Champion Scott Dixon. “Some mistakes that have happened on track, honestly they could happen anywhere. If you look at Justin or Robby, those can happen anywhere. I feel bad that it gets a bit of a bad taste in that scenario. I think the drivers in a lot of situations can do a better job to help that situation. Honestly, I hope we come back.”

Race-winner Will Power echoed those sentiments.

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“It’s a great oval for us,” said Power.  “Obviously some unfortunate accidents here, like Scott said, that could happen anywhere.  (Pocono) Kind of got a bad rap for that.”

Pocono Raceway was designed in 1959 and each turn was designed after three classic IndyCar venues.  Turn 1 is a copy of the now-defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2 is designed after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Turn 3 is designed after The Milwaukee Mile.

Hinchcliffe felt the accident could have been avoided with a little common sense.

“We were heading into turn two kind of three wide, I knew that wasn’t a good idea, so I backed out,” said Hinchcliffe.  “500-mile race man, I don’t know how many times we have to do this before people figure out you can attack all you want, it doesn’t give a change to win if you’re in the fence.”

Hunter-Reay was equally frustrated by getting taken out on the first lap for the second year in a row.

“This is ridiculous,” said Hunter-Reay.  “I thought we learned our lesson here.  Lap one of a 500-mile race.  I had a nice clean run on Rossi, almost three-quarters of the way up past him and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I’m backwards.

Power and Dixon hope to return to the track because they were seeing some positive signs.

“I felt the crowd today at the start of the race was fantastic,” said Dixon.  “It was gaining some really good momentum. Hopefully it gets to continue.”

“It’s a great oval for us,” Power said.  “The crowd us up 15-percent every year we come back.  It’s getting better.  The crowd was great today.  It’s a good racetrack, man.  A good track for racing.  I really hope we come back.  I think the guys do a great job.  A cool track for us.  It’s hard for us to find good ovals these days that suit our cars.”

Pagenaud believes having a race in the Northeastern United States is key and also hopes the race continues.

It’s a fun track to drive on,” said Pagneaud.  “It would be really unfortunate, because it’s close to New York, a great market for IndyCar. It’s an opportunity to bring people from New York to the IndyCar races.  Hopefully we can come back and hopefully we can keep working with the people at Pocono because it’s been a lot of fun.  As a driver, I really enjoy coming here.”

IndyCar

Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled

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Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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.”

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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.

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Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Rescheduled

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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.

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“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.

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IndyCar

Aldo Andretti Passes Away

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Chris Owens

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:

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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.

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.

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