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.
How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) August 18, 2019
I don’t want people to think that I dislike pocono. I think it’s a great track it’s just not meant for indycars. We need to be smart and move on and go to tracks that fit these cars. I love oval racing and want it in Indycar I just simply don’t love Indycar at pocono.
— Sage Karam (@SageKaram) August 18, 2019
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.
“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.”
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.