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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.”

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IndyCar

INDYCAR and NBC sign multi-year extension

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NBC Network announced on Tuesday a multi-year extension to the media rights of the open wheel series.

NBC Sports will continue to be the exclusive home of the Indianapolis 500 and will provide coverage of all NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its linear, digital and streaming platforms, including Peacock. Terms of the deal were not announced.

“NBC Sports is proud to extend its partnership with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and continue to serve as the exclusive home of the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports.

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“NBC Sports has been the ideal partner for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, bringing our bold and audacious style of racing to a significantly larger domestic audience and fully leveraging the power and scale of the Indianapolis 500,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “This new deal represents a significant expansion of our network TV exposure and sets us up for continued growth and success alongside a committed, innovative and world-class broadcast partner.”

INDYCAR and NBC are enjoying strong ratings for the 2021.  Ratings are up 30% this year.

As part of the agreement, 13 races will be broadcast on NBC. USA Network and Peacock Premium will show the remaining races. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.

Peacock will stream all races on NBC and USA Network and will continue as the streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and practices sessions, Indy Lights races and full-event replays. Peacock will stream two races exclusively, which will be announced at a later date.

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Dirt Racing

Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship

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NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott joined the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) for their season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds and took home the checkered flag beating Tony Stewart and his father Bill Elliott in the feature.  The win was the first series victory for the younger Elliott.

Chase Elliott was on the inside with Stewart on the outside on a restart with 7-laps-to-go followed by Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte in Row 2.

Chase Elliott beat Stewart into turn one and two with Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte side-by-side for third.

Caution came out with 5-laps-to-go when Paul Tracy made contact with Marco Andretti, sending Andretti into a spin after picking up three spots following the restart.

Chase Elliott got the jump on Stewart on the restart and held on to pick up the win. Stewart finished second and took home the inaugural series Championship.

“Man it was so much fun,” said Chase Elliott.  “I had a ball.  I got to race against two of my heroes tonight and I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments that I’ll cherish forever.  Thanks to Ray (Evernham, Series co-owner) and Tony (Stewart, Series co-owner) and I appreciate NAPA being on the car.”

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NASCAR Hall-of-famer Bill Elliott, 65, finished third and picked up a win in the first heat race where he started side-by-side with his son Chase.

“I messed up in one not getting all the stuff (marbles) off my tires,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.  “Man I tell you it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff he was going to be tough to beat.”

“I don’t know what lit a fire under him tonight,” said Chase Elliott.  “But he was as aggressive as I have seen him in years.  It was amazing and a lot of fun.  I thought it was going to be between he and I but he got a little high going into (turn) one.”

The win was also special for the Elliott Family as they were able to park the No. 94 in Victory Lane.  Casey Elliott, the late son of legendary engine builder Ernie Elliott, raced the No. 94 in the ARCA and Busch (now Xfinity) Series before his life was cut short by cancer.

“Obviously a special number too,” said Chase Elliott.  “My late Cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years and it’s always special to run that number and I’m glad we were able to get it in Victory Lane at Nashville.”

“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliott’s, that’s pretty bad-ass in itself,” said Stewart. “To win this Championship is awesome.  I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us get this thing off the ground.  To be the last guy to win an IROC Championship and the first one to win an SRX Championship means a lot.”

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IndyCar

Josef Newgarden ends Penske INDYCAR win drought at Mid-Ohio

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Joe Skibinski

LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden picked up his, and Team Penske’s, first win of 2021 holding off Marcus Ericsson to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Newgarden started on the pole position and led 73-of-80-laps to pick up his first win since the 2020 season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“This team has been doing the job,” said Newgarden. “Everyone has been giving me a hard time, asking what’s up with us not winning a race. But I don’t think these people at Team Penske could have done anything different. We’ve been in the game almost every race, had great performance. It’s great to seal a win here finally.”

Newgarden spoiled a tremendous afternoon for Chip Ganassi Racing, the winningest INDYCAR team at Mid-Ohio.

CGR’s Ericsson finished second, 0.8790-seconds behind Newgarden.  The second place finish was Ericsson’s seventh top-10 finish of 2021.

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“We were hunting him down there,” said Ericsson. “He (Newgarden) was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly. Another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”

Ericsson’s CGR teammate Alex Palou and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth respectively to give Chip Ganassi three cars in the top 5.

“It’s always good to start P7 and you finish on the podium,” said Palou. “Yeah, I think today was a good result.”

“I think it was a great day, great day for the team, to have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4,” said Ericsson. “It’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment”

Palou remains the Championship points leader, 39 points ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP. Dixon is third, 56 points behind Palou. Newgarden remained fourth, 69 points back of the leader, and Ericsson jumped three positions to take fifth in the standings, 104 points behind Palou.

INDYCAR Mid Ohio Results

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