MADISON, IL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato went from zero to hero in less than a week on the NTT IndyCar Series circuit.
Sato won Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, one week after fellow IndyCar drivers, fan and media blamed Sato for a multi-car crash on lap one at Pocono Raceway.
Sato started fifth on the grid and on the first lap in turn 1 had contact with another car and fell to last place but never gave up and rallied to a 0.0399-second victory over owner/driver Ed Carpenter.
“A difficult start,” said Sato. “I was sandwiched, then go backwards.”
Sato called the victory the most satisfying win of his career, next to the 2017 Indianapolis 500 win.
“This win is so special,” said Sato. “Beside Indy 500, nothing like it. Last week, it was very difficult to judge. A lot of people judged from only TV, one angle. It looked like I turned into Alex, which wasn’t true. The team got logging system, onboard footage, that shows very clear evidence I wasn’t move. I hold my line, I drove straight.”
The RLL team stood behind the veteran driver in the week between Pocono and Gateway, going as far as issuing a statement of support after all of the backlash. Sato was glad his team had his back and he paid them back with a victory.
“It is just unbelievable support from the team,” said Sato. “I’m so happy. So proud to be a part of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Some people say they never seen do that kind of statement.”
Carpenter rebounded from a less than stellar qualifying effort to needing a couple of hundred feet to win.
“Even just another straightaway, I maybe could have gotten Takuma,” said Carpenter, who started 17th. “We were really good on the long runs. We kept our heads down and never gave up.”
AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan, who started 20th, rounded out the podium with a third-place finish.
“We knew we had a strong car,” said Kanaan. “We played the strategy right, we got a little bit of luck on our side – finally – and once we got to the front, we showed the that we belong there.”
Points-leader Josef Newgarden finished seventh but his closest pursuer, Alexander Rossi, finished 13th allowing fifth-place finisher Simon Pagenaud to leapfrog Rossi in the Championship standings. Newgarden leads Pagenaud by 38-points going into the next weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Alex Palou Joining Chip Ganassi Racing For 2021 INDYCAR Season
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t waste any time filling the vacancy in the No. 10 Honda as 23-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou is joining the team for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
“To say I’m thrilled or excited to be making this step in my career would be an understatement,” said Palou. “Driving for Chip Ganassi is just a dream come true. I’ve followed the team for as long as I can remember, and it’s the kind of team and owner any driver would want to race for.”
Palou just completed his first season in INDYCAR where he scored his first-career podium at Road American en route to a 16th place result in the championship standings driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.
“I love to watch the growth of young drivers,” said Mike Hull, CGR’s Managing Director. “This year racing Indy cars has been very difficult for young drivers like Alex who hadn’t had the opportunity to visually see the tracks in advance, nor have days of practice in private team testing, or open testing or three-day weekends. Putting that into perspective, he did a heck of a job. We had an opening, and he became available, and Chip has a great eye for talent. Alex has that spark, that intangible thing you combine with talent that is a lot of fun. It’s a great exploration thing, actually. You’re exploring how far you can go, and he has one year of experience with a quality team, quality engineering and a quality teammate. He stood up to that test extremely well.”
Palou is excited to get started with the 13-time Championship team and their stable of drivers with 6-time INDYCAR Champion Scott Dixon, 7-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson and re-signed driver Marcus Ericsson.
“Scott has had another tremendous season, reaching 50 wins and a sixth title, so you absolutely couldn’t ask for anything more in a teammate,” said Palou. “I can’t wait to work with Marcus and Jimmie as well, and to start contributing to the team and getting to spend more time with everyone.”
Prior to joining INDYCAR, Palou won a Super Formula Championship race in 2019, competed at the All-Japan Formula 3 championship in 2017, recorded his first race in the Formula 3 Series in 2015, and made his debut in open-wheel racing competing in the Euroformula Open Championship in 2014.
Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond.
Marcus Ericsson And Chip Ganassi Racing Agree To Multi-Year Deal
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Marcus Ericsson will continue to drive Chip Ganassi’s No. 8 Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after agreeing to a multi-year deal.
Ericsson, 30, joined the team in 2020 after competing for Schmidt Petersen Motorsports for his inaugural INDYCAR season in 2019.
“I’m very happy to continue my relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda and HPD into 2021 and beyond,” said Ericsson. “I want to thank Chip and the whole CGR organization for their trust in me. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the best teams in motorsports and I’m proud to be part of the team. The season we’ve just finished has been full of potential and I feel confident that with what we’ve learned together this year will help us succeed in 2021. I’m looking forward to getting back in the No. 8 Honda!”
This past season Ericsson posted nine top-10 finished in 14-races with a season-best fourth-place finish as Road America. Ericsson finished 12th in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings.
“Marcus proved that he belongs here, and this season he contributed to the success of our team greatly,” said Mike Hull, CGR’s Managing Director. “That includes being unselfish to his teammates, especially with Scott Dixon who won the INDYCAR championship. He’s a great foundational piece of our overall program and he fits well within our group. That translates into success on the track, and we’re glad to have him continue to grow and move the team toward into the future.”
Ericsson may only have two years of INDYCAR experience but he has an extensive racing resume including 97-starts in Formula 1. The Kumla, Sweden native is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009). Ericsson also previously competed in British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2.
Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond. Huski Chocolate partnered with the team in 2020.
The Ericsson deal combined with the addition of Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Carvana Honda and the return of Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda leaves the No. 10 NTT Data Honda as the only remaining question mark for CGR heading into the 2021 season.
Scott Dixon Wins 6th INDYCAR Championship & Chip Ganassi Racing Wins Their 13th
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon wasn’t even born when INDYCAR legend A.J. Foyt won his sixth Championship in 1975, but Sunday Dixon joined Foyt as the only other 6-time INDYCAR Champion.
Dixon finished third in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, winning the title by 16-points over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
“Well, six is good,” said Dixon. “Seven is better. That’s going to be the goal.”
Dixon started the race in 11th position and had to finish eighth or ninth depending on where Newgarden finished. Newgarden didn’t make it easy, winning the race for the second year in-a-row.
“Credit to Josef (Newgarden) and Team Penske,” said Dixon. “He drove a hell of a race there and put us under a lot of pressure. They drove the last part of the season flawlessly and gained a lot of points.”
The No. 9 team started the 2020 season with three-straight wins and built up a lead of 117-points but saw it dwindle to 32-points following races at Mid-Ohio in September and the Harvest Grand Prix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month.
Dixon and his “Wolfpack” crew however managed to lead the Championship throughout the entire season.
“It’s all the team,” credited Dixon. “I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Obviously, Chip (Ganassi), Mike (Hull) and Barry (Wanser) and everybody involved.”
A big part of Dixon’s team is wife Emma, daughters Poppy and Tilly and son Kit.
“Big thanks to my wife Emma and my family,” said Dixon. “I’m glad my girls are here, unfortunately (toddler son) Kit isn’t here.
It’s a big shame that he couldn’t be here. I can’t thank them enough. We’ll have to win another one so he can be in the pictures.”
The Championship is the 13th for Chip Ganassi and his team, which is celebrating their 30th Anniversary in 2020.
“It’s never just one thing or one person. For me, it’s about the team effort. We had a lot of changes in the offseason but huge thanks again to everyone on the team.”
The Championship is also Dixon’s second in three-years for Pittsburgh-headquartered PNC Bank.
“PNC Bank, two out of three years (as champion) – that’s pretty good going,” said Dixon. “I can’t thank all of our partners enough: PNC Bank, Honda, NTT Data, Huski Chocolate.”
Honda took home the Manufacturers Championship for the third year in-a-row.
“I’m proud to be powered by Honda and what they’ve been able to pull out this year given the deficit we’ve had going into Indy previous years,” said Dixon. “They nailed it. Big thanks to everybody.”
“Human beings are the thing that make the world go around and Scott is a very special human being,” said Ted Klaus, President of Honda Performance Development (HPD). “We call them the ‘driver’ for a reason, because they drive the whole team. Scott drives everything about, not just Chip Ganassi Racing, but HPD and he drives us. And we need those kinds of strong drivers to get the achievements that we seek. I don’t think he’s done. I think he’s still hungry and I think it humbles all of us. Good for Scott!”