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Racing Notebook – Wednesday, January 29

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A busy week of news in the racing world. Today’s notebook features an Indy 500 winner and IndyCar Champion, plus NASCAR and their media partners are holding their annual “production days” so that means plenty of news out of the Concord, North Carolina hub.

2019 INDY 500 WINNER SIMON PAGENAUD UNVEILS 2020 INDY 500 TICKET

2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (pictured above with Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles and Penske Entertainment President Mark Miles) unveiled the ticket for the 104th Indianapolis 500, which captures the former Series Champion enjoying the iconic bottle of milk enjoyed by 500 winners in victory lane.

“This moment of me drinking the bottle of milk is the moment I realized it happened,” said Pagenaud.  “It’s a sweet moment for me.  And I didn’t know it was the picture, so it’s pretty cool to see it now and realize that it transpired.  People saw it was a very, very, very special moment for me.”

The image, by Indianapolis Motor Speedway photographer Chris Owens, is printed on the 500 ticket.  The Indy 500 ticket, one of the most coveted keepsakes in sports, is printed on thick stock with spot-raised MVP coating and gold foil stamp.

The ticket unveiling also featured a special gift for Norman Pagenaud, Simon and wife Hailey’s beloved Jack Russel Terrier, who captured the hearts and imaginations of race fans worldwide when he barked and wagged his tail in delight in the winner’s circle after Simon’s win.

The gift was a special ticket featuring a shot of Norman barking in victory circle next to a celebrating Pagenaud.  The ticket was for a fictitious seat in “Terrier Terrace” at IMS, Section 20, Seat 20, Row K9.

DANIEL SUAREZ TO RUN FULL SEASON FOR GAUNT BROTHERS RACING

Gaunt Brothers Racing is gearing up to run the full 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and they are putting 2016 Xfinity Series Champion Daniel Suarez behind the wheel of the No. 96 Toyota.

Sponsorship will come from Coca-Cola and CommScope, a leader in communication network technology, who has been with Suárez through its ARRIS and Ruckus Networks brands since 2014 when he first competed in the Xfinity Series.

“It’s great to be back with Toyota and back in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said the 28-year-old Suárez, who was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico and now calls Huntersville, North Carolina home. “My NASCAR career started off really well and Toyota was a very big part of that. To have them in my corner again gives me a lot of confidence. Gaunt Brothers Racing has something to prove and so do I. We’re committed to each other and we’re going to build each other up.”

“We’ve been working toward this moment since Gaunt Brothers Racing joined the Cup Series in 2017,” said Marty Gaunt, president, Gaunt Brothers Racing. “We’ve made steady improvement every year, but bringing Daniel on board allows us to take a giant leap forward.  We’re investing in each other.  He’s not content to just be here and neither are we. We’ve been very strategic in everything we’ve done, and between our partnership with Toyota and the resources now available to us, we can take that next step and deliver for Daniel and all of our partners.”

Three Rivers Karting

CITGO PETROLEUM TO SPONSOR JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK IN 2020

CITGO Petroleum is expanding their relationship with Front Row Motorsports by sponsoring Rookie-of-the-Year candidate John Hunter Nemecheck in 2020.

CITGO’s CITGUARD Heavy Duty Engine Oil will be the primary sponsor for JHN in his Daytona 500 debut in February. CITGARD will then return to the No. 38 Ford Mustang and Nemechek as the primary partner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, Michigan International Speedway in August, Bristol Motor Speedway in September and the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.  The brand will also be featured as an Associate Sponsor throughout the season.

“CITGO Petroleum is an iconic brand in NASCAR,” said Nemechek.  “Growing up in NASCAR, everyone knows the colors of CITGO and the past two seasons the CITGARD brand has brought the company back into the sport with FRM.  It’s awesome to join their team and carry on their tradition and winning history.  I can’t wait to represent CITGARD in the Daytona 500. There is no better race to start this relationship.”

The No. 38 CITGARD Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang driven by John Hunter Nemechek

“Our customers are NASCAR fans and have showed their support since our return to NASCAR with Front Row Motorsports over the past two seasons,” said Brian Paulson, General Manager, Lubricants, CITGO Petroleum Corporation.  “We are expanding our relationship in 2020 and including the sport’s biggest day, the Daytona 500.  We will be there with John Hunter Nemechek, who is a proven winner in every series he’s competed in coming up to the Cup Series.  We’re looking forward to another successful season.”

CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY CELEBRATING 60TH SEASON IN 2020

Charlotte Motor Speedway is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season in grand style.

Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith and Greg Walter, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s executive vice president and general manager, unveiled an agglomeration of attractions for the upcoming season.

Highlights included:

  • · Elvis Presley’s iconic pink Cadillac at the April 2-5 Pennzoil AutoFair
  • · Every ticket to the May 16 NASCAR All-Star Race is a pit pass
  • · Chris Janson’s pre-race concert at the All-Star Race
  • · Chef Irvine’s exclusive Coca-Cola 600 suite menu
  • · Details on a Mission 600 visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

“When my dad (Bruton Smith) started to move dirt out here on what was a farm in 1959, I’m not sure he ever imagined it would be this big,” Smith said.  “He’s got a great vision for big things, but I think what’s happened (with Charlotte Motor Speedway) in the last six decades is just the start of what we’ll see going forward in the next 60 years.”

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL RACE COMPLEX HIRING

The Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, PA is looking to fill several positions for the 2020 racing season.  Pitt Race is looking for help in the following areas:

  • Corner Marshals
  • Gate Attendants
  • Housekeeping
  • Karting
  • Maintenance
  • Retail
  • Fire/Rescue

Interested parties can apply in-person by stopping by the track office, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or online at https://pittrace.com.  In-person interviews will begin the week of February 24th.

IndyCar

Scott Dixon Wins INDYCAR Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

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Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

DETROIT, MI (June 2, 2024) Scott Dixon once again put on a driving clinic in winning Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Dixon’s combination of controlled aggression, expert strategy and his unsurpassed ability of extracting performance and fuel economy out of his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda propelled him to his 58th career victory in a race where his fellow competitors were busy making mistakes and causing eight caution flags for 47-laps.

The team called it perfectly,” said Dixon, the six-time Series Champion.  “I said at the lap 50 caution that we could make it from that point.”

Dixon hit pit road at the end of Lap 56 for his final pit stop of the day during a caution and spent the rest of the day coaxing performance and mileage out of his Honda as he raced around the headquarters of the race title sponsor.

“Most of the race was just restarts looking in the rearview mirror in turn three and making sure there wasn’t anybody coming down that was going to take out the whole load of you.”

Dixon finished 0.8567-seconds ahead of Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson, which was Ericsson’s best result of the season in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda.

“Today we showed in the race that we had the pace to fight up front all day,” said Ericsson.  “Really, really proud of the team. It was not an easy race. Everyone did good decisions. Well-deserved to be on the podium.”

Three Rivers Karting

Dixon’s teammate Marcus Armstrong scored a career-best finish of third in the No. 11 Root Insurance Honda despite being an innocent bystander in one of the earlier caution flags.

“Obviously it was pretty chaotic,” said Armstrong. “I think being a strategist today was more stressful than being a driver. I have to give a big shout-out to my strategist Taylor Kiel. He always places me perfectly to maximize the situation we found.”

Armstrong was on the same strategy as Dixon but the second-year driver couldn’t duplicate what his more-experienced teammate was able to do down the stretch.

“Ultimately on the last stint, I was having to achieve quite a big fuel number, as was Scott,” explained Armstrong. “But Scott does what Scott does. I actually ran out of fuel as I came across the line. So we timed it perfectly.”

Dixon timed his second win of the season perfectly as he leaves Detroit with an 18-point lead over teammate Alex Palou in the season Championship.

“Until you’re out of it, you’re going to keep chasing it,” said Dixon of the championship. “It’s swings and roundabouts. Same thing can happen next week in Road America. We’ll keep our heads down and keep trying to get the most we can out of it. It’s a team effort.”

The victory leaves Dixon 9-wins behind the legendary AJ Foyt’s record of 67 career wins as he chases Foyt’s record of 7-series Championships.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES event is Sunday, June 9, with the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Live coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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Josef Newgarden Wins 2nd Straight Indianapolis 500

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Penske Entertainment: Karl Zemlin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Josef Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward on the outside of Turn 3 on the last lap and held on to win the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, his second straight victory in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

Newgarden’s win was the first time in 22-years that a driver has won back-to-back Indy 500’s. Helio Castroneves was the last driver to do it in 2001 and 2002, driving for Team Penske. The victory was a record 20th win for the Penske group.

“I’m just so proud of the team, they crushed it,” said Newgarden.  “They came here with the fastest cars.  Worked our tails off.  Team Chevy brought it.  They can say whatever they want now,” alluding to the criticism and penalties Team Penske received for violating NTT INDYCAR SERIES rules at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I don’t think it works unless you’re racing someone like Pato,” said Newgarden of the pass in Turn 3 which turned out to be the winning move.  “He (O’Ward) raced me clean.  He’s a Champion and one of the best drivers in the field.  He’s just as deserving a winner.  I’ve left here 11-times prior to winning, so I know what he’s feeling.”

O’Ward finished second for the second time in his career after crashing out going for the win late in the race in 2023.

“It was such a stressful race,” said O’Ward, whose in-car camera showed him saving the car from hitting the was on a couple of occasions.  “We were up and down, up and down and the car definitely wasn’t the easiest to drive.  Very proud of what Arrow McLaren did for, not just me, but for everybody within the team,”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda after starting from the 21st position.  Dixon & his ‘Wolfpack’ crew took advantage of a caution in the second-half of the race when Marco Andretti spun going into Turn 1.  The CGR team elected to pit, putting Dixon on a different strategy than the leaders.

The strategy allowed Dixon to gain track position as well as a 4-lap advantage on O’Ward, who was on the same strategy and a 9-lap advantage on Alexander Rossi.  The strategy didn’t pay off after Will Power brought out a caution on Lap 147 that put everyone on a one-stop strategy to the end.

Three Rivers Karting

“It was like a win honestly,” Dixon said after the race.  “When I made that restart from the first position, and before the start-finish there was two of them that passed me already, I knew it was going to be pretty tough.  Big thanks to everybody on the PNC Bank No. 9.”

Dixon said once those cars of O’Ward and Rossi passed him for the lead, he did all he could just to finish third.  “We were pretty much flat their man in their tow and their wake.  We could run 218’s out front and they could run 220’s and once they started cycling they were running 222’s and we were just trying to hang on.”

Rossi held on for fourth place followed by Dixon’s CGR teammate Alex Palou in the No. 10 DHL Honda.

Pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin finished sixth followed by Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood in seventh and AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in eighth.  Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports Conor Daly rounded out the Top 10.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson finished 18th in the No. 17 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet after a late race penalty for speeding on pit road.  Larson ran a large portion of the race up-front and in contention for a strong finish in his first INDYCAR race and first Indy 500.

Newgarden led 26-laps en route to the victory.  There were 48-lead changes among 16-drivers. The average speed of the race was 167.763 mph despite 8-caution periods.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” said Larson, who elected to run the race despite a four-hour rain delay.

Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Sunday June 2nd at Noon ET on USA.

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IndyCar

Indianapolis 500 Preview

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) The Indianapolis 500 is never short on storylines and that is the case again for the 108th running but Mother Nature will certainly be one of them as a line of storms is anticipated to roll through central Indiana midday.

One of the biggest storylines is Helio Castroneves’ ‘Drive for Five’.  The 4-time Indy 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021) is going for a record fifth win, which would move him out of a tie with 4-time winners AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) and the late Al Unser Sr (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987).  It should be noted that Castroneves posted the second-fastest lap during ‘Carb Day’ final practice at 226.939 mph.

“We’re pretty darn close,” said Castroneves after Friday’s practice. “The Cliffs machine and Sirius XM car looks really, really strong. But at the end of the day, we just got to make sure that we read the race and go to that number five.”

Castroneves is joined by seven other drivers who have drank the milk in victory lane including two-time winner Takuma Sato (2017 & 2020), 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon (2008), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Will Power (2018), Marcus Ericsson (2022) and Josef Newgarden (2023).

Six rookies are in the starting lineup including 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, who will attempt to do the ‘Double’, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.  John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are the other drivers who have attempted the double.  Only Stewart finished all 1100 laps.

Joining Larson in the rookie lineup are Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing, Christian Rasmussen of Ed Carpenter Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Marcus Armstrong, driver of the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda; Kyffin Simpson, driver of the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda and Linus Lundqvist, driver of the No. 8 American Legion Honda.

10 rookies have won in the 107-year history of the race, only three since 1967: Arie Luyendyk (1990), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Rossi (2016).

Ray Haroun won the inaugural race in 1911 and Newgarden is the defending race winner.

Three Rivers Karting

There have been four different winner in the first four NTT INDYCAR SERIES Races.  Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg), Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park) and Palou (IMS Road Course).

McLaughlin start on the pole position after posting the fastest four-lap average for a pole-sitter, 234.220 mph.  Twenty-one drivers have won the race from the pole, the most recent was Simon Pagenaud in 2019.

Team Penske has the most 500 wins – 19, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global with five.  AJ Foyt Enterprises and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have won twice and Meyer Shank Racing has one win.

Palou can join Will Power and Pagenaud as the only drivers to ‘sweep’ the month of May by winning on the 2.5-mile oval and IMS road course.

Sunday Schedule

  • 10:30 a.m. – Cars to the Grid
  • 11:47 a.m. – Driver Introductions
  • 12:14 p.m. – Indy 500 Pre-race Ceremonies
  • 12:28 p.m. – “Drivers To Your Cars”
  • 12:38 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
  • 12:45 p.m. – 108th Indianapolis 500 (200 laps/500 miles) NBC & INDYCAR Radio Network

Editor’s Note (11:45 a.m.): A Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Speedway, IN forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to suspend pre-race ceremonies.

2:30 p.m. Update: Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have reopened the gates and are allowing fans back into the facility. Track drying is expected to begin shortly and is expected to take about 2-hours.  The Speedway has also made the decision to lift the television blackout locally for race fans who were unable to stay at the track.  Kyle Larson is going to stay and race in the Indy 500.

3:30 p.m. Update: NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials are estimating a 4:44 p.m. ET Green Flag.

3:34 p.m. Update: Hendrick Motorsports makes it official that Kyle Larson will start the race. 

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