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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.”

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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.

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Detroit Grand Prix Canceled for 2020; INDYCAR Revises Schedule

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DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear has been canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The event was scheduled to take place May 29-30 on Belle Isle and feature the NTT INDYCAR Series as well as IMSA.  The promoters tried to reschedule the event to later in the year but could not because of a number of events that take place on the island.

“Like our fans, we’re disappointed we won’t be racing in Detroit this year,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles.  “However, we’re excited to return to Belle Isle in 2021 and we know we’ll put on a great show when we do.”

The cancellation of the race forced INDYCAR to make several changes to their 2020 schedule.  Two previous scheduled events will become doubleheaders along with the addition of a third weekend of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR’s events at Iowa Speedway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will become doubleheaders.  The Iowa 300 event weekend will add a race on Friday, July 17 and The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will add a race on Saturday, September 19.

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“We also appreciate the flexibility of our event promoters at Iowa Speedway and Laguna Seca, who have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to host double-headers,” said Miles.

INDYCAR is adding a third event at the Racing Capital of the World on Saturday, October 3 on the IMS road course with the INDYCAR Harvest GP.  That race precedes the Indianapolis 8-hour endurance race that will feature the first-ever combination of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli with its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS.  The INDYCAR GMR Grand Prix was previously moved to Saturday, July 4 and the Indianapolis 500 was moved to Sunday, August 23.

“INDYCAR in October at IMS might bring slightly cooler weather but will definitely be warmly embraced by our fans,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles.  “Paired with the Indianapolis 8 Hour, we’re set for a can’t-miss fall weekend of motorsports at The Racing Capital of the World.”

The schedule changes gives INDYCAR 15-races in 2020, an increase of one event from the 14 races announced on March 26.

“We’re committed to bringing fans as much on-track action as possible,” said Miles.  “Our updated scheduled features additional racing at fan-favorite venues and adds to the total number of events on our calendar.  The COVID-19 situation continues to be dynamic and challenging for everyone, so we have developed contingency plans which will allow us to respond to changing conditions.  Our goal is to preserve as much racing competition as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of our participants and spectators.”

REVISED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

  • June 6: Texas Motor Speedway
  • June 21: Road America
  • June 27: Richmond Raceway
  • July 4: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 1
  • July 12: Streets of Toronto
  • July 17: Iowa Speedway Race 1
  • July 18: Iowa Speedway Race 2
  • August 9: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Couse
  • August 15-16: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying
  • August 23: Indianapolis 500
  • August 30: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
  • September 13: Portland International Raceway
  • September 19: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Race 1
  • September 20: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Race 2
  • October 3: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 2
  • TBA: Streets of St. Petersburg
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Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin wins INDYCAR iRacing Challenge From virtual Barber Motorsports Park

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin is the winner of Round two of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge from virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

McLaughlin, a two-time Champion for DJR Penske in the Australian Supercar Series, used a two-stop strategy and held off his teammate Will Power to take home the victory.

“The feeling is pretty full on,” said McLaughlin.  “You’re pretty excited.  It’s just cool to be out there and learning I guess some of the craft and stuff like that.  Absolutely it’s probably going to be a little bit different in real life.  But to learn and get to know what’s going on in the INDYCAR world is really cool for me.”

“That first stint, you kind of just sat there and saved your tires knowing there was going to be a yellow,” said Power.  “Then our plan was to really close on Sage and jump in on a sequence by pitting early.  When we pitted early, we pitted into a lot of traffic, lost like seconds in that sequence.  Fortunately Sage must have made a mistake. Felix obviously did a really good job in that sequence.  I think he went to the lead.  Then he made a mistake.  That put me I guess as the leader on that strategy.  I wasn’t aware that Scott was on that strategy.”

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam, last week’s winner from virtual Watkins Glen International, started on the pole position and led the first 15-laps green flag laps, that’s when iRacing officials threw a competition caution and bunched up the field.

McLaughlin went to pit road one lap before that competition caution to take on tires and fuel.  A number of the other competitors, including Karam and second place Felix Rosenqvist of NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing, elected to stay out and pit later in the race.

Three Rivers Karting

Karam and Rosenqvist elected to pit under green flag conditions with Karam coming in first on lap 25 and Rosenqvist coming in a lap later.  Rosenqvist came out slightly ahead of Karam who had the momentum but ran out of race track, dipping his right side tires onto the grass.

Rosenqvist, trying to stay ahead of Karam, carried too much speed into the next turn and lost control as Karam was trying to recover from his trip into the grass and both drivers spun out.

Andretti Autosport’s Scott Speed, who pitted during the competition caution period, inherited the lead but was in fuel saving mode down the stretch.

“I was working with my engineer from when I was with Andretti in the past, Graham, and we decided to try to pit before the yellow, hope that I can save a lot of fuel,” said Speed.  “Somehow I was able to do it.”

McLaughlin and Power however were not in fuel saving mode and were able to get by Speed to fight it out for the win with the former F1 driving bringing home in third place.

Future venues include the first oval event, on April 11 at Michigan International Speedway, a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2.

INDYCAR iRacing Barber Final

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Sage Karam Wins INDYCAR iRacing American Red Cross Grand Prix At Watkins Glen

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam picked up the virtual win in Saturday’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge inaugural event, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.

Karam, driving the No. 24 Wix Filters Chevrolet, beat Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 10 NTT Data Services Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by 3.614-seconds to take the virtual checkered flag.  Karam led 43 of the 45-laps en route to the victory.

“It was a lot of fun, and it was great that we could give the fans something to watch,” said Karam.  “It’s the only sport that (the world) can really do right now. I’m happy that I got the win for Wix Filters and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The car looked pretty good out front so hopefully when we get to real racing, we can replicate that.”

“It was hard to catch Sage,” said Rosenqvist.  “I tried to take advantage of some lapping from the cars behind, but he always seemed to get through the traffic even better. He seemed to have (the lead) under control. I think that was a very deserved win for him. ”

Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion, has made 19 actual NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts over six seasons, scoring a career-best third at Iowa Speedway in 2015 while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Karam, one of the most experienced iRacing drivers in this field, picked up his 144th iRacing road-course win in 533 starts and 165th iRacing victory overall.

Team Penske’s Will Power brought home the No. 12 Verizon Chevy home in third followed by his teammate, two-time Australian Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Chevrolet.

Seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, who plans on trying INDYCAR racing in the future started ninth and finished 16th despite being involved in a couple of incidents.

The second of six events will be held Saturday, April 4, on the Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course. The event will be held at 4 p.m. ET and streamed through INDYCAR.com while INDYCAR’s YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as iRacing’s Twitch will serve as additional outlets for viewing.

Three Rivers Karting

Future events will be held weekly each Saturday through May 2 at the following sites: a “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

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PALMETTO, Fla. – Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Philippe Denes (RP Motorsport USA) dominated a strong 27-car field to win Saturday’s opening round of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries at a virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from New Albany, Ohio, finished second following a race-long battle with Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), from New York, N.Y., who unfortunately spun off on the final lap. Castro’s incident allowed USF2000 driver Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing), from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to complete the podium in third.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” said Denes.  “It was a really good race and I’m glad to represent RP Motorsport in the sim world and to get the win.”

“It was a great race,” said Eves.  “It was a fun event and it keeps us busy while we’re all in quarantine. Thanks to the Road to Indy and Ricmotech for putting it on. This was the most professionally-run iRacing series I’ve been a part of.”

“It was a good experience,” said Barichello.  “I had an okay start, getting into third and staying there behind Phillippe.  It was hard to pass the lapped cars – they weren’t getting blue flags.  My biggest issue in the race was the pit stop; we weren’t expecting that.  I didn’t know how to pit, we didn’t practice that, but it was a good race.  Our pace was quite good, so I’m looking forward to the next race!”

Round Two of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries will be held next Saturday, with drivers taking on the challenge of the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

Provisional championship points after one of five races:
1. Philippe Denes, 30
2. Braden Eves, 25
3. Eduardo Barrichello, 22
4. Reece Gold, 19
5. Colin Kaminsky, 17
6. Andre Castro, 15
7. Peter Dempsey, 14
8. Flinn Lazier, 13
9. Cameron Shields, 12
10. Kory Enders, 11

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