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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.

IndyCar

Marcus Ericsson And Chip Ganassi Racing Agree To Multi-Year Deal

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Chris Jones

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.

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“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.

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Scott Dixon Wins 6th INDYCAR Championship & Chip Ganassi Racing Wins Their 13th

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Joe Skibinski

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.

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“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.

Scott Dixon celebrates with his wife Emma and Daughters Poppy and Tilly after winning his sixth NTT IndyCar Series Championship.

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!”

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Josef Newgarden Wins Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg But Falls Short In Championship

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Chris Jones

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is the 2020 winner of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Newgarden’s victory was his fourth of the year and 18th of his INDYCAR career.  Newgarden’s win also continued a trend of back-to-back winners on the streets of St. Petersburg. Juan Pablo Montoya won the race in 2015-16, Sebastien Bourdais won in 2017-18 and Newgarden the past two years 2019-20.

The victory was bittersweet for the defending series champion as he came up 16-points short in the battle with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

“First off, congratulations to Scott (Dixon) and all his guys, his crew,” said Newgarden. “It’s big time to win six championships. I’m sure they’re thrilled. They’re a great competitor.”

Newgarden and his Team Penske crew did everything in their power to win the title but also needed Dixon to finish tenth or worse in the race.

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“On one hand, I don’t really know what I could do different this year,” reflected Newgarden. “I don’t know what I could ask my guys to do different. We knew coming into this that fate wasn’t in our own hands. We weren’t going to be able to decide things. So, we just did what we could and hoped for the best.”

Their best was just not quite enough to beat a Dixon, who is now a six-time Champion, and the Ganassi team, who now has 13-Championships.

“Credit to Josef,” 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 we know next year is going to be the same.”

“We weren’t good enough, said Newgarden, a two-time Champion himself. “We’ll reset. We’ll hit them harder next year. I promise you we’ll be in the fight; this crew will be in the fight every year. So, I have confidence we’ll come back.”

IndyCar St. Pete Results

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