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Racing Notebook – Thursday, January 30

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12 May, 2011, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA John Andretti ©2011, Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The racing world loses a versatile driver, plus a little over a week before “Speedweeks” begins in Daytona and news keeps coming out of the NASCAR world and an IndyCar and Indy 500 Champion announces his plans for 2020.

JOHN ANDRETTI LOSES BATTLE WITH COLON CANCER

John Andretti, a winning driver in IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and the NHRA passed away today after a three year battle with colon caner.  He was 56-years-old.

Andretti scored wins in IMSA’s 1989 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 1991 Gold Coast IndyCar Grand Prix at Surfers Paradise, in NASCAR at the 1997 Pepsi 400 at Daytona and the 1999 Goody’s Body Pain 500 at Martinsville.

In 1993, Andretti reached the Semi-finals in his first NHRA National event at the FRAM Southern Nationals at Atlanta, beating Top Fuel Champion Joe Amato in Round 1, Tommy Johnson Jr. in Round 2 but lost to Mike Dunn in the semi-finals.  Andretti clocked a career-best speed of 299 mph during that weekend.

Andretti was also the first driver to attempt the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader in 1994.  Andretti finished 10th at Indy for A.J. Foyt Racing and finished 36th at Charlotte Motor Speedway for car owner Billy Hagan.

Andretti was the son of Aldo Andretti, Mario’s twin brother,  a cousin to Michael and Jeff, uncle and Godfather to Marco, and brother to Mark, Adam and MaryJo Andretti-Dial.

Condolences to his wife Nancy, children Jarrett, Olivia and Amelia and the entire Andretti family.

TONY KANAAN ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR 2020

2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar Champion Tony Kanaan is closing out his primary IndyCar driving career by driving five oval races for A.J. Foyt Racing.  Check out our story: Tony Kanaan Announces 2020 Will Be His Final IndyCar Season.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER TO DRIVE 8 XFINITY RACES IN 2020

A.J. Allmendinger is gearing up for more races in 2020.  Allmendinger will run 8-Xfinity Series races for Kaulig Racing.

Allmendinger drove in five races in 2019 for Kaulig, scoring a win at The ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a third-place finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex.

“I’m looking forward to returning to the Kaulig Racing organization” Allmendinger said in a statement.  “I had so much fun working with everyone on the team last season and being teammate with Justin (Haley) and Ross (Chastain).  Hopefully, I can help the team in any way possible so that we ca build on the success we had last year and go for more wins.”

Allmendinger’s eight races include the season opener at Daytona (February 15), Talladega (April 25), Mid-Ohio (May 30), Indianapolis (July 4), Road America (August 8), Watkins Glen (August 15), Daytona (August 28), and the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway (October 10).

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KOCH INDUSTRIES TO SPONSOR RYAN NEWMAN IN DAYTONA 500

Koch Industries, one of America’s largest private companies, will be sponsoring Ryan Newman’s No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang at Speedweeks.

Koch Industries owns companies involved in refining, biofuels, chemicals, consumer products and more.

“We are looking forward to teaming up with Koch Industries and having them on the car for one of the most celebrated races of the season,” Newman said in a press release.  “Winning the 500 is one of the biggest accomplishments of my racing career.  We have really fast superspeedway cars at Roush Fenway and we’d like nothing better than to kick off our season by driving the Koch Industries Ford into victory lane at Daytona.”

Koch Industries joins Oscar Mayer, Castrol and Wyndham Rewards as sponsors of Newman’s No. 6 Ford in 2020.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS NAMES SPONSORS FOR BOWMAN’S NO. 88

Hendrick Motorsports is using several sponsors on the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE driven by Alex Bowman in 2020.

Valvoline will be the primary sponsor on the No. 88 for the Busch Clash and Daytona 500 as well as two other races in 2020. Additional primary sponsorship comes from Axalta Coating Systems (3 races), Cincinnati (2 races) and Lamar (3 races).

The remainder of the races will be filled out by the website ChevyGoods.com.  The website will promote Adam’s Polishes, NOCO and Truck Hero products when it launches in February.  Bowman’s Chevy will carry the website and will rotate the three brands on the hood.

Bowman picked up his first career NASCAR Cup Series win last season at Chicagoland Speedway in addition to making the NASCAR Playoffs for the second year in-a-row.

NASCAR TWEAKS STAGE LENGTHS

NASCAR is changing the length of stages for 16-Cup Series races, basically shortening the final stage and adjusting the second stage to go beyond the half-way point of a race.

Here are the changes to superspeedway races:

  • Daytona 500 stages will be 65-laps/65/70 (last stage in 2019 was 80-laps).
  • Talladega stages will be 60/60/68 (last stage in 2019 was 78-laps).

Here are the changes to intermediate tracks:

  • Atlanta’s stages will be 105/105/115 (2019 final stage was 155-laps).
  • Texas Motor Speedway’s stages will be 105/105/124 (2019 final stage was 164-laps).
  • Darlington Raceway’s stages will be 115/115/137 (2019 final stage was 167-laps).

Tracks that are a mile or less in length will see these changes:

  • Phoenix Raceway’s stages will be 75/115/122 (final stage in 2019 was 162-laps).
  • New Hampshire will feature stages lengths of 75/110/116 (2019 final stage was 151-laps).
  • Dover’s stage lengths will be 75/162/163 (final stage in 2019 was 160-laps).
  • Richmond Raceway’s stages will be 80/155/165 (2019 final stage was 200-laps).

Pocono Raceway’s doubleheader stage lengths will be different in each race.  Saturday’s race will feature stage lengths of 25/52/53 laps and Sunday’s race will feature stage lengths of 30/55/55.  Sunday’s race is 10-laps longer than Saturday’s race.

Stage lengths have yet to be determined for the road course events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen as well as the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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INDYCAR Adding Nashville Street Race For 2021

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NTT INDYCAR SERIES

NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and The Music City Grand Prix are teaming up to bring an INDYCAR race to the streets of Nashville, Tennessee in 2021.

The Music City Grand Prix will take place from August 6-8, 2021.  The 11-turn, 2.17-mile temporary circuit will use Nissan Stadium as the paddock and will race across the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge into Downtown Nashville making the track the first to cross over a major body of water.

“The Tennessee Titans and Nissan Stadium are excited to partner with the Music City Grand Prix to bring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to Nashville and the stadium campus,” said Burke Nihill, President and CEO of the Tennessee Titans. “This is in keeping with our organizational goal of making our city, this venue and our organization as versatile and as busy as possible.”

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“The Music City Grand Prix will be a one-of-a-kind NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience anchored in the heart of Nashville’s action-packed, exhilarating downtown corridor,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “Urban street festivals have become a huge part of our DNA at INDYCAR, and this three-day festival—complete with a course that pushes the limits—will highlight everything Nashville and the sport have to offer, providing international travelers, racing enthusiasts and local thrill-seekers alike with an experience of a lifetime.”

The Music City Grand Prix weekend will feature the best Nashville has to offer, including live music performances by top artists, best-in-class chef-curated food experiences and entertainment that centers on speed in a way only Music City can serve up.

“Nashville is a special place, and the announcement of the Music City Grand Prix truly marks a huge step forward for our community as we look to the future and a return of our thriving and unique entertainment scene,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper. “This announcement could not have come at a better time. The event represents a tremendous private investment in the city and a catalyst to our economic recovery.”

Additional information, including the Music City Grand Prix schedules, artist lineup, food experiences and more, will be released at a later date. Visit www.musiccitygp.com to find more details on the event, sign up for Club RPM, a premium VIP experience, or to become a Music City Grand Prix Founder – and receive reserved seating, exclusive discounts and priority purchase opportunities on parking, hotels and more.

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Scott Dixon Escapes Mid-Ohio With INDYCAR Points Lead Despite Struggles

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Matt Fraver

LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is sitting on a 72-point lead in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship standings despite an uncharacteristic weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 5-Time Series Champion.

Dixon and CGR were hoping to pad their points lead at a venue where the track President Craig Rust said, “Scott kind of owns this place.”  A track where the “Iceman” has 6-wins and the team has 11-wins.

The weekend didn’t unfold that way.  Dixon started Race 1 on Saturday in the 17th position after struggling in qualifying.  Dixon worked his way up through the field early but couldn’t make up any more ground once he got to the Top 10.  Contact at the end of pit road with Colton Herta didn’t help.  Dixon finished 10th.

Team Penske’s Will Power won the race and his teammate Josef Newgarden, Dixon’s closest pursuer in the Championship, finished second to gain 20-points in the title fight.

“It’s was just OK for us today in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda,” said Dixon. “It just didn’t play out the way we thought it would. We went with a cautious move and made sure we ran the red tires first based on what we saw in qualifying. I guess looking back maybe we should have gone the other way, but who knows? Then we got caught up with (Colton) Herta on the pit exit, and I’m not sure what happened there or why he slowed up or whatever, but I thought we might have broken the front end after that. I hit him pretty hard, but I guess at the end of the day we made up seven or so spots, and that’s a small win.”

Sunday’s Race 2 looked like the No. 9 team would have a better day.  Dixon qualified third and barely missed a first lap accident when Santino Ferrucci, who went off track approaching Turn 4, came back on track right beside the points leader.  Ferrucci made contact with his teammate Alex Palou, who made contact with Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist ending both drivers days.

Dixon settled in behind Herta, who was leading, and remained there through the first round of pit stops. The No. 9 team elected to go with the Black sidewall “primary” Firestone tires while the other front runner elected to go with the faster Red sidewall “alternate” tires, which are initially quicker but do not last as long as the primary tires.

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Disaster struck on Lap 22 when Dixon lost control of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda in turn 1, the fastest corner on the track.  Dixon didn’t hit anything but the track remained under green flag conditions dropping him to 20th position.

“We really struggled on the restarts with tire pressures for some reason,” said Dixon.  “I had a bunch of guys in front of me on alternate tires and I got too aggressive.  I got on the overtake button at the exit of Turn 1 and spun the tires and spun the car.  It was just a stupid, rookie mistake and I feel bad for the PNC Bank team.”

Dixon and his “Wolfpack” Crew put their heads down and went to work, fighting back to a 10th place finish by passing rookie Rinus Veekay on the last lap.

“We managed to fight back until the very end and pick up some spots,” said Dixon, obviously frustrated with the way the day transpired.  “We should have never been in that position to begin with.”

Newgarden and the No. 2 PPG Paints Team Penske crew couldn’t take advantage of Dixon’s misfortune and finished only two-spots ahead in 8th place.

“We were just a little too average today,” said Newgarden.  “We were just kind of stuck where we were all day, to be honest.  We just need to work on getting a little more race pace.  I think that’s what we were lacking.”

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES has the next two weekend off before returning with the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix Doubleheader October 2-3 on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Dixon won in July.

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Colton Herta Wins Race 2 Of Honda Indy 200 At Mid Ohio

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Chris Jones

LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Colton Herta led an Andretti Autosport podium sweep after winning Race 2 of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Herta started on the pole position and survived an early altercation with Santino Ferrucci to lead 57 of 75-laps en route to the victory.

“I’m so happy,” said Herta. “We’ve been knocking on the door almost every weekend. We’ve had the pace. But for some reason or another, one thing has gone wrong or this thing has gone wrong. We finally put everything together.”

Andretti’s Alexander Rossi trailed Herta to the finish line by 1.3826 seconds. Fellow Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third in the No. 28 DHL Honda, 2.4965 seconds behind Herta.

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“I’m just so happy for Andretti Autosport and Michael (Andretti),” said Rossi. “It’s been a terrible year for us, kind of globally. So, to do this … hat’s off to Colton (Herta) and the 88 guys to get the win. But then just to sweep the podium.”

“I think all in all, it was a pretty good day considering we started eighth and finished third,” said Hunter-Reay. “It was great to have an all-Andretti podium for the whole team. I think everyone really needed this.”

The last time Andretti Autosport swept the podium was in 2005 at St. Petersburg when Dan Wheldon scored the win and fellow Andretti teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – Colton Herta’s father – followed to sweep the top four finishing positions for what was known as Andretti Green Racing at the time.

There are three races left in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The next event is the INDYCAR Harvest GP doubleheader Oct. 2-3 on the 2.439-mile IMS road course. The season ends with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, Oct. 25.

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