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Racing Notebook – Friday, January 31

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR inducts five legends into the Hall-of-Fame plus the racing community reacts to the death of John Andretti in Friday’s Racing Notebook:

NASCAR HALL OF FAME HAS FIVE NEW MEMBERS

Five of NASCAR’s legendary competitors: Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson were enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, Friday night during the Induction Ceremony held in the Crown Ball Room at the Charlotte Convention Center.

  • Buddy Baker won 19 NASCAR Cup Series races, including consecutive World 600’s at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1972-73 and the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington.  Baker became the first NASCAR driver to break the 200 MPH on a closed course during a test at Talladega in 1970.  Baker also won the 1980 DAYTONA 500 with an average race speed of 177.602 MPH – a track record that still stands.  Baker, known as “The Gentle Giant” because he was 6-foot-6, went on to have distinguished career in broadcasting following his retirement from driving.
  • Joe Gibbs boasts five NASCAR Cup Series owner championships. His 176 Cup Series owner wins – including three DAYTONA 500 victories – rank third all-time. Three drivers have earned Cup Series titles for Gibbs: Labonte (200), Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).  Gibbs is also enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after winning three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins.
  • Bobby Labonte was the first of four drivers to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series (1991) and NASCAR Cup Series (200) championship. In 729 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Labonte recorded 21-wins, 115-top fives and 203-top 10s. During his 2000 Cup championship season, Labonte earned two of his four wins in the Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500.
  • Tony Stewart earned three NASCAR Cup Series championships. Two of his titles came for Joe Gibbs Racing (2002, 2005). A third title, in 2011, came as a driver-owner with his co-owned Stewart-Haas Racing team.  Stewart racked up 49 Cup wins – visiting Victory Lane on every style of track.
  • A dual-threat as an engine builder and crew chief, Waddell Wilson provided the power to some of the greatest drivers, including NASCAR Hall of Famers Baker, David Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip. As an engine builder he won three Cup championships (David Pearson, 1968 and 1969; Benny Parson, 1993), 109 races and 123 poles. As a crew chief, Wilson guided his drivers to 22 wins, including three DATONA 500 victories (Buddy Baker, 1980; Cale Yarborough, 1983 and 1984).

RACING WORLD REMEMBERS JOHN ANDRETTI

The racing community is remembering John Andretti, one day after he passed away after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.  Several in the racing community took to social media to share their thoughts and stories including his Godfather A.J. Foyt as well as Richard Petty.  John Andretti’s son Jarett thanked everyone for their support and asked for fans to share their stories about his father so he could share them with the family.

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FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS ANNOUNCED FOR JOHN ANDRETTI

The Andretti family has released funeral service information for John Andretti, one of the most popular and versatile American race drivers of his generation. Andretti died Thursday, Jan. 30, after a long, courageous battle with colon cancer.

The family will receive friends on Monday, February 3, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. followed by Eulogy and Prayer Service beginning at 7 p.m. at St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville, NC.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Thursday, February 6, at 1 p.m., at Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. prior to the Mass at the church. Private burial will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to:

Window World Cares
118 Shaver Street
North Wilkesboro, NC 28659
http://www.windowworldcares.com

Riley’s Children’s Foundation
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste 200
Indianapolis, IN 46024
https://www.rileykids.org

IndyCar

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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