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Racing Notebook – Monday, February 3

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Honda Performance Development

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A busy Monday in the Motorsports world. Honda Performance Development is funding a scholarship for young open wheelers; Bobby Rahal is adding a NASCAR industry veteran to RLL Racing’s Business Development team; Defending Lernerville Speedway Big Block Modified Champ Brian Swartzlander headed to the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

  • Honda Performance Development (HPD) is continuing their history of supporting the next generation of racing talent.  HPD is establishing a scholarship for the F3 Americas Drivers Champion.  HPD’s scholarship will enable the F3 Drivers’ Champion to compete in the subsequent year’s Indy Lights full season.  This annual HPD scholarship will be used to support the F3 Champion’s chosen Indy Lights team and will be transferable to any HPD partner team supporting the F3 Drivers’ Champion in the Indy Lights or NTT IndyCar Series.
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is expanding their sales and marketing efforts by adding two new team members.  Sports marketing veteran Pat Wood has joined the team as Vice President, Business Development.  Wood has 20-years of experience in sports marketing and business development with stints in the NBA (Cleveland Cavalier), Motorsports (Charlotte Motor Speedway), and Media (Street & Smith’s Sports Business Group/NASCAR Scene/Sporting News).  RLL Racing is also adding Sam Sluga as account executive.
  • Defending Lernerville Big Block Modified Champ and Dirt Hall of Famer Brian Swartzlander is heading south to start the 2020 season.  Swartzlander is heading to the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals that begin this week at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida per the Super DIRTcar Twitter account:

  • Longtime John Hunter Nemechek sponsor Fire Alarm Services is following him to Front Row Motorsports (FRM). Fire Alarm Services, Inc. (FAS), a leader in fire, life safety, and security services, will serve as the primary partner for the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender at Martinsville Speedway in May, Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, Daytona International Speedway in August and the season finale at Phoenix Raceway in November. The brand will also be a major associate partner on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford throughout the season.
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  • Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that SiriusXM will be featured as the primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Toyota Camry for five races during the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. Truex’s Camry will carry the SiriusXM colors for the Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway (February 9), the first night race at Martinsville Speedway (May 9), both races of the doubleheader weekend at Pocono Raceway (June 27-28) and the series’ annual visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 19).
  • Brennan Poole and Premium Motorsports are thrilled to welcome Spartan Mosquito into the NASCAR Cup Series on the No. 15 Chevy Camaro as their partner for 17 races/15 points races, including the crown jewel Daytona 500 race. The No. 15 Camaro and Poole will represent Spartan Mosquito’s unique and effective consumer products, along with their charitable efforts in support of our Armed Forces and those who have served our country.  At the Daytona 500, in addition to unveiling its new Spartan GO! Mosquito repellant, the Spartan Mosquito No. 15 will also proudly display the R.E.D. (RememberEveryoneDeployed.org) organization above the rocker panels and on the back bumper of the race car. “We are extremely thrilled to begin this relationship with Premium Motorsports and Brennan Poole,” Spartan owner Jeremy Hirsch said in a statement. “We are equally proud and humbled to have this opportunity to bring to light the
    ‘RememberEveryoneDeployed.org’ organization and to help raise awareness about the hardships faced by our troops – those brave men and women who place themselves in harm’s way so that we may rest peacefully at night”.

 

IndyCar

Jimmie Johnson to run the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series Season for Chip Ganassi

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Jimmie Johnson is adding the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to his racing activities for the upcoming year.

Johnson competed in 12-road and street course events for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 and finished the season by testing on the ovals at Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The 2021 experience and oval tests only served to ignite Johnson’s passion to compete in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“I’m really excited about this next chapter of my career,” said Johnson. “The safety of these cars has come so far, and after I tested the ovals at Texas and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I realized this was a challenge I wanted to undertake.”

Online automobile retailer Carvana returns to sponsor Johnson and will be on the No. 48 Honda for the Indianapolis 500 and every race except Iowa, where associate sponsor the American Legion will be featured.

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“I can’t wait to be part of the Indianapolis 500, it’s a childhood dream come true,” said Johnson. “Last season was so incredible for me and I made a lot of progress, so I know I can be competitive on tracks that I have experience on.”

Team owner Chip Ganassi is equally fired-up to see Johnson get back behind the wheel of one of his race cars.

“I am looking forward to seeing Jimmie get back on the track after having a year under his belt,” said Ganassi. “With all the experience he has on ovals from his NASCAR career and adding it to his 2021 experience in an Indy car, we think the IndyCar ovals will play right into his strength. I can’t wait for the 2022 season to begin.”

An announcement on the role of Tony Kanaan, who drove the No. 48 Honda in the oval races in 2021, is expected after the Holidays.

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.

Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.

“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”

“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”

Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda.  Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position.  Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag.  The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!

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O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.

The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.

Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase.  Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.

Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021.  Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.

Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.

Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.

Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title.  Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.

“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”

The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field.  O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.

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“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”

Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.

“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right?  I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”

“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”

Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

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