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Racing Notebook – Wednesday, February 5

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Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin tests IndyCar at Sebring International Raceway this past January (Photo: Team Penske)

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Wednesday’s Racing Notebook finds Team Penske bringing Supercars Champ to Indy for GP, plus Graham Rahal’s No. 15 United Rentals Honda gets a new Patriotic look.  NASCAR is changing their Hall of Fame process and the Super DIRTcar Series kicks off the DIRTcar Nationals tonight in Florida.

Team Penske Bringing Supercars Scott McLaughlin To Indy:

  • Team Penske is bringing defending Virgin Australia Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin to the NTT IndyCar Series GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.  McLaughlin tested with Team Penske last month at Sebring International Raceway and will test next week at IndyCar Spring Training at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).  McLaughlin will attempt to win his third consecutive Supercars title in 2020 with DJR Team Penske.  The GMR Grand Prix takes place Saturday, May 9th.

Graham Rahal’s United Rentals Honda Gets A New Paint Job:

  • Graham Rahal’s No. 15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda will be sporting a new look in 2020.  The car has always had a patriotic scheme but Rahal took to his Twitter account to show everyone the new livery:
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Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals Start Tonight:

  • The Super DIRTcar Series kicks off five-nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park.  DIRTcar Hall of Famer and defending Lernerville modified Champion Brian Swartzlander is carrying the Western PA color along with Rick Regalski and Ralph McBride.  The Super DIRTcar Series runs in conjunction with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models for four out of the five nights of racing. The Late Model events are full points shows and pay $10,000-to-win.  The Super DIRTcar Series purse has been raised as well. Tuesday-Friday the 30-lap Features pay $3,000-to-win and $250-to-start. The finale on Saturday, February 15 awards $5,000 to the winner of the 40-lap Feature with $300 to take the green flag.  Also tonight at Volusia, George Hobaugh, Tim Shaffer and John Garvin will be racing with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars.

NASCAR Modifies Hall of Fame Process:

  • NASCAR is changing the process to get into their Hall of Fame. reducing the annual number of inductees from five to three and splitting potential nominees into two ballots – one for contemporary stars and one for the sport’s pioneers.  Starting with the upcoming Class of 2021, the existing Nomination Committee will provide 10 nominees for the Modern Era Ballot. A new Honors Committee – largely comprised of all living Hall of Famers, Landmark Award winners and Squier-Hall Award winners – will evaluate and provide five nominees for the Pioneer Ballot.
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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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