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Racing Notebook – Monday February 10

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Ed Carpenter Racing

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Monday’s racing notebook is loaded with news from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as well as NASCAR and the World of Outlaws.

Ed Carpenter Racing Unveils Conor Daly’s Air Force Chevrolet:

  • Ed Carpenter Racing and the U.S. Air Force debuted the livery for Conor Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet.  The initial inspiration for livery is rooted in the steep history of 5th Air Force, headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan. 5th Air Force is the U.S. Air Force’s oldest continuously serving Numbered Air Force, providing more than 75 years of continuous air power to the Pacific. Today, 15,000 Airmen and Air Force civilians are assigned to 5th Air Force and its three main bases.  Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet continues to feature the iconic Tiger Shark teeth war paint often carried into battle by the A-10 Thunderbolt and the P-40 Warhawk. Each location where the bodywork of Daly’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES car comes together is marked with rivet detailing, a tribute to the P-51 Mustang of the 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force. The lightning bolt featured on the rear wing end fence is a nod to the Air Force Academy.

Andretti Autosport To Continue #CheckIt4Andretti Campaign:

  • Michael Andretti’s team plans to continue the #CheckIt4Andretti campaign for colon screenings started by his late cousin John Andretti. All Andretti Autosport cars and uniforms will carry the hashtag.  In May 2017, John Andretti went public with his fight against colon cancer by launching the #CheckIt4Andretti campaign to spread messaging on the importance of colon cancer screenings. The hashtag and John’s message were carried far and wide by the racing community with attention from INDYCAR, NASCAR, NHRA and sprint car communities.

The CheckIt4Andretti hashtag will be carried on all Andretti Autosport entries in honor of the late John Andretti.  Who lost his battle with Colon Cancer in January.

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Axalta Extends Hendrick Motorsports Sponsorship:

  • Axalta is extending their sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) in the NASCAR Cup Series.  Axalta and HMS have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will take the partnership through 2027.  Axalta will be a primary sponsor of the No. 24 team with driver William Byron for 14 Cup Series races each year beginning in 2021.  Byron is coming off a sophomore season that saw him produce personal bests in nearly every statistical category and earn his first Cup playoff berth.

Pocono Raceway Camping Continuing Hot Sales Plus Early Entry:

  • Pocono Raceway is continuing to see brisk sales for campsites.  Pocono on Monday announced that campsites for the 2020 NASCAR Doubleheader Week will be open for six days, starting on Wednesday, June 24.  Pocono also announced that only 125-reserved campsites, including spots in the new Turn 1 camping area, remain available for purchase.  Fans interested in camping should call 1-800-722-3929 or visit www.poconoraceway.com for more detail and additional information.

World of Outlaws Late Models Returning To Wisconsin:

  • The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series is returning to Gondik Law Speedway (formerly known as Amsoil Speedway) on Tuesday, July 14, marking the first time since 2013 the Series is racing at the northwestern Wisconsin venue. This wide, sweeping 3/8-mile, home to many WISSOTA Late Model regulars, is sure provide some great racing action as the tour begins the first leg of its Upper Midwest tour.

Shell Racing U.S. Honors Helio With Video:

  • Shell Racing U.S. took to their social media accounts to honor 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves’ quest for a record-tying fourth win at Gasoline Alley:

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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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Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca

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Joe Skibinski

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey giving him back-to-back victories two decades after his father accomplished the same feat.  Herta beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by 1.9747-seconds to pick up his second victory of 2021 and fifth of his career.

“Alex, really the whole race, was right there,” said Herta. “Then Grosjean at the end pressured Alex, therefore pressured me. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”

Palou continued his march towards his first series title with a second place after last week’s win at Portland, which gives Palou and the No. 10 NTT DATA team a 35-point lead ahead of second place Pato O’Ward.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace that Colton had,” explained Palou. “I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn’t go as fast as him without losing my tires.”

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Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.

“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

Herta’s victory clinched the Manufacturers Championship for the fourth consecutive season.

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