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Racing Notebook – Wednesday, February 12

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Meyer Shank Racing

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Wednesday’s racing notebook has news from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as they finally get some laps on track at Circuit of the Americas.  We also have news from the All-Star Circuit of Champions, IndyLights and Pirelli GT4 Americas as well as the DIRTcar Nationals.

Weather affects NTT INDYCAR SERIES Testing At Circuit of the Americas:

  • Mother Nature threw a wrench into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES testing plans on Tuesday and Wednesday at Circuit of the Americas.  Inclement weather on Tuesday only allowed 11-teams to turn 17-controlled laps around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.  Wednesday was a mixed bag to start the day but eventually the skies cleared-up and teams were able to turn some laps. Team Penske’s Will Power turned the fastest lap in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet at 1-minute, 46.7603-seconds (114.987 mph). COTA Test Results

Meyer Shank Racing Unveils Jack Harvey’s No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda:

  • Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 AutoNation / Sirius Honda is sporting a new look for 2020.  Driver Jack Harvey will debut the all new ‘magenta’ pink livery on Tuesday and Wednesday at Circuit of the Americas for the first official test of the NTT IndyCar Series.  The striking design (pictured above) features the colors of team partners AutoNation and SiriusXM, with the distinctive pink livery bringing attention to the ‘Drive Pink’ cancer initiative (https://drivepink.comestablished by AutoNation.

Capstone Turbine Returning To Colton Herta’s Car in 2020:

  • Capstone Turbine Corporation is returning to the sidepods of the No. 88 Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport car of Colton Herta for the 2020 NTT INDYCAR® SERIES season. The southern-California based clean energy company will serve as the primary sponsor at the upcoming COTA open test, as well as six events including the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at COTA and races at Texas Motor Speedway, Road America, Richmond Raceway, the streets of Toronto and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.  Capstone first appeared on the sophomore driver’s car in 2019 on the streets of Toronto and continued through to the season finale race where Herta scored victory from pole position.
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Kyle Larson and Aaron Reutzel Score All-Star Wins in Florida:

  • Kyle Larson took home the victory in Tuesday night’s Jean Lynch Classic presented by Winn-Dixie at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Florida.  Ian Madsen finished second followed by Cory Eliason in third.  The event is named in honor of Jean Lynch (Mrs. Ed Lynch Sr.).
  • Aaron Reutzel continued his Florida dominance with a convincing All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Winn-Dixie victory at East Bay Raceway Park on Monday evening, taking command for the first time on lap three before escaping from the rest of the field to snag the $5,000 payday.  Ian Madsen finished second followed by Cory Eliason in third.

Endurance Continues Primary Sponsorship of Jarrett Andretti:

  • Endurance, a leader in auto protection, is continuing their partnership with Andretti Autosport and driver Jarrett Andretti for the 2020 Pirelli GT4 Americas Season. Endurance first joined Andretti and the No. 18 McLaren in 2019 during his maiden voyage in GT4 Americas sports car competition with Andretti Autosport. Andretti’s first overall GT4 win was claimed in Endurance colors.

The No. 18 Endurance Andretti Autosport McLaren driven by Jarrett Andretti in the Pirelli GT4 Americas Series.

Mat Williamson Takes DIRTcar Nationals Win At Volusia:

  • Defending Super DIRTcar Series Champion Mat Williamson picked up his first career victory at Volusia Speedway Park Tuesday night at the DIRTcar Nationals.  Erick Rudolph finished second and Anthony Perrego came home third.  Lernerville defending Big Block Modified Champ Brian Swartzlander finished 16th in the 30-laps feature.  The DIRTcar Nationals continue through Saturday night in Barberville, Florida.

Danial Nielsen Frost Joining Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights Team:

  • Andretti Autosport is expanding their Indy Lights roster with the addition of Danial Nielsen Frost for the 2020 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season. The 18-year-old from Singapore is slated to slide into the No. 68 machine for the championship team.  Frost made his first start in USF2000 at Road America in 2018 and finished his first season with five top-10 finishes.  Frost competed in the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship where he finished fifth in the point standings and captured two wins and six podiums.
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Josef Newgarden tops first INDYCAR practice as Laguna Seca

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is starting INDYCAR Championship weekend off on the right pedal by leading the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session on Friday.

Newgarden’s No. 2 Hitachi Chevy turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 11.4103 seconds (112.824 mph) around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course circuit with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta second-quickest at 1:11:8266 (112.170) in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

“Yeah, just a tricky session,” noted Newgarden. “There was a lot of people going off, there was a lot of dirt on the track, so it was quite difficult to put it together. So not a very straightforward session. But I think very productive in a lot of ways. It’s not a lot of running, and you’re trying to make the most use of just a couple runs, and I felt like we did that, so I was happy about that.”

Championship-leader Will Power was 7th quickest, 1:11:9858 (111.922) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy.  Power leads Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon by 20-points heading into Sunday’s season finale.

“Tough track, man,” said Power. “Very low grip. You get one lap on tires, and they’re gone. It’s hard to get a read because the car changes so much over a run.”

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Championship contender Marcus Ericsson was tenth fastest in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda at 1:12:0803 (111.775) and trails Power by ??-points in the title fight.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a high-deg (tire degradation) race, and it seems to be that way,” said Ericsson. “Usually our team and myself from my experience, we’re usually pretty good at that. Yeah, the tires seemed to degrade quite quickly here. It was the same in the test and the same today in practice.”

Last weekend’s winner Scott McLaughlin was next in line with a 1:12:0877 (111.764). McLaughlin has an outside shot at the title as he sits ??-points behind Power.

Dixon, the six-time series Champion, was 17th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda at 1:12:3911 (111.295) despite a team test at the track a few weeks ago.

“It’s going to be a pretty high-deg  race, man,” said Dixon, who can tie INDYCAR Legend A.J. Foyt for all-time Championships with a seventh.

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Determined drive by Scott Dixon in Portland earns podium and shot at 7th Championship

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is in the fight for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship after a third place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

Dixon entered the race in third-place in the Championship fight, 14-points behind Team Penske’s Will Power and 11-points behind Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden.  Dixon leaves Portland tied with Newgarden but Power finished ahead of both and now sits 20-points ahead going into the season finale on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“Yeah, you know, still in it,” said Dixon. “That’s all that we can hope for.”

Dixon started the race from the 16th position after failing to advance out of the first round of knockout-style qualifying on Saturday.  Qualifying has been a bit of an ‘Achilles heel’ for the No. 9 this season.

“We’ve got to work on qualifying and stop making it so difficult on us,” reflected Dixon, who gained more positions (+13) than anyone in the field from the start to finish of the race. “The car was fantastic in Q1 on the box. Didn’t expect too much of a change and thought we would have converted easy and didn’t even make it. We have to stop doing these most improved days, for sure. It’s not that much fun.”

Dixon opened the race on the less-grippy Firestone primary tires while the majority of those starting ahead of him started on the stickier Firestone alternate tires and quickly moved up a couple of spots before being one of the first to come to pit road for his first pit stop on Lap 13.

Dixon’s No. 9 ‘Wolfpack’ crew swapped out the primary tires for the alternate tires, topped the PNC Bank Honda off with fuel and sent the six-time series Champion back out into the fight where he put his foot down and continued to gain positions as various strategies started playing out.

Dixon’s second to last pit-stop saw his crew put on used alternate Firestones, setting him up for new alternate tires for his final pit stop.  Dixon was chasing Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi for fifth place when CGR Managing Director and Dixon’s strategist Mike Hull called him to pit road for the last time.

“We had to use a lot of overtake early on, so that definitely changed things up, I think, for the strategy towards the final five there,” said Dixon. “Had a tricky moment with the 10 car coming in front of us in the pit, which kind of screwed us a bit as well, and lost a position that we should have got on Rossi, which was frustrating.”

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Dixon’s frustration was short-lived as the caution came out on Lap 84 when Rinus VeeKay misjudged a pass on Dixon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson, pinching the No. 48 Carvana Honda into the wall ending Johnson’s day.

The 4-lap caution period set-up a restart with Scott McLaughlin leading Power, Pato O’Ward, Newgarden, Rossi and Dixon as the green flag dropped.  McLaughlin got a great start and Power settled in behind his teammate when O’Ward made an ambitious move trying to pass Power in Turn 1. It didn’t work.

“Yeah, he sent it straight into me,” Power explained. “I left as much room as I could. Inside, inside, and I kept going further, and, bam, he hit me over the curve. I didn’t expect it from Pato, though. He is usually a pretty good racer, pretty smart racer. He was probably needing to win the race to have a shot at the championship, so he probably just went a little bit too far.”

Turn 1 usually produces some memorable highlights at Portland and this restart was no different as right behind the Power/O’Ward tussle, Newgarden and Rossi got together opening the door for Dixon, who didn’t hesitate to take advantage.

“I think when I saw Josef break I was, like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure if he is going to make the corner,'” said Dixon. “He did all that he could to make the corner, but put him at a weird angle, and that, obviously, offset him and Rossi because Rossi had a great run on him out of 12 into turn one. Then, got a great exit.”

Dixon turned hard left, avoided that calamity, and carried the momentum through the turn and set his sights on O’Ward, who was still gaining speed after hitting Power and made a reactionary move to Dixon’s passing attempt, which is a violation of INDYCAR rules.

“I got a run on Pato, and he put a pretty big block on, and a lap later IndyCar called that, and I was able to get past, which thankfully I think the front three, we pulled a ten-second gap on the next pack where we pulled away really quickly,” said Dixon. “It was a great restart. Something that definitely helped us on the points side, and we’ll take what we can.”

Dixon set his sights on Power and was able to get within a second of the No. 12 Chevy but wasn’t able to challenge for the second spot on the podium.

“We did as much as we could today,” said Dixon.  “All in all, I think the team did a great job today. Yeah, we’ll see. See what comes next week. I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the INDYCAR Series.”

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Ganassi’s Alex Palou won’t repeat as INDYCAR Champion

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Chip Ganassi Racing

PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou’s hopes of repeating as NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion is over after Palou was mathematically eliminated after his 12th-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

Palou stated the race in the fourth position on Firestone alternate red sidewall tires and ran in the Top 5 through the first stint of the race.  Palou however radioed the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants crew during the second stint that something was wrong with the rear of the car.  Palou was on the less-grippy, black sidewall Firestone tires.

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“Starting fourth, we were running okay in the beginning and then lost a bit of pace,” said Palou. “We’ll check on what went on today and recover next week in Laguna. We still have one race to go, and we will try to win it.”

Palou’s sits 66-points behind championship leader Will Power going into the season finale next Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Palou’s teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson remain in the title fight with Dixon tied for second place, 20-points behind Power and Ericsson 39-points out of the top spot.

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