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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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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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