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Chip Ganassi Racing Looking To Add A 2nd Daytona 500 Win In Their 30th Season

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s trophy’s are all on display at the team’s race shops in Indianapolis, Indiana and Concord, North Carolina.  One trophy Ganassi and company would like to add to the display case is another Harley J. Earl trophy, which goes to the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500.

Team Ganassi won the Daytona 500 a decade ago when Jamie McMurray took the No. 1 to Gatorade Victory lane.  2010 was a magical season for the team as they won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.

Three drivers out of the Ganassi stable will try to add to the team’s history by trying to win this year’s Daytona 500.  2004 Cup Series Champion Kurt Busch is driving Ganassi’s No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet (pictured above).  Busch won The Great American Race in 2017 and says there are a victory is not only prestigious but a key to starting a championship run.

“When you win the most iconic race in your series, for us in NASCAR it’s the Daytona 500, Sports Cars it’s the 24-Hours at Daytona or 24 Hours of Le Mans, in IndyCar if you win the Indianapolis 500 it’s a Championship all on its own,” Busch told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.  “It’s so powerful because of the prestige, the history and the value of what the race means.  It elevates you to championship status immediately before the season even really gets underway.”

Kyle Larson is in the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet.  Larson had a shots at winning, ironically in 2017 when Busch took the win driving for Stewart Haas Racing.

“Hopefully we can do it,” Larson told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.  “I’ve been close one other time and ran out of fuel leading on the last lap.  It would be cool to win with Chip and Credit One Bank and add my name to the list of guys who’ve won this race.”

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 09: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 9, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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Ganassi’s third driver in this year’s Daytona 500 is Ross Chastain.  Chastain is driving the No. 77 Advent Health Camaro.  It’s a Ganassi-prepared car that is being fielded in partnership with Spire Motorsports.  Chastain will start 20th in the field.

“This is a lifetime opportunity,” said Chastain.  “If I have a car with somewhat clean fenders at the end, we’re going to have a bullet and you just point and shoot at the end and hope you make it.  Making it to the end is a big deal.  That’s what we did last year, we attrition-raced.  It’s not pretty when you are doing it but man we were there at the end with 10 or 11-cars left and had a shot.”

The No. 77 Advent Health Chevrolet Chip Ganassi Racing Camaro and driver Ross Chastain.

The former driver-turned-owner, who has 19-Championships in his tenure, still knows what it takes to win.

“In NASCAR you have to get your car running on old tires because you’re on old tires more than anything,” Ganassi told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.  “When you put on a new set of stickers on you go out and rip off a fast lap that’s great and it looks good on the sheet, but I don’t know what it means for the race, because so often you’re going 40, 50, 60-laps without a stop time after time after time so you have to get car working on old tires to have any chance.”

There are only seven active Daytona 500 winners set to hit the track for Sunday’s 62nd running of the historic race. Denny Hamlin (2016, 2019) and Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013) are the only drivers in the field with multiple checkered flags.  The other past winners include Austin Dillon (2018), Joey Logano (2015), Kevin Harvick (2007), Ryan Newman (2008) and Busch (2017).

Hamlin and seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion Johnson are the only active drivers to have won two Daytona 500 races. Three drivers in series history have won back-to-back Daytona 500 events (Sterling Marlin – 1994, 1995; Cale Yarborough – 1983, 1984; Richard Petty – 1973, 1974).

JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will lead the field to the green flag. Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman will start on the outside of the front row.

Local Racing

Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released

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PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.

The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.

The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.

Race teams are needed to take part in the survey!  Here is link to the team survey: https://forms.gle/XWTehM4nsKGfzTC58

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Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts.  Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor: https://forms.gle/vEcZR5XJbQHKPBLLA

Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete.  Here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/EX32bbXubANUaUGr7

Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/fkhuwgg3EDvFTGuR7

The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.

Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

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Local Racing

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back

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SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.

Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.

“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”

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Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
  • Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
  • Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
  • Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
  • Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

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IndyCar

Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled

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Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

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One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge.  The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event.  Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.

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