PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Tuesday’s Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook takes a look at some of the tribute paint schemes NASCAR teams are running this weekend in California plus NASCAR TV ratings from Vegas and more.
NASCAR Teams Paying Tribute To Kobe Bryant And Crash Victims:
- NASCAR teams are planning tributes to Kobe and Gigi Bryant and the other victims of the fatal Helicopter Crash January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California at this weekend’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Drivers Ryan Blaney of Team Penske, Axalta Racing and William Byron and Daniel Suarez of Gaunt Brothers Racing each took to Twitter to share what their teams are doing:
Honored that @drinkBODYARMOR is running a Kobe Bryant tribute scheme this weekend. I was fortunate enough to meet Kobe & this is a great way to honor him, Gianna & all the victims. Stay tuned for merch details and all proceeds will go to https://t.co/WdOVfr5mRk. #MambaMentality pic.twitter.com/UrtylAIsCK
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) February 25, 2020
— Axalta Racing (@AxaltaRacing) February 25, 2020
It is my honor to wear these this weekend as a tribute to #KobeBryant, Gianna & the seven other victims of the tragedy. 🙏🏽💜💛 Shoes & Gloves are on auction w/ 100% of proceeds going to the #MambaOnThree Fund. $5000 minimum will be donated. #MambaForever https://t.co/ZhO5zesLbr pic.twitter.com/jETB8G94SE
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) February 25, 2020
Fernando Alonso To Run Indy 500 For Arrow McLaren SP:
- Arrow McLaren SP and Fernando Alonso will join forces with title partner Ruoff Mortgage to compete this year in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Alonso, a two-time Formula 1 World Champion, World Endurance Champion, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona, will compete in his third Month of May this year driving the No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and returning to continue his quest for motorsport’s elusive and prestigious “Triple Crown”. The Spaniard will join Arrow McLaren SP drivers Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward as the team fields three cars in a blend of youth and experience at the iconic event.
Arrow McLaren SP and @alo_oficial will join forces with title partner @RuoffMortgage to compete in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. 👊 Find out more below.@ArrowGlobal // @McLarenF1 // #INDYCAR // #Indy500
— Arrow McLaren SP (@ArrowMcLarenSP) February 25, 2020
NASCAR Sees Ratings Increase At Las Vegas:
- Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway averaged a 3.2 rating and 5.5-million viewers on FOX according to Neilsen estimates from ShowBuzz Daily. The event saw a 7% increase in ratings and 8% increase in viewership versus 2019 (3.0, 5.12M) and 10% and 16% increase over 2018 (2.9, 4.73M). It ranked as the highest-rated and most-watched sporting event of the weekend, topping the Celtics-Lakers NBA game on ABC head-to-head (2.3, 3.59M), which came in second place.
MI Windows Joins Andretti Autosport:
- MI Windows and Doors, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of high-quality vinyl and aluminum windows and doors, is continuing their partnership with Andretti Autosport’s Pirelli GT4 Americas team driven by Jarett Andretti. The long-time partner of the third-generation driver will appear as the co-primary sponsor for the SprintX races in 2020 along with providing associate-level sponsorship for the Pirelli GT4 Sprint races. MI Windows and Doors is a direct supplier to team partner and co-primary sponsor, Window World.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship
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!
📲: INDYCAR APP – https://t.co/vyuISIyifv
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
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.
Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix
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.
“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.
Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca
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.”
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.