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Racing Notebook – Tuesday, February 25 – Kobe Tributes, Alonso at Indy, Vegas Ratings and more.

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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:

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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.

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.

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Detroit Grand Prix Canceled for 2020; INDYCAR Revises Schedule

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DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear has been canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The event was scheduled to take place May 29-30 on Belle Isle and feature the NTT INDYCAR Series as well as IMSA.  The promoters tried to reschedule the event to later in the year but could not because of a number of events that take place on the island.

“Like our fans, we’re disappointed we won’t be racing in Detroit this year,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles.  “However, we’re excited to return to Belle Isle in 2021 and we know we’ll put on a great show when we do.”

The cancellation of the race forced INDYCAR to make several changes to their 2020 schedule.  Two previous scheduled events will become doubleheaders along with the addition of a third weekend of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR’s events at Iowa Speedway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will become doubleheaders.  The Iowa 300 event weekend will add a race on Friday, July 17 and The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will add a race on Saturday, September 19.

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“We also appreciate the flexibility of our event promoters at Iowa Speedway and Laguna Seca, who have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to host double-headers,” said Miles.

INDYCAR is adding a third event at the Racing Capital of the World on Saturday, October 3 on the IMS road course with the INDYCAR Harvest GP.  That race precedes the Indianapolis 8-hour endurance race that will feature the first-ever combination of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli with its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS.  The INDYCAR GMR Grand Prix was previously moved to Saturday, July 4 and the Indianapolis 500 was moved to Sunday, August 23.

“INDYCAR in October at IMS might bring slightly cooler weather but will definitely be warmly embraced by our fans,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles.  “Paired with the Indianapolis 8 Hour, we’re set for a can’t-miss fall weekend of motorsports at The Racing Capital of the World.”

The schedule changes gives INDYCAR 15-races in 2020, an increase of one event from the 14 races announced on March 26.

“We’re committed to bringing fans as much on-track action as possible,” said Miles.  “Our updated scheduled features additional racing at fan-favorite venues and adds to the total number of events on our calendar.  The COVID-19 situation continues to be dynamic and challenging for everyone, so we have developed contingency plans which will allow us to respond to changing conditions.  Our goal is to preserve as much racing competition as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of our participants and spectators.”

REVISED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

  • June 6: Texas Motor Speedway
  • June 21: Road America
  • June 27: Richmond Raceway
  • July 4: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 1
  • July 12: Streets of Toronto
  • July 17: Iowa Speedway Race 1
  • July 18: Iowa Speedway Race 2
  • August 9: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Couse
  • August 15-16: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying
  • August 23: Indianapolis 500
  • August 30: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
  • September 13: Portland International Raceway
  • September 19: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Race 1
  • September 20: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Race 2
  • October 3: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Race 2
  • TBA: Streets of St. Petersburg
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Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin wins INDYCAR iRacing Challenge From virtual Barber Motorsports Park

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin is the winner of Round two of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge from virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

McLaughlin, a two-time Champion for DJR Penske in the Australian Supercar Series, used a two-stop strategy and held off his teammate Will Power to take home the victory.

“The feeling is pretty full on,” said McLaughlin.  “You’re pretty excited.  It’s just cool to be out there and learning I guess some of the craft and stuff like that.  Absolutely it’s probably going to be a little bit different in real life.  But to learn and get to know what’s going on in the INDYCAR world is really cool for me.”

“That first stint, you kind of just sat there and saved your tires knowing there was going to be a yellow,” said Power.  “Then our plan was to really close on Sage and jump in on a sequence by pitting early.  When we pitted early, we pitted into a lot of traffic, lost like seconds in that sequence.  Fortunately Sage must have made a mistake. Felix obviously did a really good job in that sequence.  I think he went to the lead.  Then he made a mistake.  That put me I guess as the leader on that strategy.  I wasn’t aware that Scott was on that strategy.”

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam, last week’s winner from virtual Watkins Glen International, started on the pole position and led the first 15-laps green flag laps, that’s when iRacing officials threw a competition caution and bunched up the field.

McLaughlin went to pit road one lap before that competition caution to take on tires and fuel.  A number of the other competitors, including Karam and second place Felix Rosenqvist of NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing, elected to stay out and pit later in the race.

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Karam and Rosenqvist elected to pit under green flag conditions with Karam coming in first on lap 25 and Rosenqvist coming in a lap later.  Rosenqvist came out slightly ahead of Karam who had the momentum but ran out of race track, dipping his right side tires onto the grass.

Rosenqvist, trying to stay ahead of Karam, carried too much speed into the next turn and lost control as Karam was trying to recover from his trip into the grass and both drivers spun out.

Andretti Autosport’s Scott Speed, who pitted during the competition caution period, inherited the lead but was in fuel saving mode down the stretch.

“I was working with my engineer from when I was with Andretti in the past, Graham, and we decided to try to pit before the yellow, hope that I can save a lot of fuel,” said Speed.  “Somehow I was able to do it.”

McLaughlin and Power however were not in fuel saving mode and were able to get by Speed to fight it out for the win with the former F1 driving bringing home in third place.

Future venues include the first oval event, on April 11 at Michigan International Speedway, a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2.

INDYCAR iRacing Barber Final

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Sage Karam Wins INDYCAR iRacing American Red Cross Grand Prix At Watkins Glen

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam picked up the virtual win in Saturday’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge inaugural event, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.

Karam, driving the No. 24 Wix Filters Chevrolet, beat Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 10 NTT Data Services Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by 3.614-seconds to take the virtual checkered flag.  Karam led 43 of the 45-laps en route to the victory.

“It was a lot of fun, and it was great that we could give the fans something to watch,” said Karam.  “It’s the only sport that (the world) can really do right now. I’m happy that I got the win for Wix Filters and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The car looked pretty good out front so hopefully when we get to real racing, we can replicate that.”

“It was hard to catch Sage,” said Rosenqvist.  “I tried to take advantage of some lapping from the cars behind, but he always seemed to get through the traffic even better. He seemed to have (the lead) under control. I think that was a very deserved win for him. ”

Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion, has made 19 actual NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts over six seasons, scoring a career-best third at Iowa Speedway in 2015 while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Karam, one of the most experienced iRacing drivers in this field, picked up his 144th iRacing road-course win in 533 starts and 165th iRacing victory overall.

Team Penske’s Will Power brought home the No. 12 Verizon Chevy home in third followed by his teammate, two-time Australian Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Chevrolet.

Seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, who plans on trying INDYCAR racing in the future started ninth and finished 16th despite being involved in a couple of incidents.

The second of six events will be held Saturday, April 4, on the Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course. The event will be held at 4 p.m. ET and streamed through INDYCAR.com while INDYCAR’s YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as iRacing’s Twitch will serve as additional outlets for viewing.

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Future events will be held weekly each Saturday through May 2 at the following sites: a “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

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PALMETTO, Fla. – Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Philippe Denes (RP Motorsport USA) dominated a strong 27-car field to win Saturday’s opening round of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries at a virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from New Albany, Ohio, finished second following a race-long battle with Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), from New York, N.Y., who unfortunately spun off on the final lap. Castro’s incident allowed USF2000 driver Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing), from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to complete the podium in third.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” said Denes.  “It was a really good race and I’m glad to represent RP Motorsport in the sim world and to get the win.”

“It was a great race,” said Eves.  “It was a fun event and it keeps us busy while we’re all in quarantine. Thanks to the Road to Indy and Ricmotech for putting it on. This was the most professionally-run iRacing series I’ve been a part of.”

“It was a good experience,” said Barichello.  “I had an okay start, getting into third and staying there behind Phillippe.  It was hard to pass the lapped cars – they weren’t getting blue flags.  My biggest issue in the race was the pit stop; we weren’t expecting that.  I didn’t know how to pit, we didn’t practice that, but it was a good race.  Our pace was quite good, so I’m looking forward to the next race!”

Round Two of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries will be held next Saturday, with drivers taking on the challenge of the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

Provisional championship points after one of five races:
1. Philippe Denes, 30
2. Braden Eves, 25
3. Eduardo Barrichello, 22
4. Reece Gold, 19
5. Colin Kaminsky, 17
6. Andre Castro, 15
7. Peter Dempsey, 14
8. Flinn Lazier, 13
9. Cameron Shields, 12
10. Kory Enders, 11

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