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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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Scott Dixon looking to get season and title fight on track at Mid-Ohio

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Penske Entertainment

LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is looking to get back to victory lane and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex could be exactly what ‘the Iceman’ needs.

Chip Ganassi Racing has 11-wins at Mid-Ohio, the 13-turn 2.258-mile permanent road course 181-miles West of Pittsburgh.  The list of winners includes Alex Zanardi (1996, 1997), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Dario Franchitti (2010), Charlie Kimball (2013) and Dixon (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2019).

“I think the last to first of course was probably the best one,” recalled Dixon. “Obviously the most unexpected one where I think where we were able to save a ton of fuel. We kind of caught a caution, which I think was Ryan Hunter-Reay, at the perfect time and went on to win”.

The 1-2 finish between he and one of his CGR teammates was one of the most memorable too.

“I think that probably was the craziest one was with Felix Rosenqvist, a few years back, where it was a two-stop strategy against a three-stop strategy. We drove the tires off, and I think I had a whole logjam behind me the last three or four laps.”

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Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team is looking up at a logjam in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship where Dixon sits sixth, 67-points behind teammate Marcus Ericsson.

“I think as a group and as a team, we just haven’t been getting the job done,” said Dixon, a 6-time Series Champion. “I was hoping that the Indy 500 was going to be that turn and kick that we needed, but yeah, it’s been an interesting year, lots of ups and downs and some missed opportunities. We’ll keep after it.”

Dixon, and his teammates, have come up as part of rumors swirling about driver movement in coming seasons.  Dixon said he has not been part of those conversations and is happy where he is at.

“I haven’t been a part of any of these conversations, so not really sure where a lot of these things come from,” said Dixon.  “Obviously people talk. I even got a few messages from people asking about the same thing. For me I love doing what I’m doing, I love being a part of the team that I’m with, and who knows what comes in the future, but as of right now just focusing on this season. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say really. There’s nothing to it.”

Dixon and the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors hit the track for 1st practice Friday at 3:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at www.midohio.com.

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Josef Newgarden puts the PPG colors in victory lane at Road America

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

ELKHART LAKE, WI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josef Newgarden leapfrogged leader Alexander Rossi during green flag pit stops and held off a hard-charging Marcus Ericsson late in the race to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America.

The victory was Newgarden’s third of the year and came with a $1-million dollar bonus from PeopleReady.  The bonus went to the first driver to win on an oval (Texas) a street course (Long Beach) and a road course (Road America).  The money will be spit with half going to Newgarden and Team Penske and the other half to charities of Newgarden’s choice.

“To finally get it done and most importantly to give that money to charity, half of that money is going to charity with SeriousFun Network and Wags and Walks Nashville,” said Newgarden. “I hope they’re happy about it, that’s a lot of money coming their way.”

Newgarden started second and tucked in behind Rossi, the pole sitter, for the first 14-laps when the first round of green flag pit stops took place.  Newgarden’s No. 2 PPG Chevy crew got the two-time Series Champion out ahead of Rossi and as the rest of the field completed their stops.  Newgarden inherited the lead.

“You’ve got to be on your toes at all times (in this series),” said Newgarden. “You can go in with a plan, but you probably have to change your plan 90 percent of the time once the race starts to unfold.”

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Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson finished second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after passing Rossi on a late restart.  The runner-up finish came despite Ericsson making contact with his teammate, and defending Series Champion, Alex Palou while racing for third in Turn 5 on Lap 4.

“First of all, I’m really sorry,” Ericsson said. “You never want to have contact with a teammate. From my point of view, the door was open, and I was already side by side. If you see a gap, you go for it. It’s important at the beginning of the race to get track position.”

Ericsson regained the points lead with the second place finish and sits 27-points ahead of 2nd place Will Power (293-266).  Power, last week’s winner at Detroit, finished 19th after rookie Devlin Defrancesco punted Power into the Turn 5 wall early in the race.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the All-New Civic Type R on Sunday, July 3 (noon ET, NBC, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network).  Mid-Ohio is the closest track to Pittsburgh that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.

INDYCAR Road America Results

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Racing Notebook: Rossi on INDYCAR pole; Larson on Cup pole; Busch wins Truck Race

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Sunday’s Racing Notebook has details on the starting lineups for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma as well as Kyle Busch winning another truck series race>

Rossi on INDYCAR Series Pole:

  • Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi earned his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position in three years by beating Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in knockout-style qualifying for Sunday’s race at Road America.  Rossi’s fast lap of 1 minute, 44.8656 seconds edged Newgarden’s 1:44.9371 in the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet. Defending series champion Alex Palou, who led the final warmup session on Saturday afternoon, qualified third at 1:45.3822 in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Teammate and 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson joins Palou in the second row after his best lap of 1:45.4240 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Road America INDYCAR Lineup
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Larson Leads Hendrick Cup Series Front Row:

  • Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma.  Larson’s fast lap of 92.111 mph (1m70.776s) edged teammate Chase Elliott’s 92.083 mph in the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet.  Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher qualified third at 91.919 mph after missing last week’s race due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell starts fourth after posting a fast lap of 91.916. Sonoma Cup Lineup

Kyle Busch Wins Truck Series Race:

  • Kyle Busch held off Zane Smith to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the year Saturday at Sonoma.  The win extended his record career total to 62 series victories and a streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one series win.  Busch led 45 of the 75 laps in the victory.  Wexford’s Kris Wright finished 26th in the No. 44 FNB Chevrolet after starting 30th in his first race at Sonoma. Sonoma Truck Results
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