PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, is ready for the green flag to drop on the 2020 season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15th.
“Yeah looking forward to it,” Dixon told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast. “It’s been a long off-season. I think one of the biggest changes this off-season is there hasn’t been too much testing. Actually I’ve been one of the lucky ones that’s had to at least test the aeroscreen early on. I think Felix (Rosenqvist) has had just one day so far before the season kicks off March 15. We get one day this week at Sebring before we fire off, so I’m pumped man! Everybody is excited to get going again.”
Dixon did get to do some testing, helping the NTT INDYCAR SERIES test and develop the new-for-2020 Aeroscreen safety device, which is the next evolution in driver protection. Pittsburgh-headquartered PPG makes the Opticor, which is like a windshield, for the Aeroscreen.
“There’s definitely been some evolution,” said Dixon. “I think once they got to this final version with the help of PPG and Red Bull Technologies. You know Red Bull has tried to implement this in Formula 1. Formula 1 and the FIA decided to go with just the halo, which is kind of the frame piece, and now having both you know IndyCar’s probably a little special too with the oval racing and with the way the debris field can be and a lot of the smaller pieces and so I think this covers both bases.”
Dixon welcomes the safety advancement and said there was one thing he noticed right away.
“Honestly it has been very smooth,” said Dixon, who has 45-career race wins, behind only A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. “I think the only kind of hiccup throughout the off-season, which was kind of expected, was just the lack of airflow. The cars a lot more closed. The driver then became a lot hotter just because there was nothing to cool you, so I think through the series of testing we were able to participate in a little bit, plus other things, they’ve come up with some good ducting and some areas for improvement on that. We had the first test at COTA a couple of weeks ago and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly.”
Dixon was back in a race car in January at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona but for this first time with a team other than Chip Ganassi’s team, who’s Sports Car program is on hiatus since the Ford GT program came to an end after the 2019 season.
“This is the first time in a while that I’ve kind of stepped out of the situation of running for Chip,” said Dixon. “Chip over the last four years we had the Ford GT program at (Rolex 24 at) Daytona and other races throughout the season but this year I joined Wayne Taylor’s team at Daytona 24-Hours, which worked out fantastically winning my fourth Daytona which was a little bit unexpected going into that race but the car was fantastic.”
When Dixon hasn’t been racing or testing this off-season, he’s been busy at home changing diapers. Dixon, his wife Emma and daughters Poppy and Tilly welcomed son Kit on December 27th.
“He’s been amazing,” said Dixon, whose nickname is the “Iceman”. “He’s very chilled and very relaxed and already sleeping very well through the night. I think it definitely has been a bit of a reset for us. I think when you look at Tilly’s age (8) and Poppy’s ten so there’s been a little bit of a lull with Kit arriving. You know for us we probably wanted more kids earlier on but with how things worked out we never really did but excited to have a healthy baby in the house.”
Dixon and his wife Emma, a competitive runner in her own right, resisted the urge to find out whether they were going to have a boy or a girl.
“We were shocked. We didn’t know what the sex was going to be and to see it was a boy. I’m not really sure what to do with a boy, I’ve had two girls so I’m excited,” Dixon joked.
— Scott Dixon (@scottdixon9) December 30, 2019
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicks off the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the 10th consecutive year and has blossomed into one of the Series marquee events.
“I think that’s what really important these days is making sure that there’s something for everybody in the family, not just the hardcore motor racing enthusiast that wants to go check out the cars and things like that, there’s other things throughout the day that can keep you amused and keep you interested,” said Dixon. “St. Pete, I think do a fantastic job of that and it’s more because of the City really embraces the race as well and they get involved and they promote it and they make it fun for everybody. They’re very lucky to have that support of everybody in that community and it really shows once you get there.”
There is one thing that Dixon would like to change about the race at St. Petersburg.
“Win,” exclaimed Dixon. “I think we’ve finished second four or five times before but have never been able to get that victory. Be a great way to kick off the Championship for us is to try and go for a win there, one spot better than we ended up there last year.”
The best thing about a new season is the challenge to presented to teams and drivers but Dixon’s approach has stayed the same as he embarks on his 19th season with CGR.
“We set two goals every year,” said Dixon. “First to win the Indianapolis 500, which comes up in May, and then go to on and try and capture our sixth Championship which we’ll be putting our head down hard and hopefully drive that PNC Bank No. 9 into victory lane.”
Click the link to hear the complete interview with Scott Dixon on The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.
Check out the new PNC Bank digital ad featuring Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Team by clicking the Tweet below:
You don’t see them on the podium when Scott Dixon takes the checkered flag, but there’s a whole team behind the No. 9 PNC Car.
— PNC Bank (@PNCBank) February 26, 2020
Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled
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.”
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.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Rescheduled
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled from its traditional March date to April 23-25, 2021.
The move to a later spring date is being made in the hopes that a greater number of fans will be able to attend the event, which takes place on the streets of St. Petersburg and the Albert Whitted Airport.
“I want to thank our friends at INDYCAR and our partners at Green Savoree for putting the health and safety of fans first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “Each of these races takes an incredible amount of work from hundreds of dedicated professionals, and I know the decision to move the date of the race is not made lightly. I appreciate the drivers, teams, staff and most of all the fans for their patience and understanding. I look forward to welcoming everyone to the next Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The COVID-19 Pandemic forced the 2020 event to be moved from the season opening race to the season finale, where Josef Newgarden picked up the win and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon was crowned the series Champion for the 6th time.
“It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” said Penske Entertainment Corp President and CEO Mark Miles. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC Network televison.”
The April 23-25 date on the INDYCAR Schedule announced last fall was originally supposed to be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach but that event has been moved to the season finale, which opened the date for St. Pete.
“We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, Chairman and CEO fo Green-Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast of the race on NBC.”
The shifting of race dates moves Barber Motorsports Park to the season opener on April 11th. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg follows April 25th with Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader May 1st and 2nd.
An updated listing of green flag times will be announced at a later date.
Aldo Andretti Passes Away
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Aldo Andretti has passed away at the age of 80. Andretti was the twin brother of Mario Andretti and a racer himself who survived two bad crashes, the second of which in 1969 book his jaw, 14-bones and his right eye socket.
“Though Aldo’s life took a different direction than brother Mario’s, Aldo forever shared a passion for racing and was a true motor enthusiast and entrepreneur,” Andretti Autosport said in a release. “He could often still be found on the racing circuit supporting and following the careers of the family.”
Mario Andretti took to his twitter page to express his grief:
Aldo Andretti, my loving twin brother, my partner in crime and my faithful best friend every day of my life was called to heaven last night. Half of me went with him. There is no eloquence. I'm shaken to my core. pic.twitter.com/NJ3fZxklNo
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) December 31, 2020
One of those careers Aldo passionately followed was that of his son John (pictured with above) who raced in INDYCAR, NASCAR, Sports Cars and Drag Racing. John passed away in January after a long battle with colon cancer.
“Nothing mattered more to Aldo than family, and it brought him great pride to share his life with wife and high-school sweetheart Corky and their five children Carolyn, Mark, John, Mary Jo and Adam.” the Andretti Autosport release stated.
Aldo’s nephew, 2020 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Marco Andretti, also shared his feelings on social media.
RIP uncle Aldo. One of the toughest guys I have ever met. I have never heard him complain, a trait that he passed down to John. Always so positive and upbeat and raised an amazing side of our Andretti family. 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/D6p3RyTdkG
— Marco Andretti (@MarcoAndretti) December 31, 2020
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon on Jan. 5 at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg. The family will receive friends from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4, at Stevens Mortuary in Indianapolis.