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
INDYCAR and NBC sign multi-year extension
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NBC Network announced on Tuesday a multi-year extension to the media rights of the open wheel series.
NBC Sports will continue to be the exclusive home of the Indianapolis 500 and will provide coverage of all NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its linear, digital and streaming platforms, including Peacock. Terms of the deal were not announced.
“NBC Sports is proud to extend its partnership with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and continue to serve as the exclusive home of the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports.
“NBC Sports has been the ideal partner for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, bringing our bold and audacious style of racing to a significantly larger domestic audience and fully leveraging the power and scale of the Indianapolis 500,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “This new deal represents a significant expansion of our network TV exposure and sets us up for continued growth and success alongside a committed, innovative and world-class broadcast partner.”
INDYCAR and NBC are enjoying strong ratings for the 2021. Ratings are up 30% this year.
As part of the agreement, 13 races will be broadcast on NBC. USA Network and Peacock Premium will show the remaining races. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.
Peacock will stream all races on NBC and USA Network and will continue as the streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and practices sessions, Indy Lights races and full-event replays. Peacock will stream two races exclusively, which will be announced at a later date.
Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship
NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott joined the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) for their season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds and took home the checkered flag beating Tony Stewart and his father Bill Elliott in the feature. The win was the first series victory for the younger Elliott.
Chase Elliott was on the inside with Stewart on the outside on a restart with 7-laps-to-go followed by Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte in Row 2.
Chase Elliott beat Stewart into turn one and two with Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte side-by-side for third.
Caution came out with 5-laps-to-go when Paul Tracy made contact with Marco Andretti, sending Andretti into a spin after picking up three spots following the restart.
Chase Elliott got the jump on Stewart on the restart and held on to pick up the win. Stewart finished second and took home the inaugural series Championship.
“Man it was so much fun,” said Chase Elliott. “I had a ball. I got to race against two of my heroes tonight and I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments that I’ll cherish forever. Thanks to Ray (Evernham, Series co-owner) and Tony (Stewart, Series co-owner) and I appreciate NAPA being on the car.”
NASCAR Hall-of-famer Bill Elliott, 65, finished third and picked up a win in the first heat race where he started side-by-side with his son Chase.
“I messed up in one not getting all the stuff (marbles) off my tires,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “Man I tell you it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff he was going to be tough to beat.”
“I don’t know what lit a fire under him tonight,” said Chase Elliott. “But he was as aggressive as I have seen him in years. It was amazing and a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be between he and I but he got a little high going into (turn) one.”
The win was also special for the Elliott Family as they were able to park the No. 94 in Victory Lane. Casey Elliott, the late son of legendary engine builder Ernie Elliott, raced the No. 94 in the ARCA and Busch (now Xfinity) Series before his life was cut short by cancer.
“Obviously a special number too,” said Chase Elliott. “My late Cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years and it’s always special to run that number and I’m glad we were able to get it in Victory Lane at Nashville.”
“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliott’s, that’s pretty bad-ass in itself,” said Stewart. “To win this Championship is awesome. I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us get this thing off the ground. To be the last guy to win an IROC Championship and the first one to win an SRX Championship means a lot.”
Josef Newgarden ends Penske INDYCAR win drought at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden picked up his, and Team Penske’s, first win of 2021 holding off Marcus Ericsson to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Newgarden started on the pole position and led 73-of-80-laps to pick up his first win since the 2020 season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“This team has been doing the job,” said Newgarden. “Everyone has been giving me a hard time, asking what’s up with us not winning a race. But I don’t think these people at Team Penske could have done anything different. We’ve been in the game almost every race, had great performance. It’s great to seal a win here finally.”
Newgarden spoiled a tremendous afternoon for Chip Ganassi Racing, the winningest INDYCAR team at Mid-Ohio.
CGR’s Ericsson finished second, 0.8790-seconds behind Newgarden. The second place finish was Ericsson’s seventh top-10 finish of 2021.
“We were hunting him down there,” said Ericsson. “He (Newgarden) was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly. Another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”
Ericsson’s CGR teammate Alex Palou and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth respectively to give Chip Ganassi three cars in the top 5.
“It’s always good to start P7 and you finish on the podium,” said Palou. “Yeah, I think today was a good result.”
“I think it was a great day, great day for the team, to have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4,” said Ericsson. “It’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment”
Palou remains the Championship points leader, 39 points ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP. Dixon is third, 56 points behind Palou. Newgarden remained fourth, 69 points back of the leader, and Ericsson jumped three positions to take fifth in the standings, 104 points behind Palou.