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
Chip Ganassi’s cars fast as practice opens for the Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) is off to a quick start in preparations for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Four of the five CGR Honda’s were in the Top 6 of the speed chart following Tuesday’s opening practice for ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’, and all five were in the Top 10.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon led the CGR squad posting a fast lap of 227.768 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Right behind Dixon in third was Indianapolis 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson, who’s fast lap was 227.722 in the No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“All in all, a really good day” said Johnson. “I feel like where we ended in this session gives me a lot of confidence for working forward. It’s just trying to work through extremes for me. What is a low trim setting? What’s a high trim setting? What’s mechanically tight? What’s mechanically free? Just trying to work through some of those big-picture things.”
Marcus Ericsson was fourth at 227.094 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate CGR Honda.
“I think it was a very positive day for me and for the team,” said Ericsson. “We rolled off (the truck) with really good cars again and sort of continued our work that we did at the open test a few weeks ago. Really, really happy with our progress and where our car is for the moment, a positive first day.”
Defending Series Champion Alex Palou was next on the charts, ending up sixth at 226.973 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.
“Felt really good to be honest,” said Palou. “The car is super-fast. We were just going through the plan. I think all the Chip Ganassi Racing cars are super-fast. We’re looking good. A lot of work to do but we’re looking good so far.”
The fifth Ganassi entry, Tony Kanaan, was ninth quickest in the No. 1 American Legion Honda with a fast lap of 226.292.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato turned the fastest lap of the day, 228.939, in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
“We had a big tow,” Sato said. “In Happy Hour, if you have new tires, I think you can do that. I’m very happy with the 51 car. Dale Coyne Racing did a good job.”
Practice resumes from Noon-to-6 p.m. (ET) Wednesday (live on Peacock Premium), with PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying this Saturday and Sunday. The 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 29.
Herta wins wet and wild GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Colton Herta combined great strategy, great driving and some good luck to win a wet and wild NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory was Herta’s first of 2022 and seventh in his career.
Herta started the race in on wet tires after officials declared a wet race due to wet track conditions and showers in and around the speedway. Herta was the first driver to pit for Firestone red alternate racing slicks and following a blistering lap, leapfrogged into the lead as the rest of the field headed for pit road after seeing Herta’s lap times.
Chaos ensued for several Championship contenders as a result of the conditions and hard racing including points-leader Alex Palou, who on Lap 6 spun and lost a lap after he couldn’t get the No. 10 American Legion Honda restarted. Palou finished 18th.
Josef Newgarden was sent spinning Lap 17 after contact with Jack Harvey. Newgarden’s car had to be towed to the pits with two flat tires. Newgarden eventually returned to the race and finished 25th.
Herta meanwhile never stopped fighting for the win in a race where the middle portion was run on slicks before rain returned about mid-way through the race, which brought out four more caution flags for various spins and off course excursions.
“This is the hardest race I think I’ve ever done,” Herta said. “Wet to dry, dry back to wet. Thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around. I know you’re used to this weather, so thank you very much. Love you guys.”
Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud, who started 20th, finished second and was happy to survive the late downpour.
“It was treacherous at the end,” Pagenaud said. “You’ve got to say congrats to Colton because it was really tough to finish the race. We made the right calls on the tires. It was tricky. It was really tricky to decide.”
The victory was the first for Honda power in 2022 and Honda Performance Development placed three cars in the Top 5.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished third after starting on the pole position. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson finished fourth and was the highest finishing CGR Honda.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly finished fifth after starting fourth, which didn’t even begin to describe a day where the No. 20 Bitnile Chevrolet was up-front, falling like a rock, and coming back through the field.
“I’ve never been in a race like that in my life,” Daly said. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team have to be thinking the same thing after Top 10 finish despite a horrendous qualifying effort that left the six-time Series Champion stating 21st.
“Kind of crazy, up and down, like a yo-yo to be honest,” said Dixon. “We got to the lead and led some laps on strategy. Then the rain came and we ran out of fuel on pit road. Got back onto the lead lap after going a lap down (running out of fuel) and at the end it was so hard to see with the rain.”
Salvaging a Top 10 finish kept Dixon in the Championship hunt heading into the double-points paying Indianapolis 500.
“Glad we ended up with a tenth,” said Dixon. “Decent points. We’re only 37-points out of the lead. We could be leading this thing coming out of the 500.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou leads INDYCAR Championship heading into month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is leading the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship points as the series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May activities including the GMR Grand Prix on May 14 and the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Palou took the Championship points lead after a second place finish at this past Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and a third place finish at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 10.
Palou started third at Barber and lost to a spot at the drop of the green flag and spent much of the first stint keeping pace with leaders Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward and McLaughlin.
“I did a couple of mistakes, lost a position on the start with the No. 3 position in the restart with 27,” said Palou. “That just cost me a lot of track time, a lot of track position let’s say.”
Palou ran in the Top 5 all day and was able to get around McLaughlin with the help of his No. 10 American Legion Honda pit crew, who leap frogged McLaughlin, on the final round of pit stops when Palou was able to stay out a lap longer than his other competitors.
“We made a risky strategy of staying out a lot more than others, saving fuel,” said Palou, who won last year’s race at Barber in his debut with CGR.
Palou was trailing VeeKay and O’Ward following the last round of pit stops and set his sights on second place, which was now occupied by VeeKay who passed on the outside by O’Ward in Turn 5. Palou knew he had to go.
“I went two laps longer so I knew I could push more,” explained Palou. “I didn’t really had to save that much fuel as him. I said, Okay, we’ll have a chance, have plenty of overtake to use. I felt really comfortable with the car. Started pushing.”
Palou passed VeeKay on Lap 63 and started running down O’Ward in the closing laps.
“I pushed till the end,” said Palou. “Caught him on some laps, lost a little bit of time on some others. He was really good. It’s maybe a track where even if you’re a little bit faster, you cannot really pass. It’s so hard. As soon as I would get, I don’t know, a second close to him, I would just lose my front and drop 3/10ths max. I was trying to push him and try and make him to do a mistake or try to make him to push too much, have to save fuel. But, no, he did a good job.”
Palou, the defending Series Champion, now sets his sights on The GMR Grand Prix and ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.
“I cannot wait,” said Palou. “It’s such a special place. It’s good that we got a good race now, I don’t know, to get a bit more relaxed going into Indy road course where we had strong results there and we were competitive. Cannot wait for the 106th Indianapolis 500.”