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Racing Notebook – Wednesday, March 18: Long Beach GP Cancelled and more

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Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Series

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Long Beach Grand Prix and season opener at Mid-Ohio fall victim to the coronavirus; Race teams reach out to kids at home and more in Wednesday’s Racing Notebook.

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Cancelled:

  • The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach has cancelled the 46th annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach after trying to move the date to later this year.  The Grand Prix Association also announced a ticket credit/refund policy for 2020 Acura Grand Prix ticket holders.  The first option allows ticket holders to receive a credit for tickets purchased which will apply to the same level of admission to the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach event. The credit will come with a Price Protection Plan which will not only protect them against any price increase for the 2021 Acura Grand Prix but also guarantee they can purchase the same level of ticket for the 2022 event at the 2020 price.  The second option gives ticket holders a full refund (less the processing fee) by April 30, 2020.  The 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place April 16-18.

Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Postponed:

  • The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the postponement of The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course season opening Acura Sports Car Challenge.  The event was scheduled to take place May 1-3 but fans should hold onto their tickets because the track and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) are looking at alternative dates later in the year.  Read the complete statement from the track below.

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24-Hours of Le Mans Postponed:

  • One of the most historic endurance races is being postponed due to COVID-19.  The 24-Hours of Le Mans is being postponed from its usual mid-June date until the weekend of September 19-20.  Le Mans is typically the last race in the WEC Season so its effect on the start of the 2020-2021 season is being determined.

Race Teams Come Up With Colorful Idea To Reach Kids:

  • A couple of race teams came up with a colorful idea to reach kids stuck at home because of the coronavirus.  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing tweeted out a link to black & white pictures of Graham Rahal’s No. 15 United Rentals INDYCAR and Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda for kids to color and then show the team their designs.  NASCAR teams got in on the act too with Hooters tweeting out a picture of Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Camaro and Front Row Motorsports also did the same thing with their NASCAR fleet.

IndyCar

Josef Newgarden Wins 2nd Straight Indianapolis 500

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Penske Entertainment: Karl Zemlin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Josef Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward on the outside of Turn 3 on the last lap and held on to win the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, his second straight victory in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

Newgarden’s win was the first time in 22-years that a driver has won back-to-back Indy 500’s. Helio Castroneves was the last driver to do it in 2001 and 2002, driving for Team Penske. The victory was a record 20th win for the Penske group.

“I’m just so proud of the team, they crushed it,” said Newgarden.  “They came here with the fastest cars.  Worked our tails off.  Team Chevy brought it.  They can say whatever they want now,” alluding to the criticism and penalties Team Penske received for violating NTT INDYCAR SERIES rules at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I don’t think it works unless you’re racing someone like Pato,” said Newgarden of the pass in Turn 3 which turned out to be the winning move.  “He (O’Ward) raced me clean.  He’s a Champion and one of the best drivers in the field.  He’s just as deserving a winner.  I’ve left here 11-times prior to winning, so I know what he’s feeling.”

O’Ward finished second for the second time in his career after crashing out going for the win late in the race in 2023.

“It was such a stressful race,” said O’Ward, whose in-car camera showed him saving the car from hitting the was on a couple of occasions.  “We were up and down, up and down and the car definitely wasn’t the easiest to drive.  Very proud of what Arrow McLaren did for, not just me, but for everybody within the team,”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda after starting from the 21st position.  Dixon & his ‘Wolfpack’ crew took advantage of a caution in the second-half of the race when Marco Andretti spun going into Turn 1.  The CGR team elected to pit, putting Dixon on a different strategy than the leaders.

The strategy allowed Dixon to gain track position as well as a 4-lap advantage on O’Ward, who was on the same strategy and a 9-lap advantage on Alexander Rossi.  The strategy didn’t pay off after Will Power brought out a caution on Lap 147 that put everyone on a one-stop strategy to the end.

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“It was like a win honestly,” Dixon said after the race.  “When I made that restart from the first position, and before the start-finish there was two of them that passed me already, I knew it was going to be pretty tough.  Big thanks to everybody on the PNC Bank No. 9.”

Dixon said once those cars of O’Ward and Rossi passed him for the lead, he did all he could just to finish third.  “We were pretty much flat their man in their tow and their wake.  We could run 218’s out front and they could run 220’s and once they started cycling they were running 222’s and we were just trying to hang on.”

Rossi held on for fourth place followed by Dixon’s CGR teammate Alex Palou in the No. 10 DHL Honda.

Pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin finished sixth followed by Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood in seventh and AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in eighth.  Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports Conor Daly rounded out the Top 10.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson finished 18th in the No. 17 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet after a late race penalty for speeding on pit road.  Larson ran a large portion of the race up-front and in contention for a strong finish in his first INDYCAR race and first Indy 500.

Newgarden led 26-laps en route to the victory.  There were 48-lead changes among 16-drivers. The average speed of the race was 167.763 mph despite 8-caution periods.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” said Larson, who elected to run the race despite a four-hour rain delay.

Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Sunday June 2nd at Noon ET on USA.

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Indianapolis 500 Preview

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) The Indianapolis 500 is never short on storylines and that is the case again for the 108th running but Mother Nature will certainly be one of them as a line of storms is anticipated to roll through central Indiana midday.

One of the biggest storylines is Helio Castroneves’ ‘Drive for Five’.  The 4-time Indy 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021) is going for a record fifth win, which would move him out of a tie with 4-time winners AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) and the late Al Unser Sr (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987).  It should be noted that Castroneves posted the second-fastest lap during ‘Carb Day’ final practice at 226.939 mph.

“We’re pretty darn close,” said Castroneves after Friday’s practice. “The Cliffs machine and Sirius XM car looks really, really strong. But at the end of the day, we just got to make sure that we read the race and go to that number five.”

Castroneves is joined by seven other drivers who have drank the milk in victory lane including two-time winner Takuma Sato (2017 & 2020), 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon (2008), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Will Power (2018), Marcus Ericsson (2022) and Josef Newgarden (2023).

Six rookies are in the starting lineup including 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, who will attempt to do the ‘Double’, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.  John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are the other drivers who have attempted the double.  Only Stewart finished all 1100 laps.

Joining Larson in the rookie lineup are Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing, Christian Rasmussen of Ed Carpenter Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Marcus Armstrong, driver of the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda; Kyffin Simpson, driver of the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda and Linus Lundqvist, driver of the No. 8 American Legion Honda.

10 rookies have won in the 107-year history of the race, only three since 1967: Arie Luyendyk (1990), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Rossi (2016).

Ray Haroun won the inaugural race in 1911 and Newgarden is the defending race winner.

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There have been four different winner in the first four NTT INDYCAR SERIES Races.  Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg), Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park) and Palou (IMS Road Course).

McLaughlin start on the pole position after posting the fastest four-lap average for a pole-sitter, 234.220 mph.  Twenty-one drivers have won the race from the pole, the most recent was Simon Pagenaud in 2019.

Team Penske has the most 500 wins – 19, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global with five.  AJ Foyt Enterprises and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have won twice and Meyer Shank Racing has one win.

Palou can join Will Power and Pagenaud as the only drivers to ‘sweep’ the month of May by winning on the 2.5-mile oval and IMS road course.

Sunday Schedule

  • 10:30 a.m. – Cars to the Grid
  • 11:47 a.m. – Driver Introductions
  • 12:14 p.m. – Indy 500 Pre-race Ceremonies
  • 12:28 p.m. – “Drivers To Your Cars”
  • 12:38 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
  • 12:45 p.m. – 108th Indianapolis 500 (200 laps/500 miles) NBC & INDYCAR Radio Network

Editor’s Note (11:45 a.m.): A Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Speedway, IN forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to suspend pre-race ceremonies.

2:30 p.m. Update: Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have reopened the gates and are allowing fans back into the facility. Track drying is expected to begin shortly and is expected to take about 2-hours.  The Speedway has also made the decision to lift the television blackout locally for race fans who were unable to stay at the track.  Kyle Larson is going to stay and race in the Indy 500.

3:30 p.m. Update: NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials are estimating a 4:44 p.m. ET Green Flag.

3:34 p.m. Update: Hendrick Motorsports makes it official that Kyle Larson will start the race. 

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Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Learning From Series Champions

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Chip Ganassi Racing is fielding three cars in Sunday’s 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 for rookies, Marcus Armstrong in the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda, Linus Lundqvist in the No. 8 American Legion Be The One Honda and Kyffin Simpson in the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda.

The Speedway can be a cruel place to the inexperienced but the trio have adapted well up to this point with Armstrong starting 16th, Simpson qualifying 18th and Lundqvist rolling off from the 27th starting spot, but nerves are always part of the equation at Indy.

“They’re doing great,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “Typical rookies, they all feel this and feel that.  I think they’re all feeling the same thing, a little nervous.  It’s difficult being a rookie here these days and its even more difficult when you’ve got guys like Palou and Dixon as your teammates.

Ganassi was referring to 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda and two-time and reigning series Champion Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 DHL Honda.

“Scott and Alex have taken on a mentorship role when they have time and worked with the rookies,” explained Ganassi.  “I really, really appreciate what they’re doing.  It’s a balancing act between your own wants and needs and the needs of the team.  Everybody is doing a great job with that.  I’m very happy.  We seem to have the veteran gunslingers and we have the up-and-comers.”

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The rookies also benefit from an experienced and deep team of Managers, Engineers and Mechanics at CGR, who have won 15-series Championships since 1996.

Ganassi was a rookie driver at the speedway in 1982 and had someone to lean on as well for his first time in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“Mario Andretti,” recalled Ganassi, who was the highest qualifying rookie in ’82 where he started 12th.  “He (Andretti) drove the car I drove the year before (1981).  You know the car that won but didn’t win.”

Ganassi was referring to the race where Bobby Unser finished first and Andretti second but USAC officials ruled that Unser had passed cars illegally while exiting the pit area during a caution period.  Unser was subsequently issued a one-position penalty. When the official race results were posted Unser was dropped to second place. Andretti was elevated to first place and declared the race winner.  Unser appealed and had the win restored.

The 108th Indianapolis 500 begins at Noon and can be seen on NBC and heard on the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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