PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking forward to mixing it up with this Saturday’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series field at virtual Michigan International Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. is one of five drivers who are participating in the series for the first time. Joining Earnhardt Jr and the rest of the INDYCAR field for the event are Marco Andretti (Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian), Max Chilton (Carlin Racing), James Davison (INDYCAR Provisional) and 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport).
“I had such a great time when I went to the Indy 500 last year, and I have so much respect for the guys that are in the field and the guys that we’ll be practicing with and racing with this weekend,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I’ve got a few friends in the series but certainly want to know the other guys and get to know the rest of them really well, so this is such a great opportunity for me to do that. I think the fans are really going to appreciate getting the opportunity to see them on the racetrack, on the virtual racetrack throughout this break, to get to know them even more. I love it.”.
Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin won Round 2 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, April 4, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park. He edged Team Penske teammate Will Power by .4241 of a second.
“I’m really excited to be running the No. 2 Snap-on Tools car in this weekend’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge race in Michigan and am proud to be representing this iconic brand on the racetrack,” said McLaughlin. “And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to get my first crack at an oval in an Indy car – and to get to race against Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. at the same time”.
Sage Karam of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds.
“Looking forward to Week 3 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge,” said Rosenqvist. “I haven’t practiced that much yet, but I’ve had a look at the track. I think it’s always going to be very different when a lot of people run, especially because it’s an oval this time. Ovals probably require more respect from the drivers to not have any crashes.”
Crashes are exactly what Rosenqvist’s teammate Marcus Ericsson, driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, told The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast he wants to avoid.
“I’ve been taken out in Lap 1 in the first two races without anything I could do differently, so that has been a bit frustrating,” said Ericsson. “It’s very exciting to go on an oval for the first time in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I’m hoping the fans will love it and that we’ll have a great show. I’m also hoping to bring the Chip Ganassi Huski Chocolate No. 8 car up to the front!”.
The pre-race activities will be highlighted by NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Beth Griffith-Manley singing the national anthem and NBC Sports host Mike Tirico giving the command to start engines.
The race will start at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Josef Newgarden Leads Day 2 Of Indy 500 Testing
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Sunny skies and better weather conditions contributed to higher speeds in Day 2 of open testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for next month’s 105th running of The Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped the speed chart with a fast lap of 226.819 mph in the No. 2 Chevrolet. That easily eclipsed the 224.427 top speed from the rain-hampered first day on Thursday that was set by Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
“It was a pretty good day,” said Newgarden. “I was happy enough with the car. I think we still need some work, for sure, but to just get an initial read on where we’re at is good. Obviously, there are a lot of new parts and differences to the last couple of years, so we’re just trying to assess what we need to really work on these last couple of weeks before we get back here in May. But I’m pretty happy.”
Two-time and reigning Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato was second on the speed chart at 226.369 in the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
Two-time 500 winner and 1999 CART Champion Juan Pablo Montoya was third quickest at 226.123 in the No. 86 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
“Today was good,” said Montoya. “We worked through a lot of things. We found a lot of good things and a lot of bad things like you always do. It was nice to get back a little bit in the draft. A lot to catch up again and learn and understand again what you need to do and the timing. Everybody at Arrow McLaren SP has done a great job and this test has been very, very, useful.”
6-time and defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was fourth fastest in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with a fast lap of 225.906.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 225.644 in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 at IMS.
The green flag drops on the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES with the season opening, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network will provide live coverage starting at 3 p.m. (ET).
Sebastien Bourdais Quickest In Day 1 Of Indy 500 Testing
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was the fastest of 32-drivers who took part in the first of two days of testing for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Bourdais turned a fast lap of 224.427 mph late in the day during the Veteran Refresher and Rookie Orientation Programs. Bourdais was required to complete the refresher because he did not compete in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’ in 2020.
“Pretty good refresher for the A.J. Foyt No. 14,” said Bourdais, a four-time open wheel Champion. “That ROKiT car was pretty good. It always feels a little different when you start at low speeds and the car’s never really settled, but we got through both phases and are ready to go tomorrow and start working properly. It’s all good.”
Conor Daly was the second-fastest driver overall and the fastest in the 90-minute morning session before heavy rain arrived in Indianapolis. Daly’s top lap was 222.714 in the No. 47 U.S. Air Force Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
Sage Karam was third overall at 222.408 in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.
6-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon was third fastest in the morning session in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon’s fast lap was 220.575 mph.
2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay suffered a broken finger in a crash in Turn 1 just 11 minutes into track activity in his No. 21 Sonax/Autogeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
Rain halted the opening veterans-only session at 12:30 p.m. (ET). A second heavy shower around 3:15 p.m. delayed track activity until the track reopened at 6:03 p.m. under blue skies and sunshine.
Track activity will take place from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) Friday, with live broadcast coverage on Peacock. Rookie Orientation and refresher tests will take place from 9-10 a.m., with veterans back on track from 10-11 a.m. The track will open for all drivers from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 30.
Indy 500 Testing Thursday And Friday At The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Thirty-two drivers are scheduled to participate in two days of NTT INDYCAR SERIES testing Thursday and Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Testing will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Thursday with veterans hitting the 2.5-mile famed oval first from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. followed by rookie orientation and veteran refresher programs are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Two rookies are scheduled for orientation: Cody Ware (Dale Coyne Racing) and Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR).
Even Indianapolis 500 winners are not exempt from the veteran refresher program. Three-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya are two of the veterans schedule to participate along with Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Max Chilton, Ed Jones, Sage Karam and Simona De Silvestro.
6-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Scott Dixon leads the Chip Ganassi Racing squad at the test. Dixon returns for his quest to tie the legendary A.J. Foyt for a series record seventh Championship in 2021. Dixon will be behind the wheel of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Dixon’s teammates will also be participating in the test. Newcomer Alex Palou will be in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Marcus Ericsson returns in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda and Tony Kanaan is back with CGR in the cockpit of the No. 48 Honda that Jimmie Johnson will drive on the road and street courses.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal will be behind the wheel of the No. 15 Honda. Rahal will be joined by defending and two-time 500 winner Takuma Sato and Santino Ferrucci will be in a third RLL entry.
The test is closed to the public but will be streamed live to race fans exclusively via NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock.