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.
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.”