FORT WORTH, TX (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is back in Victory Lane after winning Saturday night’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-opening Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Dixon’s No. 9 Honda powered away from Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden and on a restart on lap 197 of the 200-lap event, which ended under caution as the five-time series Champion was coming to the checkered flag.
The victory was Dixon’s 47th career INDYCAR win, which is just five wins short of tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time victory list. A.J. Foyt is No. 1 with 67 victories. Dixon averaged 175.201 mph and led 157-laps for the victory.
“I can’t thank the team enough, everybody at PNC,” said Dixon in victory lane. “It was such a team effort. Honda, they were huge with the power out there. It was just so fast. Any situation we were in, we could just go for it. Huge thanks to everybody involved. Bummed that the fans aren’t here. We wish everybody was here to celebrate.”
Newgarden started on the pole position and Dixon started on the outside of the front row. Newgarden took the early lead after the drop of the green flag with Dixon tucking in behind the defending series Champion.
Dixon took the lead on lap 32 when he passed Newgarden on the backstretch. He quickly built a 2-second lead when Newgarden hit pit road for a fresh set of Firestone tires. Dixon led 157 of the next 168 laps. He took the lead for good on Lap 91.
The only hiccup on the day for Dixon and his “Wolfpack” crew was a lug nut that fell off a wheel during a pit stop. Dixon came out of the pits third but on the restart he passed teammate Felix Rosenqvist on the outside going into turn one and set his sights on Newgarden, who he passed a couple of laps later.
“We had a couple mistakes at the start and throughout the race, but we recovered,” said Dixon. “We had to make some big, bold moves around the outside into Turn 1, especially on Felix (Rosenqvist) and on Josef (Newgarden), which was definitely a nice repay and a nice way to get back to the lead.”
“We weren’t good enough throughout a tire stint to challenge Scott,” said Newgarden. “He was just so, so good all night.”
“It was just an intense night,” said Pagenaud. “We had balance changes – some stints we went really loose, one stint we had understeer.”
It looked liked Dixon’s chief competition would come from his teammate Rosenqvist who was running Dixon down in the closing laps of the race, but disaster struck on lap 190 for the 2019 INDYCAR rookie of the year.
Rosenqvist was running second when he came up on the car of James Hinchcliffe, who was two laps down. Rosenqvist went to the outside to begin the pass when Marco Andretti passed both cars heading into turn one. The loss of downforce from the turbulent air caused Hinchcliffe to get loose, forcing Rosenqvist up out of the racing groove and into the marbles where he lost grip, sending the No. 10 NTT Data Services Honda into the turn 2 wall.
“I went for the outside, and I probably shouldn’t have done it,” said Rosenqvist. “It’s one of those things where you sit there and you’re going like 40 mph slower than you want to go behind another car. It’s kind of tempting to just move up one lane, but it was just so slippery. I just feel really sorry for my guys. Our NTT DATA car was just unbelievable tonight.”
“I was just super loose, and I was trying to save the car, and he went on the outside,” said Hinchcliffe. “I tried to stay out of it. I feel bad for him. It’s a tough break when you’re running that well.”
Andretti Autosports Zach Veach finished fourth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda followed by Ed Carpenter who rounded out the top 5.
The race on the 1.5-mile oval was the season opener for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of racing for nearly three months. This event took place without fans as a health-and-safety precaution.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of an INDYCAR NASCAR doubleheader weekend. Those races will also be run without fans as a precaution.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.
Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.
“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”
“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”
Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag. The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!
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O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.
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The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.
Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase. Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.
Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021. Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.
Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.
Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.
Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.
Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title. Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.
“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”
The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field. O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.
“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”
Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.
“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right? I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”
“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”
Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!
Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.
Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey giving him back-to-back victories two decades after his father accomplished the same feat. Herta beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by 1.9747-seconds to pick up his second victory of 2021 and fifth of his career.
“Alex, really the whole race, was right there,” said Herta. “Then Grosjean at the end pressured Alex, therefore pressured me. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”
Palou continued his march towards his first series title with a second place after last week’s win at Portland, which gives Palou and the No. 10 NTT DATA team a 35-point lead ahead of second place Pato O’Ward.
“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace that Colton had,” explained Palou. “I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn’t go as fast as him without losing my tires.”
Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back.
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.
“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.
“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”
Herta’s victory clinched the Manufacturers Championship for the fourth consecutive season.