SPEEDWAY, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon picked up his 48th career win by taking the checkered flag in Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s so good to be back here racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Dixon, a 5-time Series Champion. “We’ve had so many runner-up finishes on the road course it was just nice to win one.”
Dixon, who finished second in the event the past three years, beat Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal by 20-seconds to pick up back-to-back wins to start a season for the first time in his illustrious career.
“It’s amazing to be able to pick up the first two wins of the season,” said Dixon. “But it doesn’t guarantee anything. We’ll just keep our heads down, we’ll keep trying to stay up front and get some points. It’s a great way to start but it doesn’t cement anything.”
Dixon is now 4-wins behind the legendary Mario Andretti (52 wins) for second place on the all-time INDYCAR wins list. A.J. Foyt is the all-time wins leader with 67.
“It’s amazing to be in the same conversation as these people,” said Dixon. “I remember looking back and watching races of Mario when I first came to America in 1997 and watching races of A.J. Foyt. They’re legends of the sport. I just feel lucky to be doing what I’m doing. It’s not just me. It’s the team behind us, it’s the partners like PNC Bank, it’s Chip, it’s Honda, it’s hundreds of people that make it possible so I just feel very special to be a part of it.”
Rahal’s 2nd place finish in the Fifth Third Bank Honda tied his best finish at the Indy GP which happened back in 2015.
“The Fifth Third Bank car was great today,” said Rahal. “I thought our guys did a tremendous job. Dixie had tremendous pace in the mid part of the race. I was on black (Firestone Primary) tires struggling a little bit. For our team after Dallas this feels really good.”
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud finished third after starting deep in the field in the 20th position.
“Yesterday was not the day we wanted in qualifying,” said Pagenaud, who won last year’s GMR Grand Prix. “We unloaded well and went in the wrong direction. It was a negative for a positive because I think it sets us up this season really early on knowing what we need for the car. We weren’t totally happy when we started the race and we adjusted the car and it got better and better.”
Pagenaud’s Team Penske teammate Will Power started on the pole position and led the first 18-laps when the team decided to scrap plans for a 2-pit stop strategy after other teams decided that abandon that same strategy for 3-stop efforts.
Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey, who started second, inherited the lead until his pit stop on lap 19.
Rahal, who started fourth and moved up to third place by turn one, took the lead at that point and stuck with a three-stop strategy and reeled off quick laps until his first stop on lap 26.
Power regained the lead after the remainder of the cars on the two-stop strategy pitted for service.
Midway through the race a number of drivers on the three-stop strategy hit pit road for their second stops. Shortly thereafter Arrow McLaren SP’s Oliver Askew lost control coming onto the front stretch and smacked the wall hard bringing out the first caution of the race on lap 36.
“Really unfortunate,” said Askew, the 2019 IndyLights Champion and a rookie in NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition. “Unacceptable to have a result like that to be honest. I just lost the rear of the car. It was towards the end of my stint so the rears (tires) were starting to go away and it just really caught me off guard.”
Power and everyone who had not made their second stop hit pit road during the caution period on lap 39.
Several drivers including Rahal, Citrone-Buhl with RLL’s Spencer Pigot and Dixon stayed out.
“We started on the black tires and that sent us on a pretty aggressive 3-stopper,” explained Dixon. “That’s when our window was to pit and then three or four laps later the yellow came out and we were the ones that cycled to the front. Definitely a little bit of luck there and it hung out the leaders for sure but we had the pace.”
Rahal led the field back to green on lap 40 with Pigot, Conor Daly and Dixon closely behind.
On lap 42, a frustrating start to the 2020 season for Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi continued as he suffered a mechanical issue forcing and end to his day. Rossi’s car failed to start at the beginning of the season opener at Texas where he eventually rallied to a 15th place finish.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Rossi. “We just lost power when we started trying to get going again. I think it potentially is a fuel pressure issue. We’ve had a couple of fuel pressure gremlins throughout the weekend. It’s a shame to have two of these weekends in-a-row.”
Dixon got around Daly on that same lap to move into third place with Colton Herta in tow. Dixon passed Pigot on lap 45, trailing Rahal by just under one second, so the battle of the banking sponsors was on.
Three laps later Dixon passed Rahal on the front stretch to take the lead. Dixon quickly built a five-second lead in just two laps, up to 8-seconds after nine laps and 9.3-seconds after ten laps.
Rahal hit pit road for his final service on lap 55 along with Pagenaud.
Dixon brought the No. 9 Honda to pit road a lap later, coming out in ninth place after service by his “Wolfpack” crew.
Pigot and Herta hit pit road for service a lap later and the pair came out in 13th and 14th respectively.
Josef Newgarden inherited the lead through that pit stop cycle and stayed out front until lap 62 when he came to pit road, giving the lead back to Dixon.
Dixon kept the hammer down, building a lead of over 15-seconds with ten laps to go in the race, 18-seconds with seven laps remaining, 18.7 seconds with five laps remaining, 19.5 with three laps to go and 20-seconds with one lap to go.
With Dixon checking out, the battle was on for second place between Rahal and Pagenaud with Rahal prevailing.
The most drama for Dixon and the entire PNC team were off-track excursions by Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti and Zach Veach, who both cruised through the grass with less than five-laps remaining, however both were able to get back on track without brining out a caution.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads to Road America next weekend for a doubleheader on the scenic, natural terrain road course.
Alex Palou Joining Chip Ganassi Racing For 2021 INDYCAR Season
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t waste any time filling the vacancy in the No. 10 Honda as 23-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou is joining the team for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
“To say I’m thrilled or excited to be making this step in my career would be an understatement,” said Palou. “Driving for Chip Ganassi is just a dream come true. I’ve followed the team for as long as I can remember, and it’s the kind of team and owner any driver would want to race for.”
Palou just completed his first season in INDYCAR where he scored his first-career podium at Road American en route to a 16th place result in the championship standings driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.
“I love to watch the growth of young drivers,” said Mike Hull, CGR’s Managing Director. “This year racing Indy cars has been very difficult for young drivers like Alex who hadn’t had the opportunity to visually see the tracks in advance, nor have days of practice in private team testing, or open testing or three-day weekends. Putting that into perspective, he did a heck of a job. We had an opening, and he became available, and Chip has a great eye for talent. Alex has that spark, that intangible thing you combine with talent that is a lot of fun. It’s a great exploration thing, actually. You’re exploring how far you can go, and he has one year of experience with a quality team, quality engineering and a quality teammate. He stood up to that test extremely well.”
Palou is excited to get started with the 13-time Championship team and their stable of drivers with 6-time INDYCAR Champion Scott Dixon, 7-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson and re-signed driver Marcus Ericsson.
“Scott has had another tremendous season, reaching 50 wins and a sixth title, so you absolutely couldn’t ask for anything more in a teammate,” said Palou. “I can’t wait to work with Marcus and Jimmie as well, and to start contributing to the team and getting to spend more time with everyone.”
Prior to joining INDYCAR, Palou won a Super Formula Championship race in 2019, competed at the All-Japan Formula 3 championship in 2017, recorded his first race in the Formula 3 Series in 2015, and made his debut in open-wheel racing competing in the Euroformula Open Championship in 2014.
Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond.
Marcus Ericsson And Chip Ganassi Racing Agree To Multi-Year Deal
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Marcus Ericsson will continue to drive Chip Ganassi’s No. 8 Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after agreeing to a multi-year deal.
Ericsson, 30, joined the team in 2020 after competing for Schmidt Petersen Motorsports for his inaugural INDYCAR season in 2019.
“I’m very happy to continue my relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda and HPD into 2021 and beyond,” said Ericsson. “I want to thank Chip and the whole CGR organization for their trust in me. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the best teams in motorsports and I’m proud to be part of the team. The season we’ve just finished has been full of potential and I feel confident that with what we’ve learned together this year will help us succeed in 2021. I’m looking forward to getting back in the No. 8 Honda!”
This past season Ericsson posted nine top-10 finished in 14-races with a season-best fourth-place finish as Road America. Ericsson finished 12th in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings.
“Marcus proved that he belongs here, and this season he contributed to the success of our team greatly,” said Mike Hull, CGR’s Managing Director. “That includes being unselfish to his teammates, especially with Scott Dixon who won the INDYCAR championship. He’s a great foundational piece of our overall program and he fits well within our group. That translates into success on the track, and we’re glad to have him continue to grow and move the team toward into the future.”
Ericsson may only have two years of INDYCAR experience but he has an extensive racing resume including 97-starts in Formula 1. The Kumla, Sweden native is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009). Ericsson also previously competed in British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2.
Partnership details will be announced in the off-season in preparation for the 2021 INDYCAR season and beyond. Huski Chocolate partnered with the team in 2020.
The Ericsson deal combined with the addition of Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Carvana Honda and the return of Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda leaves the No. 10 NTT Data Honda as the only remaining question mark for CGR heading into the 2021 season.
Scott Dixon Wins 6th INDYCAR Championship & Chip Ganassi Racing Wins Their 13th
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon wasn’t even born when INDYCAR legend A.J. Foyt won his sixth Championship in 1975, but Sunday Dixon joined Foyt as the only other 6-time INDYCAR Champion.
Dixon finished third in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, winning the title by 16-points over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
“Well, six is good,” said Dixon. “Seven is better. That’s going to be the goal.”
Dixon started the race in 11th position and had to finish eighth or ninth depending on where Newgarden finished. Newgarden didn’t make it easy, winning the race for the second year in-a-row.
“Credit to Josef (Newgarden) and Team Penske,” said Dixon. “He drove a hell of a race there and put us under a lot of pressure. They drove the last part of the season flawlessly and gained a lot of points.”
The No. 9 team started the 2020 season with three-straight wins and built up a lead of 117-points but saw it dwindle to 32-points following races at Mid-Ohio in September and the Harvest Grand Prix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month.
Dixon and his “Wolfpack” crew however managed to lead the Championship throughout the entire season.
“It’s all the team,” credited Dixon. “I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Obviously, Chip (Ganassi), Mike (Hull) and Barry (Wanser) and everybody involved.”
A big part of Dixon’s team is wife Emma, daughters Poppy and Tilly and son Kit.
“Big thanks to my wife Emma and my family,” said Dixon. “I’m glad my girls are here, unfortunately (toddler son) Kit isn’t here.
It’s a big shame that he couldn’t be here. I can’t thank them enough. We’ll have to win another one so he can be in the pictures.”
The Championship is the 13th for Chip Ganassi and his team, which is celebrating their 30th Anniversary in 2020.
“It’s never just one thing or one person. For me, it’s about the team effort. We had a lot of changes in the offseason but huge thanks again to everyone on the team.”
The Championship is also Dixon’s second in three-years for Pittsburgh-headquartered PNC Bank.
“PNC Bank, two out of three years (as champion) – that’s pretty good going,” said Dixon. “I can’t thank all of our partners enough: PNC Bank, Honda, NTT Data, Huski Chocolate.”
Honda took home the Manufacturers Championship for the third year in-a-row.
“I’m proud to be powered by Honda and what they’ve been able to pull out this year given the deficit we’ve had going into Indy previous years,” said Dixon. “They nailed it. Big thanks to everybody.”
“Human beings are the thing that make the world go around and Scott is a very special human being,” said Ted Klaus, President of Honda Performance Development (HPD). “We call them the ‘driver’ for a reason, because they drive the whole team. Scott drives everything about, not just Chip Ganassi Racing, but HPD and he drives us. And we need those kinds of strong drivers to get the achievements that we seek. I don’t think he’s done. I think he’s still hungry and I think it humbles all of us. Good for Scott!”