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.
INDYCAR and NBC sign multi-year extension
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NBC Network announced on Tuesday a multi-year extension to the media rights of the open wheel series.
NBC Sports will continue to be the exclusive home of the Indianapolis 500 and will provide coverage of all NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its linear, digital and streaming platforms, including Peacock. Terms of the deal were not announced.
“NBC Sports is proud to extend its partnership with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and continue to serve as the exclusive home of the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports.
“NBC Sports has been the ideal partner for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, bringing our bold and audacious style of racing to a significantly larger domestic audience and fully leveraging the power and scale of the Indianapolis 500,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “This new deal represents a significant expansion of our network TV exposure and sets us up for continued growth and success alongside a committed, innovative and world-class broadcast partner.”
INDYCAR and NBC are enjoying strong ratings for the 2021. Ratings are up 30% this year.
As part of the agreement, 13 races will be broadcast on NBC. USA Network and Peacock Premium will show the remaining races. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.
Peacock will stream all races on NBC and USA Network and will continue as the streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and practices sessions, Indy Lights races and full-event replays. Peacock will stream two races exclusively, which will be announced at a later date.
Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship
NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott joined the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) for their season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds and took home the checkered flag beating Tony Stewart and his father Bill Elliott in the feature. The win was the first series victory for the younger Elliott.
Chase Elliott was on the inside with Stewart on the outside on a restart with 7-laps-to-go followed by Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte in Row 2.
Chase Elliott beat Stewart into turn one and two with Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte side-by-side for third.
Caution came out with 5-laps-to-go when Paul Tracy made contact with Marco Andretti, sending Andretti into a spin after picking up three spots following the restart.
Chase Elliott got the jump on Stewart on the restart and held on to pick up the win. Stewart finished second and took home the inaugural series Championship.
“Man it was so much fun,” said Chase Elliott. “I had a ball. I got to race against two of my heroes tonight and I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments that I’ll cherish forever. Thanks to Ray (Evernham, Series co-owner) and Tony (Stewart, Series co-owner) and I appreciate NAPA being on the car.”
NASCAR Hall-of-famer Bill Elliott, 65, finished third and picked up a win in the first heat race where he started side-by-side with his son Chase.
“I messed up in one not getting all the stuff (marbles) off my tires,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “Man I tell you it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff he was going to be tough to beat.”
“I don’t know what lit a fire under him tonight,” said Chase Elliott. “But he was as aggressive as I have seen him in years. It was amazing and a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be between he and I but he got a little high going into (turn) one.”
The win was also special for the Elliott Family as they were able to park the No. 94 in Victory Lane. Casey Elliott, the late son of legendary engine builder Ernie Elliott, raced the No. 94 in the ARCA and Busch (now Xfinity) Series before his life was cut short by cancer.
“Obviously a special number too,” said Chase Elliott. “My late Cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years and it’s always special to run that number and I’m glad we were able to get it in Victory Lane at Nashville.”
“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliott’s, that’s pretty bad-ass in itself,” said Stewart. “To win this Championship is awesome. I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us get this thing off the ground. To be the last guy to win an IROC Championship and the first one to win an SRX Championship means a lot.”
Josef Newgarden ends Penske INDYCAR win drought at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden picked up his, and Team Penske’s, first win of 2021 holding off Marcus Ericsson to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Newgarden started on the pole position and led 73-of-80-laps to pick up his first win since the 2020 season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“This team has been doing the job,” said Newgarden. “Everyone has been giving me a hard time, asking what’s up with us not winning a race. But I don’t think these people at Team Penske could have done anything different. We’ve been in the game almost every race, had great performance. It’s great to seal a win here finally.”
Newgarden spoiled a tremendous afternoon for Chip Ganassi Racing, the winningest INDYCAR team at Mid-Ohio.
CGR’s Ericsson finished second, 0.8790-seconds behind Newgarden. The second place finish was Ericsson’s seventh top-10 finish of 2021.
“We were hunting him down there,” said Ericsson. “He (Newgarden) was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly. Another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”
Ericsson’s CGR teammate Alex Palou and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth respectively to give Chip Ganassi three cars in the top 5.
“It’s always good to start P7 and you finish on the podium,” said Palou. “Yeah, I think today was a good result.”
“I think it was a great day, great day for the team, to have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4,” said Ericsson. “It’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment”
Palou remains the Championship points leader, 39 points ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP. Dixon is third, 56 points behind Palou. Newgarden remained fourth, 69 points back of the leader, and Ericsson jumped three positions to take fifth in the standings, 104 points behind Palou.