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.
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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— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
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.