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Larson Wins Hodnett Classic and Speedweek Title at Port Royal

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Port Royal Speedway

PORT ROYAL, PA (July 4, 2020 – Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Larson put an exclamation point on the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek. Although he clinched the Speedweek title simply by timing in for the night, Larson did not rest on his laurels. He went out and won his heat race and then he captured the Greg Hodnett Classic. It was Larson’s first career victory at the ‘Speed Palace’, Port Royal Speedway. Larson earned in excess of $11,000 for the effort, including a bounty of more than a thousand dollars for halting Anthony Macri’s winning streak. Larson also picked up the $5,000 point title for his eight days of racing in the area.

Larson was excited to get his fourth win of Speedweek and he was pleased that it came at another track that he had yet to conquer. “This place has probably turned into my favorite track,” Larson said enthusiastically. He gave props to Steve O’Neil, the promoter, and the entire Juniata County Fair Board for the amazing improvements that have taken place over the years. “They put every dollar that they earn back into the facility and it shows.” Larson was also complimentary of the track conditions, noting that the track retained some moisture, which helped the performance of his car. “What an amazing race car Paul Silva gave me. I had a lot of grip.”

While Larson said that he was looking forward to taking on the All Stars for several rounds of the Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek, he coyly admitted that he may be returning to Port Royal for some more action. Coming up soon will be the Bob Weikert Memorial with each race paying $10,000 to the winner. The big payday of course will be the Tuscarora 50 in September.

Two-time and defending track champion Logan Wagner obtained the pole position in the re-draw for starting positions. Brent Marks was beside him. Rico Abreu and Larson were in the second row, with Macri and Mike Wagner in the third row. Ryan Smith, sporting a Hodnett tribute wing, was in row four along with Kyle Reinhardt. Freddie Rahmer, Jr. and Lance Dewease were next on the grid.

At the drop of the green, Wagner and Marks charged into the first turn, with Larson, Abreu and Smith in tow. With one lap in the books, Kyle Moody flipped his racer in turn one, collecting Justin Schultz. Neither driver was injured, but they were both out for the rest of the race.

Wagner and Marks repeated their performance on the restart. However, once things got rolling, Marks and Wagner began exchanging slide jobs for the lead. Soon Larson was part of the battle for the lead. He grabbed second when Marks missed a slider on Wagner and scrubbed off some speed.

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Larson stalked Wagner through lap nine. He pulled off a slider of his own to assume the lead in turn one. Marks soon followed suit to regain the second position. Now, he was chasing Larson, one of the hottest Sprint Car drivers in the country.

On lap 12, Marks caught Larson and pulled the trigger on a slider in turn three to take the lead away. Larson rallied though and returned the favor at the other end of the speedway. This time, Larson began to pull away from Marks.

Larson’s advantage was wiped out by a caution on lap 25 when Danny Dietrich was unable to get his faltering machine into the infield completely. Marks would get another shot at Larson three laps later when Macri was also unable to exit the speedway when his racer broke down. On neither occasion could Marks pull off a pass for the win.

Larson got away cleanly both times and led the remaining laps without any interference. Marks held on for second, followed by Abreu. Brock Zearfoss was fourth. Lance Dewease made up considerable ground in the last third of the race, coming home in fifth. Logan Wagner, Mike Wagner, Smith, Reinhardt, and A.J. Flick completed the top ten. Dylan Cisney picked up the hard charger award by climbing from the last row to eleventh at the finish.

Heat victories went to Larson, Abreu, Reinhardt, and Marks. The B Main went to Danny Dietrich, who entered the night with a theoretical chance to tie Larson for the Speedweek title. However, Dietrich had multiple problems over the course of the night ending his bid for a fifth Speedweek championship. The fastest qualifier on the night was Macri, who led Group A with a lap of 15.826. Logan Wagner topped the second flight with a time of 16.118.

Port Royal will return to action next Saturday, July 11, with 410 Sprints, Super Late Models, and Limited Late Models. The Super Late Models will context their Summer Championship, paying $3,000 to the winner. Then, on July 18 and 19, the All Stars will invade the speedway for the Bob Weikert Memorial. Support classes have yet to be determined for those races.

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Local Racing

Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released

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PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.

The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.

The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.

Race teams are needed to take part in the survey!  Here is link to the team survey: https://forms.gle/XWTehM4nsKGfzTC58

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Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts.  Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor: https://forms.gle/vEcZR5XJbQHKPBLLA

Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete.  Here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/EX32bbXubANUaUGr7

Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/fkhuwgg3EDvFTGuR7

The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.

Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

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Local Racing

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back

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SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.

Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.

“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”

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Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
  • Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
  • Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
  • Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
  • Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

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IndyCar

Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled

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Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

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One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge.  The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event.  Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.

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