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Racing Notebook – Monday, July 5: Weekend Racing Recap and more

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Monday’s Racing Notebook takes a look back at a historic weekend of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as this weekend’s local action from Lernerville, Jennerstown, PA and OH Sprint Car Speedweek  plus President Trump wants an apology from Bubba Wallace:

Harvick Wins 3rd Brickyard 400:

  • Kevin Harvick picked up his third Brickyard 400 victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday holding off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Matt Kenseth in overtime.  Denny Hamlin was also one of the strongest cars at IMS on Sunday until he blew a tire late in the race.  Check out our recap here.

Reutzel Wins At Fremont Speedway:

  • Aaron Reutzel was victorious on Sunday at Fremont Speedway in the Ollies Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions feature. Paul McMahan finished second and Lee Jacobs finished third.  It was the third straight podium finish for Reutzel in Ohio Sprint Speedweek competition.

Scott Dixon Wins GMR Grand Prix at IMS:

  • PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon started off the historic INDYCAR/NASCAR tripleheader at IMS on Saturday by capturing the checkered flag in the GMR Grand Prix.  Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal was second followed by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud.  Check out our recap here.

Chase Briscoe Wins Xfinity Series Race at IMS:

  • Indiana native Chase Briscoe was the winner of the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Justin Haley finished second followed by Noah Gragson.  The next race for the Xfinity Series is July 9, 2020 at Kansas Speedway

Kyle Larson Wins at Port Royal to capture PA Speedweek Title:

  • Kyle Larson captured the Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek Championship and did it in style by winning the 410 feature at Port Royal Speedway Saturday night.  Larson held off Brent Marks and Rico Abreu to capture his first win at “The Speed Palace” and his first PA Sprint Car Speedweek title.  Check out our recap here.
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Bubba Pollard Gets CARS win at Jennerstown; Heim 6th:

  • Bubba Pollard won the Inaugural Thomas Automotive American Freedom 300 at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex. It was Pollard’s second win in as many CARS Tour races after claiming the checkered flag at Hickory Motor Speedway in June.  Sammy Smith finished second followed by Jake Garcia.  Corey Heim, who has relatives in the area and was a guest on The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast finished 6th.

Buddy Kofoid Takes Night 2 Of Ohio Sprint Speedweek:

  • Buddy Kofoid started on the pole position and led wire-to-wire to capture the checkered flag in the second night Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek.  Kofoid was barely challenged except on three restart where he prevailed.  Aaron Reutzel finished second followed by Cole Duncan.

Friday Winners From Lernerville:

  • Erick Rudolph took home the checkered flag in the BRP Modified Tour main event at Lernerville Speedway coming from the rear of the field to hold off Rex King Sr. and Garrett Krummert.  Michael Bauer picked up his first career victory in the Peoples Natural Gas DIRTcar 410 Sprint feature.  Tyler Dietz beat Daryl Charlier and Corey McPherson to win the Millerstown Pic-A-Part RUSH/DIRTcar Pro Stocks main event and Greg Dobrosky won the Allegheny Sprint Tour 305 feature.

Cap Henry Wins Ohio Speedweek Opener:

  • Cap Henry opened up Ohio Sprint Speedweek by picking up his second career All Star Circuit of Champions feature win Friday night at Attica Raceway Park.  Buddy Kofoid finished second followed by Aaron Reutzel.

Trump Says Wallace Should Apologize:

  • President Donald Trump thinks NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace should apologize for the noose incident last month at Talladega, calling it a “hoax” in a tweet.  See both Trump’s and Wallace’s response below:

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Josef Newgarden tops first INDYCAR practice as Laguna Seca

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is starting INDYCAR Championship weekend off on the right pedal by leading the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session on Friday.

Newgarden’s No. 2 Hitachi Chevy turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 11.4103 seconds (112.824 mph) around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course circuit with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta second-quickest at 1:11:8266 (112.170) in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

“Yeah, just a tricky session,” noted Newgarden. “There was a lot of people going off, there was a lot of dirt on the track, so it was quite difficult to put it together. So not a very straightforward session. But I think very productive in a lot of ways. It’s not a lot of running, and you’re trying to make the most use of just a couple runs, and I felt like we did that, so I was happy about that.”

Championship-leader Will Power was 7th quickest, 1:11:9858 (111.922) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy.  Power leads Newgarden and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon by 20-points heading into Sunday’s season finale.

“Tough track, man,” said Power. “Very low grip. You get one lap on tires, and they’re gone. It’s hard to get a read because the car changes so much over a run.”

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Championship contender Marcus Ericsson was tenth fastest in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda at 1:12:0803 (111.775) and trails Power by ??-points in the title fight.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a high-deg (tire degradation) race, and it seems to be that way,” said Ericsson. “Usually our team and myself from my experience, we’re usually pretty good at that. Yeah, the tires seemed to degrade quite quickly here. It was the same in the test and the same today in practice.”

Last weekend’s winner Scott McLaughlin was next in line with a 1:12:0877 (111.764). McLaughlin has an outside shot at the title as he sits ??-points behind Power.

Dixon, the six-time series Champion, was 17th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda at 1:12:3911 (111.295) despite a team test at the track a few weeks ago.

“It’s going to be a pretty high-deg  race, man,” said Dixon, who can tie INDYCAR Legend A.J. Foyt for all-time Championships with a seventh.

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Determined drive by Scott Dixon in Portland earns podium and shot at 7th Championship

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is in the fight for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship after a third place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

Dixon entered the race in third-place in the Championship fight, 14-points behind Team Penske’s Will Power and 11-points behind Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden.  Dixon leaves Portland tied with Newgarden but Power finished ahead of both and now sits 20-points ahead going into the season finale on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“Yeah, you know, still in it,” said Dixon. “That’s all that we can hope for.”

Dixon started the race from the 16th position after failing to advance out of the first round of knockout-style qualifying on Saturday.  Qualifying has been a bit of an ‘Achilles heel’ for the No. 9 this season.

“We’ve got to work on qualifying and stop making it so difficult on us,” reflected Dixon, who gained more positions (+13) than anyone in the field from the start to finish of the race. “The car was fantastic in Q1 on the box. Didn’t expect too much of a change and thought we would have converted easy and didn’t even make it. We have to stop doing these most improved days, for sure. It’s not that much fun.”

Dixon opened the race on the less-grippy Firestone primary tires while the majority of those starting ahead of him started on the stickier Firestone alternate tires and quickly moved up a couple of spots before being one of the first to come to pit road for his first pit stop on Lap 13.

Dixon’s No. 9 ‘Wolfpack’ crew swapped out the primary tires for the alternate tires, topped the PNC Bank Honda off with fuel and sent the six-time series Champion back out into the fight where he put his foot down and continued to gain positions as various strategies started playing out.

Dixon’s second to last pit-stop saw his crew put on used alternate Firestones, setting him up for new alternate tires for his final pit stop.  Dixon was chasing Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi for fifth place when CGR Managing Director and Dixon’s strategist Mike Hull called him to pit road for the last time.

“We had to use a lot of overtake early on, so that definitely changed things up, I think, for the strategy towards the final five there,” said Dixon. “Had a tricky moment with the 10 car coming in front of us in the pit, which kind of screwed us a bit as well, and lost a position that we should have got on Rossi, which was frustrating.”

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Dixon’s frustration was short-lived as the caution came out on Lap 84 when Rinus VeeKay misjudged a pass on Dixon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson, pinching the No. 48 Carvana Honda into the wall ending Johnson’s day.

The 4-lap caution period set-up a restart with Scott McLaughlin leading Power, Pato O’Ward, Newgarden, Rossi and Dixon as the green flag dropped.  McLaughlin got a great start and Power settled in behind his teammate when O’Ward made an ambitious move trying to pass Power in Turn 1. It didn’t work.

“Yeah, he sent it straight into me,” Power explained. “I left as much room as I could. Inside, inside, and I kept going further, and, bam, he hit me over the curve. I didn’t expect it from Pato, though. He is usually a pretty good racer, pretty smart racer. He was probably needing to win the race to have a shot at the championship, so he probably just went a little bit too far.”

Turn 1 usually produces some memorable highlights at Portland and this restart was no different as right behind the Power/O’Ward tussle, Newgarden and Rossi got together opening the door for Dixon, who didn’t hesitate to take advantage.

“I think when I saw Josef break I was, like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure if he is going to make the corner,'” said Dixon. “He did all that he could to make the corner, but put him at a weird angle, and that, obviously, offset him and Rossi because Rossi had a great run on him out of 12 into turn one. Then, got a great exit.”

Dixon turned hard left, avoided that calamity, and carried the momentum through the turn and set his sights on O’Ward, who was still gaining speed after hitting Power and made a reactionary move to Dixon’s passing attempt, which is a violation of INDYCAR rules.

“I got a run on Pato, and he put a pretty big block on, and a lap later IndyCar called that, and I was able to get past, which thankfully I think the front three, we pulled a ten-second gap on the next pack where we pulled away really quickly,” said Dixon. “It was a great restart. Something that definitely helped us on the points side, and we’ll take what we can.”

Dixon set his sights on Power and was able to get within a second of the No. 12 Chevy but wasn’t able to challenge for the second spot on the podium.

“We did as much as we could today,” said Dixon.  “All in all, I think the team did a great job today. Yeah, we’ll see. See what comes next week. I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the INDYCAR Series.”

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Ganassi’s Alex Palou won’t repeat as INDYCAR Champion

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Chip Ganassi Racing

PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou’s hopes of repeating as NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion is over after Palou was mathematically eliminated after his 12th-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

Palou stated the race in the fourth position on Firestone alternate red sidewall tires and ran in the Top 5 through the first stint of the race.  Palou however radioed the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants crew during the second stint that something was wrong with the rear of the car.  Palou was on the less-grippy, black sidewall Firestone tires.

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“Starting fourth, we were running okay in the beginning and then lost a bit of pace,” said Palou. “We’ll check on what went on today and recover next week in Laguna. We still have one race to go, and we will try to win it.”

Palou’s sits 66-points behind championship leader Will Power going into the season finale next Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Palou’s teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson remain in the title fight with Dixon tied for second place, 20-points behind Power and Ericsson 39-points out of the top spot.

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