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Racing Notebook: Practice Starts For Indy 500; Kevin Harvick on Daytona Pole and more

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James Black

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Pittsburgh Racing Now Notebook has your starting lineup for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona plus practice starts for the Indy 500, a NASCAR team gets a penalty rescinded, sponsor news for Bubba Wallace, Ryan Newman and Hendrick Motorsports.  SRX Racing makes another driver announcement.

Harvick Draws Daytona Pole Position:

  • NASCAR Cup Series Championship points leader Kevin Harvick has drawn the pole position for Sunday’s first-ever Cup Series race on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.  Harvick was awarded the pole position using NASCAR’s new “performance matrix”, which takes into account finishing position from the previous race (weighted 50%), ranking in team owner points (35%) and the fastest lap from the previous race (15%). Daytona Starting Lineup

Indy 500 Practice Begins:

Corvette Stingray To Pace Indy 500:

  • The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray will lead the field of 33 to the green flag as the Official Pace Car for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.  The Torch Red Stingray coupe will be driven by General Motors President Mark Reuss, who crashed a Corvette as he was pacing the field at the Detroit Grand Prix in 2018.

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Alex Labbe and DGM Racing Penalty Overturned:

  • The National Motorsports Appeals Panel overturned a penalty against NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Alex Labbe and the DGM Racing Team. Gosselin was fined $50,000 and docked 75 owner points and Labbe was docked 75 driver points by NASCAR for a “violation of testing policy” after they ran an SCCA GT-1 race a few weekends ago Daytona International Speedway. It was noted in the statement from the panel that, “the Appellants did not violate the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice as it was written.”

Bubba Wallace Teams Up With Columbia Sportswear:

  • Columbia Sportswear has signed NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace as a brand ambassador.  In the multi-year deal Columbia will also serve as the primary sponsor on Wallace’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports on August 23 at Dover International Raceway. The partnership is the first NASCAR driver and team sponsorship for Columbia.

Hendrick Motorsports Gets Sponsorship From Acronis:

  • Data security provider Acronis is teaming up with Hendrick Motorsports in a sponsorship and technology partnership.  Acronis will be the Official Protection Partner for Hendrick and will also be the primary sponsor of Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet for three races. Acronis will be prominently featured on the No. 88 later this month at Dover International Speedway and the playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Guaranteed Rate Expands Partnership of RFR:

  • Guaranteed Rate, a retail mortgage lender, has signed a 12-race sponsorship agreement with Roush Fenway Racing for Ryan Newman’s Ford Mustang. Guaranteed Rate first appeared on the No. 6 Ford two weeks ago in New Hampshire and will return to Newman’s car for 11 of the season’s final 14 races.

Superstar Racing Experience Adds Another Driver:

  • Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham’s Superstar Racing Experience is adding another driver to their series.  SRX made the announcement today via their Twitter page:

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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Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Rescheduled

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled from its traditional March date to April 23-25, 2021.

The move to a later spring date is being made in the hopes that a greater number of fans will be able to attend the event, which takes place on the streets of St. Petersburg and the Albert Whitted Airport.

“I want to thank our friends at INDYCAR and our partners at Green Savoree for putting the health and safety of fans first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.  “Each of these races takes an incredible amount of work from hundreds of dedicated professionals, and I know the decision to move the date of the race is not made lightly.  I appreciate the drivers, teams, staff and most of all the fans for their patience and understanding.  I look forward to welcoming everyone to the next Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The COVID-19 Pandemic forced the 2020 event to be moved from the season opening race to the season finale, where Josef Newgarden picked up the win and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon was crowned the series Champion for the 6th time.

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“It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” said Penske Entertainment Corp President and CEO Mark Miles.  “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC Network televison.”

The April 23-25 date on the INDYCAR Schedule announced last fall was originally supposed to be the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach but that event has been moved to the season finale, which opened the date for St. Pete.

“We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, Chairman and CEO fo Green-Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast of the race on NBC.”

The shifting of race dates moves Barber Motorsports Park to the season opener on April 11th.  The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg follows April 25th with Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader May 1st and 2nd.

An updated listing of green flag times will be announced at a later date.

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Aldo Andretti Passes Away

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Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Aldo Andretti has passed away at the age of 80.  Andretti was the twin brother of Mario Andretti and a racer himself who survived two bad crashes, the second of which in 1969 book his jaw, 14-bones and his right eye socket.

“Though Aldo’s life took a different direction than brother Mario’s, Aldo forever shared a passion for racing and was a true motor enthusiast and entrepreneur,” Andretti Autosport said in a release. “He could often still be found on the racing circuit supporting and following the careers of the family.”

Mario Andretti took to his twitter page to express his grief:

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One of those careers Aldo passionately followed was that of his son John (pictured with above) who raced in INDYCAR, NASCAR, Sports Cars and Drag Racing.  John passed away in January after a long battle with colon cancer.

“Nothing mattered more to Aldo than family, and it brought him great pride to share his life with wife and high-school sweetheart Corky and their five children Carolyn, Mark, John, Mary Jo and Adam.” the Andretti Autosport release stated.

Aldo’s nephew, 2020 Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Marco Andretti, also shared his feelings on social media.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon on Jan. 5 at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg. The family will receive friends from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4, at Stevens Mortuary in Indianapolis.

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