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PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon Fastest On Day 2 At Indy

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Chris Jones

SPEEDWAY, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon posted the fastest lap in the second day of practice for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 present by Gainbridge.

Dixon’s fast lap of 226.102 mph in the No. 9 Honda came late in the session with the aid of an aerodynamic tow.

“Today, we made some minor changes and tried to figure out some different balances,” said Dixon, who opened the season with three-straight victories.  “We’re also focusing on how the cars feels.  We also worked on finding traffic today to see how the car would respond.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato posted the second fastest lap, 225.693 mph, which came early in the days action.

I’m pretty happy,” said Sato.  “I think it was quite a productive day.  Obviously the scoreboard was nice, being in the first place and second place felt good.  It means nothing, but I think that’s a reflection of the cars getting quite a good adhesion.  You get in a big tow, you’re able to follow people with the new tire.  Obviously, that pure speed is far off from non-tow situation, but I’m pretty happy with that speed.”

Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti continued his strong start by posting the third fastest lap of the day at 225.249 mph.  Andretti was 2nd fastest overall on Wednesday (day 1).

“We tried some things outside the box that didn’t really work,” said Andretti. “The good thing for me at Indy in the past has been what you go back to what you think is good, and it still works.  So we went back to what we had, and the car feels good like it did yesterday.”

Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammates were a little over a half-second behind their teammate.  Felix Rosenqvist’s fast lap in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda was 222.645 mph and Marcus Ericsson was right behind him in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda at 222.630 mph.

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“We’re not where I want to be yet with the balance, and we’ve been going in circles a little bit,” said Rosenqvist, who picked up a win earlier in the season in the second race at Road America.  “It always feels bad when you’re running in traffic, but we really have to push it these next few days and put ourselves in the worst type of scenario to get really good in the race.  We’re sticking to our program and working hard.”

“I think it was another good day with a lot of laps done,” said Ericsson.  “We went through different setups again and tried some different downforce levels.  We’ve mainly been gathering information and focusing on the car.  I have a good feeling in the car.  It feels good in traffic, and that’s what you want.”

Sato’s teammates Graham Rahal was also a half-second behind his teammate in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda at 223.297 mph.  Spencer Pigot was a tick behind Rahal in the No. 45 Hy-Vee EMBRACE Pittsburgh Honda at 223.043 mph.

“We had a really good day for the No. 15 United Rentals team,” said Rahal.  “We did a couple of long runs, and the last one in particular felt really good.  We seemed to be competitive.  We tried a lot so we stopped a little bit early because we’ve got a lot of data to go through.”

“The day was okay,” said Pigot.  “I think we had a few things that we didn’t quite get a handle on today, but we definitely made some good changes throughout the day to the Hy-Vee/EMBRACE Pittsburgh car, so we will try to build on those for the next time we do race running.”

Teams get additional turbo boost on “Fast Friday” as they begin preparations for qualifying on Saturday and the “Fast 9 Shootout” on Sunday, which will decide the pole position and the first three rows (positions 1 thru 9) for “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”.

“It’s always exciting when the boost gets turned up,” said Pigot.  “It’s definitely a little different going a lot faster with less downforce.  We’re just trying to get the opposite of today where we were looking for traffic, running with cars to improve our race setup, and now we’re looking to be all by ourselves.  It’s a totally different mindset, but Fast Friday is always a fun day.”

“It’s going to be cool,” said Dixon.  “It’s a big jump (in power).  I expect to see some pretty big speeds, especially in tows. I’m excited for Fast Friday.”

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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