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Indy 500 Notebook: Three Andretti’s To Lead Field To Green; O’Ward, Dixon Fastest On Carb Day

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A trio of Andretti’s will lead the field to green at the start of the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 plus Pato O’Ward is the fastest in final practice with Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi right behind.  A longtime Chip Ganassi Racing mechanic is honored and fans can get involved in the 500 digitally in today’s Indy 500 Notebook:

Three Andretti’s To Lead The 500 Field To Green:

  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is about tradition and the Andretti family is a huge part of that tradition.  Mario Andretti, 2nd on the all-time INDYCAR wins list with 52, will be behind the wheel of “Honda’s Fastest Seat In Sports” on Sunday when he paces the field in the unique, two-seat INDYCAR.  Sitting behind the 1969 Indianapolis 500 Winner will be his son Michael Andretti, the man who has 42-career INDYCAR wins, five Indy 500 wins as a team owner and as a driver has led the most laps (431) in the race without a victory. The pair will have pole-sitter Marco Andretti following right behind so for the first time in 500 history three family members will lead the field to the green flag.

O’Ward Fastest On “Carb Day”:

  • Arrow McLaren SP rookie driver Pato O’Ward posted the fastest lap in the final practice before the Indy 500.  O’Ward’s quick time was 225.355 mph in the No. 5 Chevrolet.  Two former Indy 500 winners were right behind the rookie.  Second fastest on what is traditionally known as “Carb Day” was the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Scott Dixon, the 2008 500 winner, with a fast lap of 224.646 mph.  Alexander Rossi, the 2016 500 winner, was third quick at 224.599 mph in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda.  Other notables: 2017 500 winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was fourth quick at 224.580.  Sato’s teammates Graham Rahal turned a fast lap of 222.158 mph in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda and Spencer Pigot turned a 221.789 mph in the No. 45 RLL with Citrone Buhl Autosports Hy-Vee/EMBRACE Pittsburgh Honda. Final Practice Speeds

Blair Julian Wins “Clint Brawner Award”: 

  • Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the annual “Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award”, which is named after one of racing’s most successful chief mechanics who won 51 races in the National Championship race series from 1953 through 1969, including the 1969 Indianapolis 500 with Mario Andretti.  This year’s award went to Blair Julian, the long time crew chief on the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda driven by Scott Dixon.
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Digital Fun For Indy 500 Fans:

  • Indianapolis 500 race fans will have plenty of opportunities to show their love of open wheel racing with digital opportunities to be part of the fun from home.  Fans can take part in the “Virtual Fan Mosaic” where fans can have their picture displayed with an image of the Borg-Warner Trophy. The mosaic will be shown on NBC’s broadcast, the IMS big screens and various social media platforms. Submissions may be shared at IMS.com/500InSpirit or using the hashtag #500InSpirit on Twitter and Instagram.

  • NBC is collecting notes from drivers and fans to be included in its “Message in a Milk Bottle” time capsule, which will be opened next May prior to the 105th Running. The 33 drivers have written notes that have been secured in individual milk bottles that will be opened prior to the 2021 Indianapolis 500. The messages focus on the people drivers will race for Sunday and why the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is special to them.  Fan submissions will be put in a giant milk bottle and can be submitted using the hashtag #MessageInAMilkBottle on Twitter.

  • Advance Auto Parts is calling on fans to celebrate DieHard powering most of the “500” field in 1970 — 50 years ago — by submitting videos of themselves doing their best rendition of the iconic “Start Your Engines” command for use on social media and at IMS on Sunday. Enter at www.CallingAllDieHards.com. Entrants will be eligible for a random drawing for 50 winners to receive a $200 gift card good toward the purchase of a DieHard battery or any other items sold by Advance.
  • Indy 500 fans can create and share #Indy500 branded selfies using the new photo wall feature of the IMS Mobile App, available now on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store for Android.
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Three-time Indianapolis 500 Winner Bobby Unser Dies At 87

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Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

(Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser died Sunday, May 2 of natural causes at his home in New Mexico.  He was 87.

Unser won “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” in 1968, 1975 and 1981 and is one of just 10-drivers with 3-wins in the event.

“There simply was no one quite like Bobby Unser,” said Roger Penske, Chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Team Penske. “Bobby was a ferocious competitor on the track, and his larger-than-life personality made him one of the most beloved and unique racers we have ever seen. Bobby brought so much to Team Penske during his time with our team, including a memorable victory in the 1981 Indianapolis 500.”

Unser’s last ‘500’ win in ’81 put him in elite company as he joined Rick Mears as the only two drivers to post ‘500’ wins in three different decades. Unser produced 10 top-10 finishes in 19 career “500” starts and led 440-laps in 10 races, still 10th on the all-time list.

“When you mention icons in racing, and particularly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bobby Unser was a legend,” said J. Douglas Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “He could drive, and win, in any type of car and on any type of track. Over the last several years, I have seen the true Bobby Unser – the man who loved our sport, loved the Indianapolis 500 and loved to be with the fans. He would go out of his way to do whatever he could to be here in May to help us keep motorsports growing.”

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Prior to his success at Indianapolis, Unser dominated the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, claiming a record 13-victories.  Unser also won in USAC Sprint Car, Midget and Stock Car competition, earning seven career USAC Sprint Car feature victories and placing third in the standings in 1965 and 1966. He also won six USAC Stock Car races and three USAC Midget features.

Unser climbed out of the cockpit and into the broadcast booth where his uncompromising style and matter-of-fact delivery provided some of the most entertaining commentary in open wheel racing history simply because he knew what he was talking about.

Unser was highly regarded for his technical prowess and keen engineering mind.  Unser was also widely sought as a test driver because he would always push the car to the limit.

Unser is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri.

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Pato O’Ward gets first INDYCAR win in race 2 at Texas Motor Speedway

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Photo: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

FORT WORTH, TX (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Patricio O’Ward has been knocking on the door of winning in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and he finally knocked that door down by winning race two of the doubleheader on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

O’Ward passed Josef Newgarden with 24-laps remaining  and pulled away to a 1.2443-second victory.  The win was his first in the INDYCAR series and the first for a Chevrolet, that is not a Team Penske entry, since 2016.

“Finally!” exclaimed O’Ward in victory lane. ” I feel like we truly earned our win today. The pit stops were fantastic. The car was very well-balanced. I was able to attack. I didn’t feel like I was in defensive mode. I felt like if I was let loose, I could attack and I could get the job done.”

“It was a decent day for us,” said Newgarden. “Can’t be too disappointed with the second place. Obviously we were in the catbird seat there at the end. The only thing I was worried about, just seemed like we were lacking some speed for whatever reason. Pato’s Chevy seemed to be performing a little bit better than my Chevy.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal came home third after trading the lead with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in the midpoint of the race.

“Solid day,” said Rahal. “I think last two stints I got just way too loose. But before that, I thought we did an excellent job. The guys, one heck of a pit stop there on the second-to-last stop, which really got us into, what, from fifth to third. From there I thought we could attack pretty hard. Great work by them.”

Dixon, winner of the Genesys 300 on Saturday night, finished fourth after starting from the pole in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

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“Huge congrats to Pato,” said Dixon, who extended his lead in the Championship standings to 22-points over O’Ward. “I was watching from back a few spots there, and what he did there at the end was a tremendous drive, especially against one of the best guys in the field.”

Several cars failed to make it to the first turn of the race after Pietro Fittipaldi’s No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda hit the rear of Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet when the back of the pack approached the green flag, triggering a melee that involved seven cars and eliminated six.

“When someone checks up in front of you, you should still be in control of your car,” said Bourdais after leaving the infield care center following a mandatory checkup. “It’s still no excuse.”

Conor Daly took the wildest ride in the crash turning over after contact and sliding down the track on the roll hoop and Aeroscreen before turning right-side-up when it touched the infield grass. Daly climbed from the car without assistance.

“On our Bingo card of terrible things to have happened to us this year, I don’t know what’s going to be next,” lamented Daly. “I really hope we can just start turning things around. It’s been a rough start. But I’m good. I’m all right.”

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is off next weekend and the following week the Month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins with the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on Saturday, May 15.

INDYCAR Texas Race 2 Results

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Scott Dixon Dominates In Race 1 Win At Texas Motor Speedway

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Photo: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

FORT WORTH, TX (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – There is not much that Scott Dixon has not accomplished in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career except for winning back-to-back Championships. The 6-time and reigning series Champion is back atop the points standings after a dominating win Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon led a race-record 206-of-212-laps in the Genesys 300 to claim his first victory of 2021 and 51st of his career, which is one shy of 2nd place Mario Andretti on the all-time INDYCAR wins list.  A.J. Foyt is first with 67-wins.

“Fifth win at Texas, baby! That was awesome,” exclaimed Dixon in victory lane. “It feels amazing to be in this position. You just never want it to end. We want to go back-to-back and try to tie Mario tomorrow. I’m sure that’s not exactly what he wants to see.”

Dixon started second in the field as the starting lineup was set by Championship points after qualifying was cancelled because of rain that forced INDYCAR to adjust Saturday’s schedule.

The biggest challenge for Dixon was fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin, who was making his first oval start.  McLaughlin, a three-time Australian Supercars Champion, whittled away at Dixon’s lead in the closing laps as the No. 9 Grow Up Great Honda encountered lap traffic and turbulent air.

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“Definitely very tense there at the end,” said Dixon, who has won a race in 19-consecutive seasons. “I have this thing on the dash that tells me the gaps to cars. I probably need to take it off because it was stressing me out more than anything. It was kind of cool to be racing a countryman for the last few laps. I kept looking down, looking in the mirror. He was fast.”

“I’ve never been this bloody happy to finish second in my life,” said McLaughlin. “I’m really stoked. I just couldn’t get Scotty (Dixon) there at the end. But I’ll tell you what: It was bloody cool battling with my all-time favorite hero, Scotty Dixon. Two Kiwis, one and two.”

The race was slowed by two caution flags. The first was on lap 56 when Four-time INDYCAR Champion Sebastian Bourdais hit the SAFER Barrier hard in Turn 2 after he contact from two-time series Champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden was penalized and sent to the back the lead lap on the restart.

Andretti Autosports James Hinchcliffe made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 after spinning on Lap 160 in the No. 29 Genesys Honda.

Race 2 of the Texas doubleheader, the XPEL 375, is Sunday. The race distance is a little longer, 248-laps. Live coverage starts at 5 p.m. (ET) on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

INDYCAR Saturday Results

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