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Weekend Racing Recap: Lutz Wins At Jennerstown; PPMS Gets Rain And More!

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Jennerstown Speedway

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Tuesday’s Racing Recap looks back at a busy weekend of racing and gets you up to speed both locally and nationally.

Joy, Weaver, Speer Victorious at Tri-City:

  • Nick Joy earned his first Tri-City victory in the Modified division feature during “Sunday Thunder” at Tri-City Raceway Park.  Jeremy Weaver won for the first time at Tri-City in the RUSH Sprint Car division feature. Dillon Speer continued to dominate the Mini Stock division by picking up his sixth win of 2020. The evening’s events were held in memory of Brandon Hawkins, the young Sprint Car ace who passed away recently. Sunday, August 30th, the BRP Modified Tour makes a first visit of 2020 to Tri-City, for the “Rick Hall Memorial Race”, the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, the Junior Sprint Cars and Vintage Modifieds with racing action set to launch at 6pm. For more information visit, www.TriCityRacewayPark.com

Craig Lutz Takes NASCAR Whelen Modified Win At Jennerstown:

  • Craig Lutz captured the victory in the inaugural running of the “Laurel Highlands 150” for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Saturday night at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex. Joe Maruca, of Slickville, PA parked in Stoney’s Beer Victory Lane for the first time in his Martella’s Pharmacies Late Model career, becoming the fifth different winner of the year. Five divisions of racing return Saturday night, August 29, at 6 p.m.  After the races, the final round of the Ron’s Collision Center Enduro Series will be contested.  For more information visit www.jennerstown.org.

Greg Dobrowsky Captures The “Mav Classic” At Mercer:

  • Greg Dobrosky beat Jim Morris, Jeremy Kornbau and John Partner to win the “Mav Classic” Saturday night at Michael’s Mercer Raceway.  Jake Gomola appeared to be cruising to a victory when he made contact with a lap car coming out of turn 4 and couldn’t continue the race.  The race was a tribute to the late 305 Sprints racer Brandon Hawkins. Over $4,000 was raised to benefit Hawkins’ son Maverick.  Rex King Sr. won the Big Block Modified over Rex King Jr and Dave Murdick. Brian Schaffer won the FASTRAK modifieds feature.
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Mother Nature Red Flags PPMS:

  • Mother Nature spoiled a good start to a night of racing Saturday at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.  The track was able to get the 410 Sprint, RUSH Sprint Cars, RUSH Late Model Series and Pro Stock heat races in before the skies opened up to ruin the night at “Dirt’s Monster Half Mile”. Carl Bowser and Jack Sodeman Jr. picked up 410 Sprint heat wins.  Zach Morrow and Alan Dellinger picked up RUSH Sprint Car Series heat wins.  Zach Gunn, Justin Lamb, and Ben Policz took wins in RUSH Late Model Series heats and Nick Kocuba took the heat win in the Pro-Stocks.

Fab 4 Friday At Lernerville:

  • Friday night at Lernerville Speedway saw some familiar names visit Terry Bowser Victory Lane.  “The Crusher Kid” Mike Norris picked up his second Late Model feature win of the season and Joey Zambotti managed his third “Action Track” victory of 2020.  John Mollick picked up his second Big Block Modified win of the year. Dan Shetler picked up a popular victory in 410 Sprint Car action returning to Lernerville victory lane for the first time since 2017.

Takuma Sato Wins His 2nd Indy 500:

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup Races At Dover:

 

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.

Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.

“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”

“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”

Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda.  Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position.  Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag.  The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!

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O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.

The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.

Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase.  Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.

Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021.  Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.

Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.

Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.

Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title.  Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.

“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”

The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field.  O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.

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“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”

Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.

“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right?  I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”

“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”

Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

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Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca

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Joe Skibinski

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey giving him back-to-back victories two decades after his father accomplished the same feat.  Herta beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by 1.9747-seconds to pick up his second victory of 2021 and fifth of his career.

“Alex, really the whole race, was right there,” said Herta. “Then Grosjean at the end pressured Alex, therefore pressured me. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”

Palou continued his march towards his first series title with a second place after last week’s win at Portland, which gives Palou and the No. 10 NTT DATA team a 35-point lead ahead of second place Pato O’Ward.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace that Colton had,” explained Palou. “I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn’t go as fast as him without losing my tires.”

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Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.

“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

Herta’s victory clinched the Manufacturers Championship for the fourth consecutive season.

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