BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Alex Palou’s teammates have multiple Championships but on Sunday Palou accomplished something those Champions didn’t, winning in his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Palou beat Will Power by 0.402-seconds to capture the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opening Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Palou’s teammate and defending Champion Scott Dixon finished third, giving CGR 2 of the 3 podium spots.
“It was an amazing weekend,” said Palou, a native of Spain. “I’m super, super proud of the team. The team did an amazing job. Today they gave me the best car. I just had to do the obvious things right as Chip likes to say. I’m just super, super happy.”
Palou started third behind pole sitter Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
The race was barely green when Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden got loose and spun in front of half the field.
“I got loose coming over the hill,” said Newgarden. “I just got loose in the wake. I thought I had the car (saved) and then touched the grass. I think once I touched the grass it pitched me sideways. Obviously my mess created a bigger mess.”
Ryan Hunter Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Rinus Veekay all suffered some type of damage. Veekay was able to continue. Chilton, Rosenqvist and Herta eventually returned to the race several laps down after making repairs.
The race restarted on lap 8 with O’Ward leading Rossi, Palou, Power and Dixon making up the top 5. The field appeared to settle in at that point until the second caution of the day came out when Jimmie Johnson spun the No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“As we got two yellows it was clear,” said Palou of the possibility of a two-stop strategy. “As soon as the first yellow came I was already thinking two stops. I was trying to save as much fuel as possible there.”
The race restarted on lap 13 and saw no change in the top 5 until O’Ward and Rossi hit pit road on lap 20 for their first pit stops, handing the lead to Palou.
“To be honest I saw that Rossi and Pato, they were not saving that much fuel and I was wondering, ‘are they going to not even try to do it or do they just know how to do it and not me?’ I was surprised that they didn’t go for a two-stop because I think it was fairly easy after the two yellows. Hey, I didn’t call a two-stop, it was the team. They just told me now is the time to push. Do 15-more laps and this is the target for fuel mileage that you have do. That’s what I did and it worked.”
Palou made his first pit stop on lap 32 for the Firestone primary black sidewall tires with Power inheriting the lead followed by Dixon, Ericsson and Romain Grosjean, who all made pit stops in the following three laps.
O’Ward came to pit road on lap 42 for his second stop handing the lead back to Palou with 48-laps to go. Rossi hit pit road a lap later.
Palou stayed out front and the only question was whether the race would remain caution free to allow the strategy to play out.
The first driver on the two-stop strategy to make his final pit stop was Ericsson, who pitted for the final time on lap 61 while running fourth. Palou and Dixon pitted a lap later.
Power pitted from the lead on lap 62 followed by Graham Rahal and Grosjean. Power came out behind Palou but ahead of Dixon with O’Ward inheriting the lead but needing one more pit stop.
O’Ward pitted on lap 67 and came off pit road and settled into the fifth spot behind Ericsson.
Palou inherited the lead followed by Power and Dixon. Palou built a lead of 2.4-seconds but in the waning laps got caught behind traffic allowing Power and Dixon to close the gap but neither was able to challenge Palou.
The next event is the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 (live coverage starts at noon ET on NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). The first practice starts at 4:15 p.m. (ET) Friday, April 23 (live on Peacock Premium).
— Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc (@sycamorefilms) April 18, 2021
INDYCAR and NBC sign multi-year extension
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NBC Network announced on Tuesday a multi-year extension to the media rights of the open wheel series.
NBC Sports will continue to be the exclusive home of the Indianapolis 500 and will provide coverage of all NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its linear, digital and streaming platforms, including Peacock. Terms of the deal were not announced.
“NBC Sports is proud to extend its partnership with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and continue to serve as the exclusive home of the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports.
“NBC Sports has been the ideal partner for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, bringing our bold and audacious style of racing to a significantly larger domestic audience and fully leveraging the power and scale of the Indianapolis 500,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “This new deal represents a significant expansion of our network TV exposure and sets us up for continued growth and success alongside a committed, innovative and world-class broadcast partner.”
INDYCAR and NBC are enjoying strong ratings for the 2021. Ratings are up 30% this year.
As part of the agreement, 13 races will be broadcast on NBC. USA Network and Peacock Premium will show the remaining races. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.
Peacock will stream all races on NBC and USA Network and will continue as the streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and practices sessions, Indy Lights races and full-event replays. Peacock will stream two races exclusively, which will be announced at a later date.
Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship
NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott joined the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) for their season finale at Nashville Fairgrounds and took home the checkered flag beating Tony Stewart and his father Bill Elliott in the feature. The win was the first series victory for the younger Elliott.
Chase Elliott was on the inside with Stewart on the outside on a restart with 7-laps-to-go followed by Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte in Row 2.
Chase Elliott beat Stewart into turn one and two with Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte side-by-side for third.
Caution came out with 5-laps-to-go when Paul Tracy made contact with Marco Andretti, sending Andretti into a spin after picking up three spots following the restart.
Chase Elliott got the jump on Stewart on the restart and held on to pick up the win. Stewart finished second and took home the inaugural series Championship.
“Man it was so much fun,” said Chase Elliott. “I had a ball. I got to race against two of my heroes tonight and I got to race against Dad there throughout the race and those are moments that I’ll cherish forever. Thanks to Ray (Evernham, Series co-owner) and Tony (Stewart, Series co-owner) and I appreciate NAPA being on the car.”
NASCAR Hall-of-famer Bill Elliott, 65, finished third and picked up a win in the first heat race where he started side-by-side with his son Chase.
“I messed up in one not getting all the stuff (marbles) off my tires,” said Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “Man I tell you it was a lot of fun. I knew the way the tires were on these cars and the way Chase manages his stuff he was going to be tough to beat.”
“I don’t know what lit a fire under him tonight,” said Chase Elliott. “But he was as aggressive as I have seen him in years. It was amazing and a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be between he and I but he got a little high going into (turn) one.”
The win was also special for the Elliott Family as they were able to park the No. 94 in Victory Lane. Casey Elliott, the late son of legendary engine builder Ernie Elliott, raced the No. 94 in the ARCA and Busch (now Xfinity) Series before his life was cut short by cancer.
“Obviously a special number too,” said Chase Elliott. “My late Cousin Casey Elliott ran the 94 for years and years and it’s always special to run that number and I’m glad we were able to get it in Victory Lane at Nashville.”
“How could you ask for more than to finish between two Elliott’s, that’s pretty bad-ass in itself,” said Stewart. “To win this Championship is awesome. I really appreciate Marcus Lemonis and everyone at Camping World for stepping up and helping us get this thing off the ground. To be the last guy to win an IROC Championship and the first one to win an SRX Championship means a lot.”
Josef Newgarden ends Penske INDYCAR win drought at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden picked up his, and Team Penske’s, first win of 2021 holding off Marcus Ericsson to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Newgarden started on the pole position and led 73-of-80-laps to pick up his first win since the 2020 season finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“This team has been doing the job,” said Newgarden. “Everyone has been giving me a hard time, asking what’s up with us not winning a race. But I don’t think these people at Team Penske could have done anything different. We’ve been in the game almost every race, had great performance. It’s great to seal a win here finally.”
Newgarden spoiled a tremendous afternoon for Chip Ganassi Racing, the winningest INDYCAR team at Mid-Ohio.
CGR’s Ericsson finished second, 0.8790-seconds behind Newgarden. The second place finish was Ericsson’s seventh top-10 finish of 2021.
“We were hunting him down there,” said Ericsson. “He (Newgarden) was really struggling with his tires the last five laps. Just catching him quickly. Another lap or two would be even better, but I’ll take second today.”
Ericsson’s CGR teammate Alex Palou and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth respectively to give Chip Ganassi three cars in the top 5.
“It’s always good to start P7 and you finish on the podium,” said Palou. “Yeah, I think today was a good result.”
“I think it was a great day, great day for the team, to have me, Alex and Scott, P2, P3 and P4,” said Ericsson. “It’s a strong result. Shows how strong we are at the moment”
Palou remains the Championship points leader, 39 points ahead of Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP. Dixon is third, 56 points behind Palou. Newgarden remained fourth, 69 points back of the leader, and Ericsson jumped three positions to take fifth in the standings, 104 points behind Palou.