ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is racing in the streets this weekend for the 18th annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 14-turn, 1.89-mile temporary street circuit that incorporates city streets and part of the Albert Whitted Airport to make up the picturesque course that is a fan (and media) favorite on the schedule.
Josef Newgarden is the defending race winner, taking home the victory when the Series finished their 2020 season on Florida’s Gulf Coast after rescheduling the race due to the global pandemic.
Chip Ganassi’s team enters the weekend with a ton of momentum following the season opening race at Barber Motorsports Park. Three of the four Ganassi entries finished in the top 10 and 2-out-of-3 finished on the podium
Alex Palou won the race in the No. 10 SegiTV Honda. The victory included a couple of firsts for Palou: His first INDYCAR Series win; His first win with CGR and he is the first Spaniard since Oriol Servia to win an INDYCAR car race since 2005.
“Tough to describe how it feels,” Palou said of that first victory. “You feel like all the work that you’ve done the past years, the past months, the past days, it feels amazing that you did a good job and the team did a good job.”
Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda after staring fifth. Dixon has never won at St. Pete but has four runner-up finishes, the most recent coming in 2019.
“It’s just one of those things that hasn’t worked out,” said Dixon about that elusive victory. “This place owes me nothing. It’s hard. It’s a difficult track. I’ve definitely had races here where we probably should’ve converted to a win and either made a mistake or we missed it on strategy. We’ll work hard, that’s the only way you’re going get to possibly get a win here, and keep knocking on that door.”
Marcus Ericsson finished eighth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda but the finish was hardly indicative of his performance. Ericsson was running as high as fourth late in the race when he had to go into fuel conservation mode to make it to the end.
The No. 8 team employed the same two-stop strategy as the No. 9 and No. 10 but was the first to come to pit road for the final stop. If a caution would have come out they would have been in the proverbial cat bird seat.
The ‘rookie’ on the team, seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, finished 19th in his first race in the series, 3-laps down after an early spin.
“This weekend again is going to be like starting all over,” Johnson told Pittsburgh Racing Now. “A tire I have not been on. A circuit I have not been on. Never been in a street race either, so there are so many new things. I really feel like I am starting all over again.”
What Johnson is trying to accomplish is nothing short of amazing, something that is not lost on his six-time Champion teammate.
“What Jimmie is trying to do, I couldn’t think of anything more difficult,” said Dixon. “With the limited track-time we get nowadays, you have one maybe two practice sessions and then into qualifying, it’s very difficult on rookies.“
Team Penske’s Will Power is also carrying momentum into St. Pete after finishing second to Palou at Barber. Power was thrilled to start the season with a strong finish.
“I was happy to have a good start to the year,” said Power. “Obviously a win is always great but compared to the way we started last year this is nice. It was a very calm day for me. I’m calm about the season. I’ve been around long enough to know how this ebbs and flows.”
One of the keys at St. Pete is keeping the car on the course. Another key is getting the car to work on multiple surfaces: pavement, concrete, runway, taxiway.
“Typically when you go back to a road course they stay pretty similar from year-to-year,” explained Dixon. “Here turn 9 and turn 10 has been resurfaced since last year, so there’s a different amount of grip and that could be for three or four or five turns through the circuit. Plus, how they build the walls. An apex one year could be in this place and now it’s in a different place. It definitely makes it interesting. The margin of error – you’re talking just inches before you’re slamming yourself into a wall.”
The race is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. with coverage starting a Noon on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
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.