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Josef Newgarden and Will Power lead first practice at Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Will Power led a Team Penske 1-2 in the first practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Newgarden turned a fast lap of 1:00:8029 (106.574 MPH) to narrowly edge Power’s fast lap of 1:00:8102 (106.561).

Andretti Autosport teammates Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi were next on the charts.  Herta’s fast lap was 1:00:8348 (106.518) and Rossi was a tick behind at 1:00:8653 (106.465).

“I think the track was really high grip, honestly, more so than what I was expecting,” Newgarden said. “That’s probably what brought the times tighter. Normally when it grips up, we get really close as far as the entire pack.

Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top 5 with a quick lap of 1:00:8992.  All four Penske cars were in the top 10 as rookie Scott McLaughlin came in eighth fastest at 1:01:0158.

A bit of a mixed bag for Chip Ganassi Racing.  Scott Dixon led the team with a fast lap of 1:00:9152, which was good for sixth fastest in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

“The car felt pretty good,” said Dixon, the reigning and six-time series Champion. “We made some good changes. We had a test plan with all four cars and we made some good adjustments. P6 we’ll take that, keep pushing tomorrow. Hopefully a little bit better.”

Marcus Ericsson just missed the top 10 with a quick lap of 1:01:1170 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, just behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal in tenth (1:01:0912).

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“Good start for us, ended up P10,” said Rahal. “We had good pace the whole time. I thought a couple of laps we had could have put us in the top two or top three. One lap it went red (flag). One lap I caught Josef and a little bit of traffic but I feel really good the United Rentals car is strong this weekend.”

“I feel comfortable with the car,” said Ericsson.  “We need to do some fine tuning tomorrow but we have really good pace to work from, feeling strong.”

CGR’s Alex Palou placed 20th in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda at 1:01:7393 (104.957) as less than one-second separated Newgarden from Palou.

“The car is good,” said Palou, who picked up his first career win last week at Barber Motorsports Park. “We just got some traffic and really didn’t make the lap (time). Tomorrow we have another practice and qualifying and I think we’ll really be ready to be up there.”

Palou’s teammate Jimmie Johnson finished 24th 1:03:1317 in the No. 48 Carvana Honda. It was Johnson’s first practice ever on a street circuit.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Johnson of his first practice ever on a temporary street circuit. “Very tricky trying to get the tires up to where I have the comfort to start charging and the braking marks and power down marks right. But I kept all four corners on the car, didn’t end up in the runoff. Certainly step one of this process of learning how to go INDYCAR racing on a street circuit.  What a rush, what an experience!”

Teams have another practice session on Saturday morning from 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to get their cars dialed in.

Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award is scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m., with live coverage on Peacock Premium and same-day coverage at 10 p.m. on NBCSN.

Live coverage of the 100-lap race starts at noon Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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IndyCar

INDYCAR and NBC sign multi-year extension

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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.

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“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.

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Dirt Racing

Chase Elliott wins SRX finale at Nashville, Stewart wins Championship

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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.”

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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.”

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Josef Newgarden ends Penske INDYCAR win drought at Mid-Ohio

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Joe Skibinski

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.

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“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.

INDYCAR Mid Ohio Results

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