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Colton Herta dominates the INDYCAR Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta beat Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden by 2.4933-seconds to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Herta started on the pole position and dominated the race leading all but three laps to claim his 4th career victory, first win of 2021 and first win on a street course.

“What a great job by everybody,” said Herta, who finished 22nd in the season opening race last week at Barber Motorsports Park. “Coming into this weekend, we knew we needed to win. I’m so happy that we did this, so happy to rebound from Barber and get the momentum going for the season that we need.”

The victory was the first for Herta with his father Bryan as his race strategist.  Bryan Herta spent the last few years as Marco Andretti’s race strategist.

“Super proud of him,” said Bryan Herta. “He did such a great job. We had a game plan, we executed really well. Colton didn’t put a foot wrong and we brought the Gainbridge car home in first place. I couldn’t be happier.”

Colton Herta’s victory ties him with Bryan for career INDYCAR victories in the family.

“When we first moved to INDYCAR people used to ask me if I thought he was better than I was,” said Bryan Herta. “Nobody asks me that anymore.”

Herta and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey led the field into turn one with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud in tow followed by AJ Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais.

The first caution flag of the race came out on lap 18 when Jimmie Johnson went off track with the No. 48 Carvana Honda in turn 13. The AMR Safety Crew came to Johnson’s aid and he returned to the race, three laps down. Prior to the spin, Johnson had picked up two spots from where he started.

The race restarted on lap 21 with no changes in the top 5. Graham Rahal was up to sixth followed by Rinus Veekay, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward.

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Just after the first round of pit stops for the leaders wheel-to-wheel contact between Rahal and Rossi cut off Rossi’s valve stem sending him to pit road for a new Firestone and a front wing change. Rossi returned to action 2-laps down in 22nd place.

Herta remained out front building a lead of over 8-seconds by lap 60 of the 100-lap event as teams started pitting for the second and final time of the afternoon.

Just as teams finished pitting a full-course yellow came out on lap 74 for Johnson, who spun on Lap 74 in turn 3 and Dalton Kellett who was stopped on the track, bunching up the field and erasing Herta’s 11-second lead.

The green flag waved on lap 77 but it was short lived as Ed Jones made contact with James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe was able to continue but Jones was sideways blocking the track to bring out a full course yellow on lap 80.

Newgarden was right on Herta’s gearbox following the last restart on lap 83 with Simon Pagenaud in third, Jack Harvey in fourth and Scott Dixon in fifth.

Herta and Newgarden started pulling away from third place with 10-laps to go, building a lead of 4-seconds over Pagenaud and extending it to over 5-seconds with 5-laps to go.

“Colton was really good,” said Newgarden. “I pushed really hard on those last two restarts but I really didn’t really have the run that I needed and I didn’t want to risk anything. I wish we could have fought a little bit more but were just lacking a bit.”

“The series is just at its highest level right now,” said Pagenaud. “The talent in the series is just incredible.”

Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.

GP St. Pete Results

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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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IndyCar

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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