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Tony Kanaan looking forward to returning to INDYCAR this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway

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Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

FORT WORTH, TX (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – 2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan is returning to the cockpit this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Kanaan is sharing the driving duties of the No. 48 with Jimmie Johnson, who is running the road and street courses.

This weekend’s doubleheader will be two of Kanaan’s four races this year, the others being the Indianapolis 500 on May 30 and the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Aug. 21 at World Wide Technology Raceway.

“I can’t wait,” said Kanaan. “I’m really excited with the challenge this year with Chip Ganassi Racing. The responsibility of the No. 48, having Jimmie texting me to take care of his car the entire weekend, which I keep reminding him its Chip’s car but it’s his number.”

Kanaan took part in the series open Indy 500 test on April 8 and April 9 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and felt right at home with the team he was an integral part of from 2014 through 2017.

“Somebody asked me the other day ‘how easy is it to adapt again to a new team?’,” explained Kanaan. “It doesn’t feel like a new team. I have the same teammate (Scott Dixon). My locker is still the same locker from when I left. Eric’s (Cowdin) my engineer, some of my mechanics are still my mechanics from when I was there so it felt like I just came back, came back home.”

Kanaan spent part of this week in the simulator getting ready for the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval.  Kanaan is actually doing something similar to Johnson but in reverse. In addition to driving the ovals in the No. 48, Kanaan is racing in the Brazilian stock car series and plans to race in Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham’s Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).

Pittsburgh Racing Now asked Kanaan about the difficulty switching between cars.  Watch his response:

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There will be one practice session on Saturday from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT followed by Qualifying for both races at 3 p.m. The first qualifying lap determines the starting spot for Saturday and the second lap speed will determine drivers starting spots for Sunday’s race. Saturday’s race starts at 6 p.m. CT and Sunday’s race starts at 4 p.m. CT.

Kanaan is thankful for the support of several longtime sponsors who were eager to see him return to the drivers seat after ‘TK’s last ride’ took place in 2020 without fans at many events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year when I jokingly said, ‘I don’t think I should retire. Racing without the fans here is not fun’, the phone rang five minutes after I made that quote,” related Kanaan. “The Bryant folks said, ‘lets do it’. The NTT folks came back and said, ‘let’s do it’. 7-Eleven said, ‘lets do it’, and as a great surprise American Legion came on board for my car full-time for this race (Texas) and for the 500 and they’re on Jimmie’s car as an associate. Great folks, great cause.”

The No. 48 American Legion Honda driven by Tony Kanaan at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 9, 2021.

In his Championship season of 2004 Kanaan visited victory lane at Texas, where he will be driving with two different looks, one for the Genesys 300 on Saturday and one for the XPEL 375 on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a big effort,” explained Kanaan. “We’re going to race one livery Saturday night and the guys are going to come in after the race and unwrap the car and then wrap the car. It’s going to be Bryant on Saturday night and the American Legion on Sunday.”

Kanaan would love nothing more than parking the No. 48 in victory lane at a place where he has 1-win, 5-second place finishes and 9-podium finishes.

“I’m feel extremely confident,” said Kanaan. “Obviously we have high expectations for this weekend. The team was extremely strong there last year. INDYCAR has not changed the rules much. We’re coming in a softer tire this year, a little more downforce trying to get the second groove working so I’m ready. Chip is going to be putting the pressure on all of us to win.  I like that.”

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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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