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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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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.

Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.

“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”

“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”

Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda.  Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position.  Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag.  The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!

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O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.

The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.

Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase.  Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.

Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021.  Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.

Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.

Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.

Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title.  Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.

“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”

The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field.  O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.

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“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”

Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.

“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right?  I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”

“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”

Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

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Colton Herta goes back-to-back at Laguna Seca

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Joe Skibinski

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta won Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey giving him back-to-back victories two decades after his father accomplished the same feat.  Herta beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by 1.9747-seconds to pick up his second victory of 2021 and fifth of his career.

“Alex, really the whole race, was right there,” said Herta. “Then Grosjean at the end pressured Alex, therefore pressured me. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”

Palou continued his march towards his first series title with a second place after last week’s win at Portland, which gives Palou and the No. 10 NTT DATA team a 35-point lead ahead of second place Pato O’Ward.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace that Colton had,” explained Palou. “I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn’t go as fast as him without losing my tires.”

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Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.

“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

Herta’s victory clinched the Manufacturers Championship for the fourth consecutive season.

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