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Jimmie Johnson attacking move to INDYCAR.

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Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jimmie Johnson is attacking his first year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with the work ethic you would expect of a Champion.

Johnson is two races into his INDYCAR career and each week presents a new challenge to the veteran racer.

“There’s just many new things,” Johnson told Pittsburgh Racing Now. “A tire I’ve not been on. A circuit I’ve not been on. There’s just so many new things it feels like I am starting all over again.”

What Johnson is trying to do, transitioning from the big and heavy stock cars to a more powerful but lighter INDYCAR, reminds some sports fans of the time NBA Hall-of-famer Michael Jordan played baseball.

Johnson’s CGR teammate, six-time and reigning series Champion, Scott Dixon explained that what Johnson is doing would be like Dixon picking up his golf clubs and trying to go and win ‘The Masters’.

“Jimmie’s learning curve is very steep and very aggressive,” said Dixon. “Probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen of anybody trying to do in sport. For him, he’s having to un-learn 20-plus years of what he was doing. I think his work ethic and attention to detail, we’re just going to have to give him some time to get comfortable.”

With a couple of races under his belt Johnson explained to Pittsburgh Racing Now what he’s looking for to go faster.

“Finding the edge,” said Johnson. “Finding it safely and consistently and that edge of grip and traction is two-to-three times what I’ve experienced in a NASCAR vehicle, so I keep reaching and occasionally I reach in the wrong areas but I keep reaching and trying to find it and I’m getting closer.”

Johnson is bringing his legendary work ethic to INDYCAR, spending countless hours trying to shorten his learning curve, impressing team owner Chip Ganassi.

“He’s a damn, hard worker,” said Ganassi. “He’s set the bar at a new level for the amount of work a driver puts in. He’s always in the simulator, on the computer, on the phone, making calls, asking questions, working out, talking to sponsors, talking to the team. The guy doesn’t slow down. I had no idea what I was up against racing against him in NASCAR. Now I got little feel for it. He’s a hard worker. My hats off to him.”

Ganassi knows there will be up and downs but isn’t setting any expectations for the seven-time NASCAR champ.

“I think some podiums would be considered a success,” said Ganassi. “He has the talent, he has the race craft. Once we get him comfortable I think the racer will come out in him.”

Three Rivers Karting

Johnson is sharing the No. 48 with 2004 INDYCAR Champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan.  Johnson will drive the road and street circuit and Kanaan will drive the oval races.

“We knew it was going to be hard,” said Kanaan of Johnson’s move to INDYCAR. “I think he’s trying to learn as quick as he can. As competitive as he is, he’s trying to go as fast as he can and sometimes mistakes happen. I think after the mistakes he’s been pretty solid.  He finished both races and he was getting a lot quicker towards the end of both races.”

Johnson’s transition is just like when open wheel Champions Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr climbed into stock cars.

“Some of the drivers had a hard time when they made the switch from INDYCAR to NASCAR,” said Kanaan. “That proves that INDYCAR is tough as well.”

Off the track Johnson has had success bringing a new sponsor, online automotive retailer Carvana, into the sport. What’s even more impressive is that he brought a new sponsor into the sport in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We were out working hard trying to find a sponsor through all the traditional means,” explained Johnson. “Literally through my wife (Chandra) and some friends in Oklahoma that she grew up in and around, led me to a phone call with Ernie Garcia (CEO) from Carvana. He instantly had a vision of the transition I’m trying to make and could grasp it.”

Carvana has embraced joining the sport and is not wasting any time activating the partnership with Johnson and the Ganassi team.

“Although he’s (Garcia) new to motorsport and they’ve never sponsored anything in auto racing, he could see this opportunity crystal clear,” said Johnson. “Very thankful to bring a new sponsor in and how they are activating is second to none and I’m really excited about the relationship.”

Part of Carvana’s activation is giving fans the opportunity to pick the color schemes that Johnson will campaign at various races by visiting their website and casting a vote: www.carvana.com/racing/indy/vote.

Attracting a new sponsor to your first year competing in the highest form of open wheel racing in the United States may surprise some people but those who know Jimmie Johnson aren’t surprised at all.

“He’s relentless,” said Kanaan. “He’s the type of guy, he’s going to make this work. I wouldn’t count Jimmie Johnson out just yet.”

Johnson and the No. 48 Carvana Honda return to the track with the GMR Grand Prix, May 15 on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IndyCar

INDYCAR Drivers Frustrated With Racing At Iowa Speedway

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

NEWTON, IA (July 14, 2024) – NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers feel something needs to be done to make the Hy-Vee Doubleheader weekend at Iowa Speedway as exciting on-track as it has been historically.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed about the race and how it raced,” said Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing, who finished second Friday night. “Really tough to get that second lane working, compared to I don’t know how many on-track passes we had last year, probably not even a 10th of that. That was a bit frustrating because I thought we had a very strong car, definitely a car that was capable of winning. Just no way to get around a car.”

In 2023 for race one there were 1,502 total passes, of which 319 were for position.  Conversely in race one of 2024 there were 192-total passes Saturday night, 100 of those were for position.

“Unfortunately I don’t think our car and our formula works super well for this type of track adjustment,” said Saturday night’s third place finisher Josef Newgarden about the partial track repave. “We’re different than a Cup car. We’ve developed our car differently than they have. It doesn’t always mesh. It definitely didn’t mesh tonight.”

Three Rivers Karting

“Bit of a shame that couldn’t really do anything to pass or to do anything,” said Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, who finished second on Sunday. “It’s the most boring thing I’ve ever done. It was yesterday, as well. It’s a shame that we couldn’t really put on a better show. I think everybody will agree that it was a very boring race to drive.”

INDYCAR reduced downforce levels by about 450-pounds heading into the race weekend and tire supplier Firestone came with new right side tires after heat-related issues during a recent test session at the track.  The combination led to a parade-like race on Saturday and Sunday.

“I feel like we go into it and not do the right amount of study or whatnot to get it done and to get it to work,” said Saturday night’s winner Scott McLaughlin, who finished third on Sunday. “That’s not a shot at the sport, not a shot at anything. It’s working together with the amazing people and the geniuses we have up and down pit lane. It’s just a matter of making it work.”

“I think INDYCAR could go to work with downforce levels, working with Firestone on a few other things,” McLaughlin explained. “But you just can’t blame the track because at the end of the day they have to repave this at some time.”

“We went from the best oval race we would have all season to potentially the least amount of passing,” said Sunday’s winner Will Power.  “Maybe just a softer tire might just work with this downforce level. Just a softer tire. If it degrades, people go out. You can roll to the outside.  I don’t know what the answer is, but we certainly got to do something for next year.”

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IndyCar

Will Power Wins 2nd Race Of INDYCAR Doubleheader Weekend At Iowa

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

NEWTON, IA (July 14, 2024) Will Power is back in victory lane on an oval after winning Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade.  Power’s last oval win was nearly five years ago at Pocono Raceway.

“I didn’t really think I’d win today,” said Power.  “You know how life goes, it just happens like that. Yeah, been trying to win this one for a long time. Stoked to tick that box. I’ve won a lot of races at a lot of tracks. When you tick a box at a track you haven’t won on, it feels pretty good.”

Team Penske elected to leave Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, which started 22nd, out on the track during the first green-flag stint and it paid off because the caution flag came out for Augustin Canapino’s stalled car, allowing Power and Championship leader Alex Palou cycle to the front of the field.

“My plan from the beginning was to sit back and save a lot of fuel, just get the best possible number using the speed, lifting,” explained Power. “In that gap, prayed for a yellow because I knew there would be out-laps. That would be when people would be prone to mistakes. That’s exactly what happened.”

Power restarted the race in the 2nd position and followed Palou until the next round of pit stops.  Power’s team did not disappoint, beating Palou’s time by nine-tenths of a second, putting the two-time series Champion out front for the final 50-laps.

“I know if I hit my marks, it’s going to be an extremely fast stop,” said Power.

Three Rivers Karting

Palou rebounded from Saturday night’s crash to finish second and retain the Championship points lead, 35-over Power, who sits second.

“It’s been a weekend where we had a ton of speed compared to what we had before with qualifying third and second,” said Palou. “Was a shame yesterday obviously with the pit stall on the first pit, then the crash during the second stint.  Yeah, happy that today we’re in second.”

Saturday night’s winner Scott McLaughlin finished third after starting on the pole and getting caught by the caution flag that benefitted Power and Palou.

“I was on the undercut,” explained McLaughlin. “At the end of the day, I mean, I would have come out in front of Alex. Will would have had to pit in a couple laps’ time. That’s just how it rolls, man. I’ve won a race by a delayed yellow. I’ve lost a race now. It’s just part of the deal. I think everyone will have one or two of those in their career.”

Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon finished fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing while Colton Herta fifth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Global w/Curb-Agajanian.

The series next race is on the Street of Toronto for the Ontario Honda Dealers Indy Toronto.  Practice begins Friday at 3 p.m. ET at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Iowa Race 2 Results

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IndyCar

Scott McLaughlin Wins 1st Race Of INDYCAR Iowa Doubleheader Weekend

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Penske Entertainment: Travis Hinkle

NEWTON, IA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin is now a winner on an oval after grabbing the victory in Saturday night’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart.

McLaughlin started alongside pole-sitter Colton Herta of Andretti Global and grabbed the lead beating everyone out of the pits after a caution flag on Lap 80 when Graham Rahal’s No. 15 One Cure Honda suffered a cracked wheel.

McLaughlin led the final 164-laps and held off Arrow McLaren’s Patricio O’Ward, who finished second and Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden who finished third.

“At the end of the day I did the job in some ways from my perspective, but it was a team win,” said McLaughlin. “They put me out in front and got me the lead. I was able to show how good our car was just controlling the pace at the front.”

Great pit work from O’Ward’s number 5 crew got him out the pits in second place late in the race giving him a chance to challenge McLaughlin for the win.

“Yeah, awesome job by the guys in the pits,” said O’Ward. “That’s truly what got us in this position to fight for the podium.”

O’Ward was frustrated that the race track ended up being aa one groove track after a recent repave and despite INDYCAR dedicating a practice session to trying to rubber-in the second groove.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed about the race and how it raced. Really tough to get that second lane working,” explained O’Ward, who keeps moving up in the Championship fight. “Compared to I don’t know how many on-track passes we had last year, probably not even a 10th of that. That was a bit frustrating because I thought we had a very strong car, definitely a car that was capable of winning. Just no way to get around a car.”

Three Rivers Karting

For the record, there were 192-total passes Saturday night, 100 of those were for position.  Comparatively there were 1,502 total passes in race one at Iowa in 2023, 319 for position.

A driver who didn’t have a problem making any passes was Newgarden, who started 22nd after a lackluster qualifying effort.  Newgarden grabbed eight spots at the drop of the green flag by using the high line and making passes in the pits.

“It was a great recovery by the team,” said Newgarden. “My goodness, they were really good in the pits, like really, really good. If Pato’s guys were good, mine must have been double as good. I made up probably 80% of my position in the pits tonight.”

Championship leader Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing had trouble in the pits for the second straight week.  Palou stalled the No. 10 DHL Honda on the first pit stop, dropping from third place to 19th place.

Palou quickly regained six places and threw it all away on Lap 176 when he lost control on the frontstretch and backed it into the outside wall.  The miscue relegated Palou to a 23rd place finish, his worst in two-plus years, a span of 36 races, when he finished 27th in the 2022 race at Road America.

Palou’s finish cost him 11-points in the title fight.  Palou now leads O’Ward by 37-points with Team Penske’s Will Power sitting third, 43-points out of the leads.  Six-time Series Champion Scott Dixon remained in fourth, 46-points back.  The victory vaulted McLaughlin to fifth, 59-points out of first.

Race 2 of the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade takes place tomorrow at noon ET, live on NBC, Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network.  McLaughlin will start on the pole after setting a new track record in qualifying.

Iowa Race One Results

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