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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou finishes 2nd in the Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was in position to win the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 with three laps to go, leading the field across the yard of bricks. One problem, he had a 3-time winner stalking him from behind.

Palou did everything he could to keep Helio Castroneves behind him, but the Castroneves saw an opportunity as Palou encountered traffic on the next to last lap and pounced to make the pass for the lead and ultimately a record-tying 4th 500 victory.

“I tried everything,” explained Palou. “It hurts. But to be honest, it’s good to lose against probably one of the best. It was a close battle until the end. The good thing is that the two cars were Honda powered. That’s good. Congrats to Helio and Honda.”

Castroneves said he couldn’t duplicate the speed out front leading that Palou could.

“He was very good,” said Castroneves. “He was very fast. The Ganassi guys did a great job. They were very, very strong on their own. They really were able to do some amazing laps. I think it was almost 221. I try myself, and I couldn’t do it. I decided just to wait for the right opportunity.”

The right opportunity came with two laps-to-go when several cars, who were trying to make it to the end of the race without stopping for fuel, were up ahead of the pair racing for the win.

Three Rivers Karting

“When I saw the traffic, it was a bunch of it actually,” explained Castroneves. “I’m like, ‘That’s it, I’m not going to wait because I need that traffic to pull me so I can get the same speed’. When I made the move, I said, ‘That’s it’.”

“When he passed me, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe that’s going to be bad for me’ just because we were reaching the traffic,” said Palou. “As soon as you’re on traffic, you’re not P2 any more, you’re like P8. When you are P8 on a pack, it’s not easy to pass.”

Castroneves said after the race that Palou shouldn’t hang his head after finishing second in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“He has an incredible talent,” said Castroneves. “He won the first race of the season. Nothing to be shamed. I finished second three times. Did I stop because of that? No. He did a great job. He had a great car. He did everything he possibly could. Last year he didn’t finish. This year he finished second. That’s a big improvement. He should think about the positive side, not the negative.”

Palou was trying to find the positives after the race but he was also disappointed he didn’t win.

“I didn’t expect that a second place would hurt that much until I crossed the finish line,” said Palou. “It huts a lot. But I’m super proud, super happy. I think the No. 10 NTT Data car was super fast.”

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Pato O’Ward wins INDYCARs race two in Detroit

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Joe Skibinski

DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward passed Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden with three laps-to-go to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 on the temporary street circuit on Belle Isle.

“I have a lot of faith in myself whenever the car is wiggling around,” said O’Ward. “I know I’m very strong on cold tires, so I took advantage of it, got by people and got her done.”

The 24-hours of the island were certainly a battle for the team, who saw a frightening crash in race one on Saturday that sent teammate Felix Rosenqvist to the hospital Saturday night for observation.

“When you see something like that happen to a race driver, it puts your stomach in your throat,” said Taylor Kiel, President Arrow McLaren SP. “First of all, we’re happy that Felix is okay and he’ll be back with us soon. Certainly bringing home a victory was top of mind in trying to help Felix’s recovery a little bit, but man, what a great effort from everybody, certainly from the men and women on the 7 car to get that thing fixed and ready to compete today. But also the men and women on the 5 car, to make it a race-winning car. We had a great car today. Pato did what he needed to do. The team did what they needed to do. And when you execute like that, we’re tough to beat.”

Newgarden led a race-high 67-laps on Sunday and was obviously not happy.

Three Rivers Karting

“Just kind of was what it was there at the end,” said Newgarden. “Felt like we had a good car and just didn’t work our way strategy-wise and some of the times that we had to pit where we thought we had to pit because a yellow was probably going to come out, I think it all just didn’t play into our favor.”

The win also vaulted O’Ward into the Championship points lead as he is the only repeat winner of 2021.

O’Ward leads Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by one point, 299-298, and Scott Dixon (263) by 36-points.

The next race is the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR on Sunday, June 20 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, with live coverage starting at noon (ET) on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. On-track action starts with practice at 5:15 p.m. Friday, June 18, streamed live on Peacock.

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson scores first career INDYCAR series win Saturday in Detroit

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson has been knocking on the door of victory the past two seasons but even he couldn’t have imagined how his first win would unfold.

Ericsson held off Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward over a three-lap shootout to win Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on the temporary street circuit on Belle Isle.

Ericsson was running second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, chasing Team Penske’s Will Power, when the caution flag flew on lap 65 for Romain Grosjean, who made contact with the wall in Turn 9.  INDYCAR officials decided to red-flag the race and sent the cars to pit road.

Later when officials restarted the race, Power’s car would not re-fire on pit road.  Power’s crew frantically tried to get the No. 15 Verizon 5G Chevrolet restarted and while they worked Ericsson inherited the lead.

“Unfortunately he (Power) had that problem, which I feel bad for him,” said Ericsson. “He did a great job today. But we’ve had some bad luck these last couple years. I felt like it was about time we had some good luck, so I’ll take it.”

Ericsson didn’t hesitate when the green flag waved, taking off with VeeKay and O’Ward giving chase.  Ericsson held off two of the series first-time winners to become the seventh different winner in seven races, tying a record set in 2017.

“Just had to finish it off with clean restart and clean laps,” said Ericsson. “I think I did a really good restart, then just control it till the end.”

Power was livid that the Series decided to red flag the race and the procedure employed when the cars hit pit road.

Three Rivers Karting

O’Ward understood Power’s frustration.

“I understand they want to end on green,” said O’Ward. “I bet you if I was Will, I’d be telling you no. I feel for him, man. The guy, I’m pretty sure he was the one leading. I think he would have walked away with it if it didn’t go red. It really sucks.”

The late red flag was the second of the race.  The first red flag came on lap 24 when Arrow SP’s Felix Rosenqvist had a throttle stick sending the car into the wall at turn 6 full throttle.

Rosenqvist was shaken-up but was awake and alert in the infield care center.  Rosenqvist was sent to the hospital for observation overnight.  The track barrier sustained damage and the red flag lasted one hour, 18-minutes.

Ericsson’s CGR teammates came into the race 1-2 in the season-long Championship standing with Alex Palou leading Scott Dixon by 36-points.

Palou finished 15th in the No. 10 American Legion Honda and Dixon brought home the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda eighth.

Palou now leads O’Ward by 15-points with Dixon in third place, 26-points back heading in Sunday’s race.

Live coverage of Race 2 of this doubleheader weekend, another 70-lap event, starts at noon (ET) Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

 

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Helio Castroneves wins a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 mile race

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Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Helio Castroneves is joining elite company after winning a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 mile race Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Castroneves passed Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou for the lead for good with two laps-to-go and took the twin checkered flags first to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the only 4-time winners of ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“This is absolutely incredible,” said Castroneves. “From the beginning we were so comfortable. The car was incredible. I knew it was good. This is unbelievable.”

Castroneves other victories came in 2001, 2002 and 2009 when he drove for Team Penske.  Sunday’s victory came driving for Meyer Shank Racing and was that organizations first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory.

Castroneves and Palou started trading the lead back and forth with 17-laps remaining after most of the front runners made their final pit stops.  Palou passed Castroneves on the front stretch with three laps-to-go and Castroneves tucked right behind Palou and followed him through turns one and two and then down the backstretch before pulling the same move on Palou.

Castroneves benefitted from a number of cars who were trying to make it to the end without pitting when he hit the backstretch on the final lap. Castroneves smartly used the draft from those cars to maintain his gap ahead of Palou, who tried to draft Castroneves but the gap was too great at that point.

“My strong corners were two and four and it was just a matter of the right opportunity,” said Castroneves.  “I saw that traffic, because I needed that traffic to get away, so I decided I wasn’t going to wait.”

“It just hurts a little bit because I wanted this win really bad,” said Palou. “For sure the traffic didn’t help. I was doing everything I was doing to catch him but he was catching the tow from the traffic and I was not able to close up.

Palou may not have won but since the Indy 500 pays ‘double points’ towards the series championship he did take over the series points lead, so he while he was disappointed he couldn’t win, Palou was positive after the race.

Three Rivers Karting

“I’m living a dream driving a fast car for the best team in the paddock,” said Palou. “I’m super proud of what we’ve been doing but we’ve got to keep working.”

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud finished third in the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet with Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in fourth.

“We got caught up on the first yellow and had to make an ’emergency pit stop’ and got sent back to the back of the field,” explained Pagenaud. “We had to fight back over 156-laps and I really think we had a car that could’ve won.”

Pagenaud said that prior to the race he told Castroneves if he couldn’t win the race, he wanted Helio to get his fourth.

“It’s great that we have a guy from our generation (Castroneves) going into the 4-club,” said Pagenaud referring to the 4-time Indy 500 winners. “I hope he comes back to go for five!”

Stefan Wilson brought out the first caution flag of the race when he spun entering pit road during the first round of pit stops and struck the wall ending his day.

The closure of the pits to clean up the Wilson accident cost pole-sitter Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi dearly.  The pair had yet to pit and were low on fuel and eventually ran out on pit road while making an ’emergency pit stop’. Both cars had to be re-fired and ended up losing a lap in the process.

Dixon got his lap back a little over halfway through the race and battled for an 18th place finish but ended up losing the series points lead in the process.  Dixon sits in second place, one point ahead of third-place O’Ward.

The next race for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the ‘Duel in Detroit’ on Belle Isle, June 12-13, in Detroit.

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