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Racing Notebook: Pocono Camping Sold Out; Firecracker 100 weekend starts Thursday and more!

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Photo: Pocono Raceway

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The latest edition of the Pittsburgh Racing Now Notebook is getting you ready for a busy weekend of racing in the Keystone State with NASCAR out East and the World of Outlaws Late Models at Lernerville.  Plus the NTT INDYCAR SERIES makes a schedule adjustment.

Pocono Camping Sold Out:

  • Pocono Raceway has sold out all available camping for this weekend’s NASCAR Doubleheader at ‘The Tricky Triangle’.  Pocono started the week on Monday with only 71-sites available but those quickly sold out.  The action gets started Friday with the ARCA Menards Series General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200.  On Saturday it’s the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series CRC Brakleen 150 and the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325.  Sunday features the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 225 presented by J.P. Mascaro & Sons and the NASCAR Cup Series Explore the Pocono Mountains 350.  Tickets are available at www.poconoraceway.com.

Pocono Organics CBD To Sponsor Cup Race:

  • Pocono Organics, one of the largest Regenerative Organic Farms in North America, will sponsor the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, June 26. Pocono Organics will highlight their line of USDA Certified Organic, Full-Spectrum Hemp CBD products with the Pocono Organics CBD 325. The Pocono Organics CBD 325 is part of the 2021 NASCAR Doubleheader at ‘The Tricky Triangle’ featuring five NASCAR & ARCA Races in three days, including two NASCAR Cup Series races taking place on back-to-back days, from June 25-27.
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Tickets On Sale For Grand Prix of Portland:

  • Ticket sales are open for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Grand Prix of Portland. After missing their visit last year due to the global pandemic, the stars and cars of the Indianapolis 500 are coming back to Portland International Raceway for the first of three stops on its west coast swing to end the 2021 season September 10-12, 2021. Pricing starts at $85 for Bronze-level 3-Day Grandstand seating, $105 for Silver, and $165 for Gold which includes a Paddock Pass. General Admission for the entire three-day weekend is $65. Single-Day tickets will be released for sale in July.  Tickets are available at portlandgp.com.

INDYCAR Will Not Replace Toronto:

  • The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will not replace this year’s race on the street of Toronto with another race on the schedule.  Toronto had to be cancelled for the second year in-a-row due to the global pandemic.  Options to replace the race with one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or maybe turning the Mid-Ohio weekend into a doubleheader were considered but the timing of the cancellation failed to give promoters enough time to secure sponsorship to host an additional race.

Firecracker 100 Weekend Begins Thursday:

  • The World of Outlaws Late Model Series rolls into Lernerville Speedway this weekend for the legendary ‘Firecracker 100’.  The Racing starts Thursday night with the $6,000-to-win Firecracker 100 qualifier along with the RUSH Late Model Series preliminaries for the Bill Emig Memorial and continues on Friday with another WoO qualifier and more prelims for RUSH LMS.  Saturday is the 15th Annual Firecracker 100 for the WoO and the Bill Emig Memorial for the RUSH LMS.  Tickets and information is available at www.lernerville.com.

Points Battles Continue Sunday At Tri-City:

  • As the racing season nears the halfway mark, four familiar names appear at the top of the point standings at Tri-City Raceway Park. In the Shawgo Real Estate LLC 410 Sprint division, defending champion Jack Sodeman, Jr. leads the standings on the strength of multiple feature wins. Jeremiah Shingledecker, the leading winner in the Krill Recycling 358 Modifieds, leads the way with 406 points. The closest battle for supremacy is in the Hovis Truck & Auto Supply Pro Stock class. William Hurrelbrink’s consistency has him in control, with 296 points, even though he has yet to take a checkered flag. Dalton Speer, with multiple wins in the 4 Your Car Connection Mini Stocks, leads with 408 points, the highest tally of any driver in any division. The action will start at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. Gates will open at 4 for the fans and 2 for the racers. Tickets are available at Tri-CityRacewayPark.com.
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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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