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OPINION: INDYCAR Engine Grid Penalty Needs To Go!

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Two weeks in-a-row one of the dumbest rules in all of sports reared its ugly head before the stars and cars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES even took to the racetrack.

Here is the official rule:

  • Rule 16.2.3.2 – A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.

What the hell does it mean?  It means that when an INDYCAR engine or related part fails and the engine has to be changed, the driver and the team suffer, not the guys who built the engine!

Last weekend at Nashville the NTT INDYCAR SERIES held their inaugural Music City Grand Prix and just as the green flag waved on a start to a fantastic weekend, INDYCAR threw some water on their own party by announcing a grid penalty for the Championship points leader, Alex Palou, going into the event.

Palou was docked six-positions for an unapproved engine change following a team test two weeks ago at Portland International Raceway.

The penalty for such a change, according to the rulebook, comes at the series next event.

So instead of talking about young guns Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward battling for the Championship with past Champions Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden as they were racing over a freaking bridge in Nashville, Friday’s storylines started with Palou’s grid penalty.  Talk about a buzzkill!

This week it was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden getting docked six spots and the world finding out right before the cars hit the track for the INDYCAR/NASCAR doubleheader weekend.  Ugh!

So instead of talking about how awesome it is for the two biggest racing series in America to be sharing the world’s greatest racetrack on the same weekend, we’re talking about grid penalties…..again!  Are you kidding me?

As one might imagine, the drivers aren’t thrilled with the rule either.

“Obviously with Alex getting a penalty, those penalties are pretty tough, one that was totally out of his control,” said six-time Series Champion Scott Dixon last week in Nashville. “That was definitely a bummer.”

Three Rivers Karting

“If I got a penalty for changing an engine, I definitely wouldn’t like it,” said Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta.

My issue is not the rule, it’s the penalty.  What the hell in this day and age does a driver and a team have to do with the assembly and lifespan of an INDYCAR engine?  The driver doesn’t build it, install it, work on it, or even start it!  So why penalize him?

This rule should penalize the engine manufacturer, but as it is currently written, it could have a big impact on the championship.  Was that the intent of the rule when it was written in the rulebook?  I’m thinking not.

The intent of the rule was to lower costs.  Years ago engine manufacturers would spend money on development between races like Bachelorette Parties on open top busses in Nashville or a drunken sailor on leave.

I remember one driver telling me back in the CART days he logged 1000-miles in testing at Fontana two weeks before the season championship.  The motor he got for Championship weekend was designed to last for only that weekend.  Fortunately those days are gone, and this rule has helped to curb the wild spending.

Why penalize the driver and possibly give his championship competitors an edge going into a race weekend?  My suggestion – points deduction in the manufacturer’s championship.

A manufacturer’s championship points deduction is more appropriate.  They’re the ones building the engine, not the driver.  Sure, when you only have two engine manufacturers you don’t want to piss them off but, again, why penalize the driver and possibly affect Championship points in the process?

I won’t lie.  Last week in Nashville, I was hoping Palou would post the fastest qualifying time and his closest competitor, Pato O’Ward, would post the second fastest.  Then INDYCAR would apply their asinine penalty and move Palou back and hand the pole to O’Ward. Imagine those Championship implications.  It didn’t happen, which is fortunate for INDYCAR.

I felt the same way this weekend.  I wanted Newgarden to win the pole so bad, but the racing gods wouldn’t give me that satisfaction.

Some reading this might say the starting position doesn’t have anything to do with the points a driver earns in a race.  Yes, the finish determines how many points a driver scores for the event, but you shouldn’t be penalized 6-spots for something totally out of your control.

I am imploring Series Owner Roger Penske, Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles and Series President Jay Frye to change the rule and eliminate the grid penalty to the driver for 2022.

Let’s start each and every race weekend talking about the racing, not the rules!!!!

IndyCar

Scott Dixon Wins INDYCAR Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

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Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

DETROIT, MI (June 2, 2024) Scott Dixon once again put on a driving clinic in winning Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Dixon’s combination of controlled aggression, expert strategy and his unsurpassed ability of extracting performance and fuel economy out of his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda propelled him to his 58th career victory in a race where his fellow competitors were busy making mistakes and causing eight caution flags for 47-laps.

The team called it perfectly,” said Dixon, the six-time Series Champion.  “I said at the lap 50 caution that we could make it from that point.”

Dixon hit pit road at the end of Lap 56 for his final pit stop of the day during a caution and spent the rest of the day coaxing performance and mileage out of his Honda as he raced around the headquarters of the race title sponsor.

“Most of the race was just restarts looking in the rearview mirror in turn three and making sure there wasn’t anybody coming down that was going to take out the whole load of you.”

Dixon finished 0.8567-seconds ahead of Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson, which was Ericsson’s best result of the season in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda.

“Today we showed in the race that we had the pace to fight up front all day,” said Ericsson.  “Really, really proud of the team. It was not an easy race. Everyone did good decisions. Well-deserved to be on the podium.”

Three Rivers Karting

Dixon’s teammate Marcus Armstrong scored a career-best finish of third in the No. 11 Root Insurance Honda despite being an innocent bystander in one of the earlier caution flags.

“Obviously it was pretty chaotic,” said Armstrong. “I think being a strategist today was more stressful than being a driver. I have to give a big shout-out to my strategist Taylor Kiel. He always places me perfectly to maximize the situation we found.”

Armstrong was on the same strategy as Dixon but the second-year driver couldn’t duplicate what his more-experienced teammate was able to do down the stretch.

“Ultimately on the last stint, I was having to achieve quite a big fuel number, as was Scott,” explained Armstrong. “But Scott does what Scott does. I actually ran out of fuel as I came across the line. So we timed it perfectly.”

Dixon timed his second win of the season perfectly as he leaves Detroit with an 18-point lead over teammate Alex Palou in the season Championship.

“Until you’re out of it, you’re going to keep chasing it,” said Dixon of the championship. “It’s swings and roundabouts. Same thing can happen next week in Road America. We’ll keep our heads down and keep trying to get the most we can out of it. It’s a team effort.”

The victory leaves Dixon 9-wins behind the legendary AJ Foyt’s record of 67 career wins as he chases Foyt’s record of 7-series Championships.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES event is Sunday, June 9, with the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Live coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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IndyCar

Josef Newgarden Wins 2nd Straight Indianapolis 500

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Penske Entertainment: Karl Zemlin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Josef Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward on the outside of Turn 3 on the last lap and held on to win the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, his second straight victory in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

Newgarden’s win was the first time in 22-years that a driver has won back-to-back Indy 500’s. Helio Castroneves was the last driver to do it in 2001 and 2002, driving for Team Penske. The victory was a record 20th win for the Penske group.

“I’m just so proud of the team, they crushed it,” said Newgarden.  “They came here with the fastest cars.  Worked our tails off.  Team Chevy brought it.  They can say whatever they want now,” alluding to the criticism and penalties Team Penske received for violating NTT INDYCAR SERIES rules at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I don’t think it works unless you’re racing someone like Pato,” said Newgarden of the pass in Turn 3 which turned out to be the winning move.  “He (O’Ward) raced me clean.  He’s a Champion and one of the best drivers in the field.  He’s just as deserving a winner.  I’ve left here 11-times prior to winning, so I know what he’s feeling.”

O’Ward finished second for the second time in his career after crashing out going for the win late in the race in 2023.

“It was such a stressful race,” said O’Ward, whose in-car camera showed him saving the car from hitting the was on a couple of occasions.  “We were up and down, up and down and the car definitely wasn’t the easiest to drive.  Very proud of what Arrow McLaren did for, not just me, but for everybody within the team,”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda after starting from the 21st position.  Dixon & his ‘Wolfpack’ crew took advantage of a caution in the second-half of the race when Marco Andretti spun going into Turn 1.  The CGR team elected to pit, putting Dixon on a different strategy than the leaders.

The strategy allowed Dixon to gain track position as well as a 4-lap advantage on O’Ward, who was on the same strategy and a 9-lap advantage on Alexander Rossi.  The strategy didn’t pay off after Will Power brought out a caution on Lap 147 that put everyone on a one-stop strategy to the end.

Three Rivers Karting

“It was like a win honestly,” Dixon said after the race.  “When I made that restart from the first position, and before the start-finish there was two of them that passed me already, I knew it was going to be pretty tough.  Big thanks to everybody on the PNC Bank No. 9.”

Dixon said once those cars of O’Ward and Rossi passed him for the lead, he did all he could just to finish third.  “We were pretty much flat their man in their tow and their wake.  We could run 218’s out front and they could run 220’s and once they started cycling they were running 222’s and we were just trying to hang on.”

Rossi held on for fourth place followed by Dixon’s CGR teammate Alex Palou in the No. 10 DHL Honda.

Pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin finished sixth followed by Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood in seventh and AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in eighth.  Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports Conor Daly rounded out the Top 10.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson finished 18th in the No. 17 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet after a late race penalty for speeding on pit road.  Larson ran a large portion of the race up-front and in contention for a strong finish in his first INDYCAR race and first Indy 500.

Newgarden led 26-laps en route to the victory.  There were 48-lead changes among 16-drivers. The average speed of the race was 167.763 mph despite 8-caution periods.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” said Larson, who elected to run the race despite a four-hour rain delay.

Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Sunday June 2nd at Noon ET on USA.

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IndyCar

Indianapolis 500 Preview

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) The Indianapolis 500 is never short on storylines and that is the case again for the 108th running but Mother Nature will certainly be one of them as a line of storms is anticipated to roll through central Indiana midday.

One of the biggest storylines is Helio Castroneves’ ‘Drive for Five’.  The 4-time Indy 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021) is going for a record fifth win, which would move him out of a tie with 4-time winners AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) and the late Al Unser Sr (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987).  It should be noted that Castroneves posted the second-fastest lap during ‘Carb Day’ final practice at 226.939 mph.

“We’re pretty darn close,” said Castroneves after Friday’s practice. “The Cliffs machine and Sirius XM car looks really, really strong. But at the end of the day, we just got to make sure that we read the race and go to that number five.”

Castroneves is joined by seven other drivers who have drank the milk in victory lane including two-time winner Takuma Sato (2017 & 2020), 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon (2008), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Will Power (2018), Marcus Ericsson (2022) and Josef Newgarden (2023).

Six rookies are in the starting lineup including 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, who will attempt to do the ‘Double’, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.  John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are the other drivers who have attempted the double.  Only Stewart finished all 1100 laps.

Joining Larson in the rookie lineup are Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing, Christian Rasmussen of Ed Carpenter Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Marcus Armstrong, driver of the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda; Kyffin Simpson, driver of the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda and Linus Lundqvist, driver of the No. 8 American Legion Honda.

10 rookies have won in the 107-year history of the race, only three since 1967: Arie Luyendyk (1990), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Rossi (2016).

Ray Haroun won the inaugural race in 1911 and Newgarden is the defending race winner.

Three Rivers Karting

There have been four different winner in the first four NTT INDYCAR SERIES Races.  Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg), Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park) and Palou (IMS Road Course).

McLaughlin start on the pole position after posting the fastest four-lap average for a pole-sitter, 234.220 mph.  Twenty-one drivers have won the race from the pole, the most recent was Simon Pagenaud in 2019.

Team Penske has the most 500 wins – 19, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global with five.  AJ Foyt Enterprises and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have won twice and Meyer Shank Racing has one win.

Palou can join Will Power and Pagenaud as the only drivers to ‘sweep’ the month of May by winning on the 2.5-mile oval and IMS road course.

Sunday Schedule

  • 10:30 a.m. – Cars to the Grid
  • 11:47 a.m. – Driver Introductions
  • 12:14 p.m. – Indy 500 Pre-race Ceremonies
  • 12:28 p.m. – “Drivers To Your Cars”
  • 12:38 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
  • 12:45 p.m. – 108th Indianapolis 500 (200 laps/500 miles) NBC & INDYCAR Radio Network

Editor’s Note (11:45 a.m.): A Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Speedway, IN forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to suspend pre-race ceremonies.

2:30 p.m. Update: Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have reopened the gates and are allowing fans back into the facility. Track drying is expected to begin shortly and is expected to take about 2-hours.  The Speedway has also made the decision to lift the television blackout locally for race fans who were unable to stay at the track.  Kyle Larson is going to stay and race in the Indy 500.

3:30 p.m. Update: NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials are estimating a 4:44 p.m. ET Green Flag.

3:34 p.m. Update: Hendrick Motorsports makes it official that Kyle Larson will start the race. 

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