PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou survived a first lap incident heading into Portland International Raceway’s first turn and came back to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Grand Prix of Portland.
The victory was the third of the season for Palou, who regained the Championship points lead with the victory.
“It was massive,” Palou said of the victory. “I don’t think that much about the three wins or two wins. I think that’s important but not super. What I think is important is that even having a really bad start of the race, we were able to fight.”
Palou started on the pole position and was leading the field down the frontstretch with Alexander Rossi to his left in second place and Scott Dixon behind him to Palou’s inside in third when fourth-starting Felix Rosenqvist carried too much speed into the first turn. As Rosenqvist took evasive action he made contact with Dixon, which prevented the six-time series Champion from making turn one. Dixon went straight through the runoff area but that move prevented Palou and Rossi from making the turn too.
“I filled that gap because I figured Rahal or somebody was going to try and scoot down the inside of us,” explained Dixon. “I bailed out of it and then got hit from behind, I think it was Felix (Rosenqvist), and that caused a bit of an interesting moment for all of us on the start there.”
All four drivers went through the runoff area and rejoined the field however more turn one chaos was happening behind them as several drivers made contact or were forced to take evasive action to avoid contact bringing out the caution flag. Among the drivers sustaining damage were Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Romain Grosjean and Oliver Askew.
INDYCAR race control penalized Palou, Rossi, Dixon and Rosenqvist and sent them to the back of the field for not taking the first turn, which mystified the drivers.
“I got hit at some point,” said Palou. “I knew Scott was on the inside, so I couldn’t really go there, so I knew I had to go through the chicane. I made it through the chicane, and I said, ‘okay, I only lost like five positions’, which is a lot, but I said, ‘at least I’m not out’. And then INDYCAR decided that that was not penalizing enough, and they put me in the back, which I don’t know what they want me to do at that point. Do they prefer me to like completely stop the car and make that corner, making the race unsafe?”
“It was just the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in racing a little while,” explained Dixon. “I don’t know what they (race control) were thinking or how that came about, but put all of us at the back the field. Be interesting to go talk to them later and see how they came up with that scenario.”
“I thought it was pretty low grip in Turn 1 when Felix, I guess — when Scott and Alex and them kind of slid through, I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I thought if we got back to the styrofoam chicane, that was acceptable,” said Rossi. “But it was self-penalizing because we all went from like first, second, third to sixth, seventh, eighth, and then they’re like, ‘oh, you’re going to 24th’. It was like, okay, cool. But fortunately it all came around.”
INDYCAR rules state that cars avoiding the collision and remaining on the racing surface at the timing lines embedded in the track through the chicane are placed at the front of the field on the restart, with drivers avoiding the collision but leaving the racetrack placed behind them, followed by drivers involved in the incident.
The reshuffling of the field and subsequent restart saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who was leading the Championship by 10-points coming into the weekend, take the early lead with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal right behind in second place. Those two remained out front until their first round of pit stops.
The second caution flag came out on lap 52 when rookie Callum Ilott and Dalton Kellett both slowed on different parts of the track. Several drivers elected to pit for service but Rahal elected to stay out and led until Lap 74, when he and second-place Ed Jones pitted to hand the lead to Jack Harvey.
Pit stop strategy eventually worked out in the favor of Palou, Rossi and Dixon. Palou, who made his final stop on Lap 79, one lap before teammate Dixon, took the lead for good on Lap 86 and survived two late restarts and was able to hold off Rossi and Dixon for the win.
Two races remain in the season-long championship, WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where the 2021 Champion will be crowned.
“Clearly we are in the fight,” said Palou of his Championship chances. “But I think until Long Beach we are not going to know really who’s what. I think that many people today after the first lap thought that Pato was going to win and that we were going to lose 40 points, and it was the opposite. That’s why INDYCAR is INDYCAR, which is really good. I think that makes the racing super exciting and the championship super exciting until the end.”
Scott Dixon looking to get season and title fight on track at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is looking to get back to victory lane and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex could be exactly what ‘the Iceman’ needs.
Chip Ganassi Racing has 11-wins at Mid-Ohio, the 13-turn 2.258-mile permanent road course 181-miles West of Pittsburgh. The list of winners includes Alex Zanardi (1996, 1997), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Dario Franchitti (2010), Charlie Kimball (2013) and Dixon (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2019).
“I think the last to first of course was probably the best one,” recalled Dixon. “Obviously the most unexpected one where I think where we were able to save a ton of fuel. We kind of caught a caution, which I think was Ryan Hunter-Reay, at the perfect time and went on to win”.
The 1-2 finish between he and one of his CGR teammates was one of the most memorable too.
“I think that probably was the craziest one was with Felix Rosenqvist, a few years back, where it was a two-stop strategy against a three-stop strategy. We drove the tires off, and I think I had a whole logjam behind me the last three or four laps.”
Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team is looking up at a logjam in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship where Dixon sits sixth, 67-points behind teammate Marcus Ericsson.
“I think as a group and as a team, we just haven’t been getting the job done,” said Dixon, a 6-time Series Champion. “I was hoping that the Indy 500 was going to be that turn and kick that we needed, but yeah, it’s been an interesting year, lots of ups and downs and some missed opportunities. We’ll keep after it.”
Dixon, and his teammates, have come up as part of rumors swirling about driver movement in coming seasons. Dixon said he has not been part of those conversations and is happy where he is at.
“I haven’t been a part of any of these conversations, so not really sure where a lot of these things come from,” said Dixon. “Obviously people talk. I even got a few messages from people asking about the same thing. For me I love doing what I’m doing, I love being a part of the team that I’m with, and who knows what comes in the future, but as of right now just focusing on this season. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say really. There’s nothing to it.”
Josef Newgarden puts the PPG colors in victory lane at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, WI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josef Newgarden leapfrogged leader Alexander Rossi during green flag pit stops and held off a hard-charging Marcus Ericsson late in the race to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America.
The victory was Newgarden’s third of the year and came with a $1-million dollar bonus from PeopleReady. The bonus went to the first driver to win on an oval (Texas) a street course (Long Beach) and a road course (Road America). The money will be spit with half going to Newgarden and Team Penske and the other half to charities of Newgarden’s choice.
“To finally get it done and most importantly to give that money to charity, half of that money is going to charity with SeriousFun Network and Wags and Walks Nashville,” said Newgarden. “I hope they’re happy about it, that’s a lot of money coming their way.”
Newgarden started second and tucked in behind Rossi, the pole sitter, for the first 14-laps when the first round of green flag pit stops took place. Newgarden’s No. 2 PPG Chevy crew got the two-time Series Champion out ahead of Rossi and as the rest of the field completed their stops. Newgarden inherited the lead.
“You’ve got to be on your toes at all times (in this series),” said Newgarden. “You can go in with a plan, but you probably have to change your plan 90 percent of the time once the race starts to unfold.”
Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson finished second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after passing Rossi on a late restart. The runner-up finish came despite Ericsson making contact with his teammate, and defending Series Champion, Alex Palou while racing for third in Turn 5 on Lap 4.
“First of all, I’m really sorry,” Ericsson said. “You never want to have contact with a teammate. From my point of view, the door was open, and I was already side by side. If you see a gap, you go for it. It’s important at the beginning of the race to get track position.”
Ericsson regained the points lead with the second place finish and sits 27-points ahead of 2nd place Will Power (293-266). Power, last week’s winner at Detroit, finished 19th after rookie Devlin Defrancesco punted Power into the Turn 5 wall early in the race.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the All-New Civic Type R on Sunday, July 3 (noon ET, NBC, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network). Mid-Ohio is the closest track to Pittsburgh that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.
Racing Notebook: Rossi on INDYCAR pole; Larson on Cup pole; Busch wins Truck Race
Sunday’s Racing Notebook has details on the starting lineups for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma as well as Kyle Busch winning another truck series race>
Rossi on INDYCAR Series Pole:
- Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi earned his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position in three years by beating Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in knockout-style qualifying for Sunday’s race at Road America. Rossi’s fast lap of 1 minute, 44.8656 seconds edged Newgarden’s 1:44.9371 in the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet. Defending series champion Alex Palou, who led the final warmup session on Saturday afternoon, qualified third at 1:45.3822 in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Teammate and 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson joins Palou in the second row after his best lap of 1:45.4240 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Road America INDYCAR Lineup
Larson Leads Hendrick Cup Series Front Row:
- Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma. Larson’s fast lap of 92.111 mph (1m70.776s) edged teammate Chase Elliott’s 92.083 mph in the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher qualified third at 91.919 mph after missing last week’s race due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell starts fourth after posting a fast lap of 91.916. Sonoma Cup Lineup
Kyle Busch Wins Truck Series Race:
- Kyle Busch held off Zane Smith to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the year Saturday at Sonoma. The win extended his record career total to 62 series victories and a streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one series win. Busch led 45 of the 75 laps in the victory. Wexford’s Kris Wright finished 26th in the No. 44 FNB Chevrolet after starting 30th in his first race at Sonoma. Sonoma Truck Results