ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing begins its quest for a third-straight NTT INDYCAR SERIES title with this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.
The team is clearly capable having won 14-INDYCAR titles between 1996 and 2021.
Alex Palou enters 2022 as the defending series Champion and knows that he, and his team, are capable of going back-to-back, joining CGR Alums Alex Zanardi (1997 & 1998) and Dario Franchitti – who won back-to-back titles en route to 3-straight (2009, 2010, 2011) – as the only CGR drivers to accomplish that feat.
“It’s going to take a lot of work for sure,” said Palou. “I think the field is getting stronger and stronger in INDYCAR, the teams are getting closer so the competition is really, really high. It’s going to be important to keep performing, even on the bad days. We kept the same team, almost all the mechanics, the engineering group on the 10-car so it should be a good year for us.”
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon says Palou’s title shows how strong and deep the Ganassi team is, which is reminiscent of when the team reeled off 4-straight titles – twice – from 1996-to-1999 and from 2008-thru-2011.
“To see Alex and the 10 car side, and the whole Ganassi group, be able to pull that off was great to see,” said Dixon, who again will pilot the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. “It was great to see so many smiles, I think, throughout the team on all the team levels and the progression that we made. Hopefully we can carry that momentum through to this season and one of us have that opportunity to try and win for Chip again.”
Dixon’s mindset is always the same entering the season and it hasn’t changed in the two decades he’s been driving for the team.
“The first goal is to win the Indy 500, which has been difficult,” said Dixon, the 2008 winner of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing. “The second is to win the Championship. Last year was definitely trying at some points, and we lost a lot of points at the Indy 500 with double points, and it was very hard — nowadays especially with the competition, how tough it is, it’s very hard to claw back deficits like that.”
Marcus Ericsson enters his third year with the team and is coming off his first career victory in Detroit and followed that up with a victory in the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.
“Last year was definitely kind of a breakthrough for me getting that first win out of the way, having a super strong season, a consistent season with a lot of top 10s, actually running in the top five for most of it there in the second half,” reflected Ericsson, who drives the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda.
Ericsson says one of the keys to the success of the team is the unselfishness of everyone involved.
“We have a very strong team,” said Ericsson. “We work so well together. I think that’s one of the reasons why we are so strong, is that we have all of us drivers in the team, me Scott and Alex, but also Jimmie and T.K. (Tony Kanaan). We are really working well together. We’re different characters, different personalities, but we all work really hard together and want to succeed as a team. I think that’s been getting the best out of each other last year. It was a big reason why we were so strong.”
Kanaan will run a fifth Ganassi entry, The American Legion Honda, at the Indianapolis 500 after driving the oval portion of the schedule in the No. 48 Honda that Jimmie Johnson drove on the road and street circuits in 2021.
Johnson is back and will drive the full season in the No. 48 Carvana Honda after a significant learning curve in 2021 after spending decades driving big, heavy, stock cars.
“I spent last year just trying to hitch my trailer to the back of the pack and keep up with everyone, and I was finally doing that at the end,” said Johnson. “I’m just eager to get more oval experience to try to sense and understand the car. I feel like I’ll be much more competitive on the ovals, and the faster I can learn the cars and sensations and adjustments, the better my chances will be at a podium or better yet.”
Johnson admitted that he needs to get settled in and just drive and react versus think and analyze every little detail.
“In some ways I just need to get out of my own head and hang it all out on the track,” said Johnson, who is looking forward to getting a second opportunity on tracks he’s only raced at once.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag drops Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the race on NBC and hear the race on INDYCAR Radio Network affiliates and SiriusXM Channel 160.
Newgarden fastest in first INDYCAR practice at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden put the No. 2 PPG Chevy atop the speed chart after the opening NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Newgarden’s best lap of 1 minute, 7.0549-seconds around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course was 0.2061-seconds faster than defending series Champion Alex Palou in the No. 10 NTT Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“I’m relatively happy,” said Newgarden. “I think our car was good off the truck. I think the (temperatures) definitely made the trap speed low, and it felt very difficult to drive the car today to bring it up to temperature.”
Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, the runner-up to Newgarden in 2021, ended the day fourth in the No. 8 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda at 1:07.3720.
Scott Dixon posted the 9th fastest lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank CGR Honda. Dixon’s 1:07.5609 was a half-second back of Newgarden.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is back on track at Mid-Ohio Saturday with Practice 2 at 9:30 a.m. (ET), followed by qualifying for the NTT P1 Award for pole at 2:45 p.m. Both sessions will be live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network.
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.