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106th Indianapolis 500 – 5 Storylines To Watch

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Image by Walt Kuhn

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The green flag drops on the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Sunday at 12:45 ET and there is no shortage of storylines to follow, which is why the 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.  Here are 5 storylines that we think you may enjoy following as the cars and stars make their way around the legendary 2.5-mile oval.

Can Helio Castroneves Win A Fifth:

  • Helio Castroneves joined the exclusive ‘Four-time 500 Winners Club’ when he took home the victory in 2021 driving for Meyer Shank Racing.  Castroneves starts 27th in the 33-car field.  Castroneves also won the 500 in 2001, 2002 and 2009.  Those wins came with Team Penske.  Castroneves can become the first ever to win 5!

Jimmie Johnson Indy 500 Rookie:

  • It’s hard to call the 7-time NASCAR Champ a rookie considering he has run more 500 mile events than anyone else in the 33-car field but he is a rookie in the 500 after running only the road and street courses in 2021.  Johnson’s sixth place finish earlier this year in his first oval start at Texas was an eye-opener for some but not 2-time Indy 500 Champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who thinks Johnson can win the race.  With a victory, Johnson would join racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.
Three Rivers Karting

Can Scott Dixon Win A Second:

  • PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon drank the milk in victory lane in 2008 but the 6-time Series Champion has not made a return trip to the winners circle.  Dixon turned the fastest four-lap average for a pole winner in Indy 500 history at 234.046 mph last weekend.  It was Dixon’s fifth 500 pole, leaving him one short of Rick Mears record of 6.  Can the No. 9 PNC team translate the speed into a win? Twenty-one drivers have won the race from the pole – most recently Simon Pagenaud in 2019 and Dixon in 2008.  Dixon has led 570-laps in the 500, second only to Al Unser’s 644.

Young Guns Vs. Old Guard:

  • The starting grid is made up of a diverse group of experience and youth.  Pole sitter Scott Dixon is 41 years old but starting beside him on the front row is his teammate Alex Palou, who’s 25, and 21-year old Rinus VeeKay.  Other ‘experienced’ drivers include include winners Helio Castroneves & Tony Kanaan (47), Takuma Sato (45) as well as Jimmie Johnson (46), and Ed Carpenter (41) to name a few.  The ‘Young Guns’ also include Colton Herta (22), Pato O’Ward (23), Kyle Kirkwood (23), and others.  Will experience or youthful exuberance prevail on Sunday?

5-Ganassi Cars in Top 12:

  • All five of Chip Ganassi’s entries start in the Top 12, with Scott Dixon (1st) and Alex Palou (2nd) starting on the front row.  Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan start on the second row with Ericsson starting fifth and Kanaan starting sixth.  Jimmie Johnson will start 12th after the best save of the month when his car got loose in turn 1 on his first qualifying lap.  Ganassi and Company haven’t kissed the bricks in a decade following Dario Franchitti’s third 500 win in 2012.
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Newgarden fastest in first INDYCAR practice at Mid-Ohio

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Penske Entertainment

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.”

Three Rivers Karting

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.

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Scott Dixon looking to get season and title fight on track at Mid-Ohio

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Penske Entertainment

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.”

Three Rivers Karting

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.”

Dixon and the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors hit the track for 1st practice Friday at 3:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at www.midohio.com.

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Josef Newgarden puts the PPG colors in victory lane at Road America

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

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.”

Three Rivers Karting

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.

INDYCAR Road America Results

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