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Jimmie Johnson chasing history at the Indianapolis 500

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Helio Castroneves joined an elite group of winners when he crossed the yard of bricks first in the 2021 Indianapolis 500 – the four time winners club.  Jimmie Johnson can join an even more exclusive club with a victory in Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing – joining racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only winners of both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500.

Johnson joined Chip Ganassi’s INDYCAR squad last year but only ran the road and street courses as he got acclimated to the series.  Johnson attended last year’s race and knew he wanted to drive in it after the cars roared into Turn 1 during the first few laps.  Persuading his wife Chandra to let him run the race was the next challenge.  The Aeroscreen and its safety benefits were key to accomplishing that task.

Now Johnson is here and has been fast all month, as have all five of Chip Ganassi’s Honda’s.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Johnson when asked about CGR. “Just so thankful to be a part of the group.  Watching them prepare literally since they left here last year and continually thinking of this race and it being a motto to win here before the championship.”

Longtime readers of www.pittsburghracingnow.com and listeners of the Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast should be familiar with how CGR approaches every NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“It’s written in the race shop,” said Johnson. “The first goal is to win the Indianapolis 500 and then the championship. To be a part of it, to live it, to now be here experiencing it is really cool.”

Johnson has been taking time this month to soak up the experience and the energy the fans bring to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something he didn’t do much of in his Cup career.

“I think the first moment I had was before I fired up to leave to start my qualifying lap, I saw the NBC Peacock pit box that I was in last year commentating, and I sat there with so much FOMO watching these guys go,” said Johnson. “To just know what’s happened in the course of 12 months and actually be in the race car, that was a really neat moment. Instead of being so focused on just the work side, I’m enjoying the different moments. I’m letting my mind relax a little bit, look around and smell the roses type moments, which was not how I operated my Cup career.”

Three Rivers Karting

Not that Johnson hasn’t been focused this month on getting the No. 48 Carvana Honda performing at the highest level possible.

“I’m still very new to it all, but gaining experience and gaining confidence in what I’m feeling, gaining confidence in what I’m looking for, and gaining confidence in the adjustments we’re making on the car,” said Johnson. “I feel like the more seat time I get, the more I gain confidence in myself and understanding the car and then certainly understanding changes. I’ve had a few aha moments where I think adjustments have crossed over from what I would do with a Cup car here setup-wise to the INDYCAR.”

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who won his first 500 driving for Ganassi, thinks Johnson will not only run well but says he is a threat for the win.

“I told him when he came to INDYCAR, ‘you’re doing the hard thing (road and street courses), that is the thing that you would struggle and the good thing where you would kick everybody’s ass (ovals) you didn’t,’ so I’m so happy he’s doing it….well to a point. I don’t want him to beat me,” laughed Montoya, who also drove in NASCAR for Ganassi. “I do really believe he has a genuine shot of winning because he’s got so much experience on ovals and so much experience in long races, and a lot of pit stops and he knows how to go through the good and bad of a race.”

Team Owner Chip Ganassi, who’s Twitter hashtag is #ILikeWinners, said having Johnson join the team has helped elevate the Championship-winning organization even more.

“Unquestionably it’s a good thing for our team,” said Ganassi. “Anytime you can bring a seven-time champion of anything into your team it’s going to lift your team up. I think when Jimmie came to our team in ’21 we were Champions in ’20, and he lifted our team even though we were the Champions.”

Late Sunday afternoon Johnson can add to his Championship legacy by drinking the milk and join some very elite company in the process.

The green flag drops on the 106th Indianapolis 500 at 12:45 p.m. ET with coverage beginning at 11 a.m. on NBC and on the IMS Radio Network.

IndyCar

INDYCAR Drivers Frustrated With Racing At Iowa Speedway

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Penske Entertainment: James Black

NEWTON, IA (July 14, 2024) – NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers feel something needs to be done to make the Hy-Vee Doubleheader weekend at Iowa Speedway as exciting on-track as it has been historically.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed about the race and how it raced,” said Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing, who finished second Friday night. “Really tough to get that second lane working, compared to I don’t know how many on-track passes we had last year, probably not even a 10th of that. That was a bit frustrating because I thought we had a very strong car, definitely a car that was capable of winning. Just no way to get around a car.”

In 2023 for race one there were 1,502 total passes, of which 319 were for position.  Conversely in race one of 2024 there were 192-total passes Saturday night, 100 of those were for position.

“Unfortunately I don’t think our car and our formula works super well for this type of track adjustment,” said Saturday night’s third place finisher Josef Newgarden about the partial track repave. “We’re different than a Cup car. We’ve developed our car differently than they have. It doesn’t always mesh. It definitely didn’t mesh tonight.”

Three Rivers Karting

“Bit of a shame that couldn’t really do anything to pass or to do anything,” said Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, who finished second on Sunday. “It’s the most boring thing I’ve ever done. It was yesterday, as well. It’s a shame that we couldn’t really put on a better show. I think everybody will agree that it was a very boring race to drive.”

INDYCAR reduced downforce levels by about 450-pounds heading into the race weekend and tire supplier Firestone came with new right side tires after heat-related issues during a recent test session at the track.  The combination led to a parade-like race on Saturday and Sunday.

“I feel like we go into it and not do the right amount of study or whatnot to get it done and to get it to work,” said Saturday night’s winner Scott McLaughlin, who finished third on Sunday. “That’s not a shot at the sport, not a shot at anything. It’s working together with the amazing people and the geniuses we have up and down pit lane. It’s just a matter of making it work.”

“I think INDYCAR could go to work with downforce levels, working with Firestone on a few other things,” McLaughlin explained. “But you just can’t blame the track because at the end of the day they have to repave this at some time.”

“We went from the best oval race we would have all season to potentially the least amount of passing,” said Sunday’s winner Will Power.  “Maybe just a softer tire might just work with this downforce level. Just a softer tire. If it degrades, people go out. You can roll to the outside.  I don’t know what the answer is, but we certainly got to do something for next year.”

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IndyCar

Will Power Wins 2nd Race Of INDYCAR Doubleheader Weekend At Iowa

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

NEWTON, IA (July 14, 2024) Will Power is back in victory lane on an oval after winning Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade.  Power’s last oval win was nearly five years ago at Pocono Raceway.

“I didn’t really think I’d win today,” said Power.  “You know how life goes, it just happens like that. Yeah, been trying to win this one for a long time. Stoked to tick that box. I’ve won a lot of races at a lot of tracks. When you tick a box at a track you haven’t won on, it feels pretty good.”

Team Penske elected to leave Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, which started 22nd, out on the track during the first green-flag stint and it paid off because the caution flag came out for Augustin Canapino’s stalled car, allowing Power and Championship leader Alex Palou cycle to the front of the field.

“My plan from the beginning was to sit back and save a lot of fuel, just get the best possible number using the speed, lifting,” explained Power. “In that gap, prayed for a yellow because I knew there would be out-laps. That would be when people would be prone to mistakes. That’s exactly what happened.”

Power restarted the race in the 2nd position and followed Palou until the next round of pit stops.  Power’s team did not disappoint, beating Palou’s time by nine-tenths of a second, putting the two-time series Champion out front for the final 50-laps.

“I know if I hit my marks, it’s going to be an extremely fast stop,” said Power.

Three Rivers Karting

Palou rebounded from Saturday night’s crash to finish second and retain the Championship points lead, 35-over Power, who sits second.

“It’s been a weekend where we had a ton of speed compared to what we had before with qualifying third and second,” said Palou. “Was a shame yesterday obviously with the pit stall on the first pit, then the crash during the second stint.  Yeah, happy that today we’re in second.”

Saturday night’s winner Scott McLaughlin finished third after starting on the pole and getting caught by the caution flag that benefitted Power and Palou.

“I was on the undercut,” explained McLaughlin. “At the end of the day, I mean, I would have come out in front of Alex. Will would have had to pit in a couple laps’ time. That’s just how it rolls, man. I’ve won a race by a delayed yellow. I’ve lost a race now. It’s just part of the deal. I think everyone will have one or two of those in their career.”

Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon finished fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing while Colton Herta fifth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Global w/Curb-Agajanian.

The series next race is on the Street of Toronto for the Ontario Honda Dealers Indy Toronto.  Practice begins Friday at 3 p.m. ET at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Iowa Race 2 Results

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IndyCar

Scott McLaughlin Wins 1st Race Of INDYCAR Iowa Doubleheader Weekend

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Penske Entertainment: Travis Hinkle

NEWTON, IA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin is now a winner on an oval after grabbing the victory in Saturday night’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart.

McLaughlin started alongside pole-sitter Colton Herta of Andretti Global and grabbed the lead beating everyone out of the pits after a caution flag on Lap 80 when Graham Rahal’s No. 15 One Cure Honda suffered a cracked wheel.

McLaughlin led the final 164-laps and held off Arrow McLaren’s Patricio O’Ward, who finished second and Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden who finished third.

“At the end of the day I did the job in some ways from my perspective, but it was a team win,” said McLaughlin. “They put me out in front and got me the lead. I was able to show how good our car was just controlling the pace at the front.”

Great pit work from O’Ward’s number 5 crew got him out the pits in second place late in the race giving him a chance to challenge McLaughlin for the win.

“Yeah, awesome job by the guys in the pits,” said O’Ward. “That’s truly what got us in this position to fight for the podium.”

O’Ward was frustrated that the race track ended up being aa one groove track after a recent repave and despite INDYCAR dedicating a practice session to trying to rubber-in the second groove.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed about the race and how it raced. Really tough to get that second lane working,” explained O’Ward, who keeps moving up in the Championship fight. “Compared to I don’t know how many on-track passes we had last year, probably not even a 10th of that. That was a bit frustrating because I thought we had a very strong car, definitely a car that was capable of winning. Just no way to get around a car.”

Three Rivers Karting

For the record, there were 192-total passes Saturday night, 100 of those were for position.  Comparatively there were 1,502 total passes in race one at Iowa in 2023, 319 for position.

A driver who didn’t have a problem making any passes was Newgarden, who started 22nd after a lackluster qualifying effort.  Newgarden grabbed eight spots at the drop of the green flag by using the high line and making passes in the pits.

“It was a great recovery by the team,” said Newgarden. “My goodness, they were really good in the pits, like really, really good. If Pato’s guys were good, mine must have been double as good. I made up probably 80% of my position in the pits tonight.”

Championship leader Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing had trouble in the pits for the second straight week.  Palou stalled the No. 10 DHL Honda on the first pit stop, dropping from third place to 19th place.

Palou quickly regained six places and threw it all away on Lap 176 when he lost control on the frontstretch and backed it into the outside wall.  The miscue relegated Palou to a 23rd place finish, his worst in two-plus years, a span of 36 races, when he finished 27th in the 2022 race at Road America.

Palou’s finish cost him 11-points in the title fight.  Palou now leads O’Ward by 37-points with Team Penske’s Will Power sitting third, 43-points out of the leads.  Six-time Series Champion Scott Dixon remained in fourth, 46-points back.  The victory vaulted McLaughlin to fifth, 59-points out of first.

Race 2 of the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade takes place tomorrow at noon ET, live on NBC, Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network.  McLaughlin will start on the pole after setting a new track record in qualifying.

Iowa Race One Results

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