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OPINION – Chip Ganassi, Scott Dixon and Mike Hull’s leadership put focus back on-track in Toronto



Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

(Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In a tumultuous past week where Chip Ganassi Racing was making more headlines off-track, six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon put the focus right where his team owner wanted it – on-track, and added the cherry on top by putting the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda in victory lane.

Dixon picked up his 52nd career victory winning Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto on the streets around Exhibition Place, beating Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta.

The victory tied Dixon with motorsports legend Mario Andretti for second place on the all-time INDYCAR win list.  51-of those 52-wins, and all 6 of Dixon’s Championships, came in CGR machines.  Dixon has been driving for Ganassi for 21-years.

Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Alex Palou won his title in his first season with Ganassi, so when the team announced last Tuesday afternoon that they were exercising their option for the 2023 season, it came as no surprise.

What did come as a surprise was Palou taking to social media Tuesday evening to say that he informed the team that he was leaving after the 2022 season.  Moments later it turned into a soap opera when McLaren Racing announced they signed Palou for 2023, but didn’t specify which series he would be competing.

When the team arrived in Toronto all eyes, microphones and cameras were on the 14-time Champions but the venerable team owner set the tone early.

“I think Chip was extremely calm,” recalled Dixon. “I think that’s real leadership. I think somebody’s kind of throwing their toys out of the cart, running around, that’s going to be a different reaction for everybody to see. He’s very calm.”

Someone else who is very calm is Dixon, who put everything into perspective telling Racer “if you’re going to have an example of how not to go about things, this is 100 percent how you would do it.”

Three Rivers Karting

“For me, honesty is key, man. Loyalty as well,” he said. “You know, it’s very easy in this community – it’s a small community – to change how you’re looked upon or respected quite quickly. Personal view for myself and how I would have done this? It wouldn’t be like this.”

Dixon added, “all my deals with Chip have been very straightforward. You know, you kind of sit down have a chat, [talk about] what everybody’s looking at doing. Even when I’ve had options [presented by other teams], I’ve gone to them and said, ‘Hey, these are my options. What should we do?’”.

Palou apparently didn’t take that route. I don’t personally know if did but maybe he should’ve talked to Dixon, who McLaren took a run at a few years ago, or Jimmie Johnson, who could drive for any team, in any series, but is with CGR.  How about talking to Dario Franchitti?  Franchitti drove for Andretti Autosport before joining CGR where he won two Indy 500’s and three Championships for Ganassi prior to retiring.  That’s decades of experience to draw from.

I bet CGR teammate Marcus Ericsson, who was dumped by Arrow McLaren SP after only one season, James Hinchcliffe and Oliver Askew would’ve been able to give Palou some perspective on his possible future employer.

One key ingredient to success is consistency.  Take the Pittsburgh Steelers for example. The Steelers have three head coaches since 1969 and have won 6-Super Bowls.  The Bill Belichick/Tom Brady pairing yielded 6-rings.  There’s that consistency again.

The consistency at CGR starts at the top with Managing Director Mike Hull, who’s strong and steady hand are the definition of leadership.  People like Hull, Dixon and so many other talented individuals have been keys to Ganassi’s consistency, which has to play a large part in the success of the team over their 30+ year history, with the team owner right at the top.

“I think it was a great calmness and a sternness that he had that kind of clears out the noise that’s out there,” said Dixon.

Last week’s drama highlights that racing is a business, but I can’t help but think of the old adage ‘the grass isn’t always greener’.  I started covering Chip Ganassi’s team in the late 90’s and have seen managers, drivers, crew members, etc. leave the team.  The team members that have stayed continue to reel off wins and Championships.

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Scott Dixon wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Music City Grand Prix; Moves to 2nd in Championship



Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

NASHVILLE, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Scott Dixon is sitting second in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship standings after winning Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville.

“It was a wild day,” said Dixon. “We had a good start. I thought things were going well, and then we came in for the first stop, and the air jacks failed or the hose failed. We went all the way to the back and got into the chaos in turn five or six and just got rolled over the back and hit pretty hard.”

Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank crew assessed the damage and the 6-time Series Champion made four pit stops to fix the wounded machine.

“Actually, we couldn’t get the wheel off because it was stuck on the brake caliper,” explained Dixon. “Took the team a lot of time to get that off, but then it ripped a bunch of the underfloor off of the car as well and all the strakes.”

Dixon returned to the fight and inherited the lead when Josef Newgarden hit pit road for fuel and held off Scott McLaughlin following a restart with 2-laps to go to pick up his second win of the year and 53rd of Dixon’s career, which gives him sole position of second-place on the All-time INDYCAR wins list.  A.J. Foyt is the All-Time leader with 67 wins.

Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda started 15th in the field and picked up a number of spots at the start of the race and settled into top 10 as McLaughlin, who started on the pole, took control out front early.

McLaughlin led 22-laps but dropped into the middle of the field in the middle part of the race.

“We had a fast car,” said McLaughlin. “I was in control early in the race and I knew early in the race I had a car that could pass.  We had one costly pit-stop that put me back to 16th.  I was pissed off and dropped the hammer.”

Three Rivers Karting

McLaughlin however couldn’t get Dixon on the final restart.

“I probably played it a little safe,” said McLaughlin.  “The opportunity was there a couple of times but we both would’ve ended up in the fence if I would’ve taken it. To go toe-to-toe with Scotty was phenomenal and a very cool thing for my racing career.”

Dixon knew he had to get a good restart because his car was battered and bruised.

“The car was bent and broken, but for us I think strategy-wise to take no tires on that last stop was probably the key,” said Dixon. “We were able to jump a couple and have enough fuel to get towards the end, and to the end, but it was very difficult to drive.  The car just had no grip. Each time we had a restart, I was just praying for another accident. Some of those came. Some of them didn’t. Another lap with McLaughlin would have been extremely tough to hold him off. He was just super fast, and I think just in a better situation.”

Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou, the defending Series Champion, finished third after leading the second portion of the race.

“I think Nashville is kind of like the Indy 500 where there are so many things happening, and you just need to survive and have a good car and a car in one piece at the end,” said Palou.

The win leaves Dixon six-points behind leader Will Power in the Championship standings.  Palou’s third place finish leaves him 33-points out of the lead with three races to go.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES event is the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Saturday, Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Live coverage on the USA Network and the INDYCAR Radio Network of the last oval race of the season starts at 6 p.m. ET.

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix Results

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Pato O’Ward wins 2nd race of INDYCAR doubleheader after Newgarden crashes



Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

NEWTON, IA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Pato O’Ward won race two of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader at Iowa Speedway, beating Team Penske’s Will Power by 4.2476-seconds.

O’Ward was in the position after Penske’s Josef Newgarden crashed after leading 148 of the first 234-laps.

“I knew we had the pace to win one,” said O’Ward. “The problem was just trying to get up to Josef. One thing is getting up to him, and one thing is passing him. I’m glad he’s okay. We took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. I just walked away with it. I knew we had the pace to do it.”

“Man, I want to cry,” said Newgarden. “So sad for my team. I don’t know what happened. It was a good run. I feel terrible for us. I don’t know; something went wrong there.”

Three Rivers Karting

Newgarden was treated and released at the infield care center but later collapsed in the Motorhome lot and hit his head.  He was admitted overnight in Iowa for observation before being released the following day.  Newgarden’s status for Saturday’s race on the road course at Indianapolis is pending INDYCAR Medical Team clearance.

Newgarden’s Penske teammates Will Power finished second followed by Scott McLaughlin in third.

“The car was really good,” said Power. “I probably could have been more aggressive in that second-to-last stint because it seemed like there’s a lot less deg. Must have cooled or the track took a lot of rubber or something. The track was really fast.”

“Midway through the race today, the car was a bit of a handful and I wasn’t too happy,” said McLaughlin.  “Managed to get my head down, did some really good pit exchanges, managed to get ourselves into P4 there before the last caution. Then P3 on Dixon, which was a fun pass. I really enjoyed that. It was a really good exchange with him all race.”

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race is the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the INDYCAR/NASCAR Doubleheader weekend.

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Newgarden wins first of INDYCAR Doubleheader at Iowa



Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

(Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden picked up his fourth win of the season taking race one of the HyVee Doubleheader NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Iowa Speedway.

Newgarden beat Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward by 6.1784 seconds en route to his 24th career victory.

“I love this place,” said Newgarden. “I mean, not just because we’re good here. Obviously that makes it better, but it’s a really fun track to race at. You have two lanes to run on, sometimes three. That’s abnormal for us in a lot of ovals we go to. It’s the most exciting race we get to partake in in INDYCAR from an oval standpoint.”

“I thought we had a little bit more for Josef in the end,” said O’Ward. “He was really strong.  I had to use my tires a bit much. I think Will was on the same train battling with me and Palou, Marcus. So, I think we used up our tires a little bit more than what Josef did. He had a little bit more to give in the end.”

Power, the race’s pole-sitter, finished third.

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“Last restart is what hurt me the most, trying to keep guys behind,” said Power. “Had a couple of big yaw moments on the rear tire early. Pounded on that rear too much to stay ahead. Then went loose, really loose. I had some big saves. I was happy to end up third actually.”

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay finished fourth in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, his second top-four finish in his last three starts. Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon followed his victory last Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto by finishing fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“It was a tough day,” said Dixon.  “Our car was really good on the long run. We’ve got a lot of work to do tonight to get our cars better.”

Race 2 of the Doubleheader is Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

IndyCar Iowa 1 Results

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