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Marcus Ericsson wins the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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Joe Skibinski - Penske Entertainment

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson is letting the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES know he is going to be a driver to deal with in 2023 after winning the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

Ericsson passed Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward with two-laps-to-go to take the lead and put the throttle down to a 2.4-second victory at the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

“I think we had a really good weekend from the get-go,” said Ericsson. “I was very excited to come here because yes, it’s been an amazing off-season. I got to experience so many cool things and celebrations with the Borg-Warner trophy. And winning the 500 is a win that keeps on giving.
People were worried, kept telling me you need to focus and you need to not get carried away. For me, all those celebrations, all those things I got to experience just gave me more energy, gave me even more hunger to win more and win again in the speedway and also to win the championship.”

O’Ward was leading coming onto the front straightway when the No. 5 Chevrolet’s engine stumbled giving Ericsson the opportunity to take advantage.

“It shut off with a plenum fire. You have to let off, get back to it, and then it kind of like — perfect timing,” said O’Ward sarcastically.  “Sadly, just very annoying to give it away like that. Nothing else I could have done.

“I felt bad for Pato, but we were there to pick up on it,” said Ericsson. “If I wasn’t putting pressure on him and hunt him down, he would have been fine and we would have been second. But we were there right on his gearbox, and we got past.”

Six time INDYCAR Champion Scott Dixon brought the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda home with a podium finish in an eventful day which saw the ‘Iceman’ survive first lap contact with Felix Rosenqvist, a race control review that moved him back four spots when the 9-team was looking like the leaders as they came off pit road and the caution came out.

“It was a pretty smooth day,” said Dixon. “I think how the cautions fell kind of played to us until that untimely one. I think we would have clearly got the lead there, and it would have been kind of smooth sailing, I think. Strategy-wise we didn’t have to go super long on the reds, and then we could have pitted early for the blacks, and kind of got out of being in a bad situation for going long and getting caught on a yellow later. Still take great points. A third-place finish is fantastic here, considering how the day was. Huge credit to the team.”

Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi came home fourth in his first race with his new team and Calllum Ilott gave Juncos Hollinger Racing a fifth place finish.

The green flag was barely back in the starters stand when Dixon and Rosenqvist came together in Turn 3 as Rosenqvist tried to avoid a spot where the left wall encroaches the track.  The contact slowed Rosenqvist and traffic stacked-up behind him triggering a 5-car pileup.

Andretti Autosport’s Devlin DeFrancesco got the worst of the incident, getting T-boned by Benjamin Pedersen. Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud as well as AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci saw their day come to an end as a result of crash damage.  The crash cleanup forced a 19-plus minute red flag.  No one was seriously injured.

Three Rivers Karting

Pole-sitter Romain Grosjean led the field back to green and cruised out front until hit made his first pit stop on Lap 32.  During that green flag pit cycle, Dixon jumped into the lead by staying out on the harder primary Firestone tires.  Dixon hit pit road on Lap 35 when the caution came out for Conor Daly.

Dixon looked to be the leader but INDYCAR race stewards reviewed the timing and scoring data and moved Scott McLaughlin, Grosjean, O’Ward and Ericsson ahead of Dixon.  NBC Sports video confirmed that Dixon did not cross the timing and scoring line on pit road ahead of the other four.

So often in racing caution flags cause more cautions and that was the case Sunday in St. Pete as the Lap 41 restart saw Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay got into the marbles and slid into the tire barrier.  The No. 21 Bitnile Chevrolet rebounded off the tires right into the path of a hard charging Jack Harvey and Kyle Kirkwood, who had nowhere to go.  The contact sent the No. 27 AutoNation Honda airborne.

The carnage continues on Lap 50 when Team Penske’s Will Power sent Andretti’s Colton Herta into the tires.  Power was penalized for avoidable contact.

The next 20-laps saw hard racing between McLaughlin and Grosjean as those behind started to pit early hoping for a caution to flip the field.  The caution came out right after the two leaders made pit stops and Grosjean figured it was time to take advantage of McLaughlin’s cold tires.  McLaughlin thought otherwise and the No. 28 DHL Honda and No. 3 Dex Imaging Chevrolet in the tire barrier.

In all there were 6-caution flags for 26-laps and a red flag for 19-minutes.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is April 2nd at Texas Motor Speedway.

St Pete Race Results

IndyCar

Josef Newgarden Wins 2nd Straight Indianapolis 500

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Penske Entertainment: Karl Zemlin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Josef Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward on the outside of Turn 3 on the last lap and held on to win the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, his second straight victory in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

Newgarden’s win was the first time in 22-years that a driver has won back-to-back Indy 500’s. Helio Castroneves was the last driver to do it in 2001 and 2002, driving for Team Penske. The victory was a record 20th win for the Penske group.

“I’m just so proud of the team, they crushed it,” said Newgarden.  “They came here with the fastest cars.  Worked our tails off.  Team Chevy brought it.  They can say whatever they want now,” alluding to the criticism and penalties Team Penske received for violating NTT INDYCAR SERIES rules at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I don’t think it works unless you’re racing someone like Pato,” said Newgarden of the pass in Turn 3 which turned out to be the winning move.  “He (O’Ward) raced me clean.  He’s a Champion and one of the best drivers in the field.  He’s just as deserving a winner.  I’ve left here 11-times prior to winning, so I know what he’s feeling.”

O’Ward finished second for the second time in his career after crashing out going for the win late in the race in 2023.

“It was such a stressful race,” said O’Ward, whose in-car camera showed him saving the car from hitting the was on a couple of occasions.  “We were up and down, up and down and the car definitely wasn’t the easiest to drive.  Very proud of what Arrow McLaren did for, not just me, but for everybody within the team,”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda after starting from the 21st position.  Dixon & his ‘Wolfpack’ crew took advantage of a caution in the second-half of the race when Marco Andretti spun going into Turn 1.  The CGR team elected to pit, putting Dixon on a different strategy than the leaders.

The strategy allowed Dixon to gain track position as well as a 4-lap advantage on O’Ward, who was on the same strategy and a 9-lap advantage on Alexander Rossi.  The strategy didn’t pay off after Will Power brought out a caution on Lap 147 that put everyone on a one-stop strategy to the end.

Three Rivers Karting

“It was like a win honestly,” Dixon said after the race.  “When I made that restart from the first position, and before the start-finish there was two of them that passed me already, I knew it was going to be pretty tough.  Big thanks to everybody on the PNC Bank No. 9.”

Dixon said once those cars of O’Ward and Rossi passed him for the lead, he did all he could just to finish third.  “We were pretty much flat their man in their tow and their wake.  We could run 218’s out front and they could run 220’s and once they started cycling they were running 222’s and we were just trying to hang on.”

Rossi held on for fourth place followed by Dixon’s CGR teammate Alex Palou in the No. 10 DHL Honda.

Pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin finished sixth followed by Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood in seventh and AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in eighth.  Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports Conor Daly rounded out the Top 10.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson finished 18th in the No. 17 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet after a late race penalty for speeding on pit road.  Larson ran a large portion of the race up-front and in contention for a strong finish in his first INDYCAR race and first Indy 500.

Newgarden led 26-laps en route to the victory.  There were 48-lead changes among 16-drivers. The average speed of the race was 167.763 mph despite 8-caution periods.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” said Larson, who elected to run the race despite a four-hour rain delay.

Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Sunday June 2nd at Noon ET on USA.

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Indianapolis 500 Preview

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) The Indianapolis 500 is never short on storylines and that is the case again for the 108th running but Mother Nature will certainly be one of them as a line of storms is anticipated to roll through central Indiana midday.

One of the biggest storylines is Helio Castroneves’ ‘Drive for Five’.  The 4-time Indy 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021) is going for a record fifth win, which would move him out of a tie with 4-time winners AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) and the late Al Unser Sr (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987).  It should be noted that Castroneves posted the second-fastest lap during ‘Carb Day’ final practice at 226.939 mph.

“We’re pretty darn close,” said Castroneves after Friday’s practice. “The Cliffs machine and Sirius XM car looks really, really strong. But at the end of the day, we just got to make sure that we read the race and go to that number five.”

Castroneves is joined by seven other drivers who have drank the milk in victory lane including two-time winner Takuma Sato (2017 & 2020), 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon (2008), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Will Power (2018), Marcus Ericsson (2022) and Josef Newgarden (2023).

Six rookies are in the starting lineup including 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson, who will attempt to do the ‘Double’, racing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.  John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are the other drivers who have attempted the double.  Only Stewart finished all 1100 laps.

Joining Larson in the rookie lineup are Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing, Christian Rasmussen of Ed Carpenter Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Marcus Armstrong, driver of the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda; Kyffin Simpson, driver of the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda and Linus Lundqvist, driver of the No. 8 American Legion Honda.

10 rookies have won in the 107-year history of the race, only three since 1967: Arie Luyendyk (1990), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Rossi (2016).

Ray Haroun won the inaugural race in 1911 and Newgarden is the defending race winner.

Three Rivers Karting

There have been four different winner in the first four NTT INDYCAR SERIES Races.  Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (Streets of St. Petersburg), Dixon (Streets of Long Beach), Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park) and Palou (IMS Road Course).

McLaughlin start on the pole position after posting the fastest four-lap average for a pole-sitter, 234.220 mph.  Twenty-one drivers have won the race from the pole, the most recent was Simon Pagenaud in 2019.

Team Penske has the most 500 wins – 19, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Global with five.  AJ Foyt Enterprises and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have won twice and Meyer Shank Racing has one win.

Palou can join Will Power and Pagenaud as the only drivers to ‘sweep’ the month of May by winning on the 2.5-mile oval and IMS road course.

Sunday Schedule

  • 10:30 a.m. – Cars to the Grid
  • 11:47 a.m. – Driver Introductions
  • 12:14 p.m. – Indy 500 Pre-race Ceremonies
  • 12:28 p.m. – “Drivers To Your Cars”
  • 12:38 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
  • 12:45 p.m. – 108th Indianapolis 500 (200 laps/500 miles) NBC & INDYCAR Radio Network

Editor’s Note (11:45 a.m.): A Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Speedway, IN forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to suspend pre-race ceremonies.

2:30 p.m. Update: Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have reopened the gates and are allowing fans back into the facility. Track drying is expected to begin shortly and is expected to take about 2-hours.  The Speedway has also made the decision to lift the television blackout locally for race fans who were unable to stay at the track.  Kyle Larson is going to stay and race in the Indy 500.

3:30 p.m. Update: NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials are estimating a 4:44 p.m. ET Green Flag.

3:34 p.m. Update: Hendrick Motorsports makes it official that Kyle Larson will start the race. 

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Chip Ganassi Racing Rookies Learning From Series Champions

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Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (May 26, 2024) Chip Ganassi Racing is fielding three cars in Sunday’s 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 for rookies, Marcus Armstrong in the No. 11 Ridgeline Honda, Linus Lundqvist in the No. 8 American Legion Be The One Honda and Kyffin Simpson in the No. 4 Journie Rewards Honda.

The Speedway can be a cruel place to the inexperienced but the trio have adapted well up to this point with Armstrong starting 16th, Simpson qualifying 18th and Lundqvist rolling off from the 27th starting spot, but nerves are always part of the equation at Indy.

“They’re doing great,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “Typical rookies, they all feel this and feel that.  I think they’re all feeling the same thing, a little nervous.  It’s difficult being a rookie here these days and its even more difficult when you’ve got guys like Palou and Dixon as your teammates.

Ganassi was referring to 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda and two-time and reigning series Champion Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 DHL Honda.

“Scott and Alex have taken on a mentorship role when they have time and worked with the rookies,” explained Ganassi.  “I really, really appreciate what they’re doing.  It’s a balancing act between your own wants and needs and the needs of the team.  Everybody is doing a great job with that.  I’m very happy.  We seem to have the veteran gunslingers and we have the up-and-comers.”

Three Rivers Karting

The rookies also benefit from an experienced and deep team of Managers, Engineers and Mechanics at CGR, who have won 15-series Championships since 1996.

Ganassi was a rookie driver at the speedway in 1982 and had someone to lean on as well for his first time in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“Mario Andretti,” recalled Ganassi, who was the highest qualifying rookie in ’82 where he started 12th.  “He (Andretti) drove the car I drove the year before (1981).  You know the car that won but didn’t win.”

Ganassi was referring to the race where Bobby Unser finished first and Andretti second but USAC officials ruled that Unser had passed cars illegally while exiting the pit area during a caution period.  Unser was subsequently issued a one-position penalty. When the official race results were posted Unser was dropped to second place. Andretti was elevated to first place and declared the race winner.  Unser appealed and had the win restored.

The 108th Indianapolis 500 begins at Noon and can be seen on NBC and heard on the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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