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Courtney Conquers Port Royal; Flinner Emotional Late Model Winner; Zook Zooms in LLMs

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PORT ROYAL, PA (May 18, 2024): Sprint Car fans at the Port Royal Speedway got a taste of things to come when the High Limit Sprint Car Series canceled the show set for Fonda Speedway due to unsafe track conditions. That enabled several of the High Rollers to drop down to Port Royal for a test run before the big stakes Bob Weikert Memorial coming up on Memorial Day weekend. Tyler Courtney benefited the most, charging from tenth to register a win at the Speed Palace. Joining him in victory lane was a highly emotional Colton Flinner, who scored his first Super Late Model win at the track since his father succumbed to cancer. Ryan Zook was more subdued, but just as happy, with his stellar performance in the Limited Late Model ranks.

Courtney has thrown the monkey off his back at Port Royal Speedway. “We spent the first few years getting our butts kicked here,” he said with a sly grin. Although more recent performances show that he has developed a knack for the fast but quirky half mile, the trip was all about making laps. “That was the main reason for coming here tonight. We tried to get here earlier in the year, but the weather did not cooperate. We’re glad that the weather held off and we got some laps in.”

Oh, the $5,800 he earned for the win, and two bonuses, made the long tow from Vernon, NY, worthwhile. The extras were for the hard charger award and for scoring the win from the tenth starting position.

The twenty-five lap A Main had Garrett Bard and Austin Bishop on the front row. Jake Karklin and T.J. Stutts made up row two. The third belonged to Chase Dietz and the Mayor, Dylan Cisney. Lucas Wolfe lined up beside Spencer Bayston on row four. The fifth paired Brent Marks with Courtney. The sixth row had Dallas Schott and Cory Eliason.

Further back were some familiar names, like Mike Wagner in thirteenth, Lance Dewease next to him. Logan Wagner was in seventeenth, Devon Borden in nineteenth, Danny Dietrich in twenty-first, and Mark Smith in twenty-fourth.

Bard was the leader entering turn one, and he maintained his advantage through the first seventeen laps of the contest. Bishop ran second in the early going, with Karklin, Stutts, Cisney, Wolfe, Courtney, Bayston, and Marks trailing.

While Bishop and Karklin fought over the second position, Courtney began to move forward. With a little help from a lap four caution that brought the field together, Courtney reached third by lap five and second by lap ten.

Nonetheless, Bard was running the race of his brief career in the 410 ranks. Courtney was able to close in in Bard in lapped traffic, as it was apparent that Bard’s inexperience in the more powerful 410 Sprints was beginning to show.

Courtney executed a textbook slider entering turn three to take the lead away from the former 305 Sprint National Champion on lap eighteen.

Bard continued in second through lap twenty. A caution on that round set up a restart, and Bard stumbled coming to the green, losing two positions. He got a brief reprieve, as the start was waived off. However, Bard did not get off well again. Bayston moved ahead in turn one. In the final five laps, several others passed Bard.

At the checkers, it was Courtney far ahead of Bayston, Bishop, Marks, and Bard. Stutts, Cisney, Karklin, Blane Heimbach, and Eliason completed the top ten.

Heat winners were Cisney, Bayston, Courtney, and Eliason. Dietrich scored the B Main victory. Justin Whittal was badly shaken after a very hard crash at the start of his heat race. Medical attention was provided but there was no update on his condition by the end of the program. Anthony Macri had a mechanical problem in his heat and started last in the B Main. He came up one spot short of a transfer.

Colton Flinner made bold pass on the inside of turns three and four on the last lap to garner the win in the Super Late Model feature.

“This means the world to me, I wish my Dad was here,” Flinner said choking back some tears. “I didn’t know if I could do it without him. There were times that I didn’t want to do it. There was a lot of doubt. I needed this. I needed this.”

Flinner said “this was the worst car I’ve ever had.” He explained that his power steering failed during the race, but he thought that he had some extra help fighting the wheel. Referring back to his late father, Flinner summed, “I couldn’t do it without my Dad.”

Three Rivers Karting

Veteran Gary Stuhler and Brian Bernheisel paced the field for the start of the twenty-five lapper. Matt Cosner and Trever Feathers made up row two. The next pairing was Hayes Mattern and Dylan Yoder. Shaun Jones and Jeff Rine made up row four. Then came Flinner and Dan Stone. Andrew Yoder and Matt Parks occupied row six.

Stuhler led the way to turn one, but Feathers had a full head of steam and an open line on the outside. Feathers grabbed the lead racing through turn two. Stuhler held second, ahead of Cosner, Dylan Yoder, Rine, Dillan Stake, Mattern, Stone, Jones, and Flinner.

Cosner moved into second on lap two, and there was a good three-car battle with Stuhler and Dylan Yoder for the next several laps. Cosner lost the position by drifting high in turn one following a lap eight restart. He rallied to regain second by the halfway mark, only to lose it once again on lap fifteen soon after another restart.

In the middle stage of the race, Coleby Frye was on the move. Coming from twenty-second on the grid, he raced into the top five. He was challenging for third but a caution negated a couple of his passes.

Flinner was also working his way to the front. He reached fifth by lap twenty. On the next round, he was third. His cause was aided by a caution with four to go. He got to second by lap twenty-three.

But Feathers still had several car lengths on Flinner with two to go. Flinner kept the charge going, and he got to Feathers’ back bumper entering turn one for the final time. Feathers ran the middle groove, leaving the bottom open for Flinner. He drew up to the rear quarter panel in turn two. But, entering turn three, they were nearly side by side. Flinner maintained his momentum and he came off turn four with a slight advantage. He completely passed Feathers in the final yards of the race!

After Flinner and Feathers came Dylan Yoder, Frye, and Andrew Yoder. Keith Jackson, Jones, Rick Eckert, Cosner, and Kann completed the top ten.

The preliminary wins went to Bernheisel, Rine, Cosner, and Stuhler. Eckert copped the B Main. Mattern was the fast qualifier on the night, with a time of 17.470, just ,009 off the track record.

Ryan Zook set two new track records in the Limited Late Models. His eight lap mark for the heat race win was two minutes 30.506 seconds. The twenty-lap standard was lowered to six minutes 38.443 seconds. “That’s a product of a fast track,” he said modestly. He added, “the track was a little juiced up.”

Trever Feathers was looking for some redemption after losing the Super Late Model feature on the last lap. He started the nightcap from the pole, with Justin Garman as his dance partner. Trent Brenneman and Zook were next. Then came Matt Parks and Casey Steinhoff. Lane Snook and Devin Hart presented in row four. Maddox Smith and Kenny Yoder started from row five.

Feathers raced into turn one ahead of the pack, but he left the inside lane open. Brenneman quickly took it and he pulled ahead in turn two. Brenneman appeared like he would go the distance, but Zook had other ideas.

On lap eleven, Zook powered by Brenneman in turn one, and he was never headed after that. On lap twelve, Garman also rode past Brenneman. He held second to the finish.

Brenneman crossed in third, followed by Parks and Hart. Snook, Yoder, Feathers, Steinhoff, and Tyson Mowery were the next five finishers.

Zook and Brenneman shared the heat wins. There was no B Main.

Next weekend, Port Royal Speedway will host the Bob Weikert Memorial extravaganza. Saturday will have the High Limit Sprints going for ten grand to win. The Super Late Models will also be in action. Then, Sunday, there will be $75,000 paid to the winner of the High Limit feature. The Limited Late Models will provide the support. Come to the track early and plan to stay late, as there will be plenty of activities before and after the races! There will be an Indy watch party, a cornhole tournament, live music, and more!

IndyCar

Scott Dixon Wins INDYCAR Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

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Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

DETROIT, MI (June 2, 2024) Scott Dixon once again put on a driving clinic in winning Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Dixon’s combination of controlled aggression, expert strategy and his unsurpassed ability of extracting performance and fuel economy out of his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda propelled him to his 58th career victory in a race where his fellow competitors were busy making mistakes and causing eight caution flags for 47-laps.

The team called it perfectly,” said Dixon, the six-time Series Champion.  “I said at the lap 50 caution that we could make it from that point.”

Dixon hit pit road at the end of Lap 56 for his final pit stop of the day during a caution and spent the rest of the day coaxing performance and mileage out of his Honda as he raced around the headquarters of the race title sponsor.

“Most of the race was just restarts looking in the rearview mirror in turn three and making sure there wasn’t anybody coming down that was going to take out the whole load of you.”

Dixon finished 0.8567-seconds ahead of Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson, which was Ericsson’s best result of the season in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda.

“Today we showed in the race that we had the pace to fight up front all day,” said Ericsson.  “Really, really proud of the team. It was not an easy race. Everyone did good decisions. Well-deserved to be on the podium.”

Three Rivers Karting

Dixon’s teammate Marcus Armstrong scored a career-best finish of third in the No. 11 Root Insurance Honda despite being an innocent bystander in one of the earlier caution flags.

“Obviously it was pretty chaotic,” said Armstrong. “I think being a strategist today was more stressful than being a driver. I have to give a big shout-out to my strategist Taylor Kiel. He always places me perfectly to maximize the situation we found.”

Armstrong was on the same strategy as Dixon but the second-year driver couldn’t duplicate what his more-experienced teammate was able to do down the stretch.

“Ultimately on the last stint, I was having to achieve quite a big fuel number, as was Scott,” explained Armstrong. “But Scott does what Scott does. I actually ran out of fuel as I came across the line. So we timed it perfectly.”

Dixon timed his second win of the season perfectly as he leaves Detroit with an 18-point lead over teammate Alex Palou in the season Championship.

“Until you’re out of it, you’re going to keep chasing it,” said Dixon of the championship. “It’s swings and roundabouts. Same thing can happen next week in Road America. We’ll keep our heads down and keep trying to get the most we can out of it. It’s a team effort.”

The victory leaves Dixon 9-wins behind the legendary AJ Foyt’s record of 67 career wins as he chases Foyt’s record of 7-series Championships.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES event is Sunday, June 9, with the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Live coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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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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IndyCar

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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