INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, April 17, 2021) – The Ruoff Mortgage Fastest Seat in Sports will help lead the stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to the green flag throughout the 2021 season. Driven by racing legend Mario Andretti and featuring a celebrity, dignitary or influencer in the passenger seat, the Ruoff Mortgage Fastest Seat in Sports represents perhaps the most daring and extraordinary pre-race element in all of motorsports.
“The two-seater is a unique experience,” Andretti said. “It’s easy to try tennis, golf, baseball, ice skating and any other sport. But the only way to experience the thrill of driving an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car is to be in the cockpit with an INDYCAR driver at the wheel. For anyone who enjoys an extreme experience, riding along in the two-seater is incredible.”
This year, Ruoff Mortgage has signed on as the presenting sponsor of this breathtaking experience broadcast to viewers across the globe. The Ruoff Mortgage Fastest Seat in Sports will take a special lap in front of the field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers before races, providing a once-in-a-lifetime, high-speed memory for the passenger in the back seat. Ruoff Mortgage is also the presenting partner of the INDYCAR Experience two-seater program available to NTT INDYCAR SERIES guests on race weekends.
“Ruoff Mortgage has had some incredible racing partnerships over the past few years,” Ruoff Mortgage President & CEO Mark Music said. “So, teaming up with INDYCAR Experience, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Mario Andretti to sponsor this year’s two-seater program is an exciting way to help race fans experience the thrill of the track throughout the series. It goes without saying that Mario is a legend, and we couldn’t be more proud to help continue the Fastest Seat in Sports legacy.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season starts with Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park. Fans can tune in on NBC to watch Indianapolis Colts cornerback and NFL veteran Kenny Moore ride with Andretti. Moore has become an avid NTT INDYCAR SERIES fan, recently attending the 32-car Indy 500 Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Ruoff Fastest Seat in Sports has a long history of attracting star power from the worlds of sports, TV, movies, music and social media. Recent participants include NFL All-Pro wide receiver Julian Edelman, Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman, EDM mega-star Zedd, social influencer and “TODAY” contributor Dr. Mike, actor/producer Nick Cannon and more.
INDYCAR Experience and its owners, Joe Kennedy and Scott Jasek, operate the Ruoff Fastest Seat in Sports in partnership with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The INDYCAR Experience team is thrilled to bring back the Fastest Seat in Sports Program and work with the legendary Andretti once again.
Race fans are encouraged to follow the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on Instagram (@indycar) and Twitter (@IndyCar) to track the Ruoff Mortgage Fastest Seat in Sports experience across 2021 race weekends.
About Ruoff Mortgage
Ruoff Mortgage is a full-service residential mortgage company with 70+ locations throughout Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Florida and originates in 45 states through their online consumer direct division. They have been ranked on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America list for eight consecutive years and have appeared in the Top 100 Mortgage Companies in America and Top Mortgage Employer lists by several industry publications. Ruoff Mortgage has a 98.2% customer satisfaction rating, as compiled by CX leader, Customerville. www.ruoff.com
Ruoff Mortgage is sponsoring a “Win a Ride & Dine with Mario Andretti” sweepstakes in which the winner and his/her guest will be treated to a race weekend experience at the Sept. 19 Laguna Seca race, which includes a one-lap-around-the track two-seater ride with Mario, dinner with Mario the night before, a commemorative crew jersey, tickets to the race and a travel package of air transportation and lodging. The sweepstakes runs from April 15 to Aug. 27 by entering online at www.RaceHomeWithRuoff.com.
2019 race winner: Takuma Sato, 1:55:46.8076, 107.272 mph. No race in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Takuma Sato, 1:08.5934, 120.711 mph. No race in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.6001, 124.324 mph, April 23, 2016
NBC Sports race telecasts: Qualifying, 10 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN (tape-delayed); Race, 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.
Peacock Premium live streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton and Nick Yeoman. Jake Query is the turn announcer. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race (3 p.m. ET) airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on XM 205.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Central Time):
Saturday, April 17
10-10:45 a.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice #1, Peacock Premium
1:40-2:25 p.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice #2, Peacock Premium
4:55-6:10 p.m.: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama qualifying (Three rounds of knockout qualifications), Peacock Premium (live); NBCSN (Tape delayed at 10 p.m. ET)
6:15 p.m.: NTT P1 Award Presentation (pit lane)
Sunday, April 18
10:30-11 a.m.: NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium
2 p.m.: NBC on air
2:35 p.m.: “Drivers, start your engines”
2:42 p.m.: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (90 laps/207 miles), NBC (live)
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be the 11th NTT INDYCAR SERIES event conducted at Barber Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010.
Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato are the only entered drivers to have won at Barber Motorsports Park. Power won the race in 2011 and 2012, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and 2014, Newgarden in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Pagenaud in 2016 and Sato in 2019.
Power, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Newgarden and Sato are the only entered drivers to have won the pole position at Barber Motorsports Park. Power claimed the pole position in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, Pagenaud won the pole in 2016, Hunter-Reay won the pole in 2013, Newgarden won the pole in 2018, and Sato won the pole in 2019.
Five drivers have won the race from the pole – Power in 2011, Hunter-Reay in 2013, Pagenaud in 2016, Newgarden in 2018 and Sato in 2019.
Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in eight of his 10 previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park – including six runner-up finishes – but he has yet to finish on the top step of the podium at the picturesque road circuit.
Seven drivers have competed in every NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Barber Motorsports Park – Marco Andretti, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Power, Graham Rahal and Sato. All but Andretti and Kanaan are entered this weekend.
Team Penske has six wins at Barber Motorsports Park (2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Andretti Autosport, Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are the only other teams to win at the track. Andretti Autosport won in 2013 and 2014 with Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter Racing won with Newgarden in 2015, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won in 2019 with Sato.
Three NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year contenders – Romain Grosjean, Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are entered. Those three, plus 2020 rookies Dalton Kellett, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will race an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time.
Eighteen of the 24 drivers entered in the event have competed in NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Barber Motorsports Park. Ten entered drivers have led laps: Power 208, Newgarden 133, Hunter-Reay 93, Pagenaud 87, Sato 74, Dixon 46, Rahal 25, Sebastien Bourdais 19, James Hinchcliffe 4 and Alexander Rossi 3.
Dixon has made 272 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti is not entered in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race for the first time since he debuted in 2006. Andretti has made 248 consecutive starts, which is the third-longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history.
INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, April 13, 2021) – Pennzoil® has become the Official Motor Oil and Lubricant Partner of INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, a new and dynamic multi-year partnership that begins this weekend with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park.
The expansive agreement also includes Pennzoil becoming the sponsor of the Pennzoil Technical Inspection area at all 17 NTT INDYCAR SERIES events this season. Pennzoil branding will be placed on INDYCAR’s technical inspection transporter.
“Pennzoil has participated in the INDYCAR SERIES for many decades and during that time enjoyed much success, including the popular Pennzoil-sponsored Indianapolis 500 winners driven by Johnny Rutherford in 1980 and Rick Mears in 1984 and 1988,” said Patty Lanning, vice president, North American Marketing, Shell Lubricants. “At Pennzoil, we are proud to become the Official Motor Oil of INDYCAR to build on our success and legacy on and off the track in one of America’s premier motorsports series.”
Said Selda Gunsel, vice president, Global Commercial Technology, Shell Lubricants: “The extreme stress put on an NTT INDYCAR SERIES engine provides the optimal test bed for modern motor oils like Pennzoil Synthetics. The highly efficient and powerful engine technology used in INDYCAR has presented Pennzoil with an opportunity to innovate and prove that our made-from-natural gas motor oils can make a difference on the track.”
Because Pennzoil is committed to technology and technicians and shares a passion for cars with the experts, it also will celebrate the best mechanic in the series in 2021. Included in the partnership, Pennzoil will sponsor the INDYCAR Chief Mechanic Award, which will provide $50,000 to the chief mechanic of the entry that wins the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.
“Pennzoil has deep roots in INDYCAR racing and is part of the sport’s proud heritage,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “Pennzoil is an industry-leading brand with huge name recognition and a fantastic partner that will engage with our fans in many unique ways, helping to bring the exciting action of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to more people.”
Pennzoil has been used in competition in Chevrolet engines in INDYCAR since 2012, powering more wins than any other motor oil-and-engine combination in that time. Pennzoil engineers continuously work on the motor oil that goes into the race cars on the track. The on-track performance and data serve as a laboratory for the motor oil Pennzoil introduces for passenger cars, helping make sure that drivers get the most out of their vehicle. Pennzoil Platinum helps extend the life of your engine and protects it for up to 15 years or 500,000 miles, whichever comes first, guaranteed . That’s the same distance it would take to run the Indianapolis 500 … 1,000 times!
This year’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on Sunday, April 18. NBC will provide live coverage starting with a pre-race show at 3 p.m. (ET), followed by the green flag at 3:30 p.m. Coverage also will be available on the INDYCAR Radio Network.
INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including six-time series champion Scott Dixon, two-time series champion Josef Newgarden and two-time and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The season, which runs from April to September, currently consists of 17 races in the United States and Canada and is highlighted by the historic Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge held annually in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com.
About Shell Motorsports
Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with operations in more than 70 countries. In the U.S., Shell operates in 50 states and employs more than 20,000 people working to help tackle the challenges of the new energy future. The Shell downstream organization manages a portfolio of top-quality brands, including the No. 1 selling premium gasoline, Shell V-Power NiTRO+ Premium Gasoline, No. 1 selling gasoline, Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines and Pennzoil®, the most trusted motor oil brand in America.
Shell’s motorsports technical alliances around the world provide a testing ground for fuel and lubricant technologies and products in demanding road conditions. The knowledge Shell and Pennzoil gain through these alliances help address tomorrow’s world mobility energy challenge with efficient solutions that power and protect motorists around the globe. http://www.shell.com, http://www.shell.us, http://www.pennzoil.com.
15 years or 500,000 miles, whichever comes first, guaranteed. Your engine must have less than 125,000 miles and been manufactured in the past 72 months. To maintain your warranty, change your vehicle’s oil and oil filter at least as often as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Enrollment required. Keep your receipts. Other conditions apply. See Pennzoil.com/warranty to enroll and for full details and terms.
Based on a survey of licensed drivers conducted by a leading research firm, full year 2020.
INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, April 13, 2021) – Anticipation continues to build for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES opener Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst. Here’s a look at the year ahead and what’s new with North America’s premier open-wheel series:
Varied, Challenging Schedule
The season begins with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst, one of the many traditional events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar, which makes a return after the 2020 pandemic year.
A series of four races in three weekends will start the season, including the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 and a doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2 for the Genesys 300 and the XPEL 375. Six of the first eight events on the calendar will air on NBC broadcast television, including the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30. A record nine events will air on NBC this season before the season culminates on the historic streets of Long Beach for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“You could feel the energy in the paddock during last week’s Indy 500 testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “Now we’re ready to end the offseason and wave the green flag on an exciting season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES action featuring our daring, fierce and competitive athletes.
“Starting the season with four races on three consecutive weekends is an ideal launch, with momentum carrying into the Month of May. The championship stretch also is exciting, with three consecutive West Coast races to wrap up the season, along with visits to Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Toronto, St. Louis and an inaugural event in Nashville. Combined with another road course event during another NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend at Indy, we are very optimistic about the success of the 2021 season and the continued growth of the series.”
Event weekends will feature a compact schedule in 2021, with practice and qualifying schedules built on lessons of efficiency from last season’s pandemic year. Street course events include a late afternoon practice on Fridays to allow more time to highlight support events. Road course weekends will feature a more impactful Saturday for race fans with two practices that day followed by qualifying, including the exciting Firestone Fast Six.
Rookie Class with Global Recognition
This season’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies are anything but inexperienced. The class of 2021 features seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as he fulfills a lifelong dream of driving in the INDYCAR SERIES. “7-time” has worked the last few years toward this opportunity and has been methodical in his adaptation to open-wheel racing. He’ll drive his famous No. 48 with Carvana sponsorship for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“To have someone like Jimmie join the INDYCAR SERIES, who could do whatever he wants to do at this point in his life, is a huge statement,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “He has nothing to prove in his career. He’s the ultimate competitor. All he wants to do is go out and prove to himself that he can do this and compete at a high level.”
Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean cannot wait for his series debut. The 34-year-old French driver moves to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after 179 career starts in the World Championship. He’ll drive the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR.
Three-time Australian V8 Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin prepares for his first full season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The 27-year-old Kiwi ranks third on Team Penske’s all-time win list with 48 wins, all in Supercars, and will drive the No. 3 PPG Chevrolet.
Growing Car Counts
Thanks to expansion by some NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams, the car count is on the rise in 2021. Race weekends will see a steady 24 full-time entries with some races, excluding the Indianapolis 500, seeing as many as 26. Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske both will field four full-time cars for the first time since 2017.
Meyer Shank Racing continues its steady growth with the addition of three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who ranks 12th on the INDYCAR SERIES’ all-time wins list with 30 victories. He’s driving the No. 06 Honda to create an expanded two-car team for MSR in six races this season.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES regulations require filling in the front-half of the “hole” in the underwing with a carbon fiber clam shell piece, which wraps around the structural strut of the underwing. The result creates downforce while reducing the reliance of the front wing. Ultimately, it will provide the potential for even more passing opportunities when cars are in traffic.
“We wanted to reduce the amount of work the front wing does,” INDYCAR Director of Aerodynamic Development Tino Belli said. “The amount of downforce necessary has grown over the years with the gradual addition of weight with the AK-18 side pods and the safety-inspired Aeroscreen. The new downforce created by the underwing has done exactly what it was supposed to do.”
The change is a culmination of 18 months of work, which also included safety considerations when cars are in extreme conditions.
“A lot of things we did for this season, we weren’t able to do last year because the pandemic,” Frye said. “The spring testing schedule has helped us out for this year and the results have been positive. Overall, the racing product has been very good. We wanted to make it even better.”
On the Horizon
This season will see historic moments for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon returns to drive the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. The 40-year-old will be attempting to tie the legendary A.J. Foyt for all-time INDYCAR championships with seven.
Nine former Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners, representing 13 victories, will return for the 105th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 30. The record for former “500” winners in the race is 10, set in 1992.
INDYCAR’s and IMS’ “Race for Equality & Change” initiative continues. Launched last July, new programs include Paretta Autosport, a female-led team that will field a Chevrolet-powered car for 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro for this year’s Indy 500. The goal is to compete full time in the series in 2022. Meanwhile, the new Force Indy team will compete in USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires this season. Led by team principal Rod Reid and featuring rookie driver Myles Rowe, Force Indy was created to enhance opportunities for African Americans in the world of motorsports and build a more diverse talent pipeline inside as well as outside the cockpit.
All of these positive developments come as the series continues work toward a new engine package in 2023 with partners Honda and Chevrolet. Development continues with the 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 with hybrid technology, which is expected to produce a total of 900 horsepower.
“It has been a tremendous effort by everyone in the offseason,” Frye said. “Our NTT INDYCAR SERIES partners, promoters, staff and teams have been working tirelessly. 2021 will be an awesome show. We can’t wait to get started.”
NDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, April 6, 2021) – A robust lineup of international broadcast partnerships will help deliver the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to a growing global audience in 2021. A series of renewals and expanded broadcast and streaming relationships will bring the stars of North America’s premier open-wheel racing series to many markets across Europe, Asia and more.
Existing and renewal partnerships will bring the action of the series and its defiant athletes to Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Nordic countries, Latin America, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. New broadcast partners in other nations and regions will be announced soon.
Coverage also will increase in some nations, such as Australia, where Fox Sports Australia and Kayo will broadcast practices, qualifying and live telecasts of every race to fans eager to follow Australian Will Power and three-time Australian V8 Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand.
Sky Sport will continue to be the broadcast partner in New Zealand, focusing on Kiwi sporting legend and six-time series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing.
“The new commitment is massive,” Team Penske rookie McLaughlin said. “I have a lot of support back home and not only for myself but for Will Power and Scott Dixon. For our friends and fans to see every session is fantastic. It’s going to be awesome.”
Canada’s Sportsnet returns to televise the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, putting Canadians James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport and Dalton Kellett of AJ Foyt Racing into the spotlight.
“The support we’ve had from Canada has been incredible,” Toronto native Hinchcliffe said. “The fans are passionate. They’ll be excited to know where they’ll be able to watch the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this year.”
GAORA SPORTS will continue coverage in Japan, which has a passionate INDYCAR fanbase that follows reigning and two-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“Our fans have always wanted to have more information,” Sato said. “GAORA offers such great support. I’m really grateful.”
France’s CANAL+, the Netherlands’ Ziggo Sport and Viaplay in the Nordic countries also are back to support their countrymen competing in the series.
“It’s hard for fans in the Netherlands to follow the series without Ziggo Sport,” said Netherlands native and 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing. “I can really see the interest grow. It’s great and convenient for all of the fans back home.”
Said Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist, who competes for Arrow McLaren SP: “We have a lot of INDYCAR fans in Sweden ever since Kenny Brack drove (1996-2005). You can really see that interest is waking back up when Marcus (Ericsson) and I joined the series. Viaplay has a good platform and good commentary, and it’s crucial for young drivers to help grow the passion in our country.”
Sky Sports F1 will televise the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in the United Kingdom, a hotbed of passionate racing fans.
“It’s mega,” said Englishman Jack Harvey, who drives for Meyer Shank Racing. “For fans in England to see how high a level and a premium the NTT INDYCAR SERIES really is, it’s super important.”
Additional 2021 renewals include Supersport, which covers South Africa and pan-sub-Saharan Africa, and Viasat Sport East in Russia, which has broadcast INDYCAR events since 2013.
The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES begins Sunday, April 18 at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park.
Broadcast partners offering continuing NTT INDYCAR SERIES coverage in 2021 are listed below and available here.
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, Jan. 22, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener at Barber Motorsports Park has been rescheduled from Sunday, April 11 to Sunday, April 18. The move results in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst being featured on NBC network television. A record nine events will…
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Series to return to the legendary Streets of Long Beach in September
INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020) – The 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has been rescheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials from INDYCAR announced today. Long Beach is one of the foundational events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule and one of the longest running.
Additionally, the move creates a thrilling three-race, three-weekend west coast swing to complete the championship. Beginning at Portland International Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 12, the homestretch continues at, what would be the finale under normal conditions, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 19, before finishing on the historic streets of Long Beach.
“It is important to have Long Beach rescheduled to continue the history and tradition for one of the series’ hallmark events in one of the nation’s premier media markets,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “Further, it’s a tremendous opportunity to wrap up the season with three-straight iconic venues for what we believe will be our most exciting season yet. As we did during the 2020 season, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and maintain flexibility across our schedule. We are committed to an action-packed and exhilarating 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”
The September race weekend at Long Beach becomes the first since the event’s inception in 1975. It will mark the 37th time the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has raced on Southern California’s legendary street circuit. The familiar sights and sounds make for the longest running event on the schedule outside of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“I want to thank all of the officials at INDYCAR for their assistance in rescheduling the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to September,” Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian said. “We believe that this move will afford us the best opportunity to provide our guests with a fun and exciting experience in a safe and unrestricted environment. It will be a welcome sight to see the NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars and stars back on the downtown streets of Long Beach in the fall.”
An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.
ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2020) – Josef Newgarden went down swinging.
Newgarden won a wild, unpredictable NTT INDYCAR SERIES season finale, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet amid a head-to-head showdown with Scott Dixon for the series championship.
Still, the winning performance wasn’t enough for Newgarden. Dixon finished third to seal his sixth INDYCAR championship by just 16 points over defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden after leading the season wire-to-wire in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon’s stellar 2020 season also helped Honda win the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Manufacturers’ Championship.
“It’s never just one thing or one person,” Dixon said. “For me, it’s about the team effort. We had a lot of changes in the offseason. Credit to Josef (Newgarden) and Team Penske. They drove the last part of the season flawlessly and a lot points, so that was pretty awesome to race them again. And we know next year is going to be the same, but huge thanks again to everyone on the team.”
Dixon, who won four times this season, including the first three races of the season, now sits just one title behind the all-time INDYCAR record of seven championships, set by the legendary A.J. Foyt. The championship is the 13th for Chip Ganassi Racing and its second in the last three years. Dixon, 40, who last won the title in 2018, became the first INDYCAR champion age 40 or older since Nigel Mansell in 1993.
“Well, six is good. Seven is better,” Dixon said. “That’s going to be the goal. But it’s tough. As you can see from the competition, even if you mess up just a little bit in qualifying, we had some problems this weekend and just couldn’t piece it together. Credit again to the team and just being able to pull ourselves out of that hole and stay consistent and just have a smooth race, and that’s what we did.”
Newgarden made an impressive charge from eighth on the starting grid to the lead for the first time on a Lap 80 restart in the 100-lap race as he did all he could to win back-to-back titles. Colton Herta led the field to green in the No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda on the restart, but he came under pressure from Alex Palou in St. Pete’s tricky Turn 1.
Palou briefly took the lead from Herta in the No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda before Newgarden made a daring move for the lead heading toward Turn 2, knowing that he had to do everything in his power to try to take the title from Dixon.
Newgarden withstood one more restart and immense pressure from Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet over the final 20 laps on his way to securing his fourth win of the season. O’Ward ended up second, 4.1409 seconds behind Newgarden.
With the win, Newgarden continued a trend of back-to-back winners on the streets of St. Petersburg. Since 2015, the race has been won back-to-back by three drivers. Juan Pablo Montoya won the race in 2015-16, Sebastien Bourdais won in 2017-18 and Newgarden won the race in 2019-20.
“No doubt, we didn’t need a full green race, so that played into our favor today,” Newgarden said of the hectic race that included six cautions. “We had the flow of the race we needed, but it wasn’t anything they gave us. We had a solid day. We needed to be fairly quick. I think we had a fairly quick car, and we just had to make some moves. That’s all we could do to try and get to the front. We outlasted everybody and did what we needed to do. We knew coming into this that fate wasn’t in our own hands. We weren’t going to be able to decide things. So, we just did what we could and hoped for the best.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. First off, congratulations to Scott and all his guys, his crew. It’s big time to win six championships. I’m sure they’re thrilled. They’re a great competitor. On one hand, I don’t really know what I could do different this year. I don’t know what I could ask my guys to do different. They were flawless. Fastest in the pits all year long. I’m extremely proud to drive for my team.”
O’Ward’s second-place finish punctuated a strong first full season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Mexican driver O’Ward ended up fourth in the championship standings behind Dixon, Newgarden and Herta.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Rinus VeeKay easily won the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year award. VeeKay, driver of the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet, clinched the title simply by starting the race.
Dutch driver VeeKay didn’t have a day indicative of his season. On Lap 47, he collided with rookie Scott McLaughlin in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet in Turn 1. McLaughlin made contact with Marco Andretti in the No. 98 Curb / AutoNation Honda and spun around, and VeeKay had nowhere to go, hitting the front of McLaughlin’s car.
The only street course on the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a dramatic race from start to finish that was not generous to the strongest cars in the field.
Pole sitter Will Power led the first five laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, but a downshifting issue allowed Alexander Rossi to take the lead in the No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda as 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power slowed on Lap 6.
On Lap 36, two-time St. Petersburg winner Power got loose exiting Turn 3 while running fourth and hit the wall. Power pulled off the course in Turn 4, ending his day and finishing 24th.
From there, 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Rossi dominated the race, leading all but five laps by the time disaster struck on Lap 70.
After pitting from the lead on Lap 66, Rossi was pushing his Andretti Autosport Honda as he waited for green flag pit stops to cycle through. Then, exiting Turn 4, Rossi lost control and hit the inside wall with the front and rear of the car. Rossi finished 21st.
“I just lost it in Turn 3, man,” said Rossi, who was looking to end the season with four consecutive podium finishes. “It’s been tough all weekend. Just human error. Hugely unfortunate. I think the No. 27 AutoNation Andretti Honda guys were phenomenal. Andretti Autosport was phenomenal all weekend. It’s the first time it’s happened to me, to crash from the lead. I don’t know what to say other than sorry to the boys, and we’ll come back next year.”
Trouble also struck Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammates late in the race. Herta, who ran second most of the race and led as late as Lap 79, overshot corners twice in the race, including once in the final run to the finish. Herta finished 11th but ended the season third in the championship standings.
Meanwhile, James Hinchcliffe, who drove the final three races in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, ran in the top five all race long until losing control of his car in Turn 14 under caution with just under 25 laps to go. Hinchcliffe damaged his front wing after contact with Jack Harvey in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda and finished a disappointing 14th.
‘What They’re Saying’ from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
1st – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s definitely bittersweet. First off, congratulations to Scott (Dixon) and all his guys, his crew. It’s big time to win six championships. I’m sure they’re thrilled. They’re a great competitor. On one hand, I don’t really know what I could do different this year. I don’t know what I could ask my guys to do different. They were flawless. Fastest in the pits all year long. I’m extremely proud to drive for my team. Not just our car, but all the teams combined, all the engineers, all the mechanics – we have an incredible crew that puts in a lot of work. We just came up short. That’s all it is. We weren’t good enough. We’ll reset. We’ll hit them harder next year. I promise you we’ll be in the fight; this crew will be in the fight every year. So, I have confidence we’ll come back. So, thank you to Hitachi, Team Chevy. Team Chevy was the engine to beat today and all year long, so big credit to them. Just a little short on points. We’ll come back and hit them harder next year.” (About strategy amid a chaotic race): “No doubt, we didn’t need a full green race, so that played into our favor today. We had the flow of the race we needed, but it wasn’t anything they gave us. We had a solid day. We needed to be fairly quick. I think we had a fairly quick car, and we just had to make some moves. That’s all we could do to try and get to the front. We outlasted everybody and did what we needed to do. We knew coming into this that fate wasn’t in our own hands. We weren’t going to be able to decide things. So, we just did what we could and hoped for the best.” (About racing Pato O’Ward): “This is one of the future stars of INDYCAR. He’s already a star of INDYCAR. I’m a huge Pato fan, so it was fun to race him. He’s driven me so clean. Even when it was very difficult at the end of the race, all of the pickup on the tires, it was tough to clean off, he’s just a great competitor. I’ve really loved driving against him.”
2nd – PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I’m so proud of Arrow McLaren SP and myself for what we accomplished this year. Our win will have to wait. We came in second place in the season finale, just five points short of third place in the championship. We have lots to be proud of. I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I got. I think we showcased that we are a force to be reckoned with, and we are going to be pushing next year to give these veterans a harder time. Hopefully bring it to the last race and win this championship.”
3rd – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s all the team. I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Obviously, Chip (Ganassi), Mike (Hull) and Barry (Wanser) and everybody involved – obviously, Honda. I’m proud to be powered by Honda and what they’ve been able to pull out this year given the deficit we’ve had going into Indy previous years. They nailed it. Big thanks to everybody. My family – I’m glad my girls are here. (Wife) Emma is somewhere. Unfortunately (toddler son) Kit isn’t here. It’s a big shame that he wouldn’t be here. I can’t thank everybody enough. PNC Bank, two out of three years (as champion) – that’s pretty good going.” (About tough discussions during offseason after losing title last year): “It’s never just one thing or one person. For me, it’s about the team effort. We had a lot of changes in the offseason. Credit to Josef (Newgarden) and Team Penske. They drove the last part of the season flawlessly and a lot points, so that was pretty awesome to race them again. And we know next year is going to be the same, but huge thanks again to everyone on the team. Now we’re going to have a beer.” (About thinking of winning a seventh title to tie A.J. Foyt): “Well, six is good. Seven is better. That’s going to be the goal. But it’s tough. As you can see from the competition, even if you mess up just a little bit in qualifying, we had some problems this weekend and just couldn’t piece it together. Credit again to the team and just being able to pull ourselves out of that hole and stay consistent and just have a smooth race, and that’s what we did. We definitely had the speed when we needed to push. Credit to Josef. He drove a hell of a race there and put us under a lot of pressure.”
4th – SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Well, what a race. I’m super happy for the 14 team AJ Foyt Racing and Chevrolet. Those guys were on the cusp the whole time, and we were fighting for a million dollars today. We had things under control, and then it seemed to slip away and finishing fourth in some pretty incredible situations there at the end with a car that was legitimately fast. So, really happy that we could finish the season on a high like that and looking forward to 2021.”
5th – RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Despite our starting position, we had a really positive day. We came through the field twice to finish fifth. I’m proud of the DHL boys both on the track and in pit lane today. It’s nice to have a top five to finish the season, but we thought we could have more than that with our pace. We’ll regroup and come back stronger in March.”
6th – SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “That was a good finish for the Menards Chevrolet. It was survival of the fittest out there today. At one point, I said on the radio that there could be many, many more cautions, and there was. We just couldn’t get in a race rhythm. But we were able take advantage of all those other people’s mistakes and put ourselves in position to have a good finish. All weekend, the car was really good – I think it was better than even sixth, where we finished. But I’m pretty excited to build upon this for next year. All in all, good weekend. It was also good to see the fans back at the track. We finished St. Pete, just a few months after the fact.”
7th – MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a very busy race, with so much going on. We had so many cautions and restarts. We have a super-fast car, so I was making spots and we were aggressive on the strategy. Throughout the race, we were so unlucky with every caution. Every yellow that came out was basically on the wrong time for us. I think I overtook some guys three or four times. We were unlucky, but to manage to get away and up to P7 was still a great result. I was very happy with my performance and the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda crew’s performance. I think we went out on a high with this last race, but we were very unlucky with the yellows. Big congrats to Scott (Dixon). He’s an amazing driver, and his sixth championship win is well deserved.”
8th – CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Well, today the Grand Prix of St Petersburg was a success for AJ Foyt Racing. For us, the No 4 Tresiba Chevrolet coming from a not-optimum qualifying in 20th all the way through to eighth, so much credit goes to the guys in pit lane — great pit stops. They’ve had great pit stops all year. They’re in the top 10 as far as the pit stop championship among all the teams in pit lane. So, much credit to them, credit to the engineers here and at home working to make the car better and better. Just had to put the laps in at the end. Got a little tight a couple of times, banged off a few people, but that’s street racing in INDYCAR. It’s nice to have a double top-10 to finish out 2020, which has been tough, strange and challenging in so many ways.”
9th – GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “That was a bruiser. Thank you so much to our sponsors for another season. Once again, we finished every lap today and raised $5,000 and will crest $110,000 this year for Turns for Troops, so I ‘m very proud of that. I’m proud of our year. Today was another competitive day. We got unlucky with that yellow. Our strategy was working great, and our car was fast, as we showed. That yellow really put a damper on our day. It took us from being quite strong to being mired back in the field. I’m proud of our organization. Our guys worked awfully hard this year. I want to thank the fans for their support and for sticking with INDYCAR racing this year. Let’s come back in 2021 and make this sport grow even more. We love putting on a good show for you, so thank you for all your support. Now it’s time for me to go home and have a kid. Well, not me. My wife, us.”
10th – TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough race, but it was good to be back in St. Petersburg. At one stage, we were sixth, so a top-five finish was possible. But we were involved with two Andretti cars in an incident. Obviously, we were bumping each other a little bit, but unfortunately I got a penalty for avoidable contact, so I had to go back in the queue, which essentially finished my race. But we came back to a top 10, which was good just finishing with Graham (Rahal). What an amazing season. Once again, thank you everyone, thank you Eddie (Jones, race engineer) and the 30 boys. RLL did a great, great job. I’m proud to be working with the team again for 2021. It was my best season ranking, but I wanted to finish a little higher today. Nevertheless, I think it was a fantastic season. See you all in 2021.”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):
MARCO ANDRETTI (20th – No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda): “I drove my absolutely heart out. We were in a position and would have maybe gained more positions. We were in the money, so to say. I left room to the apex, and I think I just got tagged. We got a flat, and then it was all down from there. We were so much faster; I just can’t believe we are in this position. I’ve never seen a season like we’ve had this year with the misfortunes. Some of it is luck, and some of it is not. We need to work to fix the things that are not. The prep for 2021 starts now.”
OLIVER ASKEW (16th – No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “We had a really strong weekend up until the second half of the race. We were heading for a top-10 finish until I got taken out. It’s a bummer we couldn’t get a positive result in our final race with Arrow McLaren SP, but I think I showed the rest of the series what I can do. I want to thank the entire team for all the hard work they have put in this year and support they have given me.”
MAX CHILTON (12th – No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “That felt like the longest INDYCAR race I’ve ever done apart from the ‘500.’ It was just unbelievably long and challenging. The tires were the hardest we’ve ever used, and I don’t think I was the only one struggling with them. There were multiple good drivers spinning out and crashing during the race. We didn’t have the pace all day, but then we sort of lucked into a good bit of strategy. I was fired up, but we just couldn’t get the tire temps up. Every time I exited the last corner, I got eaten alive. Apart from that, I held my position, so I kind of feel like we had a top-10 taken away from us. I can honestly say that I gave it 100 percent and did my best, and the guys did a great job in the pits. It’s disappointing to not get a top 10 here this weekend because that was our target, but we were able to come from the back and make up 12 spots, so we’ll take that as a massive positive into the offseason.”
CONOR DALY (17th – No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “I am definitely guilty of making a big mistake under yellow. Rinus (VeeKay) came out of the pits quite quick right in front of us, and everyone just stopped all of a sudden around the next corner. When the tires were cold, they were like ice. As soon as they locked up, I had nowhere to go. The U.S. Air Force Chevrolet was really fast, which was good. We made some great progress on the race setup. Even after the contact, the car was still fast, so that was really encouraging.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (23rd – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We had a fantastic start to the race. We had the SealMaster Honda up to 14th, then 13th . We just kept racing along. We came out of the pits after a really good, super-fast pit stop and had contact going into Turn 4 when another car came from the outside and hit us. The contact did slight damage to the car. During the next stint, I unfortunately clipped the inside wall. When we went to do the restart, the front suspension let go, and my car went straight into the wall. Obviously, I’m disappointed about today. However, I want to thank the team for all the hard work and our partners for all their support during this unique season.”
JACK HARVEY (19th – No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “That race pretty much just summed up our year. We’ve had so much pace all year, and every time something happens that knocks us down, we’ve been way inside the top 10. I feel like the team deserves to be seventh or eighth in points. I feel like that’s where I deserve to be as a driver, so it’s a super-disappointing day. The ramifications of what James (Hinchcliffe) did by waiting and choosing the wrong time to come back out on track are huge, and it cost us a lot in the championship.”
COLTON HERTA (11th – No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda): “I’m fairly upset with my performance on track today, but I think throughout the year we did a really good job. I’m really happy to finish P3 in the championship, and hopefully we can carry some of that momentum into next year. But for St. Pete, obviously pretty upset with how it went. I think we had a pretty good shot at a win, and I just messed it up. I’m sorry to guys about that, but overall happy with how the 88 team performed this year.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (14th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “In 16 years of racing cars, I’ve never spun out under caution before. Just my fault. The pace car was going really, really slow, and it was super hard to keep heat in the tires. Going through the last corner there, I was making an adjustment on the wheel and just had one hand on the wheel. Even at 30 mph, you’re going slower than pit lane speed, and the thing spun. It’s my fault, but we were on the radio trying to get the pace car to go faster because the cars were almost harder to drive at pace car speed than they were at race speed. But that’s on me. The worst part is that coming back on track, I did it dangerously and not only hit someone but hit a (Andretti Technologies) teammate. That’s an even bigger black eye. To have a podium car – the guys did such a great job all weekend on the Gainbridge entry, and I was really hoping to give them a strong result to end the year. I’m gutted for the whole team; I’m gutted for Jack (Harvey) – can’t be sorrier than I am for him. Not the way we wanted to end the year, but still some positives to take out of it. We had good pace in qualifying and the race. We had a podium car and just didn’t pull it off today, and that’s on me. Sorry to the team.”
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (22nd – No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet): “What a day. The best day of my life, except for my wedding. The Shell V-Power Nitro+ INDYCAR was going really well. Then I just made a move trying to block Marco (Andretti). Then I felt like I made a half of a rear lock, but I’m not exactly sure. Cold tires caught me out a little bit. But I had a lot of fun today. I just can’t thank my guys, Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric), Shell V-Power and the entire organization for the weekend. It was so much fun. I wish the 2021 season was starting tomorrow. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of this car.”
ALEX PALOU (13th – No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda): “We didn’t have a good start because I made a mistake staying in our fuel saving map, so that sent us back a few spots. It’s so difficult to overtake here, so as soon as the yellow came out, we gambled a bit with our strategy. At the end of the day it didn’t work out, but it was the right thing to do. I think we needed another yellow to be able to finish in the top five with our Guaranteed Rate Honda. We did the best we could today. I’m sad that it’s the end of the season. Looking back, there were some good moments and some not-so-good moments. I think it was a tough season, in general, with the limited practice to learn the tracks and understand the car, but it was a great learning experience that will hopefully help for the future.”
WILL POWER (24th – No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I just lost it. The rear bottomed, and I just had a moment. Earlier in the race, the Verizon Chevrolet didn’t downshift for some reason. It did it a couple of times. Then I started downshifting really early. I don’t know what happened or if that caused any of our issues. It just didn’t go down gears, and that is how (Alexander) Rossi got me, and then (Colton) Herta attacked for position. But I’m just frustrated with me making a mistake and hitting the wall. The car got loose, and it’s just so very, very frustrating. I shouldn’t be the one crashing. My bad for putting us out of the race.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (18th – No. 10 NTT Honda): “We didn’t get off to a good start. We went a little bit off strategy. We got back into the race a little bit, but (Santino) Ferrucci coming out of the pits locked up and drove into my rear tire. We got a puncture and fell a lap behind. Then, with all of the cautions, I worked my way into the lead lap. We had a lot of cautions and restarts, and we got up to P8. Then, Marcus (Ericsson) and I made contact. I gave him all the room I could. It was a shame our race was pretty much over from there.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (21st – No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I just lost it in Turn 3, man. It’s been tough all weekend. Just human error. Hugely unfortunate. I think the No. 27 AutoNation Andretti Honda guys were phenomenal. Andretti Autosport was phenomenal all weekend. It’s the first time it’s happened to me, to crash from the lead. I don’t know what to say other than sorry to the boys, and we’ll come back next year.” (About buildup of rubber on track): “It was hard, man, on the restarts and such. That wasn’t what caused it (crash) out there. It just kind of bumped the wrong way, and I couldn’t save it.”
RINUS VEEKAY (15th – No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I am officially Rookie of the Year. I am very happy with that. Everything we didn’t want to have happen in the race happened, though. We were super quick, but the first yellow kind of screwed us. I was in the pack after that. Scott McLaughlin spun to the inside, and I was there. I couldn’t go anywhere. After that, it was just about bringing the car home and getting the points. I think another podium was a possibility; we had such a fast car. We have to wait a few months until we come back, but we’ll give it another shot. I am looking forward to being back – not as a rookie.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Oct. 24, 2020) – Will Power, the qualifying master of both the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and on the streets of St. Petersburg, reigned again Saturday, winning the NTT P1 Award for pole position in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Power posted a top lap of 1 minute, 1.0369 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet in the Firestone Fast Six of qualifying for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Live coverage of the season finale on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course begins at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC and the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network.
“I thought we had worse tires than the other guys, but I just absolutely nailed it, man,” Power said. “Really, really good lap. I had to work the wheel hard for that one. I’m so stoked to get the Verizon car on pole again. Hopefully we can get Chevy in Victory Lane tomorrow. That would be fantastic.”
Power’s pole run extended a long list of accolades. It was his ninth career pole at St. Petersburg in 12 qualifying attempts, and it was Team Penske’s 10th pole position at St. Pete, with all but one coming from Power.
2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power scored his fifth pole of the season and his second consecutive after starting first in the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR Race 2 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3. Power also made one step closer to history by scoring his 62nd career pole. He now sits just five behind the all-time INDYCAR record of 67, set by the legendary Mario Andretti.
“I’m able always to take it to another level, and I can only do it once a weekend, I reckon,” Power said. “It’s something I love. I just absolutely love getting the most out of something and perfecting a craft I’ve been working at for 25 years.”
Joining Power on the front row will be Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, who continued Andretti Autosport’s strong day and posted a best lap of 1:01.1730. Rossi has four consecutive top-10 starts to close the season as he also looks to end the year with four consecutive podium finishes.
Colton Herta, who was fastest in practice, qualified third in the No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda at 1:01.1815. Fellow Andretti driver James Hinchcliffe qualified fourth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda at 1:01.3626, and Jack Harvey, who drives for Meyer Shank Racing with an Andretti technical alliance, qualified fifth in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda at 1:01.3675.
“We took a swing at it for Q2, and it wasn’t the right direction,” Newgarden said. “I didn’t get the most out of it. I definitely had a lot of slides and wasn’t clean. I think just putting a clean lap together would have been good to transfer, and we just didn’t do the job. It makes our program a little harder for tomorrow, but we’ve still got to go for the win with the Hitachi Chevy boys. Yeah, we can we from there. We just made it a little harder.”
Meanwhile, points leader Scott Dixon will be forced to play defense in tomorrow’s 100-lap race after posting the second-to-last time in Round 2 of qualifying. Dixon will start 11th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after posting a time of 1:01.0283. He must finish ninth or better to clinch his sixth series title.
Dixon continued a trend of tough qualifying results as of late. Five-time series champion Dixon qualified 12th and 15th, respectively, in the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR doubleheader earlier this month on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“It was a little bit strange,” Dixon said. “Our first qualifying session, the car felt really good. Just didn’t really piece it together very well. Then we kind of flip-flopped on how we did it. The first run we did three (laps) on black and then four (laps) on red. And we thought the reds came in quick enough. But right then, with how the traffic was and having to slow down, it was really only two laps. Each corner I was making, the car was getting more grip. But I just needed another lap. It is what it is. Our mistake.”
‘What They’re Saying’ from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Qualifying
1st – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I thought we had worse tires than the other guys, but I just absolutely nailed it, man. Really, really good lap. I had to work the wheel hard for that one. I’m so stoked to get the Verizon car on pole again. Hopefully we can get Chevy in Victory Lane tomorrow. That would be fantastic.” (About your mastery of qualifying): “I’m able always to take it to another level, and I can only do it once a weekend, I reckon. It’s something I love. I just absolutely love getting the most out of something and perfecting a craft I’ve been working at for 25 years.” (About race strategy): “Unfortunately, it’s looking a bit like a fuel race, but we’ll be going hard, man. Doing the normal thing, trying to win the race and finish the season on a high.”
2nd – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think every round of qualifying we got better. We started the weekend strong in practice, so I think that’s a huge difference- maker on these weekends when you only have the one practice session. It’s a really good effort for the team to do the offline development. We haven’t been to a street course yet this year, so to have three cars in the top six is a testament to that. I think we just have to keep chipping away at it, and we’re in a good position to go and get that first win tomorrow.”
3rd – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda): “Pretty frustrated to lose it by that much. The Capstone #ShiftToGreen Honda definitely was the car to do it. We’ll look forward to tomorrow. We’re going to try some stuff in warm-up and go from there.”
4th – JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Obviously, very happy to make it into the Fast Six. It’s only the second time we’ve had the chance to do that this year, and it was nice to have pace in practice and carry it over into qualifying – all three runs. In the final session, we thought we were stronger on blacks in Q1 and Q2, so we rolled the dice a bit. I think with the massive delay we had, it cooled off a lot, track temps went down. I think r eds would have been the right choice, but I stand by the decision we made. It was a strategic call to try and pull something out. But happy to be on the second row and happy that a bunch of my teammates are up there with us. Now we just have to put our heads down and have a good one tomorrow.”
5th – JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “We had a pretty good qualifying car, and our pace at the end there was still pretty decent. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a great race. We’ve been in the top five now in every discipline of track – road courses, ovals, street circuit. Now, it’s just a nice day to show myself, the team and the rest of the paddock that we can do it on all types of tracks. It was a good day. I think the relief of coming back to St. Pete is the biggest thing this weekend. I know that COVID hasn’t gone away , but it kind of feels like it’s come full circle in some ways because we left St. Pete in March having no idea what the future looked like, and we still don’t know exactly what it will look like apart from that we can tackle it.”
6th – PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “The practice wasn’t great for us, but we made our way back to the front part of the field during qualifying. The No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet is starting on the third row, so we can try and win the race from there. It’s going to be tough to pass, and pit stop windows aren’t going to be as big as they used to be because the race is 10laps shorter. I think if we have a good, consistent race and good pit stops, we should be in contention in the end.”
7th – SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “A much better start to the weekend here in St. Petersburg compared to our starting positions in Indy, so really proud of the group on the 14 car. It’s still touch and go; you never know what you’re going to get.But it all worked out today. We’ll get P7 out of qualifying and start there tomorrow, so looking forward to it, and thanks for everybody’s support.”
8th – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “We took a swing at it for Q2, and it wasn’t the right direction. I didn’t get the most out of it. I definitely had a lot of slides and wasn’t clean. I think just putting a clean lap together would have been good to transfer, and we just didn’t do the job. It makes our program a little harder for tomorrow, but we’ve still got to go for the win with the Hitachi Chevy boys. Yeah, we can we from there. We just made it a little harder.”
9th – RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “That was a little stressful between sessions. I had a really good lap to advance. In Round 2, I made a little correction in the las t corner, which cost me about a tenth of a second. I think I could have made it if that didn’t happen, but that’s racing. Starting ninthis still pretty good . I’m happy with the SONAX Chevy, and I cannot wait to send it tomorrow.”
10th – OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I haven’t been in an Indy car in a bit over a month, so I was a bit rusty. But it was great to be back here at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Big shoutout to everyone at INDYCAR and Green Savoree for making this event happen. To have it as a season finale is pretty incredible. It’s a home race for me, and I’ll have some family out here tomorrow that I hope to put on a good show for them and Arrow McLaren SP in my final race.”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with qualifying position):
CONOR DALY (14th – No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “An interesting qualifying session for us. We thought we were in, we didn’t know we were in, we didn’t know we were out, and then we were out. We’re starting 14th, which is OK. We need a little but more out of the car, and I need to deliver the right information to help us get there. We can have a good day tomorrow, for sure. We just have to stay in the fight, move forward and use some good strategy. We have definitely made progress with the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet, and I am looking forward to tomorrow!”
SCOTT DIXON (11th – No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The first qualifying session the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt pretty good. We just didn’t piece it together that well. We flip flopped how we did it in the first run. In the first run we did three laps on blacks and four on reds. We thought the reds came in quick enough, but then with how the traffic was and having to slow down, there were really only two laps. The car was getting more grip in each corner, but we needed another lap. It is what it is. I think we’re starting P11 now and Newgarden is in P8. That definitely helps us a lot with him not qualifying on pole and getting extra points. We will keep working hard. We’ve got a warmup session in the morning and we’re going to see what we can make of it.”
MARCUS ERICSSON (15th – No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think practice was pretty good. We got a lot of laps in and a good read on the car. I was pretty happy going into qualifying. Then I think we had a good qualifying session , and everything went according to plan. However, it’s super disappointing to miss out on advancing by less than a tenth of a second. This is disappointing because I felt like we had a good car and drove well. We have a bit of work to do tomorrow.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (18th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “It was a very interesting first day for the SealMaster Honda team. We have a better race car than a qualifying car. We’re struggling to break into the top 10. I’m struggling. I’ve been bouncing the car off the wall multiple times in both practice and qualifying. We’re not extracting the best out of the lap time. We’ve just got to tidy it up for tomorrow, and we’ll be fine.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (19th – No. 28 DHL Honda): “An unfortunate result. Coming out of practice we went and completely switched the setup over to some of our teammates’ (setups). We had a pretty good running going to advance, and the rear of the car broke loose in Turn 5. We were only looking for two-tenths of a second, and that was enough to lose that gap. Unfortunately, we are going to start in a spot that is less than ideal, but we will get creative to make it to the front.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (20th – No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s nice to be back with fans and nice to be back at St. Pete. It feels strange to be ending the season here and running our last qualifying of the year instead of our first qualifying of the year. It is nice to be back at a street circuit because that’s one of the places where INDYCAR really shines. Man, it’s really tight here at St. Pete. We were just within a couple tenths of advancing the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet into the top 12, I think it was something like .3 of a percent we were off – really small – but there is definitely room to improve the car, and we’ll do that overnight and be ready to go racing tomorrow. There’s always a little bit of chaos that seems to happen here at St. Pete, and we’ll just be ready to take advantage of it.”
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (21st – No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet): “We were probably better than where we ended up. But I stuffed up my red tire lap – I just need to get used to the grip. It was nice in practice because I had a lot of black tire runs but only got one on the red, and it was the same in qualifying. I’m not making any excuses. With a little more time, we will be OK . I’m disappointed with myself, but it is what it is. It’s tough to learn on a road course and learning the space around you. I’m used to knocking mirrors off on a wall, not necessarily my tire. We are just pushing trying to find our limits in a fast-forward motion. I just need to thank everyone with Shell V-Power Nitro +, Team Penske and everyone. We will have a go at it tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (12th – No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m sure happy. The Menards Chevrolet has been really good all day long. We’ve made some big improvement, which is encouraging for 2021. In that last session, Dixon was in front of me the whole run. So we were stuck behind him, and I had to do my laps. I’ve just not been on the right side of the stick this year in qualifying. We had a car fast enough for the Fast Six, no question, but Dixon was the slowest car on the track.”
ALEX PALOU (16th – No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda): “Practice this morning went really well, but I think our result was maybe a bit better than the actual pace of our Guaranteed Rate Honda. Qualifying was difficult because we didn’t really get the ultimate lap because of traffic and then the red flag at the end. We were missing, I think, a tenth from making it into the next round. I’m a bit upset about that, but we should be fine for the race tomorrow. The car is better than where we are starting , and hopefully we can finish in the top 10 again. I really like the St. Petersburg street course.It’s different from what I’m most used to, and with limited practice time it makes it tough to learn the track and see the limits, but it’s been fun so far.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (17th – No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “We didn’t perform very well today. In the first practice, we didn’t get a run on the reds. It’s my fault. I wanted to complete a run on blacks and should have just come in and given ourselves an opportuni ty, and I didn’t do that. And then the red came out and reduced the session. Then we went into qualifying a little blind. I think we had enough speed. I pushed it really hard into Turn 1 on Lap 2, got four wheels locked up and about went around, and it really hurt us. I’m going to take this one on the chin, and we’re going to move on. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day from where we start, but I think my second-best finish here of second place, I started second-to-last, so anything can happen.It’s 100 laps, and there is going to be plenty of excitement tomorrow. Let’s try to finish this thing off strong.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (22nd – No. 10 NTT DATA Honda): “I thought the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda felt good. I had a bit of traffic on my laps, but I put a decent lap together to get us through. Then unfortunately we got penalized because we blocked the No. 55 car, which our software told us that he was on his out lap, but he wasn’t. Obviously, we trust the software that INDYCAR provides us, but it showed us the wrong thing, and we paid the price for it. It’s tough because thesame thing happened to us last year at Laguna. It is what it is.”
TAKUMA SATO (13th – No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda): “I brushed the wall. It was my mistake. Since the field was so tight, little things bit us. We made quite a few small changes on the car, which we felt was positive, but then putting everything together (in one lap) is always tough business. A small mistake made us not be able to transfer to the next round, so that was a shame. We are going in a positive direction, though , and have the warm-up session to continue to improve the car. We will look at the data tonight, and I think we can move forward in tomorrow’s warm-up.”
After 1,800 laps over the course of 13 races, the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship comes down to a battle between Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden.
The two championship protagonists will be the center of this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but there are other stories to watch heading into the season finale on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.Here are five non-championship things to watch for this weekend.
Power & Glory
When it comes to the streets of St. Petersburg, no team is better than Team Penske.The team has nine wins and nine poles at the 1.8-mile temporary street course and boasts one of the circuit’s most successful drivers – Will Power, who has two wins and eight of the poles in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.Power is motivated to end his season on a high note and finish third in the championship ahead of young stars Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward.
“We’ve been out of contention for the championship for a few races now, so we are fully focused on just getting more race wins,” Power said. “St. Pete is such a technical street course, so it can be really fun to race.”
Turn 1 is Poppin’
If you’re looking to overtake in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the first turn of the 1.8-mile street circuit at St. Peterburg is one of the corners you’re looking forward to driving.The corner, which turns right off the long and wide Albert Whitted Airport runway, leads into a tight section of downtown St. Petersburg streets. It has been the location of more than 500 on-track passes in the history of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but it’s also a place where attempts to pass have gone wrong and ended potential winning days.“
St. Pete has been recognized so well for the season opener for a long time, so it feels a little different when you realized that it will be our last race of the season,” said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato. “Nevertheless, St. Pete has been one of the greatest tracks and we all love it, so I am very happy to go back there. Needless to say, but we are so much looking forward to this challenging street race. Yes, it will add an element of unpredictability as it’s the nature of the street course race, but that’s all good for the show.”
R is for Rookie (and Rinus)
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay has all but locked up the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Award.The 20-year-old Dutchman only needs to start the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to claim the rookie title over Alex Palou of Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh and Oliver Askew of Arrow McLaren SP.
“It will be so nice to come back to St. Petersburg,” VeeKay said. “We are finally returning after being there earlier this year, but we were not able to race. Hopefully, I can secure my Rookie of the Year title; it will be a very nice achievement. I am really looking forward to the race. First street course race of the season as the last race, that’s very cool.”
Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his highly anticipated NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut at St. Petersburg as he weighs his options for the next stage of his racing career.
The New Zealand native, who wrapped up his third straight title for DJR Team Penske in the Australian touring car series, impressed in three preseason tests with Team Penske’s INDYCAR squad, including finishing in the top three at the series Open Test at Circuit of the Americas.
“I’m super pumped to finally get a crack at my first INDYCAR race,” McLaughlin said. “Feels like it’s been years since I was part of spring training, but due to COVID-19, we had to hold off. But hey, sometimes the best things are definitely worth the wait. It’s a dream come true to be running an INDYCAR race for Team Penske and Roger (Penske), especially coming off of such a successful Supercars season.
“I’ve been trying to get to know my team as well as possible virtually for a few months now, so it’s been great being able to see everyone in person and work with them. I spent some time last week running in the simulator as much as I could and spent some time at the race shop, as well, to prepare for this weekend. It was a quick turnaround from Bathurst since I flew to Charlotte immediately after, so I’ve definitely been moving at a fast but really exciting pace just to get to this weekend. The Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevy team is such a talented group, so I feel like I’m going to be a quick study and learn a lot really fast.”
Ending the Year on a High
Of the seven drivers who won races in 2019, only Alexander Rossi hasn’t visited Victory Lane in 2020, meaning the Andretti Autosport driver will have to win at St. Petersburg to extend his streak of seasons with at least one win to five years.
Rossi has history on his side.In his four previous starts at St. Petersburg, Rossi has an average finish of 7.75 and led laps in the last two races, where he finished third and fifth, respectively.
“I am so thankful that we get to have this event as our season finale, and we can continue our run of podiums to finish out the year,” said Rossi, who has finished on the podium in the last four consecutive races. “If all the stars align, I know we can get a win before it’s all said and done.”