Kimball, Franchitti join Ganassi podium sweep

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One week from returning to Toronto, where he scored a career-best runner-up finish last season, Charlie Kimball has matched that result today with a second-place effort at Pocono Raceway.

After the final pit stops of the afternoon were completed, Kimball, who started 12th, found himself in the lead with 29 laps remaining. He would lose the lead to Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon one lap later, and chased the former Indianapolis 500 winner to the checkered flag, losing out by less than half a second.

Still, the third-year American driver was pleased following his second Top-5 run of the season. He also surely impressed the group of families from sponsor Novo Nordisk’s North American headquarters, which made the two-hour trip north from New Jersey to cheer him on.

“Both Thursday at the [Open Test] and then yesterday, we really focused on our race car,” said Kimball. “The team [and] the whole Chip Ganassi Racing crew, as evidence by [the 1-2-3 finish], was focusing on race day, knowing that’s when it mattered.  So throughout today, the guys made it better on each pit stop and the car just got quicker and quicker. A lot of credit to Honda – they gave us the fuel mileage and speed to get it done. All I had to do was pedal the car around.”

“It was a lot of fun. When you get a good car like that and running up front, it’s always fun.”

Right behind Kimball and completing the all-Ganassi podium was Dario Franchitti, who has struggled at times this year but netted a third-place finish after starting 20th due to an engine penalty.

“We went for a very aggressive setup, very low downforce,” said Franchitti, who earned his best result since running fifth in Race 2 of last month’s doubleheader in Detroit.

“When I get some kind of gap, I could run some fast laps. The Honda today – it’s so good on fuel mileage, and that really, really helped us. I could catch back up Charlie in spots, but I couldn’t do anything with him because of the aggressive setup we ran.”

Franchitti credited his charge from the back of the field to a variety of reasons.

“A lot of it is timing and momentum – you’re trying to keep the momentum up, but the car’s sliding and your brain’s telling you to lift,” Franchitti said. “Then you gotta keep your foot down.

“Some momentum passes and definitely some strategy with the Honda fuel mileage, some great pit stops from my guys, and just some hard racing too. I definitely made some moves out there.”

Indy Lights: Chad Boat to make Indy Lights debut with Belardi

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Belardi Auto Racing, which currently fields entries for Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Shelby Blackstock in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, announced on Tuesday that USAC standout Chad Boat, son of former Verizon IndyCar Series race winner Billy Boat, will make his Indy Lights debut with the Brian Belardi led-outfit. Boat will contest the July 9 race at Iowa Speedway and will return for the August 26 event at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Chad Boat to our stable of drivers for the Iowa and Gateway Indy Lights oval races this summer,” team owner Brian Belardi detailed. “It’s exciting to have a second-generation driver running with us, and we’re certainly looking forward to getting Chad on track in Iowa.”

Boat has become a star in his own right in USAC, winning Rookie of the Year honors in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint car divisions. The 25-year-old has competed previously at Iowa, where he will make his first start, in what is now called the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He will pilot the No. 84 entry, with sponsorship from Pristine Auction.

“I grew up watching my dad race Indy cars, so having the opportunity to run Indy Lights this year is absolutely surreal,” said Boat. “I have to thank Belardi Auto Racing for giving me a shot behind the wheel of the No. 84 Dallara, as well as Pristine Auction for their continued support in my racing career. I can’t wait to get to Iowa Speedway.”

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Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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