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Iowa weekend IndyCar, MRTI notes

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Notes from this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series, and the pair of Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires races (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) are below.

Coverage for Indy Lights and IndyCar run back to back today, at 4 and 5 p.m. ET, on NBCSN.

DIXON PENALIZED FOR ROAD AMERICA WARMUP INFRACTION

Missing warmup at Road America came with a cost for Scott Dixon, with penalties formally announced Saturday morning. Per INDYCAR:

INDYCAR has imposed penalties against Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 9 entry for violations of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book during the KOHLER Grand Prix race weekend June 23-25 at Road America.

The No. 9 entry driven by Scott Dixon was cited for three violations:

  • The No. 9 car entered the track 56 seconds after the checkered flag had waved concluding the race morning warmup practice on June 25, a violation of Rule 7.2.9.1;
  • At the same time, the No. 9 car entered the pit lane from the paddock area under its own power instead of being pushed or towed to pit lane, a violation of Rule 7.9.1;
  • The No. 9 car failed to obey the direction of INDYCAR, a violation of Rule 9.3.1.7.

INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the Verizon IndyCar Series, has imposed a monetary fine against the team and ordered that the No. 9 entry serve a time penalty of 20 minutes at the conclusion of the first practice session today at Iowa Speedway.

XTRAC RENEWS WITH INDYCAR

There’s been a number of partnership extensions announced between INDYCAR and its key stakeholders this year. Xtrac joins that list, having been announced on Friday. INDYCAR’s release is below:

INDYCAR announced a multiyear extension today with Xtrac, Inc. that continues the brand’s longtime position as the official supplier of transmissions for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Xtrac is one of INDYCAR’s longest-tenured partners and its parts are utilized across the motorsports landscape in disciplines such as Formula One, sports cars – including IMSA, GT and touring cars – and rally competition. Xtrac began supplying transmissions for several Indy car teams in the 1990s and became the exclusive supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2000.

“Working with INDYCAR since the 2000 season, when Xtrac were first awarded the sole gearbox supply contract, has been an extremely rewarding time for us,” said Andrew Heard, Xtrac vice president. “We are now on the third design of gearbox and each one has been developed to help increase reliability and safety. Having the contract extended gives us the confidence to keep investing in our support of this fantastic open-wheel race series.

“In May of this year, we increased the size of our support facility in Indianapolis by nearly 100 percent, which will allow us to help the Verizon IndyCar Series to continue to flourish in the coming years.”

As part of the agreement, Xtrac will continue to provide a championship award at the season-ending Verizon IndyCar Series championship celebration and an award to the winner of the Indianapolis 500.

“INDYCAR appreciates the contribution Xtrac has made to the sport and looks forward to this extended partnership,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “Commitments from companies like Xtrac are crucial to the fabric of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Xtrac was established in 1984 and has locations in England, Mooresville, North Carolina, and the renovated space in Indianapolis.

“I’m honored on behalf of everyone at Xtrac for INDYCAR to have recognized our longstanding partnership with this contract extension,” said Adrian Moore, Xtrac managing director. “Such is the importance to Xtrac of our presence in Indianapolis, I was proud to open our expanded facility during the month of May. We’ve had fantastic support from both INDYCAR and the city of Indianapolis itself. It’s the perfect location for our U.S. facility and I look forward to us growing further with the city and INDYCAR.”

GUTIERREZ’S NEW LIVERY

To go along with his oval debut, the sign of Esteban Gutierrez’s confirmation throughout the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series season until Sebastien Bourdais’ return came with a new livery to his No. 18 UNIFIN Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

The more predominately blue and white colors add yet another blue and white car to the field.

HINCH’S CAREER TURNS 100

James Hinchcliffe, the 2013 Iowa winner, will make his 100th Verizon IndyCar Series race start on Sunday in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

“We had a successful test at Iowa this week, so I’m looking forward to getting back on track for the race weekend. I’ve had some not so great results in the past couple of weeks, but I won in Iowa in 2013 so hopefully we can come away with another win and turn around our luck for the rest of the season,” Hinchcliffe said going into the weekend.

Hinchcliffe was part of an impressive rookie class in 2011, along with Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand who are both still in this year’s field. Ana Beatriz, James Jakes and Sebastian Saavedra also enjoyed multiyear careers after having their first full season that year.

Kimball had his 100th start at Sonoma last year while Hildebrand, after missing several years, is set to make his 56th start this weekend.

PAGENAUD’S VOTING BLOC

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud has been nominated for an ESPY award as best driver, and has had his dog Norman leading his campaign.

HERTA, ASKEW SCORE INDY LIGHTS, USF2000 POLES

A pair of Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires races are on tap for today with a 100-lap Indy Lights race (airs 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN; stream link here) and a 60-lap USF2000 race.

Young American stars Colton Herta (Indy Lights) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) have the pole positions. Grids are here (Indy Lights, USF2000).

BARON, AGREN BACK IN USF2000

A pair of welcome names are back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda this weekend.

Ayla Agren returns to Team Pelfrey’s third car after missing Road America. Agren told NBC Sports at Road America, as she was there driving Chevrolet event cars and supporting the Pelfrey team, she felt confident of a return for the 0.894-mile oval.

Alexandre Baron, meanwhile, is back in the Mazda Road to Indy for the first time in three years. The Frenchman won races in USF2000 with Afterburner Autosport in 2013, then won a race with Belardi in 2014 in Indy Lights, both in partial seasons. The talented young driver will be in ArmsUp Motorsports’ second car, replacing Bruna Tomaselli, this weekend at Iowa and next weekend in Toronto.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.