Chilton returns to Iowa, site of his first U.S. race win

Chilton devours the victory pizza. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The circumstances are a bit different for Max Chilton upon his return to Iowa Speedway this year.

Twelve months ago, Chilton had only just finished his first oval start in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires a week earlier at the Milwaukee Mile, and wasn’t expected to be a threat on the 0.894-mile Iowa bullring.

Yet he promptly delivered his most impressive weekend yet on these U.S. shores, scoring the pole and his first Indy Lights win under admittedly difficult circumstances, leading a 1-2 finish for Carlin.

Chilton’s Formula 1 teammate, Jules Bianchi, had succumbed to his injuries a day earlier, and after winning the race Chilton led a moment of silence during IndyCar pre-race.

The Chilton that’s back now at Iowa enters in a slightly different state.

One, obviously, he’s in an IndyCar – but he’s one of two drivers who has a chance to defend his win from a year ago (Ryan Hunter-Reay is the other, having won the last two IndyCar races at Iowa).

Two, he’s fresh off what was arguably his best road and street course performance of the year in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

He qualified seventh and was unlucky to have not made it through to the Firestone Fast Six at Road America, as he got held up on a lap. Then while running up front he ran out of fuel entering before a pit stop, and that dropped him down the order.

Three, he’s in the car that got headlines this race last year – what was Sage Karam’s car – after the rookie driver dazzled the field, if aggressively, en route to his first IndyCar podium of third place.

Chilton leads Rossi at Phoeix
Chilton leads Rossi at Phoenix. Photo: Getty Images

Chilton’s done well at the ovals this year though. He was a solid seventh – thus far his best result of the year – at Phoenix and was a respectable 15th at the Indianapolis 500, bouncing back from an accident in qualifying.

“For whatever reason, ovals have suited me better this year than road and street courses,” Chilton told NBC Sports heading into Road America.

Now, as he prepares for his first IndyCar run at Iowa, he’ll suit to recapture his Phoenix form and deliver a good result at the site of his first U.S. race win.

“I’m really looking forward to Iowa as that was the site of my first win in America in Indy Lights (in 2015),” he said pre-race. “The track is very fast and we just did testing there last week, so it’s one of the few tracks I’m entering my rookie season where I have some confidence and don’t have to come in and learn it when we show up.

“The Ganassi cars have been fast so far this year, we just need to put together an entire race and I think good results will happen for the Gallagher team.”

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”