Aleshin fastest as three accidents interrupt Pocono first practice

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LONG POND, Pa. – Mikhail Aleshin paced the opening 100-minute practice session (scheduled for 90 minutes but with 10 minutes added for several yellow flags) for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway, the latest round in the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The driver of the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda posted a tow-assisted best speed of 221.930 mph around the 2.5-mile oval, while the best no-tow speed came from Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda at 219.613 mph.

But the track, dubbed the “Tricky Triangle,” lived up to its name during the session.

Three accidents have sent teams scrambling; Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie Kimball will go to backup cars after respective accidents in Turn 1 while Juan Pablo Montoya had a later accident off of Turn 2.

Hunter-Reay’s accident came as he lost the rear coming through Turn 1 in his No. 28 DHL Honda; it’s his second accident in practice after also having one at Iowa Speedway in July.

“We were just on a qualifying simulation. Trying to get a flat as possible and we just had it a little too far forward on the balance, and the front grabbed, but just a little bit, which is what I got away last week at the test here, and it was fine,” Hunter-Reay said. “The rear just all of a sudden snapped, and once these cars get to a certain angle you dump all that air off the wings that you’re relying on and you just can’t do anything about it.”

Kimball had a more strange accident where he overcorrected in Turn 1, and his knees actually knocked the steering wheel out of the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet onto the course.

“I turned in (Turn One) and the rear came out on cold tires,” Kimball said. “We made an adjustment to the car. The car rotated a couple of times and I caught it. Maybe three times, but then I didn’t catch it any more.  But when I hit, my knee hit the back of the steering wheel and popped it off. It was an incident of the incident rather than anything else”

Montoya’s accident in the No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet came out of Turn 2, with a double hit as he then went to the inside.

“It was cold tires coming out of the pits. I was getting up to speed in the normal way for qualifying and they told me to hurry up because Simon was coming,” Montoya told Trackside Online’s Steve Wittich. “They are so worried about everybody else not doing our job that it’s just getting ourselves in a hole.”

Speeds are below; qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET and local time. A qualifying order is linked below as well.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.