Notes: NTT Data sponsoring Dixon’s car at Long Beach

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Chip Ganassi Racing announced today that four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will sporting the colors of NTT Data on his No. 9 Honda at this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. NTT Data will also expand its relationship as an associate sponsor on Dixon’s car for additional races at Phoenix Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This is the fifth year of the partnership between Chip Ganassi Racing and NTT Data, which remains the primary sponsor on the No. 10 Honda driven by 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, now in his fourth season with CGR.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach entry list

"Having the opportunity to be represented by two of the all-time greats in INDYCAR is something that doesn’t come along too often,” said John McCain, NTT Data CEO. “The team is off to a fast start in 2017 and adding Scott to our lineup gives us another level of visibility and doubles our chances of getting to victory lane. I think our clients and employees are going to be in for a big treat when the No. 9 and No. 10 cars unload in Long Beach in just a few short days."

Dixon finished second in last year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after winning the event in 2015 on the way to his fourth Verizon IndyCar Series title.

“This will be a bit of déjà vu for TK (Kanaan) and I, going back to when he first joined the team in 2014 and we were in similar livery with the same partner,” said Dixon. “NTT Data has been a great supporter of our Indy car program for several seasons now and I look forward to contributing to their program and delivering for them on track this season.”

NTT Data began its relationship with CGR in 2013 at the Indianapolis 500. It has been a primary sponsor on one of the team’s cars since 2014. According to Steve Lauletta, president at Chip Ganassi Racing, the relationship goes far beyond that.

“NTT Data is not only on our race cars, but they also use their technological expertise to help in numerous other aspects of the race team, so this relationship has been a great fit for both parties over the years,” Lauletta said. “In addition to that, it’s always a positive when you have a current partner that sees value in the sport and wants to do more. I think that really speaks to the success of the program for their business.

“We had an opportunity early in the season to align their focus markets with the No. 9 car, which resulted in an expansion of their racing program,” Lauletta added. “While this allows NTT Data more opportunity with two cars in the short term – much like (past CGR partner) Target did previously in their key markets – we are still focused on locking in a full-time partner for the No. 9 car in 2017.”

Toyota Long Beach activities begin with Friday’s opening practice begins at 1 p.m. ET, featuring a live video stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The day’s second practice airs live on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET. Saturday’s practice starts at 1:45 p.m. ET (RaceControl.IndyCar.com), ahead of Verizon P1 Award qualifying at 6:30 p.m. (streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, tape delay at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN).

Sunday’s 85-lap race on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Ticket information is available at gplb.com.

Honda takes manufacturer points lead to Long Beach

Honda takes a 21-point lead over Chevrolet in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturers’ championship to this week’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The advantage comes on the strength of Sebastien Bourdais’ win in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12. After the first of 17 races, Honda has accumulated 90 points to Chevrolet’s 69.

In collaboration with the two manufacturers in the offseason, INDYCAR has revised the way points are earned toward the 2017 championship between the engine/aero kit suppliers. This season, each manufacturer receives the entrant points awarded for its top two full-season finishers at each race. The manufacturer that claims the pole position at each race except the Indianapolis 500 receives one point and the manufacturer that wins a race gets an additional five points.

At St. Petersburg, Honda earned 50 points for Bourdais’ first-place race finish, 35 for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in third and five points as the race-winning manufacturer. Chevrolet, which has won every manufacturers’ championship since rejoining the series in 2012, compiled its St. Pete points from Team Penske drivers, with Simon Pagenaud’s second-place finish (40 points), Helio Castroneves’ sixth-place finish (28) and Will Power taking the Verizon P1 Award for the pole (one).

For the Indianapolis 500, the manufacturer whose car is fastest on the first day of qualifications receives one point and the manufacturer whose car wins the pole position in second-day qualifying receives two points.

Manufacturers may also earn a one-time durability bonus for its two points-earning entrants in the Indianapolis 500, once the engines used by those two cars in the race reach 2,000 miles during the season. Upon attaining that mileage plateau, the manufacturer receives a bonus equal to the race points earned by that entrant in the Indy 500 race.

INDYCAR has discontinued its durability points penalty for engines requiring repairs before reaching a minimum mileage life cycle. Instead this year, each full-season entrant is limited to four engines that may earn points toward the manufacturers’ championship. An entrant may earn manufacturer points with a fifth engine only if its first four engines have completed the full-season mileage requirement of 10,000 total miles.

Qualifying at Phoenix, Gateway returns to Friday

INDYCAR has listened to its stakeholders in repositioning qualifying sessions for races at Phoenix Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park to the night before the race. INDYCAR had previously announced that race-day qualifying would occur at the two oval-track events.

Qualifying for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will now take place at 8 p.m. local time Friday, April 28. The move increases the possibility of live television coverage on NBCSN. It also gives teams more time to repair a car should an incident take place in qualifying. Fans attending race day will benefit with a live pit stop practice session scheduled 90 minutes before the green flag waves. The 250-lap Phoenix Raceway race airs live at 9 p.m. ET April 29 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

The weekend schedule for the Bommarito Auto Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park will follow a similar format. Qualifying takes place on Friday, Aug. 25 with the race airing live at 9 p.m. ET Aug. 26 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Pocono adds more SAFER Barrier around track

Pocono Raceway has added an additional 5,197 feet – nearly a full mile – of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier to its 2.5-mile oval. The additional protective barrier covers the track’s frontstretch and between Turns 2 and 3.

Pocono Raceway also upgraded three track crossover gates to incorporate SAFER Barrier into their construction. The latest work follows the addition of 6,000 feet of SAFER Barrier last year at the “Tricky Triangle,” which gives the Pennsylvania facility more than 23,640 feet (4.48 miles) of SAFER Barrier protection.

Originally designed under the guidance of INDYCAR in 2002, the SAFER Barrier has proven to be one of the most effective racing safety measures ever developed. Steel tubing modules attached to 2-inch-thick sheets of extruded, closed-cell polystyrene are placed in front of concrete track walls to reduce the severity of car impacts.

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 on Aug. 20 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). It is the 14th of 17 races on this year’s schedule.

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