Roger Penske: ‘Once you’re in NASCAR and it bites you, you can’t let it go’

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Roger Penske doesn’t know how the “Penske Way” of doing things evolved. But he thinks the origins of the mindset that has led to 430 auto racing wins in 50 years are in his time in a military school.

“I had to start at the back of the platoon before I got up front,” Penske said during the NASCAR Media Tour two weeks ago. “Once I got up there, I didn’t want to go to the back.”

The owner of Team Penske has been to the front a lot. Since 1966, when Roger Penske Racing was founded, the Penske name has won in nearly every major form of auto racing with 85 different drivers. He holds the record for Indianapolis 500 winning efforts with 16.

Penske, 78, dipped his toes into the NASCAR ownership waters beginning in 1972 and won five times through 1975.

“Once you’re in NASCAR and it bites you, you can’t let it go,” Penske said during a Q&A session devoted to the team’s 50th anniversary.

But Penske didn’t go all out as a NASCAR owner until 1991, when he joined forces with Rusty Wallace. The two had first worked together for two races in 1980. Those were Penske’s last NASCAR races for 11 years.

“I think it takes the driver, it takes that team, and I think (Rusty Wallace) brought something,” Penske said. “His own personal commitment. He’d work on the cars. He’d drive the truck if he had to, and once you’re in how do you get out?”

In the 25 years since re-entering the sport, Team Penske’s NASCAR operation has earned 88 of its 93 Sprint Cup wins, won the Daytona 500 twice (2008 and ’15) and finally earned a Sprint Cup championship in 2012 with Brad Keselowski.

Penske now has a two-car team and a new partnership with Wood Brothers Racing.

The team owner has no immediate plans to step away from his role that has lasted half a century.

“I don’t know when I’m gonna leave the sport,” Penske said. “It will probably be very abrupt when I do, but, anyhow, I’m counting on this legacy will continue on. My sons and our family love this sport. It’s the backbone, a common thread through the company, so there’s no reason not to be involved. I think if we can sustain the sponsorship and the key people stay with us and will continue to help us, we can go on forever. I don’t see any reason we can’t do that.”

Penske addressed many topics during his Q&A session. Below are some of the highlights.

On the Joey LoganoMatt Kenseth feud

“That’s water over the dam. It’s like in business, you have a bad quarter or a bad year you just move on, you have to get better. I think Joey handled it like a professional. We tried to do the same as a team. There was a lot of noise about it, but I think our best position was to be, ‘Let’s think about the next race and go on to 2016.'”

Thoughts on the proposed charter system

“All I know is the RTA, the car owners are sitting down with NASCAR to try to work out a long-term, viable situation where we can be in partnership for the rest of many of our lives. I think by doing this it will make the sport stronger.”

On his absence from NASCAR between 1980 and 1991

“Our plate was full. We were doing IROC. We were doing Can-Am. We were doing IndyCar racing and some sports car stuff. To me, I think it was at that point we thought we had too much on our plate and the costs were escalating. If we didn’t have the sponsorship, we couldn’t keep up. But then as we were able to settle down and have more success we put our marketing department together. We were able to have the opportunity to access some of the sponsorships with some of the key people that wanted to be teamed with our company.”

What’s on his racing bucket list

“We’d like to be able to win at Le Mans if we can. We’ve raced there, but have never had the success that we wanted. Maybe at some point here we could put something together, but we’ve got a full plate right now and I think with the NASCAR Series and what takes place in ’16 and IndyCar with four cars and what we’re trying to do out in Australia, we’ve got a real full plate.”

Penske once tried to buy Atlanta Motor Speedway

“I remember when (Bruton Smith) was buying the Atlanta track. I was negotiating in the other room and (NASCAR vice chairman) Mike Helton was running the track at that point and (Smith) put a number on the board that was so above mine that I said, ‘It’s yours,’ and I moved on.”

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 95 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

General Motors announces leadership for technical center

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General Motors has announced the leadership for its new performance and racing technical center in Concord, North Carolina.

GM has tapped Dr. Eric Warren of Richard Childress Racing to be the director of NASCAR operations at the facility, which was unveiled in January.

Warren will be responsible for competition duties for NASCAR programs, “as well as expanding the involvement of GM’s product development resources in the technical strategy for the Chevrolet race teams,” GM said in a statement.

GM’s 75,000-square-foot facility will feature Driver-in-the-Loop simulators, vehicle simulation, aero development and other practices designed to advance racing and production capabilities.

Warren had been RCR’s Chief Technology Officer since 2017 and part of the team since 2012.

GM also named Mark Stielow to its new Director of Motorsports Competition Engineering position. Stielow will be responsible for overall engineering and technical direction for the NHRA, IndyCar, IMSA and Motorsports Operations. He will have a direct link to GM’s vehicle integration organization.

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

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Charlotte Motor Speedway will host fans for its NASCAR Xfinity and Cup races and its IMSA race on the Roval Oct. 10-11, the track announced Friday.

The announcement comes after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated this week that outdoor sports venues with a capacity in excess of 10,000 could have up to 7% capacity.

The track stated that because of the limited capacity allowed, no additional tickets will be sold for the Oct. 11 Cup playoff race. Remaining ticket holders will have the option to receive a 120% credit toward a 2021 event or a refund for the full purchase amount.

Tickets remain for the Oct. 10 Xfinity playoff race and the IMSA WeatherTech  SportsCar GT Championship Series event. Adult tickets are $50. Tickets are available by calling 800-455-FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Kids 13 and under get in free.

“Throughout the summer, we’ve been working with local and state officials to bring fans to the Bank of America Roval 400 weekend for what promises to be one of the season’s most anticipated events,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter in a statement. “While we regret that we cannot accommodate every fan who would like to be part of this spectacular race weekend, we are committed to providing the best and safest experience possible for those who are able to attend.”

Among the safety protocols for the events:

  • Mandatory temperature checks at entry gates
  • Contactless ticketing
  • Socially distanced grandstand seating
  • Cashless souvenir and concession purchases.
  • Fans and staff must wear approved face coverings at all times, except while eating and drinking.
  • Limited grandstand seating will be in groups of up to six people properly socially distant from any other group.

Fans can bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14 inches on its longest side. To limit contact, cash will not be accepted.