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Roger Penske likes direction NASCAR, his organization are going

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The Captain likes what he sees in the waters ahead of him.

Roger Penske made a special guest appearance Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Trading Paint” and is bullish on what’s ahead for NASCAR as the series begins to implement a number of changes over the next few years.

Those include the change from one series entitlement sponsor as in past seasons in favor of four premier partners this season, as well as a revised schedule (with the potential of more schedule alterations in 2021 and beyond).

There’s also the highly anticipated Next Gen car slated for 2021, a push to attract additional car manufacturers and an industry-wide focus on cost cutting.

“One of the main things NASCAR is trying to do is take costs out,” Penske told co-hosts John Roberts and Chocolate Myers. “People say speed costs money, how fast do you want to go? But I think we’re at a limit where we have to go the other way.

“To me, the cost is key. The schedule is going to be different, I understand, but its also going to give other teams the ability to raise sponsorships and if the costs are cut by 30 or 40 percent, it’s going to allow new people to join the sport, which I feel is very, very important as we go forward.

“We need new owners, more new drivers that want to come in with maybe a new team, some of the new things they’ve announced on pit stops, and there’s a lot of discussions going on with NASCAR.”

Another area that Penske, who turns 83 next month, is also very bullish is even closer to home: the shakeup of shifting all three NASCAR Cup crew chiefs in his organization earlier this week:

“You have to look at the talent you have both on and off the track and people have been together a number of years,” Penske told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s like any person in any job, people like a change and it motivates them.

“We felt we had three great guys and great drivers and we said, ‘Let’s change it up this year and let’s see what happens.’ This isn’t because anybody asked for it or not. … We sat down and said what can we do differently than to have a bigger spoiler or engine that can motivate our guys going forward. It was pretty much made before Christmas … and the guys are off and running.

“I think it’s good. You see people moving crew chiefs and drivers moving around, but this is part of our business plan and part of the way we run our business.”

To further illustrate Team Penske’s one-for-all and all-for-one mantra, the organization’s patriarch said there were no objections among the three crew chiefs that were shifted, nor their drivers.

“I don’t know who spun out or didn’t because they wouldn’t tell me, but everybody reported to work so that’s the only true test I can have,” Penske said with a laugh, before drawing serious again. “Everybody was on it and wanted to go forward.

“So let’s see what the result is. It’s going to be interesting. When you start working with someone new, there’s new ideas and it’s not the same old, same old. This business is moving so fast, we have to be better as a whole team, not just crew chiefs and drivers.

“We had a good season, it wasn’t a bad season, but it wasn’t a championship season and we’re in the business of winning championships. … Sometimes it makes sense to give someone another opportunity in another job and that’s what we did.”

Penske also addressed the acquisition of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series; the sale from Hulman & Co. officially closed this past Monday.

“I looked at it as an opportunity,” Penske said. “And to me, if the legacy can go down that we can take this track, none of us can say whether we did a better job than they did after 74 years.

“I guess my first grade card is how we do in the first year in making a difference at the track in 2020. We’re completely focused on that. We’re going to make several millions of dollars of investments before the month of May. It’s not to create more revenue or profit bottom-line, it’s entirely what can we do to make the guest and fan experience better.

“That’s what we want to do. We have a number of things on our mind and we’re going to announce a lot of those things on 100 days out. We’ll have some announcements that will be exciting and hopefully the experience will be what we expect to provide to the guests that come to the track.”

The voice of the normally stoic Penske cracked slightly when asked what he thought when the sale was complete and the pride of 16th and Georgetown in Indianapolis was his after 74 years of ownership by the Hulman-George family.

“I did one thing,” he said, as his voice slightly quivered. “I looked up in the sky and said to my dad, ‘thanks’ because he took me there (for the first time) when I was 14 years old.”

Penske then continued about the significance of the track where his teams have captured a record 18 Indianapolis 500s.

“I’ve been there every year since that day in ’51,” Penske said. “It’s amazing what it brings to us. It’s an amazing place and certainly from our family, my son Greg who was very important in building California Speedway.

“I was fortunate here on the (January) 7th after we completed the transaction to be invited by the governor to go downtown and go to the (Indiana state) Senate along with Tony (George), Mark Miles, my son Greg and I and have the Senate read and approve a declaration of the day and many of the senators got up and spoke about the history of the Speedway and their families, and then we did the same thing at the (Indiana state) House. It was just amazing.

“Understand that this is the Holy Grail of the state of Indiana. They told stories about being in the state of Alaska in 1981 when Bobby Unser won the race and then they took it away because they looked at TV and said he passed when he blended — and they were arguing about it in Alaska.

“You just think about the reach of this place. Our responsibility is it’s a treasure, it’s iconic and something from my perspective, it’s just exactly what built our brand. … Certainly winning there 18 years, finally winning the Brickyard, winning on the road course, you can’t just say it happens. It takes so many great people that have given us the opportunities to be winners, so I just have to thank them. And I thank my dad … and here we are.”

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Jesse Iwuji apologizes for wreck in Charlotte Truck race

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Tuesday night’s Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was eventful for Jesse Iwuji, but for all the wrong reasons.

The 32-year-old driver and U.S. Navy officer was put under a microscope due to a crash he triggered on Lap 81.

Iwuji, who was making his first Truck Series start of the year, was racing toward Turn 1 when his No. 33 truck moved up the track and made contact with the No. 52 of Stewart Friesen. The contact turned Iwuji into the No. 30 of Brennan Poole. The wreck also included the No. 26 of Tyler Ankrum. Poole and Iwuji were eliminated while Friesen finished 30th.

On Wednesday, Iwuji posted a lengthy explanation for the crash and an apology to Poole and Friesen, saying in a tweet, “1st time in over 2 yrs where our mistake collected someone else in a race, can’t let it happen again.”

Iwuji cited a “bad vantage point” for his spotter looking up the frontstretch and bad timing leading to the contact and crash.

While Iwuji said he reached out to Friesen and Poole privately on Instagram, Poole responded on Twitter, saying “Things happen. I know what It feels like to be doing everything you can with limited resources. I admire your perseverance and dedication to this sport. Never quit chasing what you love.”

Read Iwuji’s full post below.

 

Thursday’s Cup race at Charlotte: Start time, forecast and more

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Let’s try this again.

So is the motto for NASCAR after rain postponed Wednesday night’s Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Thursday night. This is the fourth Cup race in a 14-day period.

Kevin Harvick won the first race in this stretch May 17 at Darlington Raceway. Denny Hamlin then won the May 20 Darlington race. Brad Keselowski won last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

Thursday’s starting lineup inverts the top 20 finishers from Sunday’s race, meaning Keselowski will start 20th in the 310-mile race. William Byron, who finished 20th on Sunday, starts on the pole.

Here is the info for Thursday night’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Atrium Health Sports Medicine Teammates will give the command to start engines at 7:13 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:25 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 2:50 p.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:05 p.m. by CH (LTC) Brian Koyn, 82nd Airborne Division Chaplain. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:06 p.m. by Season 3 winner of “The Voice” and Grammy-nominated singer Cassadee Pope.

PACE LAPS: At the direction of race control, drivers will have the opportunity to run one pace lap down pit road before the green flag for a pit road speed check. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pull over or slow down, they will start at the rear of the field.

DISTANCE: The race is 208 laps (312 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 20

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 115.

To the Rear Cars: Josh Bilicki (driver change from Sunday’s 600) and Reed Sorenson (driver change from Sunday’s 600)

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race and also can be heard at goprn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for showers with a high of 77 degrees and a 52% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Brad Keselowski led the final five laps to win Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, which was extended to overtime. Jimmie Johnson finished second, but his car failed inspection after the race and was disqualified. Chase Elliott was scored second. Ryan Blaney was scored third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCHING UP TO SPEED WITH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

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NASCAR suspends members of Denny Hamlin’s team for four races 

Bump and Run: Key connection between recent Cup winners 

Kyle Busch: Wearing a mask is way to “take care of our neighbor”

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick remains unanimous No. 1

Take a bow: Chase Elliott celebrates Truck win Kyle Busch style 

Bristol Xfinity race rescheduled to 7 p.m. ET Monday

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The postponement of Wednesday’s Cup Series race at Charlotte to Thursday due to rain has impacted the scheduling of this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced that due to travel and setup challenges, the Bristol Xfinity race has been moved from Saturday afternoon to 7 p.m. ET Monday on FS1.

“In a year that’s been filled with unprecedented times, I think a lot of us have learned that patience and flexibility are keys to success in 2020, but we know that the best is yet to come when night racing at Bristol arrives early this year,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. “With the Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway being rained out tonight, we’re looking forward to tuning into tomorrow to watch their Cup race. Then we’ll welcome the Food City presents SUPERMARKET HEROES 500 on Sunday at 3:30 followed by the Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco Xfinity Series race on Monday night June 1 at 7 p.m. ET under the lights. Tune in to both races on FS1, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.”

The race will be the Xfinity Series’ third since it returned to competition last week at Darlington.

More: Procedures for next five NASCAR race tracks

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Thursday

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Rain forced NASCAR to postpone Wednesday’s Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to 7 p.m. ET Thursday.

The race will air on FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The wunderground.com forecast for the start time Thursday calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 77 degrees and a 45% chance of rain.

NASCAR also announced that Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been moved to 7 p.m. ET Monday and will be on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

William Byron is set to start on the pole for the race after NASCAR inverted the top 20 finishers from Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

It rained throughout the day Wednesday, including heavy at times in the evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced on Wednesday that all cars had passed pre-race inspection without any penalties.

This was a look at track conditions 15 minutes before the announcement was made that the race had been postponed: