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Roger Penske was ready for his close-up in popular commercial

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MONTEREY, California – Roger Penske is the only team owner in auto racing history who has 18 “Baby Borg” Trophies in his possession for his team’s record 18 wins in the Indianapolis 500.

Perhaps his next trophy should be an Emmy.

Penske took part in a commercial along with 103rd Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and one of his NASCAR Cup drivers, Ryan Blaney. The commercial was shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 7 while NASCAR was in town for the Brickyard 400.

The premise of the commercials is a takeoff on the 2006 comedy, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Blaney playing the Ricky Bobby role and Pagenaud playing the Jean Girard role.

The commercial was shot by NBC to promote its coverage of the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and concludes with Penske stepping in between the two drivers, demanding them to, “Go out there and win races.”

Penske delivered the line perfectly and in just three takes.

“It took me about five minutes,” Penske told NBCSports.com. “They made it very easy for me. We let the guys do all of the hard work. It was fun for me to do. I saw it, and I didn’t make a fool out of myself.

“I’m ready for the next commercial.”

Penske’s ability to deliver his lines perfectly impressed NBC Sports Group President of Programing Jon Miller.

“I assume he’s got his SAG card,” Miller told NBCSports.com. “He has certainly been in front of the camera enough, and he’s quite an ambassador for the sport, so we were not at all surprised by that.”

NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood was also highly impressed with Penske’s ability to turn into an actor in front of the camera.

“We were thrilled that he agreed to do it,” Flood told NBC Sports.com. “It’s one of those special things and the kind of guy he is to jump on board and make it even bigger because we had a ‘Plan B’ if Roger couldn’t do it, and when we got the confirmation, we knew we had something special that was going to happen.

“Roger Penske did the ad with two of his drivers that we shot at the Brickyard last week that got out there. A lot of fun, a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past. I think that’s part of us leaning in as NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing, as you know all too well.”

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who will take a 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix, also was complimentary of his team owner.

“Wow, I was impressed,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com. “First of all, how did they get him to do a cameo? That was cool. And he nailed it.

“The pressure on Simon and Blaney to nail it, after Roger does it in only three takes? Wow, the pressure was really on them to deliver their lines.”

Pagenaud thought Penske’s first take was the best.

“It didn’t take long for Roger to deliver his line, he was on top of it,” Pagenaud told NBCSports.com. “NBCSN was very excited about the idea. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles made sure we were able to get into Gasoline Alley early that day. It was the Saturday of the Brickyard 400 and it was early, but Roger was probably up since 2 a.m. I’m sure, so it wasn’t early for him.

“It was good, the script was fun and well done. I forced my French and Blaney being the perfect American NASCAR driver and Roger just being himself was just perfect. It shows personality between NASCAR and INDYCAR. NBC is doing such a great job showing both fans on both sides what is going in and it helps everybody get interested in both sports.”

Penske was asked if that is how he normally talks to his drivers in a prerace situation to fire them up.

“That’s not the normal, daily message, but that’s how it helped those two guys get going,” Penske said. “I think NBC has done a great job in all cases on IndyCar. The continuity of having the same partner has made a huge difference. The talent knows the drivers. They know the situation. Guys like Paul Tracy and the experience of Leigh Diffey and the whole group has done a great job.

“It’s about good racing. We have good teams. Lots of competition, new drivers and date equity. And it’s attracting young people.”

Penske believes the addition of NBC Sports to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, including the season’s final race on the NBC, has been a big boost to the series.

“Any time you are on network is great,” Penske said. “It’s great for the sponsors, the notoriety for the team and the drivers is very important for all of us as we finish up the season. It’s going to be a great weekend, and I hope we can continue the movement we’ve had and the momentum we’ve had coming up to the last weekend.”

Richmond winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — It was a 1-2-3-4 finish until Erik Jones’ car failed inspection. Still the team scored a 1-2-3 finish and claimed its fourth consecutive win on a short track with Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph. Don’t forget, the organization also won Friday’s Xfinity race with Christopher Bell.

Ryan Newman His fifth-place finish tied his best result of the year and was his third consecutive top-10 showing. He was encouraged by the team running toward the front and noted: “You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win. I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.” Still, Newman moved into a transfer spot heading into this coming weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Brad KeselowskiHe finished fourth and was the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to lead Saturday’s race.

Bubba Wallace His 12th-place finish was his third top-15 result in the last five races. He had one top-15 finish in the first 23 races of the season.

Front Row Motorsports — All three of its cars placed 21st or better, the first time the team has accomplished that feat this season. David Ragan was 19th, rookie Matt Tifft placed 20th and Michael McDowell was 21st.

LOSERS

Erik Jones He was feeling good about his fourth-place finish that put him within three points of the final transfer spot to the next round only to later find out that his car was disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Now he’s 45 points out of the final transfer spot and is essentially in a must-win situation. He faces being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.

William Byron Got lapped in the final circuits before the end of each stage and also had a pit road speeding penalty. That led to a season-worst 25th-place finish. He holds the final transfer spot to the second round by two points on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman heading to the Roval.

Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”

 

Ryan Newman scores second top five of year with strong Richmond run

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Every answer Ryan Newman gave after Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway was in regards to a sixth-place finish.

Erik Jones’ disqualification improved Newman’s result in the playoff race by one spot, but likely didn’t change his positive sentiment.

Newman left Richmond with a fifth-place finish, his second top five of the year, and a position inside the cutline for the second round of the playoffs.

That was after what Newman described as “without a doubt” the “best team performance all around” for his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team this year.

Newman qualified 19th but was a presence in the top 10 by Stage 2, where he battled for position with Jones for much of its 100-lap length before placing sixth (later improved to fifth as Jones also lost his stage points with the disqualification).

Newman didn’t lose any positions on pit road during the Stage 2 break and ran as high as third after the restart before falling behind Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

“You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win,” Newman said. “I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.”

Newman said his team’s main strategy was simply to put four new tires on his No. 6 Ford.

“Had a good short-run car,” Newman said. “One time had a good long-run car, but we could never get both. I think that if we had both we could have run with those guys. We were at our best when we were a little bit biased to a long-run car, but who would’ve known that it was going to be that many green-flag runs.”

Newman has finished in the top 10 in three consecutive races, marking the third time he’s done that this year. He has 11 top 10s through 28 races.

“What meant the most to me probably was just being better than we were the first race (at Richmond),” Newman said. “I ran ninth in the first race, qualified (24th). We came back and showed we were learning and will keep learning.”

With his stage points and top-five finish Saturday night, Newman is now eighth in the standings, 14 points above the cutoff heading to the first elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“I don’t know that I’m looking forward to the Roval,” Newman admitted. “I don’t know anybody that actually is except for maybe Truex (Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr.).”

NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

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RICHMOND, Va. — Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car failed inspection after Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway and the disqualification puts him in a must-win situation next weekend to advance in the playoffs. 

The team confirmed that Jones’ car failed on the rear toe in the Optical Scanning Station. Jimmy Makar, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said that the team did not plan to appeal.

Jay Fabian, managing director of the Cup Series, explained what officials found:

“There’s fairly critical measurements on the rear wheel alignment that have to be followed, so there’s any number of things that the team could do or not do to make it fail,” Fabian said. “Standard process as a race, we give a pretty strong allowance on what they can run pre‑race to post‑race, and it’s crept out of that range.

“We didn’t see anything that was designed to fail. At the end of the day, the result is the same, it failed.”

Fabian explained why the measurement is important.

“Rear wheel steer and alignment is important as a critical factor in downforce,” he said. “It’s an aero benefit to get more skew in the rear, so we keep those parameters pretty tight so that everybody is racing with the same thing, and that’s the key to running all 16 cars through there. We just finished up probably 30 minutes ago, so it’s important to keep the playing field level and make sure all the playoff cars are the same and pass that thing.”

The disqualification takes away from Joe Gibbs Racing’s first 1-2-3-4 finish in team history.

Jones was dropped to last place and given one point. He had scored 42 points.

Jones is now 45 points behind Willian Byron for the final transfer spot to the second round. The penalty makes it highly unlikely he can advance to the second round of the playoffs via points, so he will need to win next Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

This is the first time this season that a Cup car has been disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Four cars have been disqualified in the Xfinity Series and one Truck has been disqualified in that series.