Roger Penske

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Tony Stewart: NASCAR, IndyCar doubleheader would be a ‘kick ass weekend’

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One NASCAR team owner believes a doubleheader race weekend between the NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar would be a “kick ass weekend.”

If you guessed the owner is Tony Stewart, congratulations.

The remark from Stewart, the three-time Cup champion and 1997 Indy Racing League champion, came during his 12th annual Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway, which raises money for Speedway Children’s Charities.

His comments come a few weeks after IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden made the first laps in an IndyCar around the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“I think it would be awesome,” Stewart said. “(Texas Motor Speedway) would be a perfect place to do it, too. I think it would be really cool. It would be a weekend on my calendar that I would make sure I was at the Cup race that weekend for sure. It’s just never been done. The hardest part for both series is going to be how different the racetrack is. When you’d go to Pocono or anywhere that ARCA would run with the Cup Series and you’d have different rubber (tires), it definitely made a difference.

“I remember when we did the first demo run the night of the (NASCAR) All-Star race (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) in ’97, I remember how sketchy it was because the Goodyear rubber was down and we were on Firestone with IndyCar, and the rubbers really weren’t compatible. So that’s the only challenge they’ll have doing it. Aside from that, man, I think that’s about as big of a kick ass weekend as you could ever ask for in motorsports, is have two major series like that here at the same time.”

Support for an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader has been building since May, with a few Cup drivers voicing their approval during the Coca-Cola 600 race weekend.

Roger Penske, who owns teams in both series, gave his approval to the idea in June.

Based on their 2020 schedules, the only tracks the Cup Series and IndyCar will both visit throughout the year (but on separate weekends) are Texas Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The earliest a doubleheader could happen is 2021 as both series’ 2020 schedules are set.

IndyCar also visits tracks the Xfinity Series or Gander Outdoors Truck Series will race at on separate weekends: Iowa Speedway, World Wide Technology Speedway at Gateway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America.

But for Stewart, holding the potential doubleheader at the 1.5-mile track north of Forth Worth, Texas is the obvious choice.

“And it’s not because we’re sitting here right now,” Stewart said. “This is the place I would pick if you were going to do that kind of a weekend.”

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.”

Paul Menard to retire from NASCAR; Matt DiBenedetto will drive No. 21 in 2020

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Wood Brothers Racing announced Tuesday that Paul Menard will retire from full-time NASCAR competition after 2019 and Matt DiBenedetto will take over the historic No. 21 Ford next season.

Menard, the 2011 Brickyard 400 winner, will retire after 13 full-time seasons in the Cup Series. The season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be his 471st start.

This year was his second season driving for Wood Brothers Racing. Menard, 39, joins David Ragan in being the second long-term veteran to announce their retirement from full-time racing after this season.

“I’ve enjoyed every moment of my career racing in the NASCAR Cup Series and I’m so thankful for all the great memories and friendships I’ve made through this sport,” Menard said in a press release. “But I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with my wife Jennifer and our two young children while moving forward with the next chapter of my life.

“I want to thank everyone at Wood Brothers Racing, along with Team Penske, and our partners at Menards, Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers and Ford. It’s been a privilege to work with them and some of the true legends of our sport, including Andy Petree, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Robert Yates, Richard Petty, Richard Childress, Roger Penske and Glen and Leonard Wood. I’m excited for what the future holds and I’m looking forward to sharing the plans for 2020 and beyond in the coming weeks.”

Said DiBenedetto in a statement: “I am so excited about this opportunity to race for one of the most successful teams in NASCAR history beginning in 2020. The No. 21 Ford is one of the most accomplished and iconic cars in our sport and it will be an honor to join Wood Brothers Racing and help carry on the team’s tradition of success in NASCAR. I want to thank Eddie and Len Wood, Kim Wood Hall, Menards, Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company for this opportunity.”

The news about DiBenedetto’s new ride comes after he was informed by Leavine Family Racing last month he wouldn’t return to the No. 95 Toyota next season.

DiBenedetto, 28, is in his fifth season of Cup competition. Sunday’s Brickyard 400 was his 166th start. He has six top-10 finishes, including three top fives this season. All of those have come in the last 11 races. One of his top fives was a runner-up finish in the Bristol night race, where he led a race-high 93 laps but lost to Denny Hamlin.

DiBenedetto will be a guest on NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN.

“We want to thank Paul Menard for his dedication to the team over the last two seasons,” said team President and co-owner Eddie Wood in a statement. “We’re looking forward to a strong finish to 2019 and we wish him nothing but the best for the future. All of us at Wood Brothers Racing are excited to welcome Matt DiBenedetto to the team beginning next season. Matt has shown a lot of promise on track and everyone has seen it in his results this season, especially over the past several months. We want to continue to build on that success together as we gear up for 2020 and the future of Wood Brothers Racing.”

Later in a press conference, Menard said he expected Menards to remain as a full sponsor on the No. 21 and Ryan Blaney‘s No. 12 car.

Roger Penske to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom award

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NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA team owner Roger Penske will receive one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.

He’s very thrilled to be getting it,” Trump said of Penske during an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House.

Penske will become the second person in the motorsports industry to receive the high honor. Legendary NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 from President George H. W. Bush.

Team Penske tweeted the following statement:

No date for the medal presentation has been set yet.

Trump and Penske have been close friends for many years.

He’s a great gentleman,” Trump said of Penske. “I’ve known him for a long time. A very brilliant gentleman.”

Earlier this month, Trump hosted and honored Penske and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and his team in a White House ceremony. It was the third time Penske has been to the White House in the last year, having previously visited for ceremonies honoring Will Power’s 2018 Indy 500 win and Joey Logano winning the 2018 NASCAR Cup championship.

Team Penske has won over 530 races – including 18 Indianapolis 500 and two Daytona 500 victories – and 34 championships across all forms of motorsports in its 53-year history.

Penske is founder and chairman of Penske Corp., an international company that has revenues of over $31 billion and employs over 63,000 people.

Trump has awarded the Medal of Freedom to several others during the first 2 ½ years of his presidency, including golfer Tiger Woods.

Click here to see Trump talking about Penske during last week’s ceremony at the White House:

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Roger Penske approves of shorter NASCAR schedule, Cup-IndyCar doubleheaders

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The Captain has spoken.

Roger Penske, one of two owners to field cars in both NASCAR and IndyCar, would like to see the two worlds merge for doubleheader weekends between the Cup Series and IndyCar.

In an appearance Friday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” Penske discussed the possibility of a doubleheader in relation to also shortening the NASCAR schedule.

“I would love to (see) us run on the same weekend,” Penske said. “It would be fun to fans to see the difference of the IndyCars and also the NASCAR cars. … We’re going to have to disrupt some of this as we go forward. That might be one of the things to do.”

Penske’s words come with the weight of being the defending Cup championship owner and the reigning Indy 500 winning owner, which resulted in two trips to the White House since April. Team Penske is also coming off Joey Logano‘s win Monday in the Cup race at Michigan.

The discussion of potential a Cup-IndyCar doubleheader has been prevalent since May, with Cup drivers expressing their support of it along with IndyCar President Jay Frye, who said it “would be a game-changer in a good way.”

But earlier this month IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that while he’s “not opposed” to it, he called the prospect a “long shot.”

Said Penske, “We’re going to talk about two races on one weekend, because one of the things we have to do is take a look at this (NASCAR) schedule and the future because when you think about 36-38 weekends, if we can take five or six of those and make those doubleheaders and let our guys go home.”

NASCAR is experimenting with a doubleheader weekend next year by holding two Cup races at Pocono Raceway June 27-28.

“We do that in Supercars in Australia, we run Saturday and Sunday, typically a smaller race on Saturday and the big event on Sunday and we have seven crew members with each car, plus a couple of engineers and a team leader,” Penske said. “We do that with one car at the track.”

Penske sees financial and personal benefits to tightening up a schedule that runs from February to November.

“It can be done and again I think that’s something we’ve got to look at from cost perspective,” Penske said. “From a personal perspective I think we’ve got to think about the life these guys have on the road and what we need to make them be home more. Those are things that I know that (NASCAR President) Steve Phelps and certainly (CEO and Chairman) Jim France understands.

“And we’re going to see changes probably in the rules, we’re going to see changes in the schedule, I think we’ve got to tie it together with our media partners … and say ‘What’s better? How can we make this sport better?’ People maybe want to see shorter events. People’s timeline that they have to be able to watch some of these events, is it three hours? Is it an hour-and-a-half? What gives us the best results from a commercial perspective as far as I’m concerned.”