Roger Penske

Team Penske extends contract with Brad Keselowski

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Team Penske announced Monday that New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski has agreed to a contract extension. Keselowski’s contract was to expire after this season.

A media release from the team did not state the length of the extension for Keselowski, 36. The Associated Press reported that the deal was for one year through the 2021 season.

Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup title, has been with Team Penske since 2010, winning 31 Cup and 33 Xfinity races during that time.

“We are pleased that Brad will continue to be a part of our organization,” said Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad not only demonstrates talent and skill on the track, but his leadership away from it and his dedication to our partners have had a huge impact in making our organization one of the best in NASCAR. I am proud that we will be able to able to keep the continuity we have with Brad, Ryan (Blaney) and Joey (Logano) and look forward to competing for more wins and championships together.”

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire

Said Keselowski in a statement: I have been racing for Team Penske for the vast majority of my NASCAR career and to continue to represent Roger Penske, our partners and his organization is exactly where I want to be. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together over the years, including winning both the Cup and Xfinity Championships, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Now, my goal is to win the Daytona 500, another championship and continue to build Team Penske into the best NASCAR team in the garage area.”

Logano is signed to at least 2022. In March, Blaney signed a multiyear extension with Team Penske.

Keselowski’s victory Sunday was his third of the season. He’s scored at least three wins in each of the past five seasons. Keselowski is second  in the points to Kevin Harvick.

Bump and Run: Should NASCAR’s future have more doubleheaders?

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What did you think of the Cup doubleheader weekend at Pocono and is that something that should be continued in 2021?

Dustin Long: It was a nice touch but let’s not go crazy with it. Remember how exciting it was when there was a rare night race? Then many more were added and the luster faded. Don’t go crazy with doubleheaders. And it’s not needed at a short track or superspeedway.

Daniel McFadin: Except for the weather delays, I thought it was great. It puts more pressure on teams and with the invert for the second race, creates the possibility for more chaos. Doubleheaders should definitely be a staple of the schedule next year.

Jerry Bonkowski: Can you just imagine a twinbill weekend at places like Bristol or Daytona? Plus, there’s one other benefit that many may not have considered: Given complaints over the years about the length of the NASCAR Cup schedule, this would be a great way to shorten the length of a season, or at the very least, allow for more off-weekends in the season than there are now. I’d love to see 3-4 doubleheader weekends in 2021

 

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin each won a Pocono race this past weekend and finished second in the other race. Since Pocono has some similarities to Indianapolis, site of this weekend’s Cup race, will you take Harvick and Hamlin or the field at Indy?

Dustin Long: I’ll take the field.

Daniel McFadin: With Kevin Harvick being the defending winner, I think he’s the favorite. But Denny Hamlin has finished in the top six in five of the last six visits to Indy, so he’s a clear threat to get his first Brickyard win.

Jerry Bonkowski: Denny Hamlin is having a great year, perhaps headed to his best season. If he is to finally win that elusive first Cup championship, a strong run at Indy will help. It seems he and his team are hitting on all cylinders more than any other team right now, which makes him the favorite Sunday at the Brickyard.

 

 

The Xfinity Series races Saturday on the road course at Indy. Austin Cindric won two road course races last year, finished second in another and third in the other. Will you take Cindric or the field, which includes AJ Allmendinger, at Indy?

Dustin Long: You can have the field. I’m taking Austin Cindric. Team Penske driver will win the first Xfinity race on the road course at the track Roger Penske now owns.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll take the field, namely AJ Allmendinger, just because of his experience. While Xfinity teams will get practice, it’s still everyone’s first time on the road course. In this kind of scenario, I put more value on a veteran.

Jerry Bonkowski: There’s no denying Austin Cindric’s success and talent on road courses. But in a head-to-head battle with AJ Allmendinger – or the rest of the Xfinity field, for that matter – I’ve still got to go with the Dinger. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see an Allmendinger-Cindric 1-2 finish at Indy.

 

Chevrolet is winless in the last seven Cup races. How much of a concern should that be?

Dustin Long: Chevy’s lack of wins lately is unsettling. Also worrisome is that Chevy is not leading many laps. Since 2015, Chevy has one win each at Indy and Kentucky, the next two tracks on the circuit. This drought could last longer.

Daniel McFadin: Chevrolet should be concerned. A Chevy driver wasn’t part of the conversation at the end of either Pocono race, Atlanta, or Martinsville. Chevy takes its winless streak to Indy, where its only win in the last five races, in 2017, was the product of chaotic overtime restarts. Chevy needs a convincing win soon.

Jerry Bonkowski: It’s just in a little downturn currently. Chevy will be back soon enough. I’m not concerned at all.

NASCAR to allow up to 5,000 fans at Talladega Cup race

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NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will allow up to 5,000 guests for the June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The track also announced that there will be limited motorhome camping spots available outside the track along the backstretch. Tickets are open exclusively on a first-come, first-served basis to fans who purchased tickets or reserved camping for the event, which was previously scheduled for April 26.

Grandstand tickets will be $40 each. Tower tickets will be $50 each. There is no special pricing for kids 12 and younger for the Cup race. A maximum of six seats grouped together will be allowed. The track will automatically block sale of seats to ensure proper spacing for social distancing. All tickets will be delivered via Tickets @ Home. That will allow fans to display their tickets on their mobile device for non-contact entry at the gates or the ability to print tickets at home.

Daryl Wolfe, NASCAR executive vice president, chief operations and sales officer, said the 5,000-person limit at Talladega was a combination of “what do we feel like is the right stair-step approach” the percent of capacity and consultation with local public officials and medical experts and “what they were comfortable with as well.

“You mix all that together, assess what the right approach is and that’s the number we landed on.”

According to a 2018 annual report by International Speedway Corp., Talladega Superspeedway had a seating capacity of 78,000. A crowd of 5,000 would less than 7% of capacity. The Talladega race follows Sunday’s Miami Cup race, which will have up to 1,000 people in the stands.

Fans must adhere to social distancing of 6 feet. All spectators age 3 and up will be required to wear a face covering. Each spectator will be screened before entering the event gates. Initial screening will include questions regarding current health status and potential exposure, as well as a non-contact temperature check. Spectators also will be required to complete a waiver process.

No tailgating before or after the event will be allowed on track property. Spectators will be directed to specific parking lots. A sequenced ingress/egress procedure into the facility property/gates will be used to minimize large concentrations of people. More info is to  come on specific times and entry locations for spectators. Entry and exit to the grandstands, along with routes to concession stands and restrooms via the frontstretch concourse will adhere to social distancing guidelines. No coolers or ice packs of any type will be permitted inside the entry gates.

Once in grandstands, fans will not be allowed to exit the property and return. Fans will not be allowed in the infield.

The track will have multiple concession stands open with grab-n-go pre-packaged items for $2 to $5 each. Those items include sandwiches, salads, chips, candy, snacks, soft drinks and beer. All transactions will be cashless. Accepted forms of payment: Debit, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay and  Samsung Pay.

The track states that concessions and restrooms will maintain physical distancing and have more frequent cleaning across high touch locations.

There will be no fans for the Saturday Xfinity race at Talladega.

 

 

Sections in green are where fans will be able to purchase seats for the June 21 Cup race at Talladega.

 

Miami-Dade County has given Homestead-Miami Speedway permission to host up to 1,000 military personnel, first responders and their household members to Sunday’s Cup race there. Those admitted would not be charged and allowed only in the grandstands. They also would be required to undergo a health screening before entering, wear a cloth mask and comply with other social distancing guidelines. They’ll be the first fans to sit in the stands for a NASCAR race. There were some fans at the Charlotte races last month but they were in the condos outside Turn 1 and not allowed in the stands.

Other upcoming NASCAR races will not be held with fans, tracks have announced. Those are Pocono (hosting NASCAR races June 26-28), Indianapolis (July 4-5) and Kentucky (July 9-12).

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosts the July 15 All-Star Race, has stated it is in consultation with state and local health officials about if fans will be allowed at that event but no decision has been made.

Texas Motor Speedway, which hosts NASCAR races July 18-19, has stated it is working with state and local officials to determine the size and scope of fans who will be able to attend those races.

Kansas Speedway has stated that its races July 23-25 will be run without spectators but noted track officials are in consultation with state and local officials to determine if that could change.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which hosts a Cup race Aug. 2, said that it is unclear if fans will be allowed at its events.

NASCAR has not announced its revised schedule beyond Aug. 2.

In IndyCar, Roger Penske, whose company purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway, told Racer.com that “we are going to run (the Indianapolis 500) with fans.” If the Aug. 23 race on NBC can’t be run with fans, Racer.com stated that the event would move to October.

Bump and Run: Key connection between recent Cup winners

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The first three races since Cup season resumed featured no practice and veterans Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski winning. Is this coincidence or is there a connection?

Dustin Long: The key is that these drivers and teams have put themselves in position to win those races. Kevin Harvick had a fast car and took advantage of the No. 1 pit stall at Darlington. Denny Hamlin benefitted from a strong car and good strategy at Darlington. Brad Keselowski bettered Jimmie Johnson on a late restart when Johnson had control as the leader, and Keselowski kept Johnson from taking the lead from him on the final restart. You expect top teams to do well when there’s no practice.

Daniel McFadin: While I can see the advantage to being a long-term veteran during the current situation, I think it’s mostly coincidental. Alex Bowman has been very competitive in two of the three races and he has far less experience than the three drivers who have won so far. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Veterans are expected to do the best and be the best because of their overall experience. So, no, I’m not surprised that they’ve emerged victorious. It’s more a connection based upon experience rather than a coincidence, in my opinion.

 

How would you rate Hendrick Motorsports’ performance in the first three races since the Cup season resumed?

Dustin Long: Above average but there is a level of disappointment. While there’s nothing Chase Elliott can do about being wrecked late at Darlington, there are some issues for each team. For as fast as the Hendrick cars have been, the inability to finish off races stands out from Alex Bowman and his team not able to keep his car fast all night at Charlotte and Darlington to the decision to pit Elliott out of the lead before the overtime restart at the Coke 600 to William Byron not able to have a complete race since the season resumed to Jimmie Johnson losing a lead on a late restart in the Coke  600. There are enough areas for each team to address.

Daniel McFadin:  With three laps to go Sunday night I would have given Hendrick an 8 out of 10. But after Jimmie Johnson’s car was disqualified, I’d drop it down to a 6. While Byron has a stage win, he hasn’t finished better than 12th. Bowman has finished in the top 10 in seven stages, won two and led 205 laps but has finishes of second, 18th and 19th. Throw in Johnson’s DNF in the first Darlington race and Elliott’s problems in the last two races, and it’s a very mixed bag.

Jerry Bonkowski: Tough luck but with signs of promise, most notably for Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson. Yes, both have done well but also have had issues, but I also believe that they will be able to build upon the difficulties they’ve had – Elliott getting booted by Kyle Busch, Johnson spinning at the first Darlington and being DQ’d after the Coke 600 – and will both ultimately wind up in victory lane sooner rather than later.

 

After Simon Pagenaud won last year’s Indianapolis 500, car owner Roger Penske said the free agent “absolutely” would be back with the team. Brad Keselowski gave Penske his first Coca-Cola 600 win since 2010 and second overall. What do you believe are the chances that Keselowski, a free agent after this season, returns to Team Penske?

Dustin Long: It’s as Brad Keselowski said after his Coca-Cola 600 win when asked about his future: “It’s not all up to me. A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things. That hasn’t happened yet.”

Daniel McFadin: I’m skeptical of him returning to drive the No. 2. Penske almost instantly committed to bringing Pagenaud back after he swept the Month of May following a winless year. Keselowski’s won three races in each of the last three seasons (including Penske’s first Darlington win since 1975 and his first Brickyard 400), plus his win Sunday night. The fact Keselowski’s future is still up in the air at this point when Penske has already re-signed Ryan Blaney (who has won once in each of the last three years) is a truly odd situation.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’d like to say Keselowski will remain a Team Penske driver for the rest of his Cup career. But on the flip side, can Keselowski potentially enjoy greater on-track success – and earn more money – if he goes to another team, most notably Hendrick Motorsports with Jimmie Johnson retiring at the end of this season? Keselowski could be the most valuable free agent since Kevin Harvick when he left Richard Childress Racing. But Keselowski is also known for his loyalty, much like Roger Penske is loyal to his drivers, so I won’t be surprised if Keselowski stays with the No. 2 team going forward.

Brad Keselowski savors Coke 600 win while contemplating future

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Brad Keselowski celebrated his 30th career Cup win with Team Penske early Monday morning by saying “I think I got another 30 left in me. I’d like to have the chance at it.”

Keselowski, who has 31 total Cup wins, is a free agent after this season.

Asked if his victory in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 would give him added value, the former Cup champion said: “I know winning never hurts.

“I wish I had more news, but I don’t. So, yeah, winning is not a bad thing. I hope to continue to compete at a very high level and be able to win races for a long time.”

The 36-year-old Keselowski is in his 11th full-time Cup season with Team Penske. Jimmie Johnson (19th full-time season with Hendrick Motorsports), Denny Hamlin (15th full-time season with Joe Gibbs Racing) and Kyle Busch (13th full-time season with Joe Gibbs Racing) are the only active drivers who have been with the same Cup team longer than Keselowski has been with Team Penske.

Keselowski acknowledged several factors will determine what he’ll do next season.

“It’s not all up to me,”  he said. “A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things. That hasn’t happened yet.”

During his interview with Fox after the race, Keselowski acknowledged sponsor Miller Lite, which has been a significant part of his career but has diminished its role as a primary sponsor in recent years.

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen with them, if they’re gonna come back on the car or what, but it’s been a great 10-year ride with them and this is their only race of 2020 and we’re in victory lane,” Keselowski said.

Keselowski is just part of a robust free agent market.

Much of what happens could center on the No. 48 car at Hendrick Motorsports. This is Jimmie Johnson’s final full-time season, and the team has not announced a replacement. Sponsor Ally Financial is signed as a full-season primary sponsor of the team through the 2023 season, meaning a driver would not need to bring sponsorship with them.

Among the drivers with contracts that expire after this season or have an option for next season that could be declined are Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Bubba Wallace, Corey LaJoie and Ty Dillon. Kyle Larson was a part of his class before Chip Ganassi Racing fired him April 14 for using a racial slur during a sim racing event. Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR.

While there could be opportunities elsewhere, Keselowski said he likes what he has with his new team. Car owner Roger Penske shuffled drivers and crews within his organization before the season. Keselowski was paired with Jeremy Bullins and Bullins’ crew.

Keselowski said he sees the progress his team is making with the Hendrick Motorsports cars that have been fast this season on the bigger tracks.

“They were just a touch better, but we weren’t far off,” Keselowski  said. “I think this is as close or the closest we’ve been to them. But we still have a little bit of work to do. We need to keep iterating, getting faster.

“They seem to be a little faster than what we do in dirty air.  In clean air we’re close to them, maybe even a touch faster.  In dirty air they seem to be just a little bit faster. I think we have a little bit of work to do.

“We can do it. We just have to put our head down and stay focused on it.”