Ryan Blaney

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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.”

Ryan Blaney cleans up with preseason haircut

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Ryan Blaney is one step closer to looking like an employee of Team Penske.

He has spent much of his offseason resembling a younger version of the late Tim Richmond.

Now the 24-year-old driver has subjected himself to a preseason haircut that makes him look more like Terry Labonte or Dale Earnhardt, depending on your taste in mustaches.

You can see Blaney’s transformation below, but enjoy the mustache while you can. Blaney says it’s coming off tomorrow.

“It’s just hair,” Blaney said earlier this week about his looming appointment with the clippers. “It’s facial hair. It’s dead skin that grows out of your head. It’s nothing anything too major. I actually laugh at fans that give me a hard time whether I’m going to cut it or not. It’s just hair. There’s a lot more important things out there, but it’s funny to see the reactions. You can cut anything off that you want and it’s not going to change (me). Personality-wise I’m going to be the same person but just look a little different.”

The former Wood Brothers Racing driver is planning to donate his lopped-off locks of hair to a good cause.

Erik Jones cruises to pole for tonight’s Xfinity race at Texas

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Erik Jones kept looking for speed in his Toyota Camry — and continually found it — to the point where he earned the pole for tonight’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

Jones scored the pole with a speed of 191.272 mph.

Cole Custer was second (190.101 mph), followed by Matt Tifft (189.954), Ryan Blaney (189.900) and Elliott Sadler (189.653).

Sixth through 12th were Daniel Hemric (189.567), Austin Dillon (189.474), Christopher Bell (189.301), William Byron (189.235), Kyle Larson (188.580), Brandon Jones (187.793) and Brennan Poole (187.292).

Tonight’s race starts at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBCSN.

Click here for the full qualifying speed chart.

Kyle Larson fastest in crash-shortened Xfinity practice at Texas

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Kyle Larson had the hammer down in Friday’s second and final Xfinity series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

Larson covered the 1.5-mile oval with a run of 190.631 mph, more than 2 mph faster than Ryan Blaney (188.488 mph).

Erik Jones was third (188.436), followed by William Byron (187.885) and Elliott Sadler (187.800).

Blake Koch, who was fastest in the first practice session of the day, was sixth in the final practice (187.650 mph), followed by Austin Dillon (187.591), Cole Custer (187.572), Christopher Bell (187.396) and Matt Tifft (187.350).

The session was cut short by approximately 15 minutes after Daniel Hemric spun and backed into the wall, sustaining heavy damage.

“Something in the rear end broke and that was it,” Hemric said after being checked and released from the infield medical center. “It’s not ideal by any means, but I have faith in these RCR guys (will get his back-up car competitive).”

NASCAR officials tried to clean the track to allow cars additional practice time, but time expired and NASCAR was unable to add time because the NASCAR Cup qualifying session was slated to start shortly afterward.

Click here for the final practice speed chart.

Blake Koch fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Texas Motor Speedway

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Blake Koch was fastest in the first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practices this afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.

Koch covered the 1.5-mile oval at 189.347 mph, nearly 2 mph faster than second fastest, Daniel Hemric (187.461 mph).

Kyle Larson was third (187.350), followed by Erik Jones (187.207), Ryan Blaney (187.201), Austin Dillon (186.851), Ty Dillon (186.670), Elliott Sadler (186.316), Christopher Bell (186.258) and Matt Tifft (186.079).

The second practice session takes place at 5 to 5:55 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the first practice speed grid.