Simon Pagenaud

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.

All 14 Team Penske drivers to take part in iRacing event on Tuesday

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Bragging rights will be on the line tonight when all 14 Team Penske drivers compete against each other in a series of virtual races to help raise funds and awareness for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Verizon-sponsored “Pay It Forward Live” iRacing event kicks off at 8 p.m. ET, with all 14 drivers across five different motorsports platforms taking part.

The drivers are:

* NASCAR competitors Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto and Austin Cindric

* IndyCar drivers Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden

* IMSA competitors Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron

* Supercar drivers Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin.

The event, in support of small businesses affected by COVID-19, will stream on Twitter @Verizon, Yahoo, Verizon’s Facebook page, and Fios Channel 501. The event will be available on Verizon’s platforms for one week following the live stream.

The 14 Team Penske drivers will participate in multiple races as they share and support their favorite local businesses, engage with fans, and create small-business-themed in-game experiences – all while encouraging viewers to visit Verizon.com/PayItForwardLive to do what they can to support local businesses by shopping online, buying a gift card or ordering a meal.

For every use of the hashtag #PayItForwardLIVE, Verizon will donate $10, up to $2.5 million, to support small businesses. Last week Verizon announced an additional $2.5 million commitment to support small businesses, bringing the total commitment to up to $7.5 million.

“iRacing has been one of the best ways to stay connected to my teammates and all of our fans during the quarantine,” Power said in a media release. “Being able to rally the group to partner with Verizon and the Verizon’s Pay it Forward LIVE initiative to help support small businesses is something I know we’re all happy we can do.”

NBC Sports’ Racing Week in America begins April 6

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Beginning April 6, NBC Sports will present Racing Week in America on NBCSN, providing racing fans with a chance to relive the most thrilling motorsports moments from the past two decades on NBC and NBCSN.

Featuring races from NASCAR, INDYCAR, IMSA, Supercross and other series, Racing Week in America will have a specific theme for each day, starting with “Mayhem Monday” on April 6. NBC Sports will air 12 hours of motorsports coverage (1 p.m.-3 a.m. ET) Monday-Thursday and seven hours (8 p.m.-3 a.m. ET) on Friday-Saturday. Sunday’s coverage airs 2-4 p.m. ET and 10:30 p.m.-3 a.m. ET. Below is each day’s highlighted content throughout the week:

  • Monday, April 6: “Mayhem Monday”
  • Tuesday, April 7: “Twists and Turns Tuesday”
  • Wednesday, April 8: “WednesDale”
  • Thursday, April 9: “Best at the Brickyard”
  • Friday, April 10: “Daytona Speed Day”
  • Saturday, April 11: “Championship Saturday”
  • Sunday, April 12: “Sunday Funday”

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

In addition, NASCAR America will present the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge from Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin headline a group of 18 drivers competing at virtual versions of iconic race tracks across America.

 

MONDAY, APRIL 6 – MAYHEM MONDAY

“Mayhem Monday” will feature some of the most intense battles across NASCAR, INDYCAR, Supercross, and American Flat Track, including two classics from Martinsville Speedway. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race saw Kyle Busch win in overtime and Chase Elliott confront Denny Hamlin for costing him the victory. Two years earlier at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon earned his final win after Matt Kenseth put his feud with Joey Logano to rest. “Mayhem Monday” also has the 2015 INDYCAR race from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which produced a record 80 lead changes before Graham Rahal finally won out.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Bristol Motor Speedway 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Auto Club Speedway 2015 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Rockingham 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2017 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2015 10 p.m. NBCSN
Supercross – Anaheim #2 2020 12 a.m. NBCSN
American Flat Track – Buffalo Chip TT 2019 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

TUESDAY, APRIL 7 – TWISTS AND TURNS TUESDAY

From city streets to massive dirt jumps, NBCSN will showcase the best twists and turns that motorsports have to offer starting Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. “Twists and Turns Tuesday” includes the NASCAR Cup Series’ thrilling first race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL; a return to INDYCAR Victory Lane for NBC Sports’ own James Hinchcliffe at iconic Long Beach; and the closest finish in Supercross history from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
IMSA – Long Beach 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Long Beach 2017 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Lucas Oil Raceway 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL 2018 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Watkins Glen 2017 10 p.m. NBCSN
Supercross – Arlington 2019 12 a.m. NBCSN
Monster Jam World Finals 2019 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8 – WEDNESDALE

NBC Sports presents a full day dedicated to motorsports icon and NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt. Jr. From his emotional victory at Daytona in 2001 to making “Slide Job!” go viral in his broadcasting debut at Chicago in 2018, fans will see highlights from his memorable career, as well as an episode of his popular podcast/TV show, The Dale Jr. Download.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Chicagoland Speedway 2018 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Myrtle Beach 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Daytona International Speedway, July 2001 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2017 10 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Martinsville Speedway 2005 12 a.m. NBCSN
The Dale Jr. Download 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

THURSDAY, APRIL 9 – BEST AT THE BRICKYARD

Thursday takes a look back on NBC Sports’ exciting history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, highlighted by Simon Pagenaud’s win last May in NBC Sports’ first-ever Indianapolis 500 broadcast. Also included are emotional Brickyard 400 wins for Indiana native Tony Stewart and transplant Jeff Gordon, and Drive Like Andretti, NBC Sports’ captivating documentary on the life and times of racing icon Mario Andretti.

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
INDYCAR – Grand Prix of Indianapolis 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – 2005 Brickyard 400 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge Championship – Martinsville 7 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – 103rd Indianapolis 500 (2019) 8 p.m. NBCSN
Drive Like Andretti 11 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – 2004 Brickyard 400 12 a.m. NBCSN
100th Indy 500 Special 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

FRIDAY, APRIL 10 – DAYTONA SPEED DAY

Whether they’re on two or four wheels, legends are made at Daytona International Speedway. On Friday, NBCSN focuses on ‘The World Center of Racing’ with exciting races from NASCAR and Supercross, plus highlights from this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona – better known as the Rolex 24.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – 2004 Daytona 500 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Daytona International Speedway, July 2001 10 p.m. NBCSN
2020 Daytona Supercross 12 a.m. NBCSN
IMSA – 2020 Rolex 24 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

SATURDAY, APRIL 11 – CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY

It’s what every driver works for. On Saturday, NBCSN gives fans some of the best championship moments, starting at 8 p.m. ET. The day’s schedule includes Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying 7th NASCAR Cup Series title in 2016; Kurt Busch’s stirring rally to become the first champion of the NASCAR Playoff era in 2004; and Scott Dixon’s triumph over Juan Pablo Montoya by the slimmest of margins to win the 2015 INDYCAR crown.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR Cup Series Championship – Miami 2016 8 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR Championship – Sonoma 2015 10 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR Cup Series Championship – Miami 2004 12 a.m. NBCSN
American Flat Track – Meadowlands 2018 2 a.m. NBCSN

 

SUNDAY, APRIL 12 – SUNDAY FUNDAY

Above all else, racing is fun – and that’s what the final day of Racing Week in America is about. “Sunday Funday” has the incredible 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race from Talladega (won by Ryan Blaney over Ryan Newman by .007 of a second), as well as INDYCAR’s Texas thriller from 2016, where four drivers – Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud – went wheel-to-wheel in a pulse-pounding dash to the checkered flag.

EVENT TIME (ET) NETWORK
NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway 2019 10:30 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Texas Motor Speedway 2016 12:30 a.m. NBCSN
Racing Roots – Kyle Larson 2:30 a.m. NBCSN

Jimmie Johnson to compete in IndyCar iRacing Challenge opener

Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Jimmie Johnson, who has expressed an interest in running on a road course in the NTT IndyCar Series after this season, will race against IndyCar drivers in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at a virtual Watkins Glen International.

The race will be 4 p.m. ET Saturday and streamed at indycar.com and also on IndyCar’s YouTube page and Facebook as well as iRacing’s Twitch. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will call the action. The entry list of 25 drivers includes Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

Johnson stated before this season that this would be his final season racing NASCAR Cup full-time. He was to have tested April 6 for Arrow McLaren at Barber Motorsports Park before that was scrubbed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more on this story go to Motor Sports Talk.

https://twitter.com/IndyCaronNBC/status/1243609810152632320

 

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

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.”