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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.”

Brad Keselowski bumped up to fourth, but JGR domination still ‘not good news’

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Brad Keselowski ended Saturday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway with what he thought was a fifth-place finish.

About an hour later though, Keselowski was moved up one position to fourth place after original fourth-place finisher Erik Jones was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection.

Still, gaining one extra finishing position didn’t make the 2012 NASCAR Cup champion happy because of Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination in the second race of the playoffs – even with Jones’ DQ.

(How JGR finished is) definitely not good news,” Keselowski said. “We’ve got work to do. (JGR is) really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them.

We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Keselowski tweeted a few hours after the race that he didn’t “take no pleasure & seek no treasure from another man’s loss,” referring to Jones’ DQ.


Even so, Keselowski took some consolation from his overall performance.

We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win,” he said.

Keselowski mistakenly said in a post-race interview that he had joined Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in advancing to the Round of 12 two weeks from now due to his points in the standings.

Yeah, we’re locked into the next round,” Keselowski said. “That feels good. I’m proud of that effort.”

Actually, Keselowski left Richmond two points shy of being locked into the next playoff round. That will have to come next Sunday at Charlotte’s Roval.

There’s still work to do not only for Keselowski’s car, but also those of his teammates — Joey Logano finished 11th and Ryan Blaney 17th — to counter JGR’s domination.

But what exactly has to be done is a question mark, Keselowski said.

Honestly, I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “They’ve got all the secrets so we need to find some more secrets.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Brad Keselowski wins provisional pole for Richmond Cup race

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Playoff driver Brad Keselowski has won the provisional pole for Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

He claimed the pole with a speed of 127.185 mph.

The starting lineup will be finalized tomorrow after pre-race inspection. One failure will result in a qualifying time being disallowed. Should it be made official it will be Keselowski’s third pole of the season, his most since earning three in 2015.

“I didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t do a qualifying run in practice, but we’ve had phenomenal short-run speed here,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “Haven’t necessarily qualified all that well but when the race comes we get the short runs and and we can really make some steam.”

The top five is completed by playoff drivers Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Jimmie Johnson (10th) was the highest qualifying non-playoff driver.

Where the rest of the playoff drivers qualified:

Denny Hamlin – sixth

Aric Almirola – seventh

Martin Truex Jr. – eighth

Kurt Busch – ninth

Kyle Larson – 13th

Ryan Blaney – 15th

Erik Jones – 16th

Ryan Newman – 19th

Alex Bowman – 20th

William Byron – 25th

Joey Logano – 28th

Click here for the provisional starting lineup.

Where Cup playoff drivers stand heading to Richmond

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Cup drivers are off to Richmond this weekend for the second race in the opening round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

Here is where the 16 playoff drivers stand with two races left before the field is cut to 12:

MOVING ON

Martin Truex Jr.’s victory last weekend at Las Vegas sends him into the second round. Still, he could be a key factor in the first round. He won at Richmond in the spring for his first Cup short track victory and was headed for the win in last year’s race at the Charlotte Roval before a spinning Jimmie Johnson collected Truex in the final chicane.

LOOKING GOOD

Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin all appear to be in good shape to advance to the second round.

Harvick finished second at Las Vegas, Keselowski was third, Elliott fourth. Logano placed ninth. Harvick, Keselowski and Logano also scored several stage points. Logano had 19 stage points to lead the group.

Hamlin is seventh in the points after his 15th-place finish. He has 2,056 points and is his 29 points ahead of Ryan Newman, the first driver outside the cutoff line. Hamlin has finished sixth or better in seven of the last eight Richmond races.

Busch is still in good shape despite his frustrating race and anger with slower cars. Collecting 45 playoff points, including 15 for the regular-season championship, provided the insurance he needed after his Vegas woes.

WORK TO DO

Kyle Larson and William Byron.

Larson is eighth in the points and followed by Byron. Larson sits 17 points ahead of Newman. Byron is 13 points ahead of Newman after Byron placed in the top 10 at Las Vegas.

Larson has four consecutive top 10s at Richmond. Byron’s best finish in three Richmond Cup races is 12th.

PRESSURE IS ON

Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

Blaney has never finished better than 18th in seven Cup races at Richmond. He enters the weekend 12 points ahead of Newman, who is outside the cutline. If Blaney has another poor finish, he will need a good result at the Roval the following week to advance.

Bowman has never finished better than 12th in seven previous Richmond races. Almirola has two top 10s in his past seven Richmond races.

Newman is six points behind Almirola for the final transfer spot — the following weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval is the cutoff race for the first round. Newman has three top 10s in his last five Richmond races. Kurt Busch, who is 14 points behind Almirola, has finished 11th or better in six of the last seven Richmond races.

IN TROUBLE

Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones. Bowyer won the pole last weekend at Las Vegas and then scored zero stage points. Without any stage points from last weekend, Bowyer is 21 points out of the final transfer spot. He finished third at Richmond in the spring. Not sure if two top-five finishes in this round will be enough to help him advance.

Jones likely needs to win. At 26 points behind the cutoff line, Jones has the second-largest deficit to the cutoff line after one playoff race since the elimination format was created. 

POINTS STANDING

2082 — Martin Truex Jr. * (win moves him to second round)

2079 — Kevin Harvick

2075 — Joey Logano

2063 — Kyle Busch

2058 — Brad Keselowski

2057 — Chase Elliott

2056 — Denny Hamlin

2044 — Kyle Larson

2040 — William Byron

2039 — Ryan Blaney

2037 — Alex Bowman

2033 — Aric Almirola

CUTOFF LINE TO SECOND ROUND

2027 — Ryan Newman

2019 — Kurt Busch

2012 — Clint Bowyer

2007 — Erik Jones

For more on the playoffs, watch NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1, Kyle Busch drops to 10th

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Even though Martin Truex Jr. passed Kevin Harvick to win the NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas, Harvick remains No. 1 in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Harvick was the top pick of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers for the second straight week. Meanwhile, Truex and Brad Keselowski made the biggest jumps in this week’s rankings, both going from unranked last week to tied for No. 2 this week.

The biggest drop in the rankings came from Kyle Busch, who fell from third to 10th this week and Clint Bowyer, who dropped out after being fourth last week. Busch has fallen from first to 10th in the last three polls.

Here is how this week’s rankings look:

1. Kevin Harvick (39 points): Although he fell one point short of unanimous selection, “Happy” is certainly in a very happy place heading to Richmond. Last week: First.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (33 points): Never question this team’s playoff readiness. The way he won at Las Vegas could be an indicator of even greater success in the remaining nine playoff races, potentially culminating with a second Cup championship in three years. Last week: Unranked.

2. Brad Keselowski (33 points): Rebounded from poor start to, in his words, nearly “steal” a win. Third-place finish is his fourth top five in the last five races. Last week: Unranked.

4. Kyle Larson (28 points): Overlooked rebound for eighth-place finish with a top-three car after pit penalty. Is peaking at the right time: Vegas marked his sixth top 10 in the last seven races. Last week: Seventh.

5. Chase Elliott (26 points): Scores back-to-back fourth-place finishes. Since his Watkins Glen win, he has only one finish outside the top 10. Last week: Eighth.

6. Joey Logano (13 points): Decent top 10 but made some moves he probably wants back. Still, ninth-place finish marks back-to-back top 10s for the first time since July. Last week: Fifth.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Earned his first top five in five races, but his sixth top 10 in last eight races. Last week: Sixth.

8. Denny Hamlin (11 points): Car woes late at Las Vegas left him wondering what went wrong after 15th-place finish. No panic yet but a strong hometown Richmond run would help. Last week: Second.

9. William Byron (8 points): The playoff rookie was cool under fire at Las Vegas. Nice recovery from spin to finish seventh in first Cup playoff race. Last week: Unranked.

10. Kyle Busch (7 points): Hit wall, lost two laps, got back on the lead lap, ran into the back of a slower car, complained about drivers not on the lead lap. Yes, think that’s about how his playoff opener went. Oh well, he does have all those playoff points as the regular-season champ to fall back on. Last week: Third.

Others receiving votes: Ryan Newman (5 points), Chris Buescher (3 points), Alex Bowman (2 points).