Archive for August 12, 2015

11LVMSbc04500-lgRoger Penske, one of the most renowned figures in auto racing, will be inducted into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame later this month during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, Aug. 28-30.

Penske, the founder of Penske Corporation, owns multiple teams competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series under the Team Penske banner. Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced 416 major race wins, over 478 pole positions and 27 National Championships. 

Penske also holds an impressive record at Sonoma Raceway, including the record for winningest IndyCar Series team owner with five victories (2008, 2010-2013). His team has a total of 11 IndyCar Series podium finishes and five pole positions on the challenging road course, and Team Penske driver Will Power has led the most laps at 250. Team Penske also completed an impressive podium sweep in 2011, when Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe swept the top-three spots in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Penske has also earned two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories in Sonoma, with Rusty Wallace in 1996 and Kurt Busch in 2011.

“Everyone at Team Penske is proud of our accomplishments at Sonoma Raceway,” said Penske. “It is a fantastic venue for both INDYCAR and NASCAR, and they are first-class in everything they do. I’m honored to go into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame to represent everyone at Team Penske who has contributed to our success.”

Penske will be inducted into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame during a ceremony in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle on Saturday, Aug. 29. at 1:15 p.m. He will become the 20th member of the raceway’s Wall of Fame, joining the likes of Jeff Gordon (NASCAR), Rick Hendrick (NASCAR) and John Force (NHRA). The recognition joins the list of many accolades for Penske, including his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame in July.

The Wall of Fame is designed to honor those who have excelled not only in their form of motor racing, but more importantly, in Sonoma.  Each inductee is recognized during a ceremony with a marble plaque engraved with his/her likeness.  All of the plaques are placed onto the Wall of Fame, which is located behind the main grandstand.

“Roger Penske’s touch is evident in virtually every segment of our industry, as a competitor, team owner, promoter and as an overall catalyst for the advancement of motor racing,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “In honoring Roger on the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame, we recognize not only the terrific record of success he has had at this facility, but also a lifetime of contributions to our sport.”

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On Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a half-dozen Verizon IndyCar Series drivers took part in a test on the 2.5-mile oval. Some were specifically testing Firestone tires while others were testing for their own teams.

2015_marcoandrettiindy_1600x800And all had some thoughts about being back on the 2.5-mile oval in exactly 291 days for a particularly big version of the biggest race of all – the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.“I think about what it would mean to win the 100th a lot,” Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti said. “That will be the first for the next 100 years. I think an Andretti needs to win that.”

Andretti and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves were on hand for Firestone, testing various tire compounds for potential use in 2016.

For Castroneves, of course, next year’s “500” is one more chance to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser in the four-time winners club.

“I wish I would have said, ‘yeah, I didn’t want to win this year because the 100th would be more important,’” Castroneves said with a laugh. “That’s not the case, but since we didn’t win, now we’re thinking about the 100th and what a special moment it would be. Imagine capturing the fourth, and for Roger Penske. It would be another storybook ending. We’ve got to work hard to make it happen.”

Castroneves’ teammate Simon Pagenaud joined CFH Racing’s Ed Carpenter, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter Reay and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan as team testers on Wednesday, driving more for data collection than specifically for Firestone.

Any day at IMS, whether it’s in the pressure cooker of May or a pleasant midweek day in August, is precious for gathering that information.

“Every day is different out here,” Hunter-Reay said. “The wind direction’s completely different from the year we won in 2014, so we’re getting some answers on that, on the tire degradation. It’s a pretty nice day, not overly hot. We’re running the tires long into their life, trying to get some answers on some mysteries that we had during this past May.”

And with that, perhaps inching closer to unlocking next May’s mysteries and possibly becoming one of the most famous winners of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“You talk to people, fans, partners, sponsors – everyone’s excited for the 100th and everyone knows it’s going to be big,” Carpenter said. “It’s pretty cool to be able to take part in that historic race. They’re all historic here, but to be a part of that is going to be really special.”

Photos and Data Courtesy of IndyCar

Beth Paretta and Katherine Legge at Indianapolis MotorSpeedway - Photo by Michael C. Johnson for motorsports.com

Beth Paretta and Katherine Legge at Indianapolis MotorSpeedway – Photo by Michael C. Johnson for motorsports.com

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The Indianapolis 500 has seen nine different women compete as drivers, but an initiative announced im May at IMS would see participation expanded in 2016 to the first all-female team focused on drawing women into all areas of the sport.

Grace Autosport is the brainchild of Beth Paretta, former marketing director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

She has formed a core group that includes driver Katherine Legge, a two-time Indianapolis 500 starter, aerodynamicist Catherine Crawford, motorsports engineer Lauren Elkins, junior design engineer Jessica Rowe and motorsports public relations veteran Barbara Burns.

“This is a very visible campaign for women’s empowerment,” said Paretta. “Motor racing is one of the few sports where men and women can compete side by side and win.”

The initial plan, Paretta said, is to have the team ready to race in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May 2016. Longer-term goals include a full-season entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series and eventual expansion into other forms of motorsports.

Just as important, Legge added, is developing a path for young women interested in any area of motorsports – driving, engineering, mechanics, management and more. Legge has been a proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA.

“What we’re trying to do is make it a positive thing, get rid of the stigma of being a woman in motorsport and make it something that everybody is very proud of,” Legge said. “It’s going to be very successful. So I’m very much looking forward to the challenge to seeing it from the beginning, from an idea, kind of turn out and bloom into something very special.”

SpeedwaySightingsNote: Although I’ve been tracking this story since their press conference in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’ve chosen not to write a full story about this newly formed race team till after the season. Reason being that I didn’t want the story to be lost in the myriad of racing news that emanates during the course of the season. The foundation of this organization is built on dynamic business leaders and racers. This is a compelling story and with the team’s focus on STEM – Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics, it’s going to be a terrific story to follow right through the Month of May at Indianapolis in 2016.