Sam Hornish Edges Hemric For The Victory At Mid-Ohio

Sam Hornish,Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr. dominated Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge, but his victory was anything but certain until the waning laps of a caution-filled race.

Hornish, driving Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang, earlier had eclipsed his own qualifying record at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and edged series rookie Daniel Hemric by 1.335 seconds when the event ultimately went green for the final time with five circuits remaining in the 75-lap distance.

The victory was the fifth in the series by Hornish, whose last win came in June of 2016 at Iowa Speedway.

Hornish, who led four times for 61 laps, traded the top spot with Hemric’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro four times over the race’s third and final stage. He took the point for the last time on Lap 62, on a restart following the seventh caution.

Veteran Brendan Gaughan advanced to the second after Justin Allgaier and James Davison slipped off the track in Turn 3 at Lap 63, setting up a final restart battle that ended prematurely when Gaughan’s No. 62 RCR Chevrolet Camaro was forced off the track by Hornish shortly after the green flag.

“I finally got the win (at Mid-Ohio),” said Hornish, who finished second here a year ago. “We had a smart, almost flawless day but I feel bad about the 62. I didn’t want to beat him that way.”

Rookie Matt Tifft finish third in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, improving his best NASCAR XFINITY Series finish from a fifth-place at Kentucky Speedway last September. Davison, an international racing star and Indianapolis 500 competitor, took fourth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota, followed by sports car veteran Andy Lally, whose No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro team posted their first top-10 finish in the series.

Twenty-four of the race’s 40 starters completed all 75 laps. Five drivers, Hornish, Hemric, Blake Koch, Ryan Reed and Elliott Sadler, traded the lead nine times.

NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Sadler spotted the field an early spin and a green flag pit stop to change a flat tire, but he ultimately took sixth, ahead of Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Justin Marks and Dakoda Armstrong.

Koch won the race’s first stage when Hornish elected to pit with three laps left and leader Sadler was spun in Turn 1 by Poole.

Hornish quickly went back to the front of the field after Stage 1 pit stops, claiming Stage 2 over Hemric and Davison.

Saturday’s race left the playoff picture unchanged with no bubble drivers able to bump their way into the standings. Sadler holds an 81-point lead over William Byron, who appeared headed for a top 10 until being caught up in a late accident relegating him to a 25th-place finish.

Check out the unofficial results of the Mid-Ohio Challenge.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Sam Hornish, Jr. Hooks Up With Team Penske For Some NXS Races

Sam Hornish,Jr.

Veteran stock car and open-wheel driver Sam Hornish Jr. will return to Team Penske this summer to compete in select NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) races for the team, driving the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang. Hornish is currently scheduled to compete in both upcoming series events at Iowa Speedway (June 24 and July 29) and the NXS road course event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (August 12).

“I’m really excited to return to Team Penske and get the opportunity to drive the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang in a few races this season,” said Hornish. “Team Penske continues to be one of the top teams in the XFINITY Series and I’m looking forward to once again working with them. Roger (Penske) and Team Penske have been a huge part of my racing career, so coming back here feels like home. I’m also really appreciative of everyone at Discount Tire for allowing me to take the reins of one of the most recognizable cars in the garage area.

“The new NASCAR eligibility rules also allow for drivers like me to compete in more races, so I hope to take full advantage of this opportunity.” Hornish experienced immense success with Team Penske in both INDYCAR and NASCAR during his previous stint with the team. After capturing two Verizon IndyCar Series Championships, Hornish joined Team Penske in 2004, racing for its famed open wheel team.  Over the course of four INDYCAR seasons with Team Penske, Hornish earned eight wins – including a victory in the 2006 Indianapolis 500 – and a series championship in 2006. 

The Ohio-native also made 130 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 99 starts in the XFINITY Series for Team Penske between 2006 and 2013.  Hornish produced two NXS victories for the team and finished second in the series standings in 2013. Hornish has collected a total of four NXS victories over the course of his career, including at Iowa Speedway in both 2014 and 2016.

The team may also add additional races to Hornish’s schedule over the balance of the NXS season.

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Elliott Sadler Wins The VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300

Elliot Sadler

It was a huge emotional victory for the 41 year old Elliott Sadler at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night!

A huge push from Daniel Suárez on a restart with four laps to go in Saturday night’s eventful VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 sent Elliott Sadler ahead of Ryan Blaney to win the opening race of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase at Kentucky Speedway.

Sadler’s third win of the season and 13th of his XFINITY Series career was about more than just stamping his way into Round 2 of the Chase. The Emporia, Virginia, native fought for the win while thinking of his mother, Bell, who was released from the hospital Saturday, after a week of hospitalization and two surgeries.

“We fought through a lot tonight,” said Sadler in Victory Lane. “I’m going to get a little emotional on you, I’ve been in the hospital all week with my mom in ICU watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. (She) made her way back home tonight to watch the race. Mom I love you. She leads so much by example.”

Sadler also credited his team, who helped Sadler battle from outside the top 15 earlier in the race.

“These guys are my heroes,” Sadler said. “We had a 10th or 15th place car at best. Still had to come in and really take our time and work on it. Great pit calls by Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) and the guys to get us in position. Got a good push there at the end. I do want to say thanks to Josh Berry for helping me a ton tonight. That kid did some cool things on the restarts. This OneMain Financial team has no quit in them. We just fight till the end. This is a great way to start the Chase.”

Suárez, who finished second, said he struggled with a tight condition all night but was best at the end of the race.

“Right at the end, we were pretty good, maybe just a little tight but we were strong,” he said. “I feel like we were the fastest car out there at the end. I just needed one or two laps more to get the win.”

The inaugural XFINITY Series Chase race offered plenty of excitement and drama. With the “win and advance” format putting an even greater premium on victories, drivers found themselves on the edge of control at a track where the racing groove was extremely tight since undergoing a repave in May.

“At halfway, we were running 20th,” added Sadler. “By my calculations, we were probably 10th or 11th in points, so to fight back that last 100 laps to gain that kind of momentum probably means a lot for us and these guys. I’m so proud of these guys. Dale (Earnhardt Jr., team owner) and Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller, team manager) and all of our partners for Hunt Bros., and Chevrolet and everyone that does so much for us at JR Motorsports. This is a great way to start off the Chase and keeps the momentum on our side, we can relax and go to Dover and have fun there and Charlotte and get ready for the second round.” 

XFINITY Chase drivers Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Erik Jones all found themselves in a deep hole after being collected in accidents throughout a caution-filled race. Dillon and Erik Jones tangled while racing for second with 12 laps remaining. The event was red-flagged for five minutes, 34 seconds for cleanup of the Turn 3 incident.

Jones, the pole sitter who led a race-high 100 laps, took responsibility for the crash.

“I just got sucked around,” Jones said after the incident. “I tried to slow down but Ty was holding me down there pretty tight on the restart, slamming doors through (Turns) 1 and 2. It was my fault but it’s a pretty tough aero situation to be in.

“I just couldn’t hang on to it. I tried to slow down but he kept slamming down on my door and I did all I could to hang on to it. It definitely looks like we’re going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte or even win.”

Behind Sadler and Suárez, Sprint Cup rookie Ryan Blaney finished third while Sam Hornish Jr. and Matt Tifft completed the top-five. Tifft, a NASCAR Next alumnus made his XFINITY Series return after undergoing brain surgery in July to remove a remove a benign low-grade glioma.

Sadler leaves Kentucky Speedway with an eight-point lead in the standings and guaranteed admission to the next round of the Chase at Kansas Speedway in three weeks. Suárez (+27 points above the cutoff line) is second in the Chase standings, followed by Brendan Gaughan (+21), Ryan Reed (+19), Darrell Wallace Jr. (+19), Justin Allgaier (+17), Brennan Poole (+16), Blake Koch (+15), Erik Jones (-3), Ryan Sieg (-5), Brandon Jones (-15) and Ty Dillon (-15).

Check out the unofficial results of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Michael McDowell Takes On “The Double”

Michael McDowell
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Michael McDowell will take on “The Double” this weekend, as he will run the NASCAR XFINITY Series race in Elkhart Lake’s Road America on Saturday then travel to Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.

McDowell is excited for this opportunity, as he recorded a pole and a second place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at the road course. He will be racing for Richard Childress Racing and looking for redemption in Elkhart Lake this weekend.  And redemption McDowell received at Road America!  McDowell led the field to the checkered flag and picked up his very first major NASCAR victory!

As announced by the team earlier this week, Sam Hornish Jr. will fill in for McDowell in practice and qualifying in Michigan while McDowell is at Road America.

McDowell and Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing look to ride a wave of momentum into Michigan after McDowell captured back-to-back Top-20 finishes for the first time in his career at Watkins Glen and Bristol.

Although McDowell has not raced the fast straightaways of Michigan International Speedway since 2013, he is confident in the team’s ability to perform under pressure and prepare for challenging situations.

“I haven’t run at Michigan in a couple years, but we’ve got some good notes and data since Ty ran there earlier in the year with the team,” said McDowell. “It’s a fast track, it’s wide, and has a lot of grooves. It’s getting wider as we run so it should be no problem for our team this weekend. For tracks like Michigan where I haven’t run in a while, you have to try to get a feel for what the car is doing, but also get into a rhythm of what you need to do and adjust both at the same time.”

Crew chief Dave Winston is eager to get to Michigan for the first time with McDowell, but also knows this weekend presents challenges for the team.

“Michigan is a very challenging race track, and with this new aero package I expect it to be even more so,” said Winston. “It is going to be a challenge for all of us. Michael will not be there until Sunday as he is off racing the XFINITY car for Richard Childress Racing at Road America. We are going to ask him to get in a car, with an aero package that he has not driven, one that is significantly different than what he has driven in the past, that was setup by another driver, and go race for another Top-20 finish. We have the confidence in him to do that and are hopeful for a good day come Sunday.”

Thrivent Financial will be the primary sponsor of the No. 95 Chevrolet during the Michigan race weekend.  Thrivent is a Fortune 500, not-for-profit membership organization of Christians. Offering a broad range of financial products and services, including life insurance, annuities and mutual funds, Thrivent helps its members be wise with money and live generously.

The Pure Michigan 400 will take place on Sunday, August 28 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Race fans can tune-in to NBCSN for live coverage and follow @CSLFR95 on Twitter for race updates.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Sam Hornish, Jr. Will Help Out Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing

Sam Hornish,Jr.
Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) has announced that Sam Hornish Jr. will fill in for Michael McDowell on Friday and Saturday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

McDowell is scheduled to race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Road America for Richard Childress Racing on Friday and Saturday.  He will then travel to Michigan International Speedway and drive the No. 95 Thrivent Financial Chevrolet on Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 for Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Justin Was Making His Marks at Mid-Ohio

Justin Marks

Not even a caution with four laps remaining in Saturday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge could detour road course expert Justin Marks from scoring his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Marks, driver of the No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet Camaro and co-owner with Kyle Larson of Larson Marks Racing, withstood a rain-soaked challenge from Sam Hornish Jr. on the final restart, but Marks showcased his road racing skills when it counted most and stretched his lead to 3.7 seconds when the checkered flag flew.

“These are as tough conditions as you can put drivers in,” said Marks from a makeshift Victory Lane. “It’s just really hard on everybody when it’s dry and wet and you don’t really know what to do, so strategy plays a big role in it. You know, my specialty is road racing in the rain in these stock cars and I don’t get much of an opportunity to do it so when that opportunity presents itself, you have to really take advantage of it and I about threw it away today.

“I knew if the race ended in the rain that we would have a real shot at winning it. I wish my family was here. I’m just really happy.”

Marks dedicated the win to former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Bryan Clauson who passed away last Sunday night from injuries in a sprint car accident during the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.

“Bryan’s short career in stock car racing came with Chip Ganassi Racing, so it’s great to be able to put this thing in Victory Lane to honor him and think about him,” added Marks. “He’s a real American hero race car driver. Bryan was. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

Hornish in a limited schedule driving the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing settled for second.

“All in all, a good day for the Rheem Chevrolet,” he said. “My hat’s off to Justin Marks. I generally held myself as a pretty decent rain racer and even given the opportunity there at the end, I couldn’t do anything with him. I would have had to take massive chances with our car to be able to do anything and you still gotta pass him to keep up with him.

“I’m proud of what the guys gave me on the No. 2 car today. I wish we would have gotten a little more out of it. In the dry, I feel like we could win, but Justin just went out there and was just a monster in the wet.”

Hornish won the pole on Friday in dry conditions, but as the field took the green at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course, Mother Nature moved in and sent the team to pit road for an optional change of tires from slicks to wets on Lap 3.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Owen Kelly, in his XFINITY Series return, took the lead on the restart, but spun shortly thereafter in Turn 6 sending Hornish back to the top spot. Hornish, however, would get his first glimpse of Marks on Lap 12 when the Chip Ganassi Racing driver took the lead for the first time.

The Rocklin, California, native would maintain the lead through the halfway point where he pitted from the lead, cycling the top spot through a variety of drivers during green flag pit stops, as the race track began to transition back to dry.

A Lap 50 caution for debris, however, would be the starting point where the race would set the tone for the closing laps. While under the yellow, the skies opened up, soaking the road course and sending almost all the competitors back to pit road for wet tires and fuel for the end.

When the race restarted with 14 laps to go, Darrell Wallace Jr. found himself at the top. But with 12 laps to go, he went off course, giving the lead to Ty Dillon with a stalking Marks behind.

With rain continuing to fall, Marks used his experience to close the distance between himself and Ty Dillon.  He then took advantage as Dillon went off course on Lap 65, giving the lead back to Marks on Lap 66 and he never looked back, nor relinquished it til the checkered flag waved!

Check out the unofficial results of the Mid-Ohio 200.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Sam Hornish, Jr. Dominates At Iowa

Sam Hornish,Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr., who hadn’t been in a car in 210 days, gave himself the perfect Father’s Day present on Sunday – a dominant victory in the sixth annual NASCAR XFINITY Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway.

Hornish, who last competed in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, received a call Monday from Joe Gibbs Racing to substitute for injured driver Matt Tifft. He made the most of the opportunity, picking up his fourth career XFINITY Series win and second at Iowa. Overall, it was JGR’s ninth triumph in 14 races this season.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said an emotional Hornish in Victory Lane. “Just gotta thank Toyota, everyone from Joe Gibbs Racing for getting me out here and giving me this opportunity. Got my wife and kids here, it’s the first time the kids got to be here for one of dad’s wins.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me. I worked so hard to try to get a win when I had my kids here. Gotta thank God. He makes things happen. I was so nervous on Friday getting into the car thinking I’m going to make a mistake, and man, to go out there and win the way that we did. Just can’t say anything more about it.”

Ty Dillon attempted to make a charge on Hornish on a Lap 224 restart, but settled for second, finishing ahead of Brad Keselowski.

“I don’t know, I guess we just needed to be a little bit better,” Dillon said. “The No. 18 (Hornish) was so dominant on the bottom (groove). I thought, obviously, we were the best car on the top (groove).

“Just needed a little bit more speed. I’m proud of my guys. We were kind of a mid-pack car and did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position – something we talked about all week – and we did a great job.”

Hornish took the lead from last week’s XFINITY Series winner Daniel Suarez on Lap 24, setting the tone that the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were going to be hard to beat.

The two drivers swapped the lead on pit road on two occasions before several competitors elected to use varying pit strategies following the event’s third caution on Lap 126. Hornish restarted sixth, but only took 13 laps to get back to the race lead, passing Suarez on Lap 139 and never relinquishing.

Championship contender Erik Jones, who scored his fifth pole of 2016, had to drop to the rear before the race for an unapproved body modification. Jones, however, was never a factor as he battled fuel pressure issues, finishing 27th.

It was really great to see Hornish back on top of his game!  Maybe this will kindle some interest by one of the premier teams to offer a quality ride to this former Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion!

The NASCAR XFINITY Series takes a week off before returning to Daytona International Speedway on July 1 for the running of the Subway Firecracker 250.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Richard Childress Racing Adds Four Drivers To It’s NXS Program

Richard Childress Racing (RCR) has announced the addition of four drivers to its 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series team roster to compete in races at Iowa Speedway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road America and Kentucky Speedway. The drivers will share seat time in the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Danny Stockman.

“I’m looking forward to working with this talented group of drivers,” said Danny Stockman, crew chief of the No. 2 RCR team. “It’s going to be great to work with Ben (Kennedy) in his XFINITY Series debut and also with all the veteran drivers. They’ll bring a lot to the table for us. I’m confident we’ll have a shot to win with all of these guys.”

Ben Kennedy is scheduled to pilot the Ruud Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway on June 19. The 24-year-old driver currently competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and will make his XFINITY Series debut with the Welcome, N.C.-based organization. Kennedy has three starts to his credit at the 0.875-mile track in the Camping World Truck Series, where he’s earned one top-10 finish.

Sam Hornish Jr. is slated to drive the Rheem Chevrolet for RCR at the second Iowa Speedway race of the season on July 30 and Kentucky Speedway on September 24. Hornish brings a wealth of XFINITY Series experience to the driver’s seat of the No. 2 Chevrolet. To date, Hornish has accumulated 110 starts in the XFINITY Series, earning three victories, seven pole awards, 32 top-five and 57 top-10 finishes with 1,124 laps led.

With an off weekend on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, AJ Allmendinger will join the Rheem team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13 for the road course race. In more than 40 career road course starts, Allmendinger has garnered seven wins and five pole awards.

Rounding out the season’s road course races, Michael McDowell takes to the seat of the Rheem Chevrolet at Road America. The No. 2 team earned the victory at the Plymouth, Wisc.-based track last season with driver Paul Menard. McDowell has 12 road course starts in the XFINITY Series, collecting three top-five and five top-10 finishes with two pole awards.

“We’re working hard to put together a driver lineup that allows us to compete for the XFINITY Series owner’s championship. With Ben, Sam, AJ and Michael joining Austin (Dillon) and Paul (Menard) in the No. 2 Camaro seat, I’m confident we’ll be able to challenge for the title this season and be a threat to win in each of the races,” said Mike Dillon, RCR’s vice president of competition.

Austin Dillon and Paul Menard will continue to share the seat of the No. 2 Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2016 season.

It is great to see that Sam Hornish has put together some type of sponsorship program to enable him to get back into a race acae, at least on a part-time basis.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Roger Penske: The Gold Standard In Indy Car Racing

Roger Penske

It was 1951 when Jay Penske scored a pair of tickets to the Indianapolis 500. He was an executive for a metal fabrication company in Cleveland that was sponsoring a few laps in the race, so he brought his 14-year-old son to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Roger Penske, already a car lover, was instantly hooked. He had listened to previous Indy 500s on the radio, but was now seeing it in person for the first time.

“We drove here from Cleveland and got here late and were supposed to go to someone’s home for lunch,” Penske recalled. “Everybody was gone but there was a car there. I got my picture taken with a Cromwell helmet on.”

That day, Penske said, he wanted to drive. And he would come to the track every year after for the next four decades.

“I think the speed here, the sensation of the track, and if you love cars like I did in those days, it was a place you wanted to be part of,” Penske said.

From that first trip to the speedway to present day, Penske has missed just six Indianapolis 500s. There was 1995, a year after Al Unser Jr. won the race for Team Penske, when his cars failed to qualify. Then he took a five-year hiatus when IndyCar split from CART and Penske remained with the series that was not welcome at the Indianapolis 500.

There have been precious few low points for the billionaire team owner whose influence stretches across both IndyCar and NASCAR. As Penske celebrates his 50th year in racing, during the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the mark he’s left on the motorsports community is unrivaled. In an Associated Press survey of the 27 living winners of the Indy 500, Penske fell just four votes shy of longtime track owner Tony Hulman as the most important non-driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“He’s been there such a long time, he prepares things to such a significantly high level of professionalism,” said 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. “Everybody then has to bring themselves up to that level. As long as I’ve been involved in the sport, Roger Penske is huge.”

He wanted to be a race car driver. His father wanted him to be an entrepreneur, and his son spent time in military school learning the discipline and standard of excellence that he maintains today at age 79.

Penske indeed briefly dabbled in auto racing and was quite good. But he had a job at Alcoa and couldn’t get the time off needed to properly race. So he retired from racing in 1965. He was trying to buy a Chevrolet dealership in Philadelphia, but General Motors didn’t want to give a franchise to a race car driver. Using a loan from his father to buy his first dealership, Penske had to step away from racing to focus on earning back the funds needed to repay dad.

“I had to make a pretty good business decision at that point: Do I continue racing or do I go into business?” Penske said. “I think I made the right decision, because I was able to have the experience as a driver, understood what it meant to have reliable and great cars, and was able to bring that into our team a few years later. From that point, we never looked back.”

Four years after his retirement, Penske was back at the Indianapolis 500 with his own race team. Mark Donohue drove the No. 66 and gave Penske he first of his record 16 Indy 500 victories in 1972.

Penske has also fielded Indy 500 winning entries for Rick Mears (4), Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves (3), Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of last year’s race.

“Driving for Roger is like going to Disneyland,” said Bobby Unser. “You say, ‘Wow, look at this. I’ve got everything now.’ You have it all, the best. Roger gives you the best cars, parts, equipment and team to make you a winner. And he will work day and night to make things perfect. That motivates everyone around him.”

The teams are run the way Penske runs his businesses: Efficiently, with an eye for detail and a respect for everyone involved. He demands excellence and professionalism, and he makes everyone around him rise to that level. To this day, The Captain and his committee of executives are notorious for their starched white shirts and black pressed slacks.

“I remember they called us the crew-cut guys with the polished wheels,” he said. “We just had white shirts and when we sent them to the cleaners they’d come back with starch in them. I didn’t know that we were so special on starched shirts. I guess, again, it’s my military training.”

Mears was Penske’s first multiple 500 winner and to this day is a driver/coach for Team Penske who is heavily involved in all at-track activities. On Thursday, Penske noted that his current crop of drivers learns something from Mears everytime they are in the car.

“Roger’s main trait is to lead by example,” Mears said. “He motivates people. He makes them all feel like part of the team.”

It’s an example that is often imitated by Penske’s peers.

His top rival in open-wheel racing is Chip Ganassi, he knows he’s chasing Team Penske every weekend. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Racing would not be where it is today without Roger Penske,” said Ganassi. “He brings out the best in all of us owners because we know that we need to bring our A-game to beat him. When we do, you know you have accomplished something.”

Castroneves on Sunday will be one of four Penske drivers trying to win for The Captain in the 100th running of the historic race. The team won with Mears in the 75th running of Indy, and Penske wants this centennial victory more than anything. If he gets it from Castroneves, he’ll have two four-time winners in the club that currently only has three members – Mears, Al Unser and A.J. Foyt.

Castroneves desperately wants the victory for his boss.

“Roger is a very good businessman and has a very hectic schedule,” said Castroneves. “But he leaves this week open to be here for every single practice. When you have that type of leader doing that, you know that this is his passion. It’s not just a hobby. The mechanics see it, the people in the shop see it, we see it and it is why you want to see Roger win – to make the boss happy.”

Penske doesn’t like to rank his favorite moments. He’s had so many ups and downs at Indy, none lower than 1995 when he failed to get both Al Unser and Fittipaldi into the race.

“There are so many times that you probably cried and you cried because you were happy and cried because you were not happy,” he said. “I walked side-by-side back to that garage area (with Fittipaldi and Unser) having missed the race after dominating it in 1994. But so many other victories we’ve had, it’s hard to say because each one of them was special.”

When it comes to excellence in racing, there is no doubt that Roger Penske and Team Penske is the gold standard to which every team owner aspires to be like!  They are the team in the starched white shirts and black pants.  But they are so much more, they are the team with 16, count them, 16 Indy 500 victories.  That number is the most of any race team that has ever competed at The Brickyard!

So as we race fans gather to watch The Greatest Spectacle In Racing we could see more history in the making from Team Penske!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Ice Man Cools The Desert Heat At Phoenix International Raceway

Scott Dixon

It had been eleven long years since last the IndyCars raced at the Phoenix International Raceway.  But the race drivers fired up their engines and fired up the minuscule crowd that were seated in the stands.  Some of the race fans were apparently celebrating a premature Halloween by dressing up as vacant or empty seats!

Nevertheless it was in the heat of the desert, the “Ice Man”, Scott Dixon who lived up to his nickname by remaining cool, calm and collected all the way to the checkered flag.

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion earned his first win of the 2016 season, capturing the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Dixon notched his first career win at Phoenix International Raceway under caution after debris brought out the yellow flag two laps from the finish of the 250-lap event on the 1.022-mile oval. (Just as a side note, the debris was on the track for approximately five laps before the IndyCar officials threw the caution flag that ended the race.)

Dixon started sixth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and went on to earn the 39th win of his Indy car career, tying him with Al Unser for fourth in all-time wins. The race marked the return of the series to Phoenix International Raceway for the first time since Sam Hornish, Jr. won in 2005.

Simon Pagenaud finished second in the No. 22 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, followed by teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who missed the season opener three weeks ago at St. Petersburg. Pagenaud took the unofficial lead in the 2016 championship with 83 points, four ahead of Dixon.

Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, followed by Graham Rahal, the top Honda finisher in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry.

The highest-finishing rookie was Max Chilton, who placed seventh in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.

A couple of early frontrunners had issues in the first half of the 250-lap race. Team Penske pilots Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM) both suffered right-front tire issues that forced them to pit from the lead. Castroneves led the first 39 laps from the pole in the No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet and Montoya, who won the St. Pete season opener, led the next 56 laps in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy. Dixon was the third and last race leader, pacing the field the final 155 laps.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!