Could Roger Penske be close to running a Porsche LMP1?

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Potentially, the most successful owner in IndyCar may be branching out his empire once again.

Roger Penske has said before – most recently on a 2012 appearance on SPEED’s “Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain” (linked here, go to the 3:50 mark) – that the only major “first” thing left on his to-do list is to go to Le Mans and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Sports car racing insider Mike Fuller, whose Mulsanne’s Corner blog site is one of the most detailed when it comes to technical regulations and explanations of the sports car world, posted a tweet Wednesday that would seem to add fuel to the fire.

This follows a post on DailySportsCar from Graham Goodwin and Gary Horrocks a couple weeks ago that provided an update on a rumored P1 breakaway series, which may or may not materialize for 2014.

The reason that rumor ignited is because the P1 class has been eliminated from the merged United SportsCar Racing championship for 2014, and the P1 teams from the American Le Mans Series have to make alternative plans to either move down a class (the P2/Daytona Prototype/DeltaWing combined “P” class in USCR) or switch to the FIA World Endurance Championship, which still features P1 as the top class.

Now, if you’re not confused at this point, good on you. Here’s essentially what all the above copy means for the Penske file.

Penske last competed in sports car racing in 2009 with a Riley Porsche DP in GRAND-AM’s Rolex Series, after completing a three-year stint with the Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 chassis in the American Le Mans Series.

The sports car crew used in 2009 in GRAND-AM eventually moved over to Penske’s IndyCar program, which ran Will Power in a third car part-time in 2009 before the Australian was promoted to a third full-time car in 2010. This year, keep in mind, Penske has scaled back from a three-car to a two-car full-time IndyCar program, with a third for AJ Allmendinger at selected races.

Penske and Porsche have always been inextricably linked from a sports car standpoint. The only place Porsche’s new LMP1 contender is eligible to race, at the moment, is in the WEC, with Le Mans as the centerpiece of the schedule.

We’re not saying this is going to happen, but having two sports car insiders link the two together means this is something that is definitely simmering. The question now is if or when it will come to a full boil.

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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