Roger Penske defended his team this morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, denying that Penske Racing made a deal with Front Row Motorsports during the Chase-deciding event on Sept. 7 at Richmond International Raceway.
Both squads were placed on probation through the end of 2013 after the emergence of radio conversations from Richmond that had Front Row’s Frank Kerr (crew chief for driver David Gilliland) indicate his team would gain some sort of reward in exchange for Gilliland allowing Penske’s Joey Logano to gain a position in the closing laps.
No radio transmission from Penske Racing to Front Row has come to light, but that didn’t stop NASCAR from making its decision against the two teams last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. That bit of news was overshadowed considerably by the addition of Jeff Gordon as a 13th Chase driver following the events of Richmond.
“We didn’t do anything, quite obviously,” Penske said today according to Dan Gelston of The Associated Press. “When I heard the crew chief on whatever car it was made all this big noise, we didn’t have any deal at all. That’s how people role play stuff in NASCAR.
“I think at the end of the day, it worked out for everybody and we’re moving on.”
NASCAR has since altered rules regarding the spotter’s stand after Richmond, banning the use of digital radios and keeping each team to just one spotter on duty. The AP’s Jenna Fryer reported yesterday that spotters will now have three analog radios at their disposal, up from the original number of two; however, only two of the three analog radios can transmit.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.