Roger Penske to be inducted into Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 3

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He may have been born and raised in suburban Cleveland, but Roger Penske will forever remembered in Texas a week from now.

The most successful owner in overall motorsports, particularly open-wheel, but also in NASCAR and numerous other major motor sports series, Penske will become the 16th member inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 3.

The chairman of the board of the aptly named Team Penske, the legendary racer-turned-owner will be inducted in a rather appropriate place: the Grand Ballroom of Texas Motor Speedway, where Penske-owned teams have earned a record combined 12 race wins.

A record seven of those came in Indy car racing, and Penske – who has the colorful nickname of “The Captain” for his leadership and success – is the only owner with wins in both NASCAR and IndyCar at the 1.5-mile TMS, known as “The Great American Speedway!”

But what his teams have done at TMS just barely scratches the surface of what Penske-led teams have done in nearly five decades of racing, including 23 motorsports national championships (12 alone in Indy car racing), and 16 Indianapolis 500 victories.

The 77-year-old Penske joins 15 others previously inducted into the TMHoF: A.J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford (2003), Terry Labonte and Lee Shepherd (2004), Kenny Bernstein and Jim Hall (2005), Eddie Hill (2006), Mark Martin and Jim McElreath (2007), Bobby Labonte and Speedway Motorsports president Bruton Smith (2008), Joe Gibbs (2009), John Force (2010), Lanny Edwards (2011) and Jack Roush (2012).

Others that will be honored on Penske’s special night for various efforts include four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, 2014 Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., defending Duck Commander 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 winner Kyle Busch, and 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher.

A three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Franchitti will be honored with the Bruton Smith Legend Award.

Earnhardt will be honored with the Maj. General Thomas Sadler award for his support of Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter. Earnhardt’s participation in last year’s “BBQ Pit Stop with Dale Jr.,” raised a chapter record of more than $38,000.

Busch will be awarded the TMS Racer of the Year for being the first driver in track history to win both the NRA 500 Sprint Cup race and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race on the same weekend.

Buescher, a native of nearby Plano, will receive the TMS Sportsmanship Award for helping in the cleanup efforts from last year’s devastating tornadoes in Moore, Okla.

Free to the public, the Hall of Fame – which features pedestals, portraits and other career highlights of the 16 inductees – is located in the outdoor atrium adjacent to The Speedway Club, and is open year-round.

If you’re heading to TMS next week for the races, the Hall would be a great place to check out.

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Spencer Pigot ready for full-season IndyCar effort with ECR

Photo: IndyCar
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After spending the last two years in a part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing, contesting the road and street course races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot now gets a long-awaited chance at a full-season effort in 2018.

Moving over to the No. 21 entry, which has featured ECR’s full-season driver since 2016, Pigot has seen slight differences in his off-season prep ahead of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We were one of the teams that got to a handful of days testing the aero kit, so I obviously did all the running on the road courses, but I was able to do a few laps on the ovals when Ed was testing. So, that wouldn’t have happened (if I was part-time still),” he told NBC Sports.

However, outside of that increase in testing and a little learning some new tracks – he has not raced at ISM Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, or Iowa Speedway in an IndyCar – the changes to Pigot’s off-season program have not been dramatic.

“There’s definitely some things I’ll need to learn, but as far as off-season prep: nothing too dramatic, nothing too different.”

Pigot’s first full-season campaign saw its first official outing of the 2018 season last weekend during the open test at ISM Raceway. While he and the ECR team struggled to find speed much of the weekend – they languished outside of the top ten in the results of the first three sessions – things took a turn for the better during the final session of the weekend on Saturday night, when Pigot ended up ninth on the speed charts.

He ended up 14th in the combined results for the weekend, noting that he and the team still want to find more outright speed.

“I thought throughout the test that our average long run pace was okay, but we were still missing the outright pace to be where we need to be come qualifying time,” he revealed. “I think that we definitely made a step forward Saturday night and definitely have a much better idea of a direction we can head and go with when we go back.”

In terms of long-run practice, Pigot noted that tire degradation became much more prevalent, which made running with others cars around you somewhat of a challenge. Though, he emphasized that tire degradation could be beneficial for racing.

“Talking to some of the other guys, it seems a little bit harder to run behind people as the tires go off because the tires are degrading pretty quick with the lack of downforce as well,” he explained. “So, it’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be sliding around a little bit more than what guys have experienced in the past. But, I think everyone’s under the same kind of idea that it’s going to be better racing, and especially at (ISM Raceway) it should be exciting.”

Pigot did get some practice at overtaking at ISM and got a feel for what he may be able to expect when IndyCar returns in April for the Phoenix Grand Prix, and while he acknowledged it was difficult to judge during testing, he did feel like he could run around other cars without much of an issue.

“It’s not like a race when everyone comes in the pits at the same time and you’re all on similar tires, so it’s kind of hard to know exactly. But, I thought we were pretty good,” he detailed. “I thought I was able to run pretty close to guys in front of me and was able to make a few passes when other guys made mistakes or might have gone a little high.”

The test also served as Pigot’s first IndyCar venture on a short oval – he last ran on a short oval in 2015 during his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship season.

“The corners definitely come up quick. There’s not much time to really relax or think about too much,” Pigot quipped when describing his first time on a short oval.

He continued, “You’ve got to concentrate pretty hard on being precise because the line there is very narrow so you have to make sure that you’re where the grip is at all points throughout the corner. And then, when everyone’s out there and you run in traffic, it’s just like you’re constantly in a corner, so it’s a little more difficult to get big runs and drafts off people. But I think it’ll definitely play into the hands of guys that have their cars set up well and can be easier on the tires.”

And in becoming the team’s full-time driver, Pigot is seeing a slight increase in his leadership role within the team, especially as it relates to testing and development, with Pigot doing the lion’s share of testing during the winter on road courses.

But, he also emphasized the oval prowess of teammate, and team owner, Ed Carpenter as something he will lean on when he ventures out on other ovals for the first time this year.

“Especially as we’re trying to learn this new aero kit, I was the one that pretty much did all the testing on the road and street courses. It was kind of me and the engineers trying to develop the car and work towards the setup that’s going to work for us. So, there’s definitely a little more responsibility in that. But, then on the ovals, obviously Ed’s there and he’s a great teammate to have and to learn from and bounce ideas off of. But, yeah, it’s definitely a more involved role within the team,” Pigot explained.

Pigot and ECR will test two more times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway, in the month of February prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

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