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Menards to continue IndyCar sponsorship with Team Penske

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Menards plans to continue sponsoring a Team Penske IndyCar in 2018 and beyond, meaning the vibrant, striking, fluorescent highlighter yellow livery will continue as part of the grid.

Team Penske confirmed this Wednesday as part of its greater NASCAR sponsorship announcement for 14 races with Ryan Blaney in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, in addition to 22 races it will sponsor Paul Menard with the Wood Brothers.

Menards had a several-race deal backing 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud last year, Pagenaud having delivered hugely on John Menard’s comeback with a win at the company’s first race as primary sponsor, the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Pagenaud also won this year with Menards at Phoenix, for his first oval victory. Menards stepped up to a 10-race primary sponsor number, announced last year at Sonoma.

A Team Penske spokesperson told NBC Sports the plan for the moment is that the Menards support will continue with Pagenaud’s car into 2018.

“Having a company like Menards, and a businessman like John Menard, be a part of the growth with the No. 12 team is terrific for our organization,” said Roger Penske.

“Menards has a winning tradition in motorsports and Team Penske looks forward to adding to that legacy. We have enjoyed a productive relationship with Menards through our INDYCAR program, and they were a key part of our championship effort last season. We are excited about the opportunity to grow with them in NASCAR beginning next season.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.