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

0 Comments

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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.