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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.