Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Martinsville

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The Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup ended yesterda at NASCAR’s biggest track.

This coming weekend, the Eliminator Round begins at NASCAR’s shortest track.

The .526-mile Martinsville Speedway will serve as setting for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, which kicks off the final set of three races that will determine the four championship combatants at Homestead-Miami Speedway next month.

With the start of the new round comes another reset for the eight remaining drivers in the Chase, this time to 4,000 points apiece. Again, what happened in the previous round no longer applies.

It’s all about Martinsville, then the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, and at last, the 1-mile Phoenix International Speedway.

And a win by anyone among the “Eliminator Eight” over these next three weeks now means even more – a chance to become Sprint Cup champion in South Florida.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know as the Chasers face what some folks call “The Paperclip”…

MARTINSVILLE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

1 – Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.6
2014 Rundown
· Five wins, 15 top fives, 20 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.5
· Led 20 races for 916 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Two top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 82.3, 14th-best

2 – Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.7
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; eight poles
· Average finish of 13.4
· Led 24 races for 1,817 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.8 in 26 races
· Average Running Position of 13.7, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.2, eighth-best
· 956 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.163 mph, eighth-fastest
· 6,348 Laps in the Top 15 (66.6%), sixth-most
· 578 Quality Passes, sixth-most

3 – Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.1
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.3
· Led 7 races for 41 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One win, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 15.5 in 25 races
· Average Running Position of 15.1, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.9, 10th-best
· 1,008 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· 5,419 Laps in the Top 15 (56.8%), ninth-most
· 528 Quality Passes, ninth-most

4 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.0
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.1
· Led 14 races for 218 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Four wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.8 in 17 races
· Average Running Position of 9.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.6, third-best
· 580 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.467 mph, third-fastest
· 7,007 Laps in the Top 15 (82.1%), fourth-most
· 609 Quality Passes, fifth-most

5 – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.6
2014 Rundown
· 12 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.6
· Led 18 races for 468 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Four top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.0 in 29 races
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.2, 12th-best
· 173 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 1,023 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.042 mph, 11th-fastest

6 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford Ecoboost Fusion Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.7
2014 Rundown
· Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.5
· Led 11 races for 135 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 15.7 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 15.9, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 81.4, 15th-best
· 1,036 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 5,181 Laps in the Top 15 (54.3%), 11th-most
· 555 Quality Passes, eighth-most

7 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.4
2014 Rundown
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.3
· Led 23 races for 743 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight wins, 27 top fives, 34 top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 7.0 in 43 races
· Average Running Position of 6.7, second-best
· Driver Rating of 119.0, second-best
· Series-high 1,034 Fastest Laps Run
· 933 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.684 mph, second-fastest
· 8,375 Laps in the Top 15 (87.8%), second-most
· Series-high 691 Quality Passes

8 – Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 104.3
2014 Rundown
· Six wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.9
· Led 26 races for 1,518 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4 in nine races
· Average Running Position of 16.2, 14th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.5, 11th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.102 mph, 10th-fastest

9 – Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.0
2014 Rundown
· One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Led 15 races for 453 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9 in 19 races
· Average Running Position of 13.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.1, sixth-best
· 409 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 952 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.342 mph, fifth-fastest
· 6,587 Laps in the Top 15 (69.1%), fifth-most
· 616 Quality Passes, fourth-most

10 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.2
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.7
· Led 16 races for 1,119 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Eight wins, 18 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 5.2 in 25 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 124.8
· 1,010 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 91.737 mph
· Series-high 8,833 Laps in the Top 15 (92.6%)
· 680 Quality Passes, second-most

11 – Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.1
2014 Rundown
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.3
· Led 12 races for 218 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Three top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.2 in 21 races
· Average Running Position of 20.4, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 77.7, 19th-best
· 255 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

12 – AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.2
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 20.2
· Led 5 races for 68 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.6 in 12 races
· Average Running Position of 21.3, 23rd-best
· Driver Rating of 70.8, 22nd-best

13 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.6
2014 Rundown
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8
· Led 15 races for 300 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· 11 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8 in 29 races
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.9, fourth-best
· 471 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Series-high 1,111 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.374 mph, fourth-fastest
· 7,393 Laps in the Top 15 (77.5%), third-most
· 668 Quality Passes, third-most

14 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.6
2014 Rundown
· Three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.1
· Led 7 races for 110 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Five top 10s
· Average finish of 20.1 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 20.6, 21st-best
· Driver Rating of 70.5, 23rd-best
· 1,068 Green Flag Passes, second-most

15 – Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.5
2014 Rundown
· One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 19.4
· Led 12 races for 183 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, three top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.8 in 28 races
· Average Running Position of 18.2, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 79.0, 18th-best
· 987 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most

16 – Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Ford)
· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.4
2014 Rundown
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 21.6
· Led 5 races for 23 laps
Martinsville Speedway Outlook:
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 24.0 in 11 races
· Average Running Position of 23.9, 30th-best
· Driver Rating of 64.8, 27th-best

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Martinsville Speedway Track Data
Race 33 of 36
0.526-mile oval
Banking, turns – 12 degrees
Banking, straights – Zero degrees
Frontstretch/backstretch length – 800 feet
500 laps, 263 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson, 124.8
Jeff Gordon, 119.0
Denny Hamlin, 109.6
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 99.9
Tony Stewart, 97.0
Kyle Busch, 96.1
Clint Bowyer, 94.6
Kevin Harvick, 93.2
Ryan Newman, 86.9
Brad Keselowski, 84.5
*Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Martinsville

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 99.595 mph, 19.013 seconds, 10.25.2013
2013 race winner: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 70.337 mph (3 hours, 44 minutes, 21 seconds), 10.27.2013
Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 99.595 mph, 19.013 seconds, 10.25.2013
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 82.223 mph (3 hours, 11 minutes, 55 seconds), 09.22.1996

Martinsville Speedway History

· Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating race tracks in the United States.

· The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville was on July 4, 1948.

· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was Sept. 25, 1949.

· The track was paved in 1955.

· The first 500-lap event at Martinsville was in 1956.

· Concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976.

Martinsville Speedway Notebook

· There have been 131 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.

· 599 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville; 376 in more than one.

· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has the all-time most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville with 67 starts; Jeff Gordon has the most among active drivers with 43.

· Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Martinsville Speedway in 1949.

· 58 drivers have Coors Light poles at Martinsville, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with eight; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.

· 12 drivers have won two or more consecutive Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway. Four of the 12 have won three consecutive poles at Martinsville: Glen Wood (Fall of 1959 and 1960 sweep); Darrell Waltrip (1979 sweep and spring 1980); Mark Martin (fall of 1990 and 1991 sweep); Jeff Gordon (2003 sweep and spring 2004).

· Youngest Martinsville pole winner: Ricky Rudd (4/26/1981 – 24 years, 7 months, 14 days).

· Oldest Martinsville pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (4/26/1987 – 45 years, 6 months, 14 days).

· 47 different drivers have won at Martinsville Speedway, led by Richard Petty with 15; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead the series among active drivers with eight wins each.

· 24 drivers have multiple wins at Martinsville Speedway only five active drivers have multiple wins: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (eight), Denny Hamlin (four), Tony Stewart (three) and Kurt Busch (two).

· Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 21.

· 21 of 131 races (16.0%) at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; seven of those 21 wins came from active drivers: Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (2003 twice), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2012, spring 2013) and Denny Hamlin (2010).

· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Martinsville producing more wins (21) than any other starting position.

· 36 of the 131 (27.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the front row: 21 from the pole and 15 from second-place.

· 95 of the 131 (72.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.

· Six of the 131 (4.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 36th, by Kurt Busch in the fall of 2002.

· Youngest Martinsville winner: Richard Petty (04/10/1960 – 22 years, 9 months, 8 days).

· Oldest Martinsville winner: Harry Gant (09/22/1991 – 51 years, 8 months, 12 days).

· NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes at Martinsville Speedway with seven; Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers with four each.

· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 30; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 18.

· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 37; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 22.

· Jeff Gordon leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Martinsville Speedway with a 7.186. Ryan Newman (9.680) and Denny Hamlin (9.765) are the only two other active drivers with an average starting position at Martinsville inside the top-10.

· Three active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top-10 at Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson (5.200), Jeff Gordon (6.953) and Denny Hamlin (8.765).

· There have been five NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Martinsville Speedway: fall 2007 (500/506), fall 2008 (500/504), fall 2009 (500/501), spring 2010 (500/508), and spring 2012 (500/515).

· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions eight times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway; the most recent was the fall race of 2011.

· Jeff Gordon has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway without a DNF (43).

· Tony Stewart (4/18/1999) and Scott Riggs (4/10/2005) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway.

· Mike Bliss (09/27/1998), Travis Kvapil (10/24/2004), Michael McDowell (3/30/2008) and Scott Speed (10/19/2008) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Martinsville Speedway.

· 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Martinsville Speedway. Fred Lorenzen won four NSCS races straight (the most) from the fall of 1963 through the spring of 1965.

· All eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Martinsville Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville with the fewest previous appearances (three).

· Ryan Newman competed at Martinsville Speedway 20 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.

· Four drivers have made eight or more attempts before their first win at Martinsville Speedway: Kevin Harvick (19) and Ryan Newman (20).

· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway is the 4/1/2007 race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.065 second.

· Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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· Seven car numbers have produced five or more Martinsville Speedway NSCS wins:

Car Number – Drivers – (Years)

o No. 43 – Richard Petty (1960, ’62, ’63, ’67 sweep, ’68, ’69 sweep, ’70, ’71, ’72 sweep, ’73, ’75 and ’79); John Andretti (1999)

o No. 11 – Cale Yarborough (1974, ’76, ’77 sweep, ‘78); Darrell Waltrip (1981, ’82, ’83, ’84); Geoff Bodine (1990 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2008, ’09, ’10 sweep)

o No. 28 – Fred Lorenzen (1961, ’63, ’64 sweep, ‘65 and ‘66); Buddy Baker (1979); Ernie Irvan (1993).

o No. 2 – Dale Earnhardt (1980); Rusty Wallace (1993, ‘94 sweep, ’95, ’96 and ‘04)

o No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2004, ’06, ’07 sweep, ’08, ’09, ’12, ‘13)

o No. 24 – Jeff Gordon (1996, ’97, ’99, ’03 sweep and ’05 sweep, fall 2013)

o No. 3 – Ricky Rudd (1983); Dale Earnhardt (1985, ’87, ’88, ’91, ’95)

NASCAR in Virginia

· There have been 285 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Virginia.

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· 172 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.

· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. 11 of the 19 Virginia native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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After 19th Indianapolis 500 win, Roger Penske never stops; focusing on Detroit, Le Mans

Roger Penske stops
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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DETROIT – Roger Penske never stops.

Just consider what the 86-year-old billionaire has accomplished last Sunday.

At 12:40 p.m. last Sunday, Penske greeted the massive crowd of 330,000 spectators at the 107th Indianapolis 500 and gave the command, “Drivers, Start Your Engines” to begin the big race. Since 2019, Penske has been the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar.

Over three hours later, Penske was standing on top of the Pagoda, the massive suite and command post of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, watching the dramatic conclusion of the Indy 500 with his wife, Kathy, son Greg, Penske Corp. marketing director Jonathan Gibson, and Penske Corp. president Bud Denker.

When Penske saw his driver, Josef Newgarden, cross the start/finish line as the winner, he thrust his left fist in the air in an enthusiastic fashion and celebrated with his closest associates.

“I’m up on the very top of the Pagoda and I have a screen up there with all the times of every (Team Penske) car, each lap and I have a TV and a radio that I can’t talk (to the teams) on,” Penske said. “I can go from the channels of 2 (Newgaren), 3 (Scott McLaughlin) or 12 (Will Power) just listening to where we are.

“I have my own idea to what I might have done, but when I heard (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric say we had to take our time, when he said we were on plan at 100 laps, we were actually ahead of where we wanted to be. They were saving fuel, to be in the right window, which was right on.

“It was amazing when you think about all of the things that happened. If we didn’t have that wreck on the front straightaway, it would have been different.

“It’s a crazy place. It’s rewarding. That’s why we are here to race.”

In addition to owning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske is also the winningest car owner in Indy 500 history and Sunday’s win was a record-extending 19th win in the 500-Mile Race.

It was the first time Penske, the car owner, won the Indy 500 since Penske, the track owner, officially took over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Jan. 6, 2020.

Roger Penske (Bruce Martin Photo)

With the purchase, he also put some professional distance between himself and Team Penske after calling strategy in the race for many years.

“After you have been on your face for three of four years qualifying here, it’s nice to be up again,” Penske said. “We won nine races last year, won the championship and qualified in the back half of the field. Then we came back here this year, and we worked so hard.

“Guys have better ideas than we do. You have to hand it to them. The cars are legal, I’m sure. Rocket (IndyCar technical director Kevin Blanch) and those guys aren’t going to let that happen and we don’t want it to happen.

“We have to figure out what the magic is so we can be up front at the beginning (of the Indy 500).

“You have to take the good with the bad. You have to eat crow when you have to eat crow. I’ve had good days and bad days, but the good news is we are the same team whether we win or whether we lose and that is the most important thing.

“We are committed.”


Penske was still celebrating in Victory Lane when the placard that designates his parking spot (between the Pagoda and IMS media center) was changed from “18” to “19” to signify the number of times he has won the Indianapolis 500.

“He was hoping to get to 19, and it happened,” Penske’s son, Greg, who is the Vice Chairman of the Penske Corporation told NBC Sports. “It was special for our whole team, our family, and our 70,000-plus team members around the world. And our partners. Shell, in its first race to win with renewable fuel and it happened to be their car. They have been such a great partner over the years.

“That was so exciting to see that all come together as one team.

“It’s always a great feeling to wake up and say, ‘Man, we did this as a team, and we did this together.’

“Now, we move on to Detroit and move forward. Bud Denker and the team, it will be exciting over there, too.”

On Monday night, Penske attended the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis. About 565 miles away, Penske’s NASCAR Cup Series team was competing in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I watched it until I had to go to the banquet,” Penske said Thursday morning in Detroit. “Then I had my iPhone sitting on the table there.

“With 50 laps to go, I didn’t know who to watch or what to watch while I was at the (Indianapolis 500) banquet.”

One of Penske’s NASCAR drivers, Ryan Blaney, went on to win the Coca-Cola 600.

It was yet another first for Penske – the first time he won the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year. The only reason it wasn’t in the same day is because the NASCAR race had been rained out and rescheduled for the following day.

The accomplishment, however, remains impressive.

“That’s what we are here for, to set goals for other people to try to achieve,” Penske said. “The 19th win at Indianapolis was long overdue when you think about the past. It was a great race. It could have been anybody’s race.

“We were able to execute at the right time.”

Penske enjoyed more success in 24 hours than most team owners or businessmen would experience in a season, or even in a career.

But Penske immediately switched his focus to this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. The NTT IndyCar Series race is the first time this event has been contested on the streets of downtown Detroit since 1991 and is a massive undertaking.

There isn’t anything too big that Roger Penske and his team can’t accomplish, however.

“The good news is we have great weather, and we will be able to showcase the people in the city that don’t normally get a chance to go to the race at Belle Isle in the past can get a chance to come here and see what is going on,” Penske said Thursday. “The economic benefit for the city is going to be terrific.

“Mike Montri, Bud Denker and Chevrolet and the whole team, what they have put together here is an amazing job. Knowing what it takes to start fresh in a city on the city streets is amazing.”

Moving the race from Belle Isle, its home since 1992, back to the streets of Detroit is a massive undertaking, but Penske said it was time to leave the Island.

“We had a lot of noise from people because we were taking Belle Isle, a place where a lot of constituents in Detroit have weddings and things like that,” Penske said. “We cleaned up the island.

“We are going to make this a big event by coming to downtown Detroit. With the support of GM and ourselves, it was a home run.

“Last week, when the mayor of Detroit and the city council took down the 25 mph street signs and put up 200 mph, that was the day when I knew that we had made it.”

Win the Indianapolis 500 win on Sunday, the Coca-Cola 600 victory on Monday and then turning downtown Detroit into a street course and stage the race this weekend, it would be easy to expect Penske to take a break afterward.

Not so.

He will be off to Le Mans for the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans Sports Car race June 10-11 with Porsche Penske Motorsport aiming for an overall victory with its 963 hybrid prototype.

“We want to win Le Mans, that is what we would like to do,” Penske said. “We have three good cars. It’s going to be competitive. The Balance of Performance, we’ll see how that works. They made some changes, but right now, I’m sure the Toyotas have the edge.

“Just to go there and compete this first year with Porsche is something we have wanted to do for a long time. It’s a quality brand, a long-term contract so we can build on it this year.”

Penske and his son Greg are constantly looking forward, instead of taking too much time to celebrate their successes.

Greg Penske with Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

But both men realize what a huge success last week’s Indianapolis 500 was from both a competitive and business standpoint.

“After being stewards of the place here and all the hard work that everyone has put in and the team, what they have done to get back to winning, it was exciting,” Greg Penske told NBC Sports. “We had a lot of competition. Probably the best competition we’ve ever had to race against.

“It was exciting. To be up there and see the move Josef made and how they raced. It was quite a finish for the fans and for everybody.

“Great news. No one left. It was nice to see everyone staying and they wanted to see a great finish. That was exciting.

“It was exciting for everybody.”


The massive crowd of 330,000 fans was the largest to watch the Indianapolis 500 since 350,000 fans attended the sold-out 100th running in 2016.

It serves as proof of what can be done when people such as Penske and his staff get out and promote the event.

“The Indy 500 has always been a spectacular event,” Greg Penske said. “People want to come. It’s Americana. It’s amazing when you take a look at it. The people that came here from 50 different countries and all around the world.

“There is nothing like it. To get this many people to come in, but it’s still one guest at a time. That is something that is really important to us. Every experience is a good one. We have to keep working on that. I’m sure there will be opportunities for us to execute and get even better.”

The day after the Indianapolis 500, Roger Penske spoke to a small group of reporters during the annual Indianapolis 500 victory photo shoot at the Yard of Bricks.

He emphasized it wasn’t just the size of the crowd, it was also the changing face of those in attendance.

“That was some crowd,” he said. “And it was real.

“Owning the track is something we have done over the years. When (former IMS owner) Tony George came, I didn’t realize when I said yes, what I was really signing up for.

“What we signed up for was to make it better and make it a place where everybody wants to come and have fun. The demographics, so many kids coming out here with their families.

“I stood out at Turn 3 here earlier in the week and watched those cars go into Turn 3 at 240 miles an hour and to think you can go out there for $45 with your kids and watch it. It costs me more than that to go to a movie in Detroit than to sit out there.

“This is what we have to do. It’s generational. People come here. They want to keep their tickets. If we can make it fun and exciting as it was yesterday at the end, not many people left. It was amazing that not many people left.”

Roger Penske with his wife, Kathy, at the Indy 500 awards ceremony (Bruce Martin Photo)

Penske is involved in all aspects of his business. He revealed that he used helicopters to take overhead shots of the crowd before and after the race to help improve crowd control in future Indianapolis 500s.

“We had a helicopter every half hour from 7:30 a.m. on taking pictures so we could sit down as a team and look exactly how the place filled up and how it was at closing,” Penske explained. “We can look at where we had pinch points. That’s the most important thing, to make it easier to get in and easier to get out.

“Over in the Snake Pit, there are some things we can do where people can sit on the mounds.

“We had two screens on the back straightaway that were temporary. I want to put a big screen on the back of the grandstands coming off Turn 4 – a big one – so that when you are on the viewing mounds, you can see. Those are the things we have to do and that will only make it a better experience and to grow it.

“I don’t want to take any credit for filling it up. What we are doing is trying to take a product that took 106 years to build into what it is. All we are trying to do is sustain it and bring it up to the current standards from the standpoint of expectations. Whether it’s you as a family or kid, it’s whatever you have.

“That’s how we run our business.

“No risk, no reward. It was great.”

Penske has taken plenty of risks during his career, but he is calculated with every move that he takes when guiding his race team, or his business empire.

That is why he is able to enjoy the tremendous rewards that come with his success.

“Every victory for us and for the team and for my father, what he has been able to build over the years, it is exciting for all of us,” Greg Penske admitted. “He feels the same way.

“Being on top of the podium, as we all know, never gets old. But it takes execution, and it takes hard work.

“The teams here and how they commit to be here and make sure we are successful; I’ve never seen it so competition. Think about qualifying being 14 inches over 10 miles. That’s a pretty close margin.

“It’s always exciting. For him to continue to drive and to work the way he does is pretty amazing.

“I’ve had a front row seat for that and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500