Team Penske kicks off 50th anniversary celebration in 2016

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It seems like just yesterday that Roger Penske began building what would become one of the greatest racing empires ever.

Now, 50 years later and following an evolution that began as Roger Penske Racing, transitioned to Penske Racing and eventually to simply Team Penske, the IndyCar and NASCAR legend is throwing a year-long celebration of his organization’s 50-year history.

“We are very proud of all Team Penske has accomplished over the last 50 years,” team owner Roger Penske said in a team media release. “The celebration of our 50th Anniversary is truly a credit to the hard work, preparation and execution of our teams over the years.

“The 2016 season will be a special one in our history as we have the opportunity to reflect back on our heritage while continuing to produce and win at a high level each week on the race track.”

Originally formed in 1966 to compete in sports car and endurance events – it won the 24 Hours of Daytona in its first career start – the organization quickly added IndyCar competition and eventually NASCAR racing.

Along the way over those five decades, Team Penske has amassed a combined 424 wins (including 16 Indianapolis 500 wins and two Daytona 500 victories), 487 poles and 28 national championships. It also has had more than 80 different drivers behind the wheel of a Penske race vehicle.

And something for Gene Haas to shoot for as he debuts his Formula One team in 2016: Team Penske was also the last American team to win a Formula One race (1976, with driver John Watson).

The Penske legacy will be celebrated in several ways, most notably at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

First, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will debut a new display – “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Team Penske” – starting on Jan. 20, during the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“The special exhibit will not only focus on Team Penske’s successful NASCAR program, but will showcase cars spanning multiple racing disciplines from 1966 to the present and will include never before seen artifacts and trophies from the Team Penske archives,” according to a Team Penske media release.

Then in February, another display will debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. It will open 100 days before the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The display will be more open-wheel centric, including cars that will reflect each Team Penske driver’s first win at IMS, along with other vehicles, artifacts and trophies from Penske’s 50 years of racing.

Other highlights of the year-long celebration include:

* Formation and inaugural introductions into the Team Penske Hall of Fame, which will honor current and former drivers and employees who have made significant contributions to the team and its history.

* The Jan. 18 issue of Sports Business Journal will have a special pullout section celebrating Team Penske. In addition, team patriarch Roger Penske will be featured as one of the magazine’s six annual Sports Business Champions.

* There will be a number of media placements featuring historic races, drivers, team members and key moments in Team Penske history. Those placements will include more than 70 interviews with former drivers, employees, sponsors and other influential individuals in the organization’s history to be used in print, online and broadcast media.

* Social media will play a key role in spreading the 50th anniversary message, keying on the hashtag #Penske50. As the year goes by, the team will post a variety of things such as driver biographies, photos, videos and key moments in the organization’s history.

* An extensive line of merchandise commemorating the organization’s 50th anniversary will debut in the next few months and will feature Puma apparel, collectables, novelties and diecasts.

For more information visit www.teampenske.com.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”