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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.”

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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