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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.”

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”