INDYCAR Photo by Walt Kuhn
INDYCAR Photo by Walter Kuhn

After thrilling Indy 500, it’s off to Detroit for doubleheader

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MOORESVILLE, North Carolina – Since winning a spectacular 103rdIndianapolis 500, Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske has had a busy week that included Monday night’s Victory Awards Celebration in Indianapolis and a trip to New York on Tuesday for a full day of media appearances.

That schedule may be light compared to what the teams have had to do.

It’s another grueling week for Team Penske and the other teams that compete regularly in the NTT IndyCar Series. After three full weeks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began with practice and qualifications for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 10 and the race on May 11, followed by a full week of practice and qualifications for the 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Race week was last week culminating with Pagenaud’s thrilling battle with Alexander Rossi in the final 13 laps of the 103rdIndy 500 on Sunday, May 26.

All but three of the full-time teams in the NTT IndyCar Series are based in Indianapolis. Carlin is based in Boca Raton, Florida, Dale Coyne Racing is in Plainfield, Illinois and Team Penske is in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Pagenaud’s winning crew on the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet were honored at Monday night’s Victory Awards Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Afterwards, they boarded the team’s charter jet, known as “Air Penske” and flew to Statesville Airport in nearby Statesville, North Carolina, arriving very late Monday night.

From there, it was back to work at the race shop in Mooresville early Tuesday morning to continue preparations on the car that will race on Detroit’s Belle Isle street course in this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

It’s not just one race this weekend, it’s a doubleheader with full races on both Saturday and Sunday.

Following that event, it’s a short week because the teams turn over their street course setup for oval configuration and head to Texas Motor Speedway for a Saturday night race on June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in the DXC Technology 600.

That means no rest for the weary warriors of IndyCar.

For Team Penske chief mechanic Trevor Lacasse, it’s his second Indy 500 win as a crewmember, but it’s his first in the lead role on the crew of the No. 22 Chevrolet. He was part of the winning crew when Juan Pablo Montoya won the 99thIndianapolis 500 in 2015.

Now, it’s off to Detroit.

“We’re going to try to get Roger Penske some more wins at his race this weekend in Detroit,” Lacasse told NBC Sports.com. “We flew home after the Victory Banquet Monday night, worked all day Tuesday to get the cars ready for Detroit, had a bit of a rest on Wednesday, then we leave for Detroit on Thursday to start setting up for Friday’s practice.”

Because Pagenaud’s No. 22 Dallara/Chevrolet won the 103rdIndianapolis 500, it is now taken out of the rotation. Team owner Roger Penske always puts the winning Indy 500 car aside, where it will be refurbished and become a “museum piece.”

Penske has 18 “museum pieces” for his 18 Indianapolis 500 victory, far and away more than any other team.

“The good news is we get to retire a car, but the bad thing is we have lost a car in the rotation,” Kyle Moyer, Team Penske General Manager, IndyCar, told NBC Sports.com. “We’ll have to move Helio Castroneves’ car into the rotation for Simon to get ready for Texas.”

The car that is being retired was one of Pagenaud’s cars from his 2016 season. It was put into the rotation in 2013 and was number 042.

“It’s been around for a while and has won a lot of races,” Moyer said.

For the rest of the cars in the Indy 500 in the Team Penske stable, the equipment beat the team back to the shop in Mooresville, North Carolina.

“All of Team Penske’s cars besides Simon’s went back to North Carolina on Sunday night after the race,” Lacasse explained. “We got some help from our Sports Car guys and the rest of the crew to get the cars turned around for Detroit.

“That’s the great thing about this team, everybody pitches in and helps each other. On Sunday, we might show up with a different shirt on, but it’s all one team. We have three cars identically built and it’s a team effort.”

The cars and parts left Indianapolis for Mooresville, North Carolina Sunday night. On Monday, the computers and office equipment in the Gasoline Alley garages – Team Penske’s home away from home the past three weeks – were loaded up and carted off.

“We have a group of guys that flew home Monday morning to help get things turned around, while the rest of us got to stay for the banquet,” Lacasse said. “We flew home and were all at work bright and early Tuesday morning.

“We’re in business to win races. As Roger Penske said when we went out to ‘Kiss the Bricks,’ 18 wins in the Indy 500 is pretty good, but he has 20 wins circled in his book.

“Now that, would be pretty cool.”

Moyer is the general manager, IndyCar, at Team Penske. He told NBC Sports.com that the team’s street and road course cars for Detroit were actually prepared last week, to give them a head start on the back-to-back events on the same weekend.

“Having our Sports Car team come in on Memorial Day was a bonus for us because it helps out everybody there,” Moyer said. “Everything has to be loaded and off to Detroit.

“The big turnaround is after Detroit. Then, you have only two days to get ready for that one and you are flipping cars from street course to oval.”

How does an IndyCar team keep the crew fresh during such a demanding part of the schedule?

“The good thing is everybody knows the situation,” Moyer said. “We had Wednesday off and that was really good for the guys. Detroit is two races that go by quickly, then it’s off to Texas.

“Then, we’ll have some time off. After Elkhart Lake, we get a two-week break and I can’t remember the last time we’ve had two weeks off in the season in IndyCar.”

For team owner Roger Penske, it was Indy 500 win No. 18. For Lacasse, it’s Indy 500 win No. 2. For Moyer, it was Indy 500 win No. 8 including one win with Galles Racing in 1992, one with Barry Green in 1995, Indy 500 wins in 2005, 2007 and 2014 with Andretti Autosport and Team Penske Indy 500 wins in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

“I still have two more fingers I can put a ring on,” Moyer said. “We’ll keep working on it.”

Timekeepers: What winning a watch at Daytona means to a driver

Courtesy of IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Some gift them to family and friends. Some keep them for their children. Some put them in safekeeping.

Others wear them as a daily reminder of perhaps their greatest accomplishment in auto racing.

It’s the steel and yellow gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona (with a white dial) that has become synonymous with victory in the 24-hour race that opens the IMSA season.

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“Daytona is about one thing and one thing only: It’s just the watch,” said Bryan Sellers, the 2018 GTD Series champion who still is seeking his first Rolex 24 at Daytona victory after 13 starts. “You grow up in sports car racing knowing that is the one trophy you have to win before you walk away. You want to wear that watch to Daytona the next year, so that everyone knows you won it, or you want to wear it to the year-end banquet so people know you have won one.

Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Scott Dixon with their watches after their 2015 Rolex 24 win (Jerry Markland/Getty Images).

“That is a race that when you win it, your name is forever etched in history. There is something special about it. Everybody wants the watch. That’s all that matters.”

Since 1992, every driver on a class-winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (and the race’s grand marshal) has received the watch, whose retail price starts at more than $10,000. Last year, there were 16 watches awarded to the winners at Daytona International Speedway.

Every winner has a story of what the watch means, and every driver still trying to win their first has a story of what they’d do with it.

Here’s a sampling of what the watch means to those racing in the 58th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


A.J. Allmendinger (2012 Daytona Prototype overall winner): “Yeah, I always bring it with me to the Rolex as a good luck charm to show me like, ‘Hey, we’ve gotten one before, we can still go do this again.’ For the most part, I don’t wear it, I keep it in a drawer that I know where it is at all times. If I’m feeling a little down on myself about my driving at times, I may have put it back on just to show like ‘Hey, you can get it one when it’s time,’ but I don’t wear it a lot, I wear it on special occasions and always bring it out just to show that you know it’s inspiration. I’d like another one for my other arm. Technically, I have to get another one for my dad because I promised him the first one and once I won it I was like, ‘No, sorry Dad, this one’s mine,’ but it’s there. It’ll always be in a drawer for sure.”

Townsend Bell (2014 GTD): “We lost the race in 2014 on a penalty, and the penalty was reversed two hours after the race. So we won the race and I won a watch. And then four years later, my watch was stolen when my house was burglarized. So just for one watch and one win, I’ve had a roller coaster ride of emotions just to this point, and I really look at it like I’m level set back to nothing, and I’ve got to go earn and win one again and having lost one through theft it makes me just as hungry as ever to go make it happen. … When I first won the watch, I brought it home to California, and I remember showing it to my oldest son Jackson at the time, and it’s one of the few things I’ve done in racing where he’s looked at something or held something, and I can tell he was proud and thought it was pretty cool. As a dad, that’s a great feeling.”

Andy Lally (2001Rolex SRPII, 2009-2011-2012 Rolex GT, 2016 GTD): “I actually have eight because I got three championships and back then they used to give you one for the championship. The first one is here and the other seven are gifted to people that have helped me out through the years. I gave my mom, my dad, my stepdad, my little sister, Mike Johnson, who was the car owner and the guy that put me in my first Daytona that helped me win the first one. My old soccer coach and the first guy to sponsor me in a car. He pulled me out of go karts and put me in my first race car. Those people have my other seven watches. I want to win more to give back. I love that moment because I give it to people who appreciate what this race is about and appreciate the Rolex brand and appreciate what that means, what that signifies, what that Rolex Daytona is and it’s special to me and I know it’s special to them.”

Joao Barbosa (2010 Daytona Prototype overall, 2014 Prototype overall, 2018 Prototype overall): “I’m planning to donate a couple of them when my kids grow up and probably when they have their own kids so it goes by generations. I have two kids so someday they will have their own kids, and it might be a good gift to give them when they get to that point.”

Renger van der Zande (2019 DPI overall): “I have a son, he’s 1 year and 2 months. So, if he behaves for 18 years and he’s responsible, he might get a Rolex from me. So I’ll keep it safe for then.”

Jeff Gordon, Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli, and Jordan Taylor, show off their Rolex watches in victory lane after winning the 24 Hours at Daytona in 2017 (Brian Cleary/Getty Images).

Ricky Taylor (2017 Prototype overall): “So when I won the Rolex in 2017, I never took it out of the box. I would leave it in the box and I would eat breakfast with it every day, I’d look at it, and it didn’t seem real. So I’d look at it and it would be there, we’d eat breakfast together, and then I’d put it away. That went on for about two, three weeks, and then my dad told me that we had a sponsor dinner, and everyone was wearing their watches, so I had to wear it. So, besides that one time that I wore it to the sponsor dinner, it’s never come out of the box. It hides in my office, and I want it just to stay exactly how it was the day that we won.”

Oliver Gavin (2016 GTLM): “My Rolex is now at home in a safe. I’ve gotten it out of the box once and showed my family. It was kind of like, ‘OK, I’m going to put this away for safekeeping. It’s now still there, in the safe. I’ve got relics from the Sebring 12 Hours in 2013. I want one more, then I’ve got one for all my children. That’s my goal.”

Ryan Briscoe (2015 GTLM, 2018 GTLM): “The first one was absolutely mine and I don’t wear a watch much, I’ve got a beautiful watch box at home. My dad gave me this rotating watch box so it keeps it going and so forth. My second one, I wanted to give to my wife. I had it sized for her. It’s a gold one with a white face and really looks good. So on special occasions, we will put our Daytonas on and go out.”

Sebastien Bourdais, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa celebrate with their watches after the 2014 Rolex 24 (courtesy of IMSA).

Patrick Pilet (2014 GTLM): “My wife she told me if I win a second one, she wants to get it so now I have a lot of pressure. I’m always proud to wear the watch and to show what is on the back of the watch with the Rolex winner is something really unique.”

Nick Tandy (2014 GTLM): “The watch is a trophy you can’t buy. You have to win it. It’s obviously symbolic of the race. A bit like the trophies at Le Mans. You can only get these particular trophies at Le Mans. So, if in years to come in time you can look back and show your grandchildren this particular trophy that happens to be a Rolex, and you can say you had to win this, no one can go out there and buy these sort of things- it’s something you have to work for.”

Kamui Kobayashi (2019 DPI overall): “I would not mind having a second one (laughs). This is why you always want to win these big races. The challenge of this big race, everyone wants this big watch. The watch is a special present. Everyone says it looks cool, but when you turn it around and it says Daytona winner, that is something even more special. To look at that, it is just crazy.”

Colin Braun (2014 Prototype challenge winner): “I have two of them. They’re both in my safe at home. I won them, and I just felt like, ‘Man, these are so special to me.’ I want to be able to take them out, look at them and put them back in my safe. I feel like if I wore them, I’d worry about scratching them, losing them. They’re just so special. When I won a second one, I would wear that watch because it would kind of be an everyday watch. I sort of fell back on that and said, ‘Man, this is special, too. I’m putting this in the safe.’ I don’t want anything to happen to it so if we can win a third here I’ll say that I’ll wear it, and hopefully, I really do.”

Simon Pagenaud (2019 Indianapolis 500 winner; winless in five Rolex 24 starts): “Racing is also about the trophies and the jewelry that you get. I think it’s ends up being what you’ve done in your career and when you look at your rings and your watches and your trophies that you’ve won throughout the years, you remember racing moments, passing, actions at the race track, drama and you’ve got all these memories going through your mind. To me, it’s everything. It’s what my life is — its racing–  so obviously if I could get the watch that would be a very special gift.”

Alexander Rossi (2016 Indianapolis 500 winner; winless in two Rolex 24 starts): “I have (an Indy 500 ring), a watch would be great. I don’t know if there’s a race that gives out a necklace if you win but if there is, that would probably be the next on my list.”

Helio Castroneves (three-time Indianapolis 500 winner; winless in four Rolex 24 starts): “I think the jewelry combination would be perfect. Ring (from the Indy 500) and watch together. It would just complete one of the goals that I want. You’re talking about Daytona 24 Hours, and the Rolex would be an incredible asset to have right here (points at wrist).”

Courtesy of IMSA