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Indy 500 winner surprised to share his Baby Borg with his dog, Norman

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MOORESVILLE, North Carolina – When the wraps came off 103rdIndianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud’s “Baby Borg” Trophy that was presented to him at the Team Penske Breakfast on Monday, he was stunned to see two sculpted faces on the base of his trophy.

One of the faces was Pagenaud’s, an identical image that was unveiled on the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy in France on August 6. The second image belongs to his prized pup, Norman, a Jack Russell Terrier that is a constant companion with Pagenaud and his fiancée Hailey McDermott.

Team owner Roger Penske also received his Indianapolis 500 record-extending 18thBaby Borg Trophy Monday morning and quipped, that for 17 times he “never saw a dog in the winner’s circle.”

The 18thIndianapolis 500 victory for the team will be different, one that will be remembered for Pagenaud’s unbridled enthusiasm and for Norman’s bark after his “father” took a bite out of the Indy 500 field.

“Today, they surprised me with my likeness and Norman’s likeness and that is such a great and incredible gesture from BorgWarner,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports.com. “It’s the first time Will Behrends has sculpted a dog and he did a phenomenal job.

“It’s an incredible gift I will keep forever and remind me of the most incredible day of my life.”

Norman is easily the most famous dog in auto racing and helped celebrate Pagenaud’s Indy 500 win on May 26 in Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s great for Hailey and me to have these kinds of memories because Norman was part of this incredible day in our lives,” Pagenaud said. “It was the most incredible day of our lives and he will be part of our memories forever.

“Indy is special for its traditions and what Borg-Warner did for me today is very, very special.”

It’s been quite a weekend for Pagenaud, who was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since last Thursday attending the NASCAR Brickyard 400. It was the first time he had been back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26.

“Just flying over the Speedway was special because things have changed,” Pagenaud said. “I can’t walk into a restaurant without being recognized now. I get introduced as the 2019 Indy 500 champion.

“It’s great to feel at home. It’s great to feel part of a very restricted club. It’s great to feel relevant in your sport and that you will be remembered. I don’t want to feel pretentious but it’s great to feel like you have done something special in your sport.”

Pagenaud said the response he got over the weekend from the NASCAR community was “phenomenal.”

“Joe Gibbs came over and talked to me and I have always looked at Joe Gibbs as a Super Bowl winner and great NASCAR team owner, with much success,” Pagenaud said. “I had a lot of other drivers that I saw. It’s great to feel part of it as a champion.

“Indianapolis is the capital of racing and the center of racing.

“Now, I’m pretty excited about Laguna Seca coming up with the NTT IndyCar Series championship.”

Pagenaud, the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series Champion, is third in the standings, 42 points behind Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden and one point behind Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi heading into the September 22 double-points season-finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

Monday was also important for Pagenaud because unlike past years when the Baby Borg Trophies were presented at a dinner before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, he got to share this with the team.

“Getting the Baby Borg trophy today was overwhelming in terms of emotion, especially here at the Team Penske employee breakfast,” Pagenaud said. “Five-hundred-and-fifty Team Penske employees were here, enjoying the moment, with me, was even more special.

“Incredible things have happened for me by taking the ‘Daddy Borg’ to France, being able to share that with my home country and educate IndyCar was incredible.

“I don’t think it’s over; it’s just the beginning. It’s phenomenal to see BorgWarner’s support for the Indianapolis 500 winner is outstanding. They keep giving you gifts and making you feel special.”

Pagenaud has posed with the Borg-Warner Trophy in Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the trophy accompanied him to the White House when the team was honored by President Donald Trump on June 10 and most recently went to his native France.

The Borg-Warner Trophy has returned to its permanent home at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The Baby Borg, however, is the one Pagenaud gets to keep.

“That’s another amazing gesture of BorgWarner to allow the winner to have a memory of it,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a beautiful piece and with the base it goes well together. It’s going to be dead center in the middle of all of my other trophies.

“It is the most valuable personally and emotionally and for the dream that I have had since I was a little kid to get to this point is my goal. Like I said this morning, I’m living my dream life.

“I’m going to make sure it has the best spot in the house.”

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994