From the ‘Team that Roger Built’ to the ‘House that Ruth Built’ for Josef Newgarden

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With a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories and a record 16 IndyCar “National Championships” including the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Team Penske has often been referred to as the New York Yankees of IndyCar racing.

Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, Team Penske’s latest IndyCar champion got to experience the history and heritage of the most successful professional sports franchise in the world.

Newgarden’s championship week continued with a trip to Yankee Stadium, where he was guest of fellow NTT IndyCar Series team owner George Michael Steinbrenner, IV. The 22-year-old Steinbrenner is the grandson of legendary Yankees owner, the late George Steinbrenner.

Today, the Yankees are co-owned by young Steinbrenner’s Uncle Hal and his father, Hank.

The stop at Yankee Stadium capped Newgarden’s two-day New York media tour.

Newgarden, a first timer to the ballpark, was able to hold the notched bat Babe Ruth used to swat many of his record-setting 60 home runs in 1927. Newgarden also held a uniform Lou Gehrig wore and saw all 27 of the Yankees’ World Series rings and signed baseballs.

Newgarden, who played the sport growing up in Nashville, Tenn., was in awe of the memorabilia, particularly as it related to Derek Jeter, his favorite Yankee.

“It’s very cool to see how they have immortalized the greats,” Newgarden said. “Through a program called ‘Hands on History’ they let people put on white gloves and physically touch these important pieces of baseball history. It reminded me of the (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) Museum with all the history there. It was awesome.”

Team Penske’s excellence has earned the racing operation a legion of fans, and probably an equal number of people who root against the team. That’s the same as the Yankees in Major League Baseball.

“That’s sports, (and) it should divide people,” Newgarden said. “There should be people who love us, and there should be people who hate us, and if (sports) didn’t have that why would it be interesting?”

“You want to see someone win, and you want to see someone (lose).”

Newgarden’s championship is his second in three years, and his four race wins this season gave him 14 for his career. Only 32 drivers in the sport’s history have more of the latter. He also became the 21st American driver with multiple INDYCAR titles.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)