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 

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”