Roger Penske’s checklist is nearly complete. The most successful team owner in auto racing history checked another one off the list with a victory in Sunday’s famed Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama in New South Wales, Australia.
The 82-year-old team owner’s two-driver entry of Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat won the Bathurst 1000 on the same day Penske’s No. 6 Acura Team Penske entry won the WeatherTech SportsCar championship in the DPi category in the Motul Petit Le Mans.
Although the Bathurst 1000 was run on Sunday, because of the International Date Line, it started with two hours remaining in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Michelin Speedway at Road Atlanta. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron are the championship drivers for Acura Team Penske.
This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, was the team’s third driver this weekend at Michelin Speedway.
Penske attended the Bathurst 1000 with his DJR Team Penske operation and saw McLaughlin and Premat win the famed endurance race in a single-lap dash. This came after Andre Haimgartner crashed his Nissan with three laps to go to bring out the eighth and final caution period.
The 26-year-old McLaughlin, who also won the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship, drove his Ford Mustang to a 0.68-second victory over Shane van Gisbergen’s Holden Commodore.
“It’s one off our bucket list now,” Penske said. “What a champion.
“He’s got the momentum within the team, and he’s lifted the whole place up. I’ve said it a lot this week, he reminds me of Rick Mears, who won the Indy 500 four times. He could always lift the team.”
Penske’s checklist is quite impressive. His cars have won the Indianapolis 500 a record 18 times, including Pagenaud’s win on May 26. Team Penske also has a record 16 IndyCar “National Championships,” won the 2012 NASCAR Cup Championship with Brad Keselowski and the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Championship with Joey Logano. Penske drivers also have two Daytona 500 wins with Ryan Newman in 2008 and Logano in 2015.
Penske’s cars and drivers have won more than 500 races counting all series the team has competed in since its inception in 1966. Those include such series as Formula One, Can-Am and Trans-Am in addition to IndyCar, NASCAR, ALMS, IMSA and Virgin Australia SuperCars.
It was McLaughlin’s first Bathurst 1000 win.
“I can’t believe I won the bloody Bathurst 1000,” McLaughlin said. “We had such a good car all week. We put so much pressure on all week.”
It’s already been an incredible year for Penske.
Pagenaud won the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26. Josef Newgarden won the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship with four wins and seven podiums (top three finishes) and two poles in a remarkably consistent season. His Acura Team Penske IMSA team won the DPi championship with Montoya and Cameron and all three of his NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series drivers including Keselowski, Logano and Ryan Blaney remain in contention for the 2019 NASCAR Cup title.
It was also the first Bathurst 1000 victory in 25 years for team co-owner Dick Johnson of Australia.
Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously
No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.
For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.
Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.
Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.
“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”
The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).
With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.
The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.
“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”
There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.
The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.
“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”
He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.
Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”
Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.
It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.
“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.
“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”
If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.
“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.
“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”