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General

Construction on Belle Isle for Grand Prix begins today

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With just 52 days remaining before the return of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, work on the infrastructure and facilities at the 2.1-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park street circuit has officially begun.

Several dozen workers were on the island today erecting grandstands and moving massive concrete barriers into place with heavy equipment. Bike riders and joggers navigated around the construction areas.

The event, which was last held on Belle Isle in 2008, will run June 1-3 and will feature the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the Pirelli World Challenge Series and the Firestone Indy Lights Series. The race will be shown on ABC (Channel 7 in Detroit) at 3:30 p.m. June 3.

“It’s quite an experience to watch a vibrant island park like Belle Isle turn into a first-class racing venue before our eyes,” said Bud Denker, event chairman for the race. “The island will be literally changing every day as we prepare for the return of the Grand Prix to the Motor City.”

Back in 2008, British driver Justin Wilson won the race when Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was penalized for blocking tactics.

The event was cancelled in 2009 because of the chronic state of Detroit’s economy. It has been revived through the joint efforts of the city of Detroit, Birmingham motorsports legend Roger Penske, the IndyCar Series and local auto manufacturers and sponsors.

[Source:Freep.com]

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General

Penske welcomes Chevy back to IndyCar with roaring start

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Midway through Sunday’s Izod IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park, crew chief Tim Cindric called driver Will Power to the pits. At the time, Power was fifth. He wasn’t low on fuel and his tires weren’t shot, so the call was firmly strategic. Power eventually found himself leading and winning the race, a consequence of Cindric’s clever and timely decision.

These days, “clever” and “timely” are buzz words for Roger Penske’s IndyCar team, which helped orchestrate the reintroduction of Chevrolet to the series with unforeseen success. Wins in the first two races have Team Penske ahead of its rivals while helping Chevy make amends for an uncomfortable series exit six years ago.

The series has ushered in an era of new engines and chassis with two unpredictable, entertaining races. The adage of “What’s good for Penske is good for IndyCar” has been turned sideways: What’s good for IndyCar is strategy, unpredictability and unusually competitive racing. So far, that’s also been good for Team Penske.

MORE: Timeline of Roger Penske and Chevrolet
STANDINGS: Izod IndyCar Series points leaders

“The saying actually should be ‘What’s good for IndyCar is good for Penske,’ ” said Cindric, also team president. “We will only be successful if the series is successful, and so far this change has been good for everyone.”

When Honda, which in previous years had teamed with Penske’s Ilmor Engineering to supply the IndyCar Series with engines, chose to go in-house to develop and build the new turbocharged V-6 engines, Penske approached General Motors executives Tom Stephens and Mark Reuss about teaming with Ilmor to bring Chevy back to IndyCar. racing.

The result was an engine that appeared to be stout, although the Chevy and Ilmor engineers weren’t certain until the first practice before the March 25 opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.

They did fine. Penske’s Helio Castroneves raced from seventh to victory, signaling an early edge to Penske and Chevy. On Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., Power backed that up.

“Until you get on the track and face everyone, you can’t tell where you’re at,” said Jim Campbell, GM’s vice president of performance vehicles and motor sports. “After the first two races, we’re excited about where we’re at.”

Before Castroneves’ win at St. Petersburg, Chevrolet hadn’t won an IndyCar race since Tomas Scheckter of Panther Racing on June 11, 2005. Chevy left the series in after that season.
Beyond the success of the new Chevy are Penske’s other ventures related to IndyCar racing. His Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, dormant since 2008, will resume this season with Chevrolet as the title sponsor. Last week, Castroneves helped announce plans for a street race in Houston’s Reliant Park in 2013 that will be title-sponsored by Shell, the primary sponsor on Castroneves’ car.
Chevy and Honda have been close in the first two races — Honda-backed Scott Dixon is second in the driver standings after two second-place finishes, and Honda had three of the top five Sunday — but Penske’s Chevys have been just a tick faster.

Power showed that Sunday, doing so in an entertaining race on a track once thought to be adverse to action.

“I think the key to having a good series is having a lot of passing and action,” Power said. “We’re there to put on a show, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We have a new product that’s going well, and we need to keep it going in that direction.”

While the look of the new Dallara chassis bothers some fans, the true test — its performance — is the surprise of the season. The cars sound better and race better, and — thanks to new tire compounds from Firestone that degrade more rapidly — strategy has returned to IndyCar’s road and street races.

“The one thing that was loud and clear at Barber was the architecture of the cars and the work that Firestone has done has developed a much better show,” Cindric said. “Everything makes more sense. There is strategy and passing and unpredictability. … In the best times of IndyCar road and street racing, that’s what we had. Barber showed that you don’t really have to have all different cars and engines. You just have to have the right formula.”

It never hurts, though, to bring fresh players to the game.

For the six seasons while it was the sole engine supplier, Honda lobbied for competition. After the government bailout resuscitated GM, its leaders chose to take a risk and return to a form of racing that itself has been struggling.

“Someone made the commitment that they would invest in the brand,” Penske said. “There’s no question that they’ve not only committed to (IndyCar) from an engine perspective, they’re going to be active in participating in the race in Detroit. The nice thing is from top to bottom within General Motors in North America, motor sports has support.”

Perhaps another adage has been turned sideways: It’s not always true that what’s good for motor sports is good for Detroit. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

[Source: USAToday.com]

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General

Power Claims Second in IZOD IndyCar Series Opener

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 27, 2011) – Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power battled back from a difficult start, that also affected his teammates, to finish second Sunday in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – the 2011 season opener for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The defending champion at the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit, Power started from the pole position but was shuffled back during a mishap on an early restart during the 100-lap race. He fell back to seventh place but battled back to finish second behind Dario Franchitti.

Meanwhile, Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves also saw their cars damaged due to contact at the start of the race, but after making repairs, both drivers returned to action and finished in 18th and 20th place, respectively.

Power’s effort was a solid start to the 2011 season for the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda team, which finished a close second to Franchitti in last season’s championship standings. “I’m just glad to get good points in the first race,” said Power, who won the pole Saturday and produced a victory from the pole last season at St. Pete. After his car was hit from behind early in the race, Power fell back in the field but he recovered to post his ninth podium result in his last 10 road or street course races.

“It was a very interesting start today,” added Power, the series’ defending Mario Andretti Road Course champion. “Dario Franchitti got me fair and square at the beginning. When we had all of the restarts after caution periods, we got hit hard and (the car) went into neutral. We dropped to seventh position but were able to get back up to second again. I was in survival mode after getting hit. I struggled a lot on the black (Firestone tires) today and I was trying to hold (Tony) Kanaan off as he was hounding on me from behind.  It was a good start to the season for Verizon Team Penske.”

Team Penske’s other two entries battled hard to recover from early damage suffered in a first-lap incident that claimed several cars. Briscoe’s No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda suffered suspension damage and lost a portion of its front wing early in the race, and the resulting repairs left Briscoe five laps down to the race leaders. He made up several spots on track before taking the checkered flag in 18th place.

“It was a frustrating day today for the IZOD Team Penske team,” said Briscoe. “It’s a shame because we had one of the quickest cars on the track. The guys made some adjustments to the car last night, and it paid off because we were fastest in the morning warm-up session. Overall, it’s a shame because IZOD has come on board this year, and I wish we could’ve had a better result for them today. It’s not the finish we wanted today but we’ll come back ready to win some races.”

Castroneves’ No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske Dallara/Honda was also involved in the melee in the first turn. The team was forced to the garage area to repair the front left suspension before Castroneves returned to the track 15 laps behind. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion also fought back to salvage a top-20 result.

“Our Guidepoint Systems car was fast today after the first-lap incident – you could see it in our lap times,” Castroneves said.”The guys did an incredible job putting the car back together after the left front suspension damage. The Team Penske guys were amazing. As far as the incident, I’ll have to look and see what happened, but it seems like I locked up the rear on the car. It’s very disappointing, but we never gave up and we know we’ll have better results next race.”

The IZOD IndyCar Series resumes April 9 at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. Team Penske returns as defending champion of the race as Castroneves won in the inaugural event at the challenging road course in 2010.

[Source: Penskeracing.com]

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General

Auto Club Builds On Partnership With Penske In NASCAR Sprint Cup, IndyCar Teams

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Penske Racing and the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) will take their partnership to a new level beginning in 2011.The two organizations today announced a multi-year extension of their sponsorship agreement as the Automobile Club of Southern California and its affiliated clubs will sponsor Penske Racing teams competing in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series.

AAA will sponsor the No. 22 Dodge driven by 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In addition, AAA will also extend its support to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011 as a sponsor of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda piloted by three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves.

“We are excited to broaden our racing affiliation with the Penske organization,” said Thomas V. McKernan, Auto Club CEO. “The extension of our agreement is just one part of our ongoing relationship with Penske which includes a truck rental member discount program and Penske auto dealerships in our vehicle purchasing program. Since starting with Penske Racing in 2008, we’ve experienced good results through our activation programs. Expanding our relationship with the Penske Racing organization to include its outstanding IndyCar team allows us to reach a distinct, diverse fan demographic, and we expect great results there, too.”

Under the new agreement, the Auto Club will be displayed as primary sponsor for the No. 22 Dodge driven by Busch in the March 27 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch will also drive the AAA Dodge at the June 5 race at Kansas Speedway and the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6 as part of the Chase. AAA will also be a co-primary sponsor at two other events during the 2011 season – April 17 at Talladega Superspeedway and July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – and will serve as a major associate sponsor for the balance of the season on the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge.

“The Auto Club has been a great partner with Penske Racing and I’m looking forward to welcoming them to the No. 22 Dodge team next season,” said Busch. “We will work hard to make sure the Auto Club car will be running and finishing at the front.”

Castroneves will compete in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske IndyCar at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17. Castroneves will also drive the No. 3 AAA Team Penske machine at the doubleheader event at Texas Motor Speedway on June 17.

“I am really excited to have the opportunity to drive the AAA car and represent the Auto Club,” said Castroneves. “We’ve won at both Long Beach and Texas in the past so hopefully we can welcome AAA to the team and the series with some victories in 2011.”

The Auto Club’s sponsorship of the Team Penske IndyCar program marks another milestone in the Club’s long racing heritage. The Auto Club was one of the first organizations to sanction open-wheel automobile races in Southern California over a century ago, and AAA was the first organization to sanction the Indianapolis 500.

“We are pleased to extend our agreement with the Auto Club and build on our relationship,” said Roger Penske. “The Auto Club and AAA have been longtime partners with Penske Truck Rental and they have been a terrific sponsor on our NASCAR teams. We look forward to adding to the relationship beginning next season with the No. 22 team and in the IZOD IndyCar Series.”

The enhanced agreement with Penske Racing allows the Auto Club and its affiliated clubs to not only better serve its members, but will also provide an effective, highly-visible additional platform to promote its insurance products. The Auto Club’s sponsorship has also included member and employee benefits and discounts and community outreach.

[Source: PaddockTalk Perspective]

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General

Penske Unveil 2011 Lineup

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The Shell Oil Company and the Penske Corporation have unveiled their IZOD IndyCar Series car line-up for the 2011 season. An agreement between the two companies was signed back in April, and last night it was announced that we will see the #3 car of Helio Castroneves race with Shell V-Power Pennzoil branding at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. As part of the deal the Brazilian’s car will have a new livery of red, yellow and white to represent the colours of the Shell Oil Company.

Castroneves, who has won the Indy 500 three times with Penske Racing, said:

“I am very excited to be working with Shell and Pennzoil this season and I’m proud to have the opportunity to drive the beautiful Shell V-Power-Pennzoil Ultra car in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 representing the No. 1 premium gasoline and Pennzoil’s most advanced motor oil in the U.S. Shell and Pennzoil have such a great history in IndyCar racing and they have certainly had some special moments with Penske Racing at the Indy 500. I hope we can create a little bit more history together this May at Indianapolis!”

The link-up will see Shell and Pennzoil as the official fuel and motor oil supplier to the Penske Corporation, and from next year onwards will see the two working together to offer insights into motor oil and fuel technology.

Outside of IndyCar, Penske’s Kurt Busch will have Shell Pennzoil branding on his #22 car throughout the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Castroneves who grabbed pole at last year’s Indianapolis 500 but finished 9th will be looking for a record equalling fourth Indianapolis 500 victory next May.

[Source: The Checkered Flag]

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