Pagenaud, Penske receive Baby Borgs – with a twist

First, Simon Pagenaud’s dog Norman became the IndyCar paddock’s first four-legged social media star. Then he joined his owner on the yard of bricks after Pagenaud won this year’s Indy 500. And now, he has become the first dog to become immortalized on a Baby Borg.

Pagenaud and team owner Roger Penske collected their Baby Borgs in a ceremony at Team Penske’s headquarters in Mooresville, NC on Monday, and for the first time in history, Pagenaud’s has two faces on it; his Jack Russell’s portrait having been immortalized in silver alongside that of his owner.

The likeness ­­– the first non-human one created by sculptor William Behrends – was created via the same process as the traditional portraits.

“Seeing my face on the trophy was a unique experience of gratefulness and pride,” said Pagenaud. “Borg Warner has been such an amazing partner in building traditions around the Indianapolis 500. Because of these traditions and the fact that this trophy is the most valuable trophy in the world, it continues to build on the reputation of the fastest race in the world. I am mesmerized to see my face next to my models and heroes. Being part of the 500 club – and thanks to Borg Warner, having an engraved proof of that – will remain through time is very special. It is the only race and trophy in the world which allows you to travel through time like an artist may have done it with his art.”

In addition to presenting Pagenaud with his trophy, Borg Warner made a $20,000 donation in Pagenaud’s name to IndyHumane – The Human Society of Indianapolis.

While this is Pagenaud’s first Baby Borg, it is a record 18th for Penske, which has an unrivaled record of Indianapolis wins in five consecutive decades stretching back to its first in 1972.

Alonso prioritizing Indy over F1 return in 2020

Fernando Alonso is eyeing another Indy 500 attempt and said while visiting the Italian Grand Prix he sees 2021 as more likely for a return to Formula 1.

The double world champion retired from F1 at the end of last season to pursue other racing interests, completing the World Endurance Championship season — and winning the title — alongside a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory and a failed McLaren attempt to qualify at Indianapolis. McLaren returning to IndyCar in partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson next year has his immediate attention; Alonso said he “always” has talks within F1 but is more interested in a return in 2021.

“I think first I need to figure out a couple of different challenges outside of F1, like the Indy 500 and some other stuff, that I need to complete,” Alonso told Sky Sports, discussing his plans for next season.

“2021, with the new regulations — I think (there) is a good mix where we can find a different kind of Formula 1 to what we find now. The reasons why I left F1 last year are still present now — the domination of (one) team and the races a little bit too predictable; but 2021 there will be some changes and maybe there is an opportunity there.”

Alonso is at Monza as a guest of McLaren, where he retains an ambassadorial role. The Spaniard admitted he’d rather be in the car this weekend than trackside observing.

“It would be nice. When you are at a circuit and you are not driving it feels weird. You just see cars going around. But this is a year off for me, even if I am doing the endurance at the beginning of the year and doing the testing for a possible Dakar. I’m not on the couch at home, but I am still a little bit away from Formula 1 this year. It’s a very intense life, this.”

Pagenaud’s Borg-Warner Trophy likeness unveiled in France

Simon Pagenaud’s likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy was unveiled in Paris today, marking the first time ever that the Indianapolis 500 winner’s portrait has been revealed outside of the United States.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner’s face is the 106th to be permanently affixed to the trophy.

“The Borg-Warner Trophy is one of the greatest traditions in all of motorsports and represents the pinnacle of performance for open-wheel racing. It is our honor to unveil Simon’s image today,” said Fred Lissalde, President and CEO, BorgWarner Inc.

“Simon has earned his right amongst an elite group of motorsports athletes. On behalf of BorgWarner and our 30,000 employees, congratulations to Simon for this outstanding achievement of dedication and perseverance.”

The finished portrait is the culmination of a process that began the day after Pagenaud’s win, when sculptor William Behrends took a 360-degree series of headshots of the Frenchman. This was followed by an in-studio session, during which Pagenaud posed while Behrends created a full-scale clay model of his face.

This was used as a 3D reference for the creation of the smaller clay image, which was perfected in polysulfide rubber and plaster, among a series of other processes, to refine the face. Eventually, the image was cast in wax, cleaned up and sent to a jeweler to transform the image from wax to sterling silver. Once that is complete, Behrends polished, buffed and refined the image before affixing it to the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“For a race car driver, having your likeness live on forever is like a writer when they publish a book,” said Pagenaud. “It’s your book. It’s going to stay. That is why this race is so important. Your image, the way you looked when you won, is going to stay forever on that legendary trophy. It’s very special.”

Full-time McLaren IndyCar entry back on the table – Brown

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says a full-time entry into next year’s IndyCar series is now more likely than a one-off at Indianapolis.

Following his team’s failure to qualify for this year’s Indy 500 (pictured), Brown told RACER he felt it could be more sensible to only focus on the same race in 2020 in order to ensure it learns from its mistakes. At the time, Brown described it as “highly unlikely” there would be a full-time entry, but that stance has now changed as he still evaluates McLaren’s future in the United States.

“That’s still very much a work in progress,” Brown said at the German Grand Prix. “We learned a lot on what not to do this year in Indy. That was a rude awakening. I made a lot of mistakes in how I put that together. The reasons we want to go to Indy remain. That doesn’t change.

“I think when you have a failure you need to learn from it and grow. I think the easy thing is to not get back on the horse, but you can’t do that in life. I think you’ve got to dust yourself off and get back on the horse. So that is under active review.

“We would do it differently — needless to say — than we did it this year. And if we did it I’d be more inclined to look to do it on a full-time basis than a one-off. I think having tried that, that’s a pretty tall order. Or certainly to go at it by yourself I think is too tall an order.”

Brown (left) with Alonso at Indy. Image by Michael Levitt/LAT.

Fernando Alonso drove for McLaren at Indianapolis this year and retains an association with the team, but has previously stated he doesn’t want to do a full season of IndyCar. Brown believes that attitude could also change given the lack of confirmed drives Alonso currently has, and says he would be his first pick to lead such a project.

“I think on Fernando, we wanted him to test our Formula 1 car to validate everything that he was giving us feedback on last year. So the only statement we made was we weren’t going to have him test our Formula 1 car anymore and then that got picked up in the wrong way because our relationship is very much intact commercially, contractually — nothing’s changed.

“I’d love to have him involved in an IndyCar program if we were to do it and he wants to do it. He’s undecided on what he wants to do next year. I think this is the first time in 17 or 18 years he doesn’t have a calendar filled with racing next year, so I think he needs to take the summer break to reconcile in his own mind what he wants to do. But if we were to go IndyCar racing and he wanted to do it, of course he would be top of our list.

“We don’t want to shy away from spotlight. I think Fernando brings a tremendous amount of focus but I think as McLaren so do we. So that doesn’t really factor into our thinking of, ‘Let’s take a driver that doesn’t come with as much pressure.’ If we enter IndyCar it’s going to be to win races; ether that’s with Fernando or another driver. So I don’t think it changes those dynamics.”


PRUETT: Rare routs to remember

Alexander Rossi’s disappearance into the Kettle Moraine Valley on Sunday was a fine reminder of something we rarely get to see.

In the era of spec cars, spec tires, and tightly controlled engine regulations, the Californian’s vanishing act was especially remarkable as he left the rest of the Dallara DW12 drivers a full 28.4 seconds behind at the finish line.

That fact that the 27-year-old has done it twice in one season, first blitzing the field by 20.2 seconds on the way to an April victory in Long Beach, should be a cause for outright concern by those who hope to prevent the Andretti Autosport driver from earning his first IndyCar championship.

Among the rarest feats in IndyCar, Rossi’s utter dominance reminded me of a few other instances where, as the old Willie Nelson song goes, it was time to ‘Turn out the lights…the party’s over…’

2000 Indianapolis 500

Juan Pablo Montoya owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the moment he turned his first lap during Rookie Orientation.

Having stood and observed from the first pit stall at IMS while serving as an assistant engineer with another rookie, I watched JPM ignore the instructions he was given to ease his way around the Speedway on his first outing. The mercurial pilot rowed through the gears leaving pit lane, kept his foot buried in the throttle rounding Turn 4 and blasted into Turn 1 — on cold tires, no less — and lifted just as he was turning in at an ungodly rate of speed.

The tail of his Chip Ganassi Racing GForce-Oldsmobile slewed sideways, of course, because that’s what happens when you treat your maiden lap at Indy like it’s the start of a qualifying run, after rocketing down front straight on Lap 1, then lift, and then play catch-the-slide as the car drifts towards the apex. Completely unfazed — and I can picture the mischievous Colombian (pictured at top clowning with photographers in victory lane) laughing at the Indy 500 legends who told him to be wary of Turn 1 — he mashed the throttle to haul the car out of the corner and kept going until he was angrily waved into the pits, where he was asked to atone for his sins.

What followed when qualifying got under way was foretold at ROP: Montoya watched as the Menards Racing team and Greg Ray went mad trying to take pole position away, and when they succeeded, he had the look of someone who couldn’t understand why they made the effort.

Leading 167 of 200 laps, Montoya toyed with the field of 33.

His official margin of victory was a modest 7.1 seconds over Buddy Lazier, but if you were there that day (my driver, Davey Hamilton, was out of contention early when we had battery problems, so I had time to watch and marvel at JPM’s drive while we cruised around 12 laps down), it could have been 20 seconds, or two laps, if he was motivated to drive at 100 percent the entire time. Classic Montoya.

1988 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Al Unser Jr. would open his account as ‘King of the Beach’ by winning the first of four consecutive visits to the Southern California street course in stunning fashion. Driving the unloved March 88C chassis during a year where Lola’s T88/00 and Penske’s PC17s were notably faster, Little Al’s Chevy-powered Galles Racing entry, dressed in the sublime colors of Valvoline, exploited the one advantage the British car had to offer. Carrying a downforce and drag penalty that made the March a liability on superspeedways, the extra aerodynamic assistance made Long Beach and the other street races at Toronto, Meadowlands, and Tamiami Park a playground for the 88C.Little Al would claim four wins in 1988 — all on street courses — and Long Beach was a prime indicator of what he could achieve. Qualifying fourth, Mario Andretti, then Unser Jr., and Michael Andretti swept past polesitter Danny Sullivan into Turn 1, and by the end of the lap, the Galles driver took the lead from Mario entering the Turn 11 hairpin.

Sneaking away at a half-second per lap, Little Al put the Andrettis deep in his rearview mirrors by the first pit stop. A jammed wheel nut at the rear cost the No. 3 Galles Chevy the lead, and in time, with Mario delayed by a flat tire, Little Al had Sullivan and Emerson Fittipaldi to chase down from third. An eight-second deficit to Sullivan on Lap 36 was cut to less than two seconds by Lap 41. Fittipaldi was dispatched with ease, and Sullivan, in the amazing PC17-Chevy, admitted, “I couldn’t hold him. He was really hooked up.”

Once Lap 50 arrived, just past the halfway mark, Unser Jr. was leading by eight seconds, and when he left the pits the second time a short while later, he held 26 seconds over the field. By the end of the 95th and final lap, Little Al crossed the finish line with a lap and a half lead over second-place Bobby Rahal. Sure, there was some adversity along the way that struck Sullivan and the Andrettis which helped the future two-time Indy 500 winner mollywhop his rivals, but nobody was going to catch Little Al that day in the LBGP.

1987 Living Well/Provimi 200 at Road America

The event carrying the names of Arie Luyendyk’s primary sponsors went well for the Dutchman. His No. 71 Hemelgarn Racing March 87C-Cosworth improved from 12th on the grid to fourth after 50 hard-fought laps. Unfortunately, he, along with the 24 other drivers who weren’t named Mario Andretti, finished the race in a different zip code.

The 1969 Indy 500 winner took pole with a lap of 1m52.687s in No. 5 Lola T87/00-Chevy. Second went to Roberto Guerrero in his Granatelli Racing Lola T87/00-Cosworth. At a 1m53.640s lap, or 0.97s slower on a flying lap of the 4.0-mile road course.

“The name of the game is turn-in,” Andretti said after climbing from the pretty Hanna Auto Wash entry fielded by Newman-Haas Racing. “Especially here where there are lots of quick 90-degree turns. If you can get in quick and capture the back end, you’ve got a good lap.”

Mario’s clear-by-a-second pole would set the stage for a comical rout on race day. Setting the blueprint for Rossi in 2019, Andretti led into Turn 1 and was never headed. There was a bit of drama, though, that Rossi managed to escape: A light rain started to fall just as the field pulled away on slick tires for the pace laps.

A driver or two — including Mario’s son Michael — got close to his gearbox in the opening laps, but once he settled in, Andretti turned the race into a showcase for his peerless car control.

“After the last stop, I started to conserve fuel by short shifting. But the fuel light didn’t flicker until the cool-off lap, so maybe I could’ve run harder if I had to.”

Leading Lap 1 through Lap 50, the rain subsided before long and Mario owned an amazing 41.08s lead over Geoff Brabham’s Galles Racing March 87C-Judd when the checkered flag waved.

If winning by over 40 seconds wasn’t enough of a statement, Andretti conceded a rather amazing point in Victory Lane: It could have been bigger.

“After the last stop, I started to conserve fuel by short shifting,” he said. “But the fuel light didn’t flicker until the cool-off lap, so maybe I could’ve run harder if I had to.”

Oh, and there’s one other note to make. Mario raced at Road America with a separated shoulder…

Two weeks prior at the Quaker State 500 on the 2.5-mile Pocono superspeedway, a monster crash on Lap 88 of the race left Andretti in a bad way. His left arm in a sling, he arrived in Wisconsin with a battered wing and lots of high-effort/high-speed corners to navigate in the race.

If Mario’s toughness was ever in question, it was answered while crushing 25 of the finest CART/PPG Indy Car World Series drivers at Elkhart Lake.

“During the final 10 laps the tape on my shoulder came loose,” he said, “and I could feel my (shoulder) bone rattling in the Carousel…”