IndyCar/NASCAR Weekend at the Brickyard with Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Roger Penske, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and much more
Show host Bruce Martin has a comprehensive look back at last weekend’s IndyCar NASCAR Weekend at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Pit Pass Indy Presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
Martin has exclusive interviews with Gallagher Grand Prix winner Scott Dixon, the latest news involving NTT IndyCar Series championship leader Alex Palou, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, NASCAR Cup Series champion and this year’s Knoxville Nationals winner Kyle Larson, racing great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. of NBC and much, much more from a busy weekend in Indianapolis for Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee bring you all the action on Pit Pass Indy.
This year’s Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway may be over, so race over to your local Hy-Vee throughout the year.
Hy-Vee -- Where there's a helpful smile in every aisle.
For more INDYCAR coverage, follow Bruce Martin at Twitter at @BruceMartin_500
"Penske" means performance ... and winning
For good reason. Since 1966, Team Penske has won 43 national championships, 17 IndyCar alone. Its 18 Indy 500 victories are a record. And last year, Penske was the first team in history to win both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series championships in the same season. Those are results that are tough to top.
Speakers: Bruce Martin & Scott Dixon & Alex Palou & Pato O’Ward & Barry Wanser & Josef Newgarden & Tim Cindric & Kyle Larson & Roger Penske & Gavin Ward & Dale Earnhardt Jr.
This is Roger Penske, and you're listening to Pit Pass Indy sponsored by Penske Truck Rental.
IndyCar fans, it's time to start your engines. Welcome to Pit Pass Indy, a production of Evergreen Podcasts. I'm your host, Bruce Martin, a journalist who regularly covers the NTT IndyCar Series.
Our goal at Pit Pass Indy is to give racing fans an insider's view of the exciting world of the NTT IndyCar Series in a fast-paced podcast featuring interviews with the biggest names in the sport.
I bring nearly 40 years of experience covering IndyCar and NASCAR, working for such media brands as nbcsports.com, si.com, ESPN Sports Ticker, Sports Illustrated, Autoweek, and Speed Sport.
So, let's drop the green flag on this episode of Pit Pass Indy.
Welcome to this week's edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
We are proud and honored to have both Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee sponsoring Pit Pass Indy. We continue to cover the entire NTT IndyCar Series community and our partners at Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee will help us tell those stories.
This past weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the fourth time the two major racing series in the United States competed at the same venue on the same weekend.
It was the IndyCar/NASCAR Weekend at the Brickyard. Scott Dixon achieved another historic accomplishment extending his record streak of winning at least one race to 19 straight seasons with his 54th career IndyCar win in the August 11th Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Later that day, young Ty Gibbs scored his first ever win in the Pennzoil 150, presented by Advanced Auto Parts NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the 14 turn, 2.439 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway Infield Road Course.
Sunday wrapped up with Michael McDowell, driving to an impressive victory in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard NASCAR Cup Series race.
The front row motor sports driver adds a win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to his 2021 Daytona 500 victory. It also puts McDowell into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for this season.
The weekend kicked off with Hunter McElrea racing to his first Indy NXT by Firestone victory of the season Friday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course leading all 35 laps from the pole.
Pit Pass Indy wants to congratulate all the winners from this year's IndyCar and NASCAR weekend at the Brickyard. There are many great storylines to cover in this episode of Pit Pass Indy, including my exclusive interview with Scott Dixon after he scored his first victory of the season in the Gallagher Grand Prix.
I caught up with Dixon in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center after his big win, just as the NASCAR Xfinity Series race was about to begin for this exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy.
Joining us now, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee, is the winner of the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's Scott Dixon, who not only set a record for 319 consecutive IndyCar starts, but he got his 54th career victory with it.
I guess in a lot of ways, that's a great way to celebrate a record extending consecutive start streak with a victory. So, just how cool was it to do that?
Amazing. I think if you can do it that way, that's definitely the way you want to do it. So, very proud of everyone involved.
I guess it started with disappointment. We had such a great start. We got spun turn seven. I think I'd made up maybe five or six spots and we're kind of eighth or ninth, and then spun out.
But get the credit now. Let's say that we had a spin and win in Indy, which is pretty cool, even though it was on the road course.
But yeah, I think the significance of 19 consecutive seasons with a win, but then also, the 319th race record breaking Ironman one off my good friend TK is pretty special as well. And to do that with a win. If you could do it anyway, that's the way you'd want to do it.
It's also the 21st season overall that you've had a victory. 43 years old, you don't look like you're slowing down, but I'm sure that with some of the new kids coming into the series, they have a tendency to push you to a degree. How satisfying is it to know that you can still beat them?
It’s the inevitable. You'll have the changing of guard or you'll have the new guard coming in and the youngsters, but that's what makes it fun. I think they kind of have a slightly different way of achieving it and doing it differently.
I think for some of us older drivers, the hard part is actually learning some of the new ways and being open to not just being stuck in our normal values and trying to do it the way you did it. So, that one for me actually makes it exciting.
Our team is extremely tough. We have a lot of great drivers and obviously, the team is very fast across the board, and we can see that with what Alex has done across the season this year. But yeah, it's part of it.
And for me, I find it very interesting. But it basically comes down to I love to race, man.
It's not the Indianapolis 500, but it is a win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And how special is that for Scott Dixon?
It's big. Anytime you can win at this place is huge. Obviously, for me, chasing a second victory at the 500 is goal number one.
But honestly, this road course is a bit of a thorn on my side. It's not a place I really enjoy. It's a tough track, and the kind of 7 through 10 section is probably the hardest part for me, just in trying to get the car where we need to on single lap pace.
But I know over the race that we have the pace to get it done, but any race now, is very tough. But to win at Indy at any moment is very special.
You moved in the second in the NTT IndyCar Series standings, your teammate, Alex Palou is 101, 102 points ahead of you. Three races to go. It's going to be tough, but as long as you're mathematically in it, you can't win it unless you're in it.
That's right. You're going to chase it all the way. Maybe for us, the biggest thing is to finish one, two in the championship. You're never out of it until you're out of it, until you're mathematically out of it. We're going to do all we can to try and win this championship.
You've got to hand it to the 10-car group. They've done an amazing job this year, and it was actually Julian's 60th birthday, Alex's engineer this weekend, or today actually. So, that was very special as well.
We'll keep fighting. We'll never lift or give up un until the end of the season. And it's just unfortunate because I think when you look back on a season, there's so many events that you could have done a lot better or you could have had maybe the strategy roll your way.
And you're the master at saving fuel. How do you do it?
A little bit of its technique, but honestly, the car set up I think is a big deal as well. And just how you get the car to roll through the corners and be able to get the pace. Today, I think actually the fuel save and looking after the degradation of the tire was definitely key.
Unfortunately, with the telemetry, or sorry, the data that we have these days, it's very easy for all the drivers on our team or other teams to see how you achieve it and how you're able to do it. But to huge credit to Honda and HPD for making the engine so efficient.
And a great day to be Ganassi, you win your 54th victory on your 319th consecutive start. Alex Palou increases his points lead, although that may be a little bad news for you since you're now second. But still, overall, it was a great weekend for the team.
Yeah, I guess we gained on Alex, but he's definitely making this season very tough. And again, you've got to give them huge credit for that.
But yeah, it is what it is. We will see how the last three races go. I think the last three that we have are very good tracks for us with St. Louis, and Portland, and Laguna, especially with the repave.
But yeah, it's been an interesting year for us and one that I wish that we'd had more opportunity.
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series Champion, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, congratulations on your 54th career victory coming in the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Good luck in the championship chase. Thank you for joining us on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
Thanks, man, appreciate it. Cheers.
While Dixon celebrated the victory, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Alex Palou increased his lead in the NTT IndyCar Series Championship. He entered the weekend with an 84-point lead over team Penske's, Josef Newgarden.
It all began to unravel for Newgarden on the opening lap when he started in the back half of the field and was involved in a multi car opening lap crash. Although he was able to continue in the race, Newgarden finished 25th in the 27-car field, two laps down to the race winner.
Palou started eighth and finished seventh in a No. 10 American Legion Honda and increased his lead from 84 points to 101 over Dixon, who is now, in second place in the standings and to 105 over Newgarden with just three races remaining.
But that is only part of the Alex Palou story from this past weekend. Several weeks ago, Pit Pass Indy learned that Palou approached team owner Chip Ganassi for a counteroffer that would keep the talented 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion, and this year's championship leader with Chip Ganassi Racing.
It was one year ago that Palou announced he would leave the team in 2023 for a new deal at McLaren, which also, included an opportunity with the McLaren Formula One team and or the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team.
Ganassi invoked the option on Palou's contract and the case went to mediation with the mediator ruling that the driver was still contractually bound to remain at Chip Ganassi Racing.
This season has been one for the ages for Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing, as the combination is on pace to clinch the championship before the final race of the season, ending a lengthy IndyCar Series streak where the championship has gone down to the final race of the season before the championship was determined.
With four wins and a huge lead in the points, Palou has apparently reconsidered his options. He informed McLaren CEO, Zak Brown last week that he would not join the team in 2024.
Brown fired off a letter to the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team last Friday evening, expressing his bitter disappointment, to put it mildly.
Ganassi countered with a statement of his own, which took a direct shot at McLaren's dealings in this contract matter.
Let's pick up the Palou saga when I asked him a direct question, if he had approached Ganassi for a new contract, from an interview that was conducted on Thursday, August 10th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As you can tell by the long pause, he was surprised by the question.
Have you gotten a counteroffer from Chip?
No comment. If I say yes, you are going to write a story, and if I say no, you're going to write another story. So, no comment. I'm sorry.
Is it outside the realm of thinking that you could be back here next year?
At Indianapolis, I will be back in Indianapolis.
The next interview came after Zak Brown revealed Palou would not honor his agreement to join McLaren in 2024 this past Friday. This is a very noisy pit lane interview after Palou finished seventh in the Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
I'll come in after Laguna. Yeah.
Alex, man, I mean, your cushion got bigger and you're free to go. You got to really feel good about it.
Yeah, I feel better than when we got here, obviously. It's big, but it's not enough, honestly. So, we want more. We see how many points a win can give you, and there's still three races to go on the championship. So, yeah, we'll focus on Gateway now.
It was great because yeah, we extended, we didn't lose any points, but you cannot relax here in IndyCar especially with three big races to go. So, we are confident, but not relaxed at all.
Moving forward with this team, you got to really feel good that you can really accomplish a lot of great things here.
Yeah, I mean we wanted to be more, honestly, today. I used red strategy to try and go for more. Seventh, I don't think it was the best result we could have gotten. But yeah, it was good for the team with Scott winning today as well.
Other than that, slow news week. Any news, anything you can tell us?
I have a free next week starting tomorrow, so we'll take some rest and prepare for Gateway.
You've got the focus of attention this week, and how do you manage to put that aside and go out and race?
I don't know. I mean, I don't have another option, so I need to still deliver on track and try and win this championship. I mean, we played it aggressive, we didn't play it safely.
Lap one was a bit of contact here and there. I bumped a little bit Marcus, and I think I finished his race, which was yeah, I felt really bad. But I'll talk to him right now. But yeah, I mean, it was a busy first lap for everybody, and I had nowhere to go.
How does it feel to be so much in demand? Everybody wants you to drive for them.
I would prefer a quiet season and a quiet decade.
Better to be wanted than not, though.
Absolutely. Could be a lower for sure.
So, when we know everything for sure?
From my side, after Laguna.
Gavin Ward is the racing director at Arrow McLaren and Pit Pass Indy asked him if he was disappointed in Palou's decision and what Arrow McLaren will do to fill that position on the three-driver team moving forward.
Palou was expected to join Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi as the three drivers in 2023, with Felix Rosenqvist free to pursue other offers.
O’Ward told me Rosenqvist now, has the opportunity to return and or the team may make a run at current Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 106th Indianapolis 500 winner, Marcus Ericsson, who is currently trying to strike a deal to remain with Ganassi.
Are you disappointed or it had to come as a shock?
Yeah, yeah, as Zak said, team's disappointed, but we'll kind of leave it at that.
But I mean, did it just come out of nowhere? Were you almost expecting it?
I can't really say on that one. Just disappointed.
So, now, I guess this opens up into another realm of who gets that ride.
Oh yeah. We're in demand, so not to worry there.
So, I mean, we maybe see Ericsson in there, or some other top guys. I mean, I'm sure now, all of a sudden, they're on the radar.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I wouldn't rule out anything on that side. And we're going to do what's best for the team to fill that race seat. The list is decent, and Felix is on it. So, what I would say is it's a very much in demand seat.
A lot in play.
A lot in play. And I think the message I have here is we're trying to build something special, and I think anybody can see that, the progress we're making and we're looking to make another big step still. So, who would want to be a part of that?
Barry Wanser is Chip Ganassi Racing team manager and the race strategist for Palou's No. 10 American Legion Honda.
Pit Pass Indy interviewed Wanser immediately after the checkered flag waved on Saturday's race for this exclusive Pit Pass Indy interview.
Great day to be Ganassi.
Absolutely, it was great for Scott to keep his streak alive and get another win for the team for sure. For the points, obviously, it was a good day for us. Tough race, needed to go fast all day. We were fast, but just not fast enough.
But we also, kept the big picture in mind and obviously, increased the points lead. I think we got 101 over Scott and 105 over Newgarden. So, we got three more to go and still got to be strong.
You still got to be strong, but you're in solid position. I mean, we saw what happened to Newgarden today. You really have a good score.
Sure. But it's not over. We're going to continue to race like we've been racing, and the goal is to get to Gateway and win. We're trying to get that million-dollar bonus and that'd be great for the American Legion.
He’s just been a cool job for his whole career and you're seeing this now.
He's definitely a calm guy. He understands everything we're trying to do, everything we need him to do. And also, the big picture and that's what's important. And he is already proven to be a champion. We're just trying to do it again.
And the big picture, it looks like things look good that he'll be with you guys.
Yeah, things are looking good, for sure. Looking forward to it.
While Scott Dixon celebrated the win and Alex Palou, the increase in his points lead, Team Penske driver, Josef Newgarden's race was hampered shortly after it began. Here is a disappointed Newgarden after the race for Pit Pass Indy.
Yeah, just wrong place, wrong time for us. About it.
To this point, you got to throw a Hail Mary somewhere.
No, I think it just is what it is, we'll just go race hard always. That's all you can do. That's all you can do.
Team Penske president Tim Cindric summed it up succinctly when I caught up with him on pit lane after the race.
Fortunate, but there wasn't really a whole lot you could gain.
Nothing there to talk about. We’re lap down from the start and there's no cautions, you can't do anything.
Although the race winner was involved in it.
It's always the case with the guy that won the race was involved in it too. So, I mean, it's all part of it. All part of this.
We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Welcome back to this edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
Before Sunday's Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, Kyle Larson, who won Saturday night's Knoxville National's sprint car race, was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, along with Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team owner, Rick Hendrick and the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Series operation to unveil the two cars he will drive next year in what is billed as the Hendrick 1100.
Larson will become the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series races on the same day.
Larson's No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet was unveiled alongside his No. 5 NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet. Both rides are sponsored by hendrickcars.com.
Pit Pass Indy was at the announcement. And here's a quick hit from Larson.
Yeah, no, obviously, I'm extremely excited. But at the same time, I'm so busy racing and trying to take care of my family that like it hasn't really set in yet that it's truly a reality. When you have days like today, and you unveil the car, all those little steps, it definitely makes it seem more real.
But I'm sure once things slow down in the off season, I have a lot of time to sit around and think about the upcoming season is when it's really going to hit. And I'm sure that's when all the nervousness will start to creep in, but as well as the excitement.
So, I look forward to prepping even more. I definitely, obviously, look forward to October and getting to do the pre orientation. I have thought about that a little bit, so I am nervous when I do think about that.
But I think once I get in the car, a lot of those nerves will hopefully, go away after a few laps and it feel like home, just like all the other race cars.
Pit Pass Indy has an exclusive interview with Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner, Roger Penske, who tells me how important it is to have drivers such as Larson compete in the world's biggest race.
How special is this to have him at the Indy 500?
Well, I think to have Kyle Larson and Hendricks here is a super advantage for us as a track owner and for the series. To see Kyle, what he's been able to do in every other type of race car will be just a real journey for all the fans here in Indianapolis.
This has always been a race about big stars, big names from other forms of racing. And now, to have Kyle who's part of that really defines that.
We've had Europeans come here and win races, win this race, but to have Larson who races every week. He's a fan's favorite every single weekend. To have him come here will be just an amazing thing. And for him personally, it's a goal I think, I know he wants to accomplish and get to the top.
And I know you have a soft spot in your heart for anybody that can go out and win the Knoxville Nationals, get in at four, and then be ready to drive his A game today, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Well, it just shows what kind of guy he is. This guy is Ironman, I guess you'd have to say.
Yeah. And as far though as just things are on an upswing, 330,000 people last year's 500. Obviously, the goal now is to go for the sellout. Do you think something like this can be what pushes it over the limits?
Well, I think there's always more room to put people in the infield. So, look, we have over 300,000 people. Again, it'll be a amazing weekend. We want good weather and a safe race.
Yeah. And as far as this weekend, how do you think things look?
We had a great day yesterday. We were 4036% up yesterday from where we were last year. So, overall, I think the weekend has been great. Weather's been good for a little bit yesterday morning, but overall it's been terrific.
And last question, you never give up, but 105 back with three to go, going to be kind of tough for Josef.
You just go for wins and it's going to be what it is. You follow me? But I think we had a chance yesterday, but then of course, Newgarden got in a mess there at the end. But look, remember he won four races this year in the Indy 500. I told him, “No, don't fret it.”
Gavin Ward is the racing director at Arrow McLaren and tells Pit Pass Indy some of the details of Larson's Indianapolis 500 ride with the team in 2024 in this exclusive interview.
Yes, we've done a couple days now, but we'll get them in for some more. The road course sim stuff, although not, that's just to like check seat fit and get a feel for it. And it's a little bit more say honed in.
So, we'll get them in there, I think, to do some mobile sim work as well. But some ways, kind of want to let them feel it.
You've worked with a lot of racers, I mean, when you were in Formula One. The mentality that Kyle has, I mean, he had the best quote yesterday when I asked him if he's learned how to sleep on planes, going back and forth Knoxville.
He says, “I'm real good at getting into bed late and coming back and being on my A game the next day.” So, that shows the amount of confidence he has.
What do you see, how do you compare Larson’s racing ability and his just racer mentality with the guy he's working with?
I mean, Kyle's a generational racer. You can see that first time you meet him. And you see it, just watch him drive any of the many disciplines that he competes in. So, I think we're lucky as a team, we got some really talented racers, and they're all pretty excited to get to work together.
And I think working together is an important part. We preach over and over with our team, like we want our drivers to raise the bar for everybody and reach across the table and try and help each other. So, so far I think that's working great. And I think having TK in the mix is only added to that.
Touch on that a little bit. Like I know Tony's obviously been around the racetrack since you guys formally announced him in his new role. It seems like maybe one of the first opportunities to really lean on him maybe a little bit more.
What have you seen in that side of Tony in the early stretches of getting him that chance to work with Kyle and kind of have the team show him the ropes a little bit?
Oh yeah. I mean, having TK part of it is a huge asset. Then already having a relationship is great, but as everybody knows, Tony is pure enthusiasm and he's throwing himself into the team like full on.
And he is helping him in a lot of areas, but he's going to play a big role in getting Kyle ready to run the 500 and who better to do so?
Your time at Penske and the NASCAR team's on the other side of the complex, but probably, it's got to be a little bit of an advantage for you to help translate some of the NASCAR stock cart engineering and technology to what he'll have to adapt over at IndyCar.
Yeah, I think I've got a little bit of exposure, but it's probably better there's other people involved right now, that actually have even more.
So, I've been talking with Brian Campe, he's the technical director at Hendrick Motorsport, and we work together at Penske, together with on Newgarden's car in 2018. So, we have a great relationship.
And as someone who's engineered Indy 500 winners and now, runs a NASCAR engineering team, that's a great asset as well. So, strength on both sides.
Generally speaking, the news this week, I know is a little shocking. I get the sense how are you guys dealing with the news of the weekend with Alex and moving forward from that?
I think the team's rallied really well, to be honest. I mean, the reaction here, as everybody sees everybody working at Aaron McLaren realizes what we're putting together as a team.
And so, we want people to want to be a part of that and see that. And we're heads down just trying to build a better race team day every day and enjoying it.
As we mentioned at the top of the show, this was the fourth straight IndyCar NASCAR weekend at the Brickyard, which began out of necessity during the COVID shutdown in 2020. It created an opportunity to showcase the two biggest racing series in North America to a crossover audience.
But with NASCAR expected to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedways 2.5-mile oval, and the revival of the Brickyard 400, and IndyCar's expected decision to return to the Milwaukee Mile next year, the two sides will not be part of the same weekend in 2024.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner, Roger Penske, would like to see more events where IndyCar and NASCAR compete at the same track on the same weekend as he tells me in this Pit Pass Indy interview.
Well, I think that as we look at the schedule and we look at diversity from the standpoint of different types of racing, we have a stadium here that's able to accomplish that and we've been able to execute it.
So, from my perspective, we want to continue doing that. I think multiple races, multiple types of races here during the summer after the 500 is part of our formula going forward.
Oh, I think that there's no question. We've had conversations with NASCAR many times, and I think currently because of the size of both sports and the interest and the ability to maybe pull the two together at some other tracks in the future, I think it's certainly a priority one for me.
If the land was available, wouldn't Detroit make a great place for a NASCAR IndyCar street race doubleheader?
We got a lot we're doing in Detroit. I'm not the promoter there. You talk to Bud Denker on that one.
We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
When it comes to superstar status, former NASCAR Cup Series driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains one of the most popular figures in all of racing.
Now, with NBC sports as part of its broadcast team, Earnhardt was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the big weekend of racing and Pit Pass Indy asked him to compare Alex Palou's impressive drive to a championship this year to some of the dominating performances from NASCAR's pre playoff era.
The NASCAR Cup Series moved to a playoff format beginning in 2004. Prior to that, the championship was determined by a season long points race.
If you're here in May for the 500, what do you think of Alex Palou and the race? He's running away with the championship?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Yeah, I mean, he's just that really talented, just incredible talent, incredible team. And I don't think anybody's real surprised, I guess, by how well he'd been able to do.
The fact that he can wrap a title up with several races to go, it's kind of like reminiscent of your father.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Yeah, that's domination. And you get that, and you got to admire it and appreciate it for what it is. I always thought when somebody won the championship early, it was an incredible thing. It never was a bummer for me.
I remember always thinking like when Matt went to Rockingham and wrapped it up, just always thinking that was such a cool thing to have so many points and have vested the series enough to not even need to run the final race. I thought he thought that was a really cool thing to do.
Although this is a show devoted to IndyCar, from time to time, it's great to branch out on other racing topics. Here is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s thoughts on the potential of NASCAR and IndyCar not competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the same weekend in the future.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
So, on a small scale, our cars late model stock series, we have pro series that runs with us. And that's great, we're going to continue doing that.
But I think that the Cardinal 500 that used to happen at Martinsville every year where the modifieds and the sportsman cars would come together in the ‘70s, I thought that that was such a great event because you had diehard modified fans and then you had die hard stock car fans and you brought them together.
And I think it's the same thing in this situation, the uniqueness of the cars. The IndyCar has their down hard fans and NASCAR has its fans.
We absolutely should come together and put the products in front of each other. And we're not going to lose any fans, they're not going to lose any fans over that experience.
Our fans are going to now be introduced maybe for the first time to IndyCar and what they provide. They'll watch the next race and maybe the next several races and become fans for good, for a long term.
And same for us, we're going to get in front of some of their fans for the very first time. That may have been territorial or hardheaded about it. I don't see how that could be a bad thing at all. I think it's a great, great opportunity for the two series because they're so unique to each other.
I can't think of like in what way that would be a detriment to either one. Right now, especially because viewership is up for everybody across the board. People are coming back to Motorsports across the board in every form, in every discipline.
And so, we all should be working together to continue that growth. One race a year is maybe enough, but I mean, two or three combos would be even better.
That's unfortunate, but it's the way it is. It's not because nobody wants it, it's just because NASCAR's going through a little change in some schedule stuff and it's not always going to work out.
Hey, I invited you to come over and hang out and play video games when something came up. You know what? You're not coming over today, but you know what, tomorrow or the next day, we may do it.
Next, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked about the importance of NASCAR returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval next year, and the expected return to the Brickyard 400.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
The test will be great. It'll be exciting to see cars going. I mean, I think everybody wants to get back to the oval in terms of all the drivers, all the industry in the garage. And it was a nice run on the road course, and it provided us with incredible finishes and great moments.
You can't replicate the legacy and the history of the oval. There's nowhere else you can tap into what IndyCar and Open Wheel has done here for global motor sports. There's no other way to really get nestled up and connect to that.
We were so eager to get here in the ‘90s as speaking from NASCAR specifically, we were so in disbelief that we were actually going to get the chance to race here. We felt like that there was no barrier of entry, like the IndyCar and Open Wheel wouldn't want us to come here, wouldn't want us to be in their sandbox.
And rightly so. We thought forever that it would not happen. So, when that door was opened, we felt blessed and Jeff said, “It's like we've been guests forever.” And we're good with that.
When it goes away, and we go to the road course, it's not the same. We're not running around the oval and it's not the same history and it's not the same legacy. And we're not nestling up to what historically has been done here with IndyCar and the Indy 500 specifically.
It'll be great to get back to that because Denny Hamlin's right. I mean, it was always going to be one of the four biggest races to win. We need drivers to have those specific events throughout the series that they want on their resume.
And there was a span of years where drivers couldn't even attempt it. That was denied of all the competition.
And so, man, are we going to be thankful to be able to have that opportunity again and drivers will have that opportunity again and put that on their resume to win a legit oval race at this incredible racetrack.
And so, I think our fans are excited, but even more so, our drivers. When they're happy, everything's great because they're a grouchy bunch. And so, when the drivers are excited about something and looking forward to something and talking positively about things, we all need to be plugged in.
Finally, here's a great story from Dale Earnhardt Jr. reflecting on how his father, the legendary seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion thought highly of a young Jeff Gordon who would go on to become one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR Cup Series history.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
They had a pretty good relationship. We were at North Wilkesboro and I was racing my late model car, and I watched Dad comes around in a pace truck or a pace car vehicle, and he was driving Jeff around the track showing him like the racetrack. It's Jeff’s first time to Wilkesboro.
And I was like, “Oh, okay. Dad doesn't do that with anybody. You don't take rookies around the racetrack and show them the track. He don't do that. And so, it's just not his style. He ain't got no time for that.” But he really wanted to build a rapport with Jeff.
And I was sitting there with my race car and just in and amongst all these little, short track race cars and drivers. I didn't even think dad was going to see me. But he sees me, and he walks over, and he says, “I want to introduce you to this driver, Jeff Gordon. He's going to be a big star in this sport, you watch.”
And I was like, “He don't never do that. He never introduced me to nobody. And certainly, not a young driver that I needed to keep my eye on.” But he really thought a lot of Jeff right out of the gate.
And they ended up not only … I think Jeff and him had a good relationship off the track, and we had a lot of conversations about competition. And Jeff leaned on Dad early, I think a little bit on how to navigate the NASCAR world.
But then they got into business together with an apparel company and in the souvenir business and did some things away from the track that people knew nothing about.
And dad was like, “Hey, we're going to race on Sunday. And I'm going to piss you off, you're going to piss me off. And let's do that. Let's sell some tickets and sell some souvenirs. And when we get out of the cars and we're done, there's no animosity or no frustrations and we're back to being friends.”
And that puts a checkered flag on this edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee.
We want to thank our guests Gallagher Grand Prix IndyCar winner, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing; IndyCar Series Championship leader, Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing; Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner, Roger Penske; Team Penske driver, Josef Newgarden; Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports; Dale Earnhardt Jr. of NBC Sports.
Also, Team Penske president, Tim Cindrich; Arrow McLaren Racing director, Gavin Ward; and Chip Ganassi team manager, Barry Wanser for joining us on today's podcast.
Along with loyal listeners like you, our guests help make Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental and Hy-Vee, your path to victory lane for all things IndyCar.
And because of our guest and listeners, Pit Pass Indy is proud to be the winner of the best podcast by the National Motorsports Press Association.
And for all of your shopping needs, be sure to visit your local Hy-Vee, where there's a helpful smile in every aisle.
For more IndyCar coverage, follow me at Twitter @BruceMartin (one-word, uppercase B, uppercase M) _500.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thanks to our production team. Executive producers are Brigid Coyne and Gerardo Orlando. Recordings and edits were done by me, Bruce Martin and final mixing was done by Dave Douglas. Learn more at evergreenpodcasts.com.
Until next time, be sure to keep it out of the wall.