SONOMA, Calif. – Team Penske and Menards announced an extension that will keep the Midwest-based home improvement store chain as a primary sponsor on Simon Pagenaud’s Verizon IndyCar Series entry for 10 races in 2017.
Team owner Roger Penske, Menards owner and founder John Menard and Pagenaud were on hand to discuss details of the deal this morning at Sonoma Raceway.
In ingenious creative fashion, media attending the announcement were given what appeared to be a typical Menards newspaper advertising insert (see below). The inside pages, however, contained the news release and factual information on Pagenaud’s season that sees the driver of the No. 22 Chevrolet in position to win his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The Penske-Menards partnership began this year with what was originally announced as a three-race deal – including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – that became five races in 2016. That number will double next season.
“As the hundredth running came up this year, we connected and talked about certainly a potential sponsorship at Indy,” Penske said. “I think the fact we added the (Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis) there, the success that Simon had there, winning that race, which was a terrific kickoff to the hundredth running race event, then we had a great car there.
“We kept in touch with John. I think his goals are similar to ours. We have a business. We use the business as a common thread to promote our brands.”
The legendary team owner added how much of a benefit it is to have someone onboard who understands the sport. Menard first came to the Indianapolis 500 in 1979.
“Today, as you know from a sponsorship perspective, to find the right sponsors who have the right integrity, want to support the sport, it's difficult,” Penske said.
“I think that we're very fortunate to have someone that understands it. (Menard) understands we don't win every weekend. Hopefully we have a record that is meaningful as we go forward.”
Having returned to Indy car racing this season in time to help celebrate Team Penske’s 50th anniversary in racing, Menard was excited to be a part of the possible championship, should Pagenaud clinch the Astor Cup on Sunday. It would be the first for a Menards-sponsored car since Greg Ray won the 1999 Verizon IndyCar Series title.
“It’d be really wonderful,” Menard said.
The 76-year-old Wisconsin native also went in-depth as to what makes Pagenaud, the 32-year-old French driver, such a great fit for the Menards brand.
“His father, family and he grew up in the retail (industry) in France,” Menard said. “His dad runs a store similar to Menards, so Simon kind of understands the retail business, which was really refreshing when I started talking to him, plus he’s a real charming guy.
“The stuff he’s done with our suppliers and our customers and our team members, I mean, he’s great. He’s warm, he’s gracious. People just like him and that’s what we’re looking for in a spokesperson and that’s what we’re looking for in 2017.”
The second-year Team Penske driver was all smiles during the announcement, noting the excitement to share a sponsor that was shared by former Indy car champions.
“It's been incredible to actually be the driver, to drive this very special livery,” said Pagenaud, an eight-time race winner. “This car has been at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway for many, many years, even longer than I can remember. I remember obviously very special drivers like Tony Stewart, incredible results from that car. That car was always fast at the speedway, always on the pole or front row.
“For me, being able to be part of this incredible livery is very special. I feel very honored to be that driver. Luckily we got a win out of the way right away at Indianapolis (in the grand prix), which was very important to John, very important to Roger and the whole team as well. It was an incredible start of a great relationship.”
The only 2017 race currently set to carry the Menards colors is the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The other nine races are dependent on a Penske and Menards activation strategy and will be announced at a later date.