MARTIN: Indy Has Gone To The Dogs

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A studio shoot of Simon Pagenaud’s 2019 Baby Borg trophy. (IndyCar photo)
Bruce Martin Mug
Bruce Martin.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The Indianapolis 500 has gone to the dogs — literally.

When team owner Roger Penske was celebrating his record-extending 18th Indianapolis 500 win on May 26, he quickly discovered Simon Pagenaud’s dog, Norman, was in victory lane.

Norman is the prized Jack Russell Terrier that belongs to Pagenaud and his fiancée, Hailey McDermott. Norman has become so popular in the NTT IndyCar Series that he has his own Twitter account — @NormanPagenaud.

When Pagenaud collected his Baby Borg trophy that he gets to keep for winning the 103rd Indianapolis 500 at the Team Penske employee breakfast on Sept. 9, there were two images on the base of the trophy.

One is the sterling silver image of Pagenaud that was unveiled on the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy in Paris on Aug. 5.

The other face alongside Pagenaud’s on the Baby Borg was that of his constant companion and his friend for life — Norman.

“Seventeen times I never saw a dog in the winner’s circle,” Penske said. “For the 18th time, we should recognize that. Will Behrends, the sculptor of the Borg-Warner Trophy, was motivated to make this extra special dog face for Simon as we went forward.

“No one in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has won the road race, the Indianapolis 500 pole and the race in the same two-week span. Simon will go down in the history book for that, for sure.”

Norman was in victory lane to lick some of the milk off Pagenaud’s face following the traditional milk bath.

“Today, they surprised me with my likeness and Norman’s likeness, and that is such a great and incredible gesture from BorgWarner,” Pagenaud said. “It’s the first time Will Behrends has sculpted a dog, and he did a phenomenal job.

“It’s an incredible gift I will keep forever and remind me of the most incredible day of my life,” he continued. “It’s great for Hailey and me to have these kinds of memories because Norman was part of this incredible day in our lives. It was the most incredible day of our lives and he will be part of our memories forever.”

BorgWarner made a $20,000 donation to IndyHumane, the Humane Society of Indianapolis, to help shelter dogs and help families adopt those dogs.

The donation was made in Pagenaud’s name in recognition of his Indianapolis 500 win. IndyHumane has been a favorite charity of Pagenaud’s for a number of years, beginning when he lived in the Indianapolis area.

Pagenaud fostered a dog for IndyHumane during the month of May in 2014. He has also participated in the group’s signature fundraising event — Mutt Strut.

IndyHumane has served Indianapolis and the surrounding counties since 1905, providing vital services to animals through sheltering and adoption, positive reinforcement behavior training for shelter animals and outreach through community and shelter programs.

“I’ve been very close to animals my whole life,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve had dogs since I was a little kid and I’ve been raised around dogs. I have an affection to animals. Personally, this was a big surprise I wasn’t expecting. It was an overwhelming moment.

“It just shows the impact that having Norman next to me has on the industry of racing. I’m glad to see that my dog is becoming immortal, so that is pretty cool.”

Pagenaud has posed with the Borg-Warner Trophy in victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the trophy accompanied him to the White House when the team was honored by President Donald Trump on June 10 and it also went with him during a visit to his native France.

The Borg-Warner Trophy has returned to its permanent home at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The Baby Borg, however, will remain with Pagenaud.

“Getting the Baby Borg trophy was overwhelming in terms of emotion, especially here at the Team Penske employee breakfast,” Pagenaud said. “Five-hundred-and-fifty Team Penske employees were here, enjoying the moment with me making it even more special.

“Incredible things have happened for me by taking the ‘Daddy Borg’ to France, being able to share that with my home country and educate about Indy car racing was incredible,” he added. “I don’t think it’s over; it’s just the beginning. It’s phenomenal to see BorgWarner’s support for the Indianapolis 500 winner is outstanding. They keep giving you gifts and making you feel special.”

The Borg-Warner Trophy was created in 1936 as a symbol of technology and innovation in racing. As the oldest, most famous trophy tradition, the Borg-Warner Trophy is the most sought-after motorsports prize.

“That’s another amazing gesture of BorgWarner to allow the winner to have a memory of it,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a beautiful piece and with the base it goes well together. It’s going to be dead center in the middle of all of my other trophies.”