Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Penske eyes first NASCAR title

With big lead, it could happen in season finale today in Florida

  • Print

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It had been a humbling 24 hours of championship racing for Roger Penske when he settled in for the plane ride back to Detroit.

His heart had been broken in California, where Will Power coughed away the IndyCar title by crashing out of the season finale. The disappointed team owner then made his way to Chicago for the opening race of NASCAR's 10-race championship series, where Penske driver Brad Keselowski stole a surprise win over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

It was a tremendous emotional swing for Penske, who said to no one in particular on that flight home, "Well, we raced with the big boys today. And we won."

"That really struck me when he said that, because Fontana was the lowest of the lows, a tough night," said Walt Czarnecki, a Penske executive for more than 40 years. "To come back the next day and win Chicago with Brad, it was such a turning point for Roger. He was energized to race with the big boys, and to beat them. And to do it after losing Fontana with Will. It helped."

Penske, the most successful team owner in open-wheel history, has little to show 40 years after entering NASCAR. Keselowski, the 28-year-old blue collar antiestablishment Michigan native, could change that for "The Captain" -- just as he promised in a passionate speech to Penske four years ago.

Keselowski takes a 20-point lead over Johnson into today's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where a finish of 15th or better will give Penske his first Sprint Cup title. It would have been his first ever NASCAR championship if Keselowski hadn't won him a second-tier Nationwide title in 2010 -- his first season with Penske Racing.

These are the trophies Keselowski vowed to deliver when he reached out to Penske in 2008.

He was driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and locked into a developmental deal with Hendrick Motorsports, but didn't see a Cup ride opening anytime soon. So he asked Penske what he had available, even though Penske Racing wasn't exactly the dream destination for NASCAR talent.

Penske has won 23 national championships in IndyCar and 15 Indianapolis 500s, and his passion and his focus are usually directed on the open wheel part of the motorsports program. Although his NASCAR organization had 61 wins before Keselowski arrived, it only contended for a championship once -- in 1993 when Rusty Wallace won 10 races and still finished second to Dale Earnhardt.

It's a baffling hole in the resume of one of the most successful businessmen in America.

"Roger Penske is an unbelievable owner and person, and what's surprising is he hasn't won more championships," NASCAR chairman Brian France said Saturday.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 18, 2012 B13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How surpised are you by the Bombers’ 4-1 start to the season?

View Results

Ads by Google