Tag:Penske Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:05 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 9:27 pm

Penske's move to Ford has major implications

By Pete Pistone

(Will a Dodge Charger compete in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 or will the manufacturer leave?)

Now that the dust has settled on the bombshell announcement of Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford next season, what are the ramifications of the decision? 

Currently the only Dodge team in NASCAR, Penske’s move to the Blue Oval means a more crowded Ford camp and at this point a giant void for his former manufacturer. 

Penske’s return to Ford gives “The Captain” a better chance to be successful in his mind and was the only motivation in the change. 

“Let me say this, this wasn’t about money,” Penske said. “We’ve been operating for the last 10 years pretty much with some support in the previous years, maybe four or five years ago, but we needed to have a benchmark and I think that having that additional technical information flow through the process as Ford has outlined it to us, I think, was very important to us.” 

Until Thursday Penske and his organization had preached the gospel of being the only Dodge team as a benefit. With no other organizations in the sport, the manufacturer was able to funnel all of its resources to the two-car effort at Penske. 

That view obviously changed and apparently the opportunity to align with Ford presented a better option. 

“I think when we weighed the plusses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and we have been trying to do it alone,” Penske said of being the lone Dodge entity.

“I think with a certain amount of sponsorship available to us and we were fielding two, three cars and then some in the Nationwide, but having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, you could see the performance this past weekend with [Matt] Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time for us to evaluate other options.” 

Now it’s time for Dodge to evaluate what options are available in the post-Penske era. There is speculation the manufacturer may simply leave NASCAR and focus its resources on the various other forms of motorsports it currently participates in. 

Dodge plans to unveil its 2013 Charger next week in Las Vegas, an event that had been in the works for several weeks. The company still plans to show the car to the world obviously without Penske’s participation. 

Since work on the new Sprint Cup car has been on the drawing board for some time, it does seem unlikely Dodge would scrap that path and pull up its NASCAR stakes. 

However the statement released by the company on Thursday did leave the door open to that possibility. 

“Our motorsports involvement isn't limited to NASCAR. We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward,” said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge’s Street Racing and Technology Brand and Motorsports, in the statement. “As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports." 

That doesn’t sound like a resounding, “we’re sticking around NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series” to me. 

Finding a new team to replace Penske appears to be a major challenge for Dodge’s NASCAR future. Most of the major organizations in the garage area are locked into manufacturer agreements for several years. 

A rumor that Richard Petty Motorsports, a former Dodge player that has its Ford contract up for renewal at season’s end, could return to the fold was shot down by the organization at least for the time being Thursday night. 

“We welcome Penske Racing to the Ford Racing Family in 2013,” read the statement.  “Additional teams mean more information for everyone and that's a very good thing from a competition standpoint. 

“We have a partnership with Roush Fenway Racing and we are happy to be a part of the Ford Racing program. As we always do, we will evaluate all of our options and make decisions based on what is ultimately best for our race team.” 

Other candidates may include Chip Ganassi’s team, which once was a Dodge operation in NASCAR. However Ganassi’s alignment with Chevy supporter DEI and his successful Earnhardt Childress Racing engine program would appear to be major hurdles to any kind of change. 

The elevation of a current Nationwide Series of even Camping World Truck Series to carry the Dodge banner in Sprint Cup is also possible, but such a program would more than likely take several years before becoming competitive at the sport’s top level. 

The coming days and weeks will very much shape the manufacturer landscape for 2013 and beyond. The introduction of the new Sprint Cup car next season pretty much levels the playing field and allows teams and their manufacturers to figure things out from a blank piece of paper.

But unless Dodge can find a new partner willing to be a lone wolf, it won’t be surprising to see one less manufacturer in the garage area next year.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 2:42 pm

Dodge statement regarding Penske departure

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Statement from Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – SRT Brand and Motorsports, in response to the announcement by Penske Racing that it was leaving Dodge for Ford in 2013:

"Dodge has enjoyed a successful partnership with Penske Racing for 10 years.  It's a partnership that has produced results for both parties on and off the track.  Roger (Penske) has made a business decision to accept an offer with another manufacturer.  We wish Roger and Penske Racing much success in the future.

"We are committed to work with Penske Racing to compete at the highest level, win races and contend for championships this season.

“Our motorsports involvement isn't limited to NASCAR.  We do value our NASCAR program and will be evaluating the opportunities available moving forward.  As those opportunities materialize, we'll reveal our 2013 plans, not only in NASCAR but in other forms of motorsports."

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 2:44 pm

Penske Racing leaving Dodge for Ford in 2013

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(The debut of the new Fusion in 2013 will include Penske Racing as part of the Ford program)

In a blockbuster announcement Penske Racing will join the Ford camp in 2012 leaving Dodge.

An official announcement was made Thursday morning confirming earlier reports the long-time NASCAR team would campaign Fords in NASCAR beginning next season.

“We look forward to joining the Ford Racing NASCAR program beginning in 2013," said team owner Roger Penske. "We appreciate the long-term commitment that Ford has made to Penske Racing and for their continued support of the sport.”

More: Dodge statement regarding departure

The move returns Penske to the manufacturer a partnership that began in 1976 and 1977. Penske left and came back in 1994 before aligning with Dodge.

In total, through 524 NASCAR starts (509 Cup Series and 15 Nationwide Series) with Ford, Penske Racing teams earned 28 victories (27 Cup Series and one Nationwide Series) and 42 pole positions (36 Cup Series and six Nationwide Series).

The announcement was a surprise to many as Penske's two car tandem of Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger were both considered pre-season favorites for victories as well as possible Chase contenders.

Only one race into the new year, the organization and the manufacturer decided to announce their new partnership.

“It was important to get this agreement in place early so that we can plan ahead for the debut of the new 2013 NASCAR Fusion,” said Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director. “We will work with Roush Fenway on the final development of the new car during this season, but we want to be able to have our teams building their new cars for the 2013 season before the end of the year, as the transition to the new body is taking place.

“With the operations and technology resources Penske brings from all forms of racing, we know they will be a strong addition to our program, and we look forward to working with them and all our teams to create a stronger Ford NASCAR program with even greater depth.”

Ford unveiled its new 2013 Fusion during a media event in Charlotte back in January and the manufacturer sees the addition of Penske to its line-up of NASCAR organizations including Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports as another opportunity to win the Sprint Cup title in 2013.

“This is an historic day for our racing program, and we are thrilled to see another member of the extended Ford family coming back,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “Working together with Penske Racing gives Ford another championship-level program, and we are excited to take our racing program to all-new levels.”

Where this news leaves Dodge and its NASCAR program is still murky. Penske was the only team in teh Dodge camp fielding entries in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Dodge is set to unveil its new 2013 Sprint Cup Charger next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but at this point does not have a team aligned with the manufacturer for the new year. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:02 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:31 am

Report: Penske to switch from Dodge to Ford

By Pete Pistone

Autoweek is reporting that Penske Racing will leave the Dodge camp and field Fords for the 2013 season. An official announcement is expected to come Thursday afternoon.

Penske has fielded Dodges since 2003, winning 26 times in that span.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 27, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 3:33 pm

Cup teams carry optimism into the coming season

By Pete Pistone

  (L-R) Jimmie Johnson, Driver Of The #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Driver Of The #88 Diet Mountain
(Hendrick is confident his team can return to the championship form it missed out on last season - Getty Images)

This week’s annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte wasn’t chock full of breaking news, unless you’re among those who didn’t know reporters, writers and photographers like to eat. Buffet lines were plentiful even if the news was not.

The top two stories of the week spent in the Queen City were most likely Ford’s unveiling of the 2013 Sprint Cup Fusion and DeLana Harvick’s pregnancy, which should give you an indication of the wide spectrum of topics covered on the tour. 

Other than that most of the trek around Charlotte was reserved for teams to outline their plans for the coming season and size up goals for the coming year. 

Although every Cup every organization didn’t participate on the tour, most of the heavy hitters were represented. 

Of course all predict big things for 2012 and multiple wins and championships. To say enthusiasm ran high at every visit is a giant understatement. 

But there was a distinct vibe during every team’s session and although not one competitive lap has been run, it was interesting to gauge the atmosphere around a few of the sport’s high profile operations:  

Stewart-Haas Racing

There is a definite swagger surrounding the defending Sprint Cup championship team. Tony Stewart’s performance last year has solidified this organization as a definite contender for future titles. Stewart has also given the outfit a more personal touch with the addition of crew chief Steve Addington and long-time pal Greg Zipadelli to the Director of Competition role. Throw Danica Patrick into the mix, who appears much more at home now that she’s a full-time NASCAR driver, along with Ryan Newman and SHR came off as a laid back bunch that is having a good time doing what they’re doing. This will be a fun bunch to watch in 2012.

Joe Gibbs Racing

The feeling was much more buttoned down when the Gibbs bunch gave their view of the coming year. Coach Gibbs did come close to breaking the tour record for the use of the word excited, but there was a distinct sense of pressure in the room. Two new crew chiefs and a trio of drivers that are all in their own way facing a pressure-filled situation heading into the season is the reality for Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. There are also questions on how the shift to TRD engines will impact the team’s fortunes as it looks to put last season’s motor woes behind. JGR appears to be at a crossroads this year and its 2012 performance could very well shape its overall direction. 

Michael Waltrip Racing

The off-season facelift for this team brought in newcomers Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin to team up with holdover Martin Truex Jr. Team co-owner Waltrip, who is also slated to drive in a few races this year, kept the mood light during the MWR stop by hosting a talk show featuring his stable of drivers as guests. While David Letterman has nothing to worry about, the result was an opportunity to see the personalities of this quartet of drivers who at least early on in the process seem like they click together. The absolute test will obviously come on the racetrack and like its Toyota counterparts at JGR MWR needs to find some speed to compete on a regular basis. Bowyer and Martin will help elevate the team’s driving talent but equipment and engines are still unknown entities that will impact MWR’s hope to move to the next level. 

  Jack Roush, Owner Of Roush Fenway Racing, Speaks
(Jack Roush celebrates his 25th anniversary in NASCAR and seeks win number 300 this season - Getty Images)

Roush Fenway Racing

It was difficult to get a true sense of feeling around RFR for the simple fact that two of its three Sprint Cup drivers weren’t present at the team function. Carl Edwards was out of the country on a pre-planned vacation while Matt Kenseth was a late scratch due to a family emergency. That left Greg Biffle as the lone Cup driver rep in addition to team owner Roush and GM Robbie Reiser as team reps. Roush will be celebrating its 25<sup>th</sup> year in NASCAR this season and has a remarkable history in the sport including 299 career victories. But whether Edwards doesn’t fall victim to the hangover of just missing out on last year’s championship or Kenseth follows up his Chase appearance last season or Biffle rebounds from an off 2011 are a trio of big question marks at this juncture. 

Hendrick Motorsports

It may sound strange to hear a team as successful as Hendrick has been to be considered reenergized but that’s the case with this four-car stable. Missing out on last year’s sixth straight title has Jimmie Johnson proclaiming he’s “as hungry as ever” and team owner Hendrick was glowing with optimism but his entire organization including Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and newcomer Kasey Kahne. “I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t have all four cars in the Chase and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t win the championship,” Hendrick said. “I can’t remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year. I think we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been and if we don’t get it (the championship) it's going to be our fault.”  Those words no doubt caught the attention of every other Cup operation. 

Richard Childress Racing

There was more announced at the RCR gathering than the upcoming blessed event in the Harvick household. In addition to Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard, RCR will field a fourth entry for Elliott Sadler in the Daytona 500 as well as the following four events for Nationwide and truck series regular Brendan Gaughan. There are two crew chief changes among the three Cup drivers and a renewed sense of enthusiasm across the board but particularly with Burton who said bluntly his dismal 2011 “pissed him off.” It will be interesting to see how Harvick’s new personal life developments including divesting his KHI team impacts his season and if Burton finds his way back to being more competitive, as he demonstrated during the tail end of last year.

Penske Racing

There was a sense of relief permeating the air during the Penske media event no doubt the result of the Kurt Busch controversy finally ending. While Busch was not thrown under the bus (in fact Penske said he was personally sending his former driver a letter wishing him well on his new endeavors) it was clear this team is excited to move on with A.J. Allmendinger now teaming up with Brad Keselowski. A contract extension announcement for Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe spoke volumes of how Penske feels about the duo that won three races and made the Chase last season. Keselowski is comfortable with the role of leader he now inherits and Allmendinger’s personality has fit right into the team. 

Hope springs eternal at this time of the year to be sure and every team has reason to believe this will be their season to shine. However the reality of the grueling racing season is about to put those feelings of optimism to the test.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 3:14 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 9:23 pm

2011 Team Review/Preview: Penske Racing

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Brad Keselowski was one of the 2011 season's surprises driving to three victories in the Penske "Blue Deuce")


It was both a successful as well as tumultuous season for Penske Racing. 

While team owner Roger Penske saw both his cars make the Chase and win multiple races, an end of season controversy with driver Kurt Busch tainted the organization’s 2011 effort. 

Busch and teammate Brad Keselowski teamed up to find victory lane five times last season and both advanced to the playoffs. That performance more than exceeded expectations many had for the only Dodge team in the Sprint Cup Series. 

“I don’t believe we’re shorthanded at all,” said Steve Addington, who served as Busch’s crew chief in 2011. “In fact we maybe got more support from the manufacturer than other multi-car teams with say Chevrolet or Ford or Toyota because we were the only two Dodge teams on the track. They’ve been a great partner and we couldn’t accomplish what we have without the resources they provide.” 

Keselowski enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 and his three wins propelled him into the Chase as a wild card entry. 

After winning his first race of the season in the June trip to Kansas Speedway, Keselowski really caught fire later in the summer ironically right after breaking his foot and ankle in a testing crash at Road Atlanta. 

Keselowski roared back the following Sunday to win at Pocono and continued a roll that vaulted him into the Chase and made him a legitimate title contender until late in the playoff run. 

“This has definitely been a dream season for me in my first year driving the ‘Blue Deuce,'" said Keselowski, who finished fifth in the final point standings. "We were able to show progression as the year went along and that was one of the most important things for me. This was basically a new team and for us to compete for the championship in our first year together really bodes well for our future.”

Busch and Addington started the season strong with a stellar effort at Daytona’s Speedweeks that included a Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel win as well as a solid in the in the Daytona 500. 

But it was a roller coaster season the rest of the way that had many peaks and valleys including a pair of wins at Sonoma in June and again at Dover come October. 

Busch’s famous temper got the better of him several times during races with radio communication meltdowns aimed at Addington, the team and even Penske punctuating the year. 

His emotional outbursts spilled over to the media and Busch got into heated exchanges with press members on more than one occasion at one point grabbing a transcript from a reporter and ripping it in half when he denied saying what was printed in black and white. 



However the final straw came at Homestead’s season finale when Busch launched into a expletive-laden tirade toward ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and his crew, a moment that was caught on video by a nearby fan and became a You Tube sensation. 

It led to Busch and Penske “mutually parting ways” at season’s end, finally drawing his at times successful but turbulent career with the legendary team owner to a conclusion.



The Penske shake-up included Addington’s departure from the team to take over as Tony Stewart’s crew chief at Stewart-Haas Racing as well as Busch leaving the organization. 

So Penske rebuilt the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge squad by bringing A.J. Allmendinger over from Richard Petty Motorsports to pair up with former Nationwide crew chief Todd Gordon

Allmendinger, who was considered by many to be the next first time winner in the series after an impressive year with RPM, was elated to get an opportunity to drive for Penske. 

In addition to their NASCAR careers, the duo share experience and success in open wheel racing and Allmendinger hopes that will carry over to his stock car performance. 

Yeah, I think for me with my background and where I've come from, Roger Penske and just Penske Corporation as a race team, as a business, the way he goes about just taking care of his guys, everything that goes along with that, it's been the pinnacle,” Allmendinger said. “I've always wanted to drive for Mr. Penske, so it's something that when the opportunity arose, I was -- I jumped right at it. 

“It's something that I have always dreamed of, and I just feel like the way he runs his organization, the way he takes care of his people is first-class and top-notch. So that's something that I wanted to be a part of.” 

Keselowski and his crew chief Paul Wolfe now become the veteran leadership of the two car tandem in 2012. Keselowski believes the foundation of what they accomplished last season will again make the No. 2 entry a championship-caliber team again this year. 

"We want to fire out of the box strong next season, compete for wins early, and show everyone that we are going to be a legitimate team for years to come," Keselowski said. "I’ll take a little time to myself over the off-season, but I’m already excited about going to Daytona next year.”



The pressure will be on Allmendinger and Gordon to take over a car that won twice and made the Chase last season. It may a tall task to ask from a driver still searching for Sprint Cup win number one and a rookie crew chief. A good start will go a long way in helping the pair build confidence and chemistry, which will be starting from square one. Keselowski appears poised to take the next step in his career and join the group of elite drivers in the series.  As he demonstrated last season, a good beginning to the campaign isn’t necessarily imperative in his case as he was impressive in the late regular schedule run into the playoffs. I’d expect at least one of the Penske duo to make the Chase and the driver of the Miller Lite No. 2 is the choice.


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Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:08 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am

2012 Sprint Cup Series driver changes

By Pete Pistone

Fans won't be able to tell the players - or in this case drivers - without a scorecard this coming Sprint Cup Series season. There have been numerous driver changes, swaps and movement since the final checkered flag of 2011 flew at Homestead last November.

You can keep up with all the new faces in new places right here, which will be updated regularly as more changes take place:

No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

In: Kasey Kahne comes over after a one year run at Red Bull Racing to take the reigns of the No. 5 Chevy, which will sport Farmer’s Insurance as its primary sponsor. Kahne signed the deal in 2010 but with nowhere to go in his four-car stable, team owner Rick Hendrick brokered a deal with Red Bull for last season. 

Out: Mark Martin ended his Hendrick tenure at the end of last season with a disappointing performance. Martin has moved on to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012. 

Our Take: Kahne comes to Hendrick with Kenny Francis and the duo has become one of the best driver-crew chief combos in the Sprint Cup Series. They ended their Red Bull careers on a hot streak and bring that same momentum and confidence to the potent Hendrick organization.

No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Clint Bowyer joins MWR after his successful career at Richard Childress Racing. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy will back the entry for the majority of the season and talented crew chief Brian Pattie comes on board to call the shots after leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. 

Out: Waltrip has added a third entry to his stable to join incumbent Martin Truex Jr. as well as newcomer Mark Martin who takes David Reutimann’s spot with the team. 

Our Take: Bowyer brings MWR’s talent level up considerably and seemed ready for a fresh start after his contract talks at RCR stalled. He was in the enviable position of having a sponsor in hand and chose Waltrip’s operation as the place for the next phase of his Cup career. Getting off to a fast start will be key for the new team’s success.

No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge

In: A.J. Allmendinger slides into the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in a move from Richard Petty Motorsports. The stars aligned for Allmendinger to get a shot at taking over a car that won twice last season and made the Chase and he seems an ideal fit for team owner Roger Penske’s style.

Out: Kurt Busch “mutually parted ways” with Penske after his tumultuous 2011 season and will drive for Phoenix Racing this season.  The infamous incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at the Homestead season finale was the tipping point for Busch to end his tenure with Penske Racing. 

Our Take: Allmendinger has been able to perform under tense conditions at both Red Bull and RPM when financial issues played a big part in each team’s day to day operation. He now can rest assured that there will be stability at Penske and can concentrate on trying to elevate his game. There is some pressure taking over the wheel of a successful entry like the No. 22 and trying to win with a rookie Sprint Cup crew chief in Todd Gordon.

No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford

In: David Ragan lands with Front Row Motorsports after being squeezed out of Roush Fenway Racing due to sponsorship issues and not getting the call for open seats at Penske Racing or Richard Petty Motorsports. Ragan stays in the Ford camp with the move.

Out: Travis Kvapil is the odd man out at this poont although team officials haven't ruled out the possibility of a third entry at selected races with Kvapil splitting time with J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell. A former truck series champ, Kvapil joins the list of drivers impacted by sponsorship issues in 2012.

Our Take: Ragan is a Sprint Cup Series race winner with his Daytona victory last July and has the talent to potentially bring this team up a notch or two in the performance department. But make no mistake, Front Row is by no means anywhere close to having the resources of a Roush Fenway Racing and Ragan will have a challenging season ahead trying to be success with a much smaller and less funded race team.

No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

In: David Reutimann has landed with the upstart independent team after his release from Michael Waltrip Racing. The popular driver will pair with Dave Blaney in what TBR hopes will be a two-car effort for at least 26 races with sponsorship dictating the complete schedule. 

Out: TBR ran a handful of races with the car last season that saw the likes of Stephen Leicht, Geoffrey Bodine and Steve Park behind the wheel. 

Our Take: TBR was the quintessential David vs. Goliath story last season and scored some much needed exposure with a number of solid runs particularly at Daytona and Talladega. The team will face another uphill battle this season but the addition of Reutimann and his marketability could bring in additional sponsorship dollars that will in turn help the organization became more competitive.

No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

In: Aric Almirola was the somewhat surprising choice to take the wheel of the famed No. 43 entry at RPM. Almirola spent last year driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and after running a handful of Cup races for RPM in 2010 was tabbed to fill the seat of the iconic ride for 2012. 

Out: A.J. Allmendinger was granted his release from the team after primary sponsor Best Buy opted to leave for Roush Fenway Racing. Allmendinger then signed on to drive the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing. 

Our Take: The good news is RPM remains a two-car effort and that the No. 43 stays on track for 2012. But the team once again faces a rebuilding process taking on a new driver in Almirola to pair with Marcos Ambrose. Allmendinger had made strides to bring the organization up to the next level and seemed to be knocking on the door for his first career Sprint Cup win last season. There will be pressure on Almirola to continue that upward trend.

No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

In: Kurt Busch takes his much-publicized leap from Penske Racing to James Finch’s operation in hopes of “putting the fun” back into his racing career. The team once again continues its relationship with Hendrick Motorsports ensuring quality cars and potent engines for its 2012 effort. 

Out: Landon Cassill piloted the ride for the bulk of the 2011 season when the 51 entry wound up finishing 30<sup>th</sup> in the final owner point standings. 

Our Take: Right out of the box look for Busch to be a factor at Daytona as Finch’s teams always perform well at restrictor plate tracks. The former series champion’s considerable talents automatically elevates the organization and it won’t hurt having someone of Busch’s stature when hunting down new sponsors. But whether Busch is in for the long haul when tough times inevitably come for the small, one car operation remains to be seen as well as whether he can take the team further up the point standings.

No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Mark Martin signed a two-year deal to drive the former No. 00 Camry with sponsor Aaron’s on board in a 25-race schedule. Team owner Waltrip plans to pilot the entry for five more races at Daytona, Talladega and Kentucky.

Out: David Reutimann was released at the end of last season with Waltrip and sponsor Aaron’s citing a lack of performance as the main reason for the change. 

Our Take: Martin still has the desire to drive and at times showed he could get the job done last year in both his time with Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup entry as well as some limited starts for Turner Motorsports’ Nationwide program. The 25-race slate should fit perfectly into Martin’s limited schedule desires. Waltrip’s four plate race starts as well as the home date in Kentucky will provide exposure and publicity for the sponsor, the former Daytona 500 winner and spokesperson extraordinaire's specialty.

Dropped teams

No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford

The loss of full-time sponsor UPS forced team owner Jack Roush to shut down his fourth entry for the 2012 season leaving David Ragan on the unmployment line. Despite winning his first career Sprint Cup Series race last July at Daytona, Ragan was forced out of RFR at season's end.

No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Sponsorship issues led to team owner Richard Childress to eliminate this entry from his Sprint Cup stable and to part ways with Clint Bowyer, who left for Michael Waltrip Racing. RCR goes back to three teams for the 2012 season with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard

No. 4 and No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyotas

The departure of Red Bull as both owner and sponsor of this team means two less entries for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series campaign. General Manager Jay Frye was not successful finding new investors to keep the organization's doors open and an official shut down was the aftermath. While Kasey Kahne has landed at Hendrick Motorsports, Brian Vickers does not have a ride lined up for the new season. 


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Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:35 pm

Up to Allmendinger to perform

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Can Allmendinger perform as well as Kurt Busch did last year with two victories and a berth in the Chase?)

Now that the music has stopped and A.J. Allmendinger finds himself in the Penske Racing seat, the former open wheel star can enjoy his Christmas break knowing his 2012 plans. 

But it won’t be too long before the honeymoon period will end and Allmendinger is forced to face the reality of the matter. 

He needs to perform well next season for there to be a second season in the Penske stable. 

Allmendinger didn’t ink a long-term contract to take the wheel of the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. Rather he’s locked into the coming year with no guarantees beyond 2012. 

Roger Penske and team General Manager Tim Cindric are happy they got their man but made it clear what their expectations are going forward. 

“Within every organization I think you set up gates and different areas that you have to get through from a performance perspective,” said Cindric. “We're not going to get into exactly what all those gates are, but his program is certainly set up for the long‑term, and if we realize our potential, I think he'll be our driver for more than one year.” 

Allmendinger understands he’ll need to step up to fulfill the promise the organization sees and knows the 2012 effort will be important in not just his future with Penske but as a viable Sprint Cup Series driver. 

“I think it gives me a great chance to make myself better,” he said.  “I know for me I'm coming into a race team that's got a lot of momentum, an organization that's got a lot of momentum from a great solid year.  

“And really when the season starts, you've just got to be solid to start the season.  You can't put yourself in a hole.  So I think that's going to be a big thing for us is just to try to gel together as quick as possible.”

Allmendinger will have a giant learning curve ahead of him moving into a new organization with a different manufacturer and a brand new crew chief in Todd Gordon, who makes his Sprint Cup debut after a successful Nationwide Series career with the team. 

The question is can he adapt to so many changes in such a relatively short period of time and continue the momentum he had after finishing fifteenth in the standings last year as well as the performance of the No. 22 ride? 

Allmendinger steps into a car that won twice last season and along with its sister ride driven by Brad Keselowski made the Chase. 

The bar is set pretty high and Allmendinger will have his work cut out just trying to match what was accomplished in 2011. 

That’s a pretty tall order considering the season’s first official green flag is less than two months away. 

There’s a good chance should Allmendinger not win a race, failing to qualify for the playoffs or at the very least match his finishing in the standings last year this could be a one and done proposition. 

Penske has shown patience in the past with others who have come through the organization most recently with David Stremme, who had a couple of years in the Sprint Cup program before finally being replaced by Keselowski.

Sam Hornish Jr. is back and waiting in the wings, ready to run for the Nationwide Series championship next season after making positive strides last year including his first career NASCAR win. 

Penske’s relationship with Hornish dates back to their Indy Car days and the team owner’s loyalty with the former Indy 500 winner is very deep. A solid Nationwide campaign will be a definite help for Hornish to return to the Cup level, possibly at Allmendinger’s expense should 2012 not go as well as the team hopes.

Allmendinger has the talent to succeed and for the first time in his stock car career the resources and perhaps more importantly the stability of the organization as support.

But as this current volatile state of NASCAR has shown time and again during this hectic off-season the pressure to perform has never been greater.

In fact even reaching the ultimate of success is no guarantee for anyone’s future.

Just ask Darian Grubb.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com