By Michelle Lesener
For Roger Penske, winning is a way of life. He and his Penske Racing organization have earned wins in a variety of series, ranging from Formula One to American LeMans, IndyCar and NASCAR, among others.
The Penske mark in racing history began with Roger driving cars for a living from 1958 to 1965. He raced in a number of series including two Formula One events and won a race in a NASCAR subdivision – the Pacific Coast Late Model Divison – at Riverside in 1963. He was even offered a rookie test at Indianapolis for the 500 but Penske turned it down.
After his retirement from driving, Penske formed a team of his own in 1966 by fielding cars in endurance races with Mark Donohue as his driver. He made the jump to IndyCar two years later, again fielding cars with Donohue in the drivers’ seat.
In 1972, with humble beginnings in NASCAR, and under the banner of Penske Racing South, the team fielded cars for Donohue and then Bobby Allison until 1977.
Surprisingly, Penske Racing disappeared from the NASCAR scene for several years, returning briefly for a two-race stint with Rusty Wallace. Penske then returned for good in 1991, with Rusty Wallace and long-time Penske associate, Don Miller as a co-owner of the team.
Also, winning 15 Indianapolis 500s with IndyCar, Penske Racing has seen great success with ten different drivers including, Mark Donohue, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., Rick Mears, Sam Hornish Jr, and Helio Castroneves. They also have one championship in IndyCar, with Sam Hornish Jr in 2006.
The Penske organization still continues with multiple wins in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup series’. Their only title in these premier series’ came in 2010 when Brad Keselowski won a hotly-contested Nationwide Championship over Carl Edwards.
|Will Power current points leader in IndyCar for Penske
Photo – LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Currently, Penske fields three drivers in the IndyCar series with Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Power has three wins this season and is currently the points-leader for the series. Helio has one win so far this season and is second in point-standings, 55 points behind Will. Ryan Briscoe sits in 7th place and 97 points behind his first-place teammate. All three top-ten teams proudly represent Penske Racing within IndyCar.
In NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger drive the No. 2 and No. 22, respectively. Brad Keselowski pulls double duty, running in the Nationwide series along with teammate Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish is Penske’s only driver contending for a championship in Nationwide, as Brad has elected to race for a Sprint Cup championship.
Brad Keselowski has two Sprint Cup wins so far and is currently 12th in the point standings, putting him in perfect position for one of two wild card spots for the Chase. After 11 races, Keselowski is 83 points behind points-leader Greg Biffle.
AJ Allmendinger is currently 22nd in Sprint Cup point-standings, 84 points from 10th place Carl Edwards and 158 points behind points-leader Greg Biffle. Allmendinger has been hit with unforeseen, bad luck this season and is looking to turn it around as quickly as possible.
Having his best NASCAR season so far, Sam Hornish Jr. is currently 4th in the Nationwide series standings, 59 points away from points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Roger Penske’s storied history has led his organization to what may be one of his most successful seasons. His IndyCar team has an impressive record of winning the prestigious Indianapolis 500. Will fans see a Penske team return to victory lane for this year’s event?
With three drivers currently in the series’ top-ten, another Penske championship is also on the line and many wonder, which of these three drivers will prevail. It will be fun and interesting to watch as they compete for a second and coveted Penske championship.
This season also offers a chance for Penske Racing to achieve a rare feat by winning two celebrated races at Indianapolis’ legendary track – IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, Sprint Cup race – will Penske’s teams pull it off this year?
With teams in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, Penske Racing has another opportunity to contend for championships in both of NASCAR’s premier series. Within the top-five, Hornish has a chance to earn a second Nationwide championship for Penske, also earning his second championship with the organization.
And with two wins in the first 11 races of the season, Keselowski is knocking of the door to contend for Penske’s first Sprint Cup championship. These titles could become a reality – but will it happen? Again, it will be fun to see how the Penske season unfolds.
With all these questions lingering in the 2012 season, one point is without question – Roger Penske and his organization continue to broaden their mark on racing history.