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Is Team Penske the Best They’ve Ever Been in NASCAR?

March 18th, 2014 at 11:58 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

Roger Penske's racing career dates back decades. Penske owns the record for Indianapolis 500 victories as an owner with 15 wins in the prestigious event. Penske was even named Sports Car Club of America Driver of the Year in 1961 by Sports Illustrated magazine. There is no doubt that Roger Penske is going down as one of the most successful men to ever make a career in auto racing.

However, Penske's NASCAR life doesn't go as far back as everyone thinks. Penske put his toe in the stockcar racing waters in the 1972 season. He had several drivers in his Matadors, most notably Bobby Allison and Mark Donahue. He won five NASCAR races in the 1970's one with Donahue and four with Allison. However, by 1978 Penske was out of NASCAR and it looked like for good. 

Then in 1991 Penske decided to get back into NASCAR with champion driver Rusty Wallace, starting a long 16 year relationship with each other. Wallace's best year with Penske came in the 1993 season when Wallace won 10 of 30 races on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule that season and finished runner-up in the point standings. It was an impressive year for Wallace. 

Wallace would finish in the top ten in the standings each of the next nine seasons. The team would add another car to their mix in 1998 when Jeremy Mayfield was hired. Together Mayfield and Wallace ran strong, however, both teams ran as separate entities for Team Penske. After Mayfield and Penske had a falling out in the 2002 season, the team hired youngster Ryan Newman. Newman did well with the organization, running full-time for the team from 2002-2008 before moving to Stewart Haas Racing. Newman had 13 wins for the team driving the #12 car. 

Rusty Wallace's career ended in 2005 and after that season Penske hired former champion Kurt Busch to drive the #2 Dodge. Busch won 10 races for Penske in the six years he ran there. While Busch, Wallace and Newman's numbers were impressive the organization has never been better in NASCAR than they are right now. 

Brad Keselowski has become one of the best drivers in NASCAR. He and his crew chief Paul Wolfe have seemed to be clicking on all cylinders and a lot of people are picking those two as the next duo to dethrone Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson as the best driver/crew chief duo in the sport. Keselowski already has one championship in his career and the team looks destined for another. 

'Brad Keselowski' photo (c) 2013, Marco Becerra - license:

Keselowski's teammate Joey Logano has turned a corner himself. Logano had a tough four seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing prior to joining the organization in the 2013 season. Logano is now one of the better drivers in the sport. He is just 24 years old and had his best season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2013. He and his crew chief Todd Gordon have seemed to mesh really well together. 

The team made another drastic change that a lot of people thought would hurt them. The team changed from Dodge to Ford and in the process changed their engine manufacturer. The team went from their own engine program to using Roush/Yates Engines. For a lot of organizations that may make a team weaker but Penske hasn't and so far through the 2014 season the team has been really stellar. 

It's the first time in a long time that Roger Penske's NASCAR team has been consistently on top of the sport. Right now the organization comes to every track as one of the favorites to win every week. It hasn't always been that way. 

Tags: Brad Keselowski, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, roger penske, Rusty Wallace, Ryan Newman, Team Penske

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