close

Dodge

General

Penske’s AJ Allmendinger catches a break

rpm_g_allmendinger_576

AJ Allmendinger knows it took a little green-white-checkered craziness for him to finish second Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, but for a team desperately needing some good news, he’ll take it.

“I don’t know if we had a second-place car, but with the way these races play out, you’ve got to put yourself in position,” Allmendinger said after the race. “It was definitely a top-10 car.”

Ryan Newman didn’t have a winning car, either, but that’s how it turned out after Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — driving the two best cars in the field Sunday — got wrecked on the first overtime restart.
Sometimes things don’t go your way in the end, and sometimes you catch a break. Allmendinger got one Sunday for a career-best finish and his first strong showing since making the move to the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing.

“We’re getting better together,” Allmendinger said. “It’s frustrating at times. It wasn’t a good feeling around here. I was kind of lost, so I’m really thrilled with the finish, but I’m happy with how we ran all day.

“I want to be up there every weekend. I’m trying my butt off, trying everything I can to get these guys up front. They’re behind me. It feels good to have an organization behind you even when you feel like you’re struggling a little bit.”

Allmendinger feels the pressure to perform as the guy who replaced Kurt Busch, a former Sprint Cup champion who made the Chase four times in his six seasons at Penske and has 24 Cup victories.

Allmendinger still is looking for his first Cup win. He came close Sunday, but couldn’t get by Newman on the final restart.

“I knew on that restart to hang on the outside of Ryan,” Allmendinger said. “But he ran me really clean and I thank him for that. We were just a little too tight. We had a really good car on the long run.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon said one good run can work wonders for the team’s confidence.

“It’s big for both AJ and myself,” Gordon said. “Obviously, this 22 car is known for winning races. This kind of gives us a step in the right direction to having the success that we both know we can have.”

After fuel system problems in Las Vegas and a 37th-place finish, Allmendinger has improved in each of the past three events — 17th at Bristol, 15th at Fontana and the runner-up showing Sunday.

Allmendinger has moved up 10 spots in the standings from 30th to 20th. And for those who are comparing, he’s six spots ahead of Kurt Busch and the underfunded Phoenix Racing team.

But Allmendinger realizes he’s on a team now that belongs much higher in the standings than 20th.

“I’m working so hard,” Allmendinger said. “I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself because these guys are used to running up front and deserve to run up front. I’m trying to learn as quickly as I can, just like Todd is. We’re trying to learn together.”

Allmendinger had his best race of the year on a day when he wasn’t feeling his best. He welcomes the off week for Easter before heading to Texas for the next event.

“I think we all need a rest,” he said. “I need to get healthy. I’ve been traveling so much doing a lot of fun things for Shell/Pennzoil and for AAA. I’ve been worn out. I think this is the right time to get a weekend off, take some notes that we learned from this weekend and go to Texas and be ready to go.”

[Source: ESPN]

read more
General

WURTH GROUP Joins Penske Racing as a Sponsor in 2012

no thumb

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (January 26, 2012) – Penske Racing welcomes a new partner to its NASCAR Nationwide Series program in 2012 as The WURTH GROUP will sponsor the Dodge Challenger driven by Sam Hornish, Jr. The No. 12 WURTH Dodge will be featured as primary sponsor in seven races as it marks the beginning of a multi-year partnership between WURTH and Penske Racing. WURTH will also be an associate sponsor for the remaining 26 Nationwide Series races and also as an associate sponsor of No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series.

A leading supplier of high-quality automotive and industrial parts, cabinet supplies and fasteners, WURTH has more than 40,000 customers across the nation.

“The WURTH GROUP is a world-wide leader in the automotive and industrial supply business and we are pleased to have them join our team,” said Roger Penske. “Having WURTH as a partner brings value to every aspect of our company and their involvement will enhance our ability to compete for wins and hopefully the Nationwide Series title this season.”

With WURTH on board as a sponsor for 2012, Hornish and the No. 12 team will compete for the full Nationwide Series season, racing with Alliance Truck Parts as a partner as well.

“We are really excited to bring WURTH into the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I am grateful that they have joined our team because it is their support that makes it possible for us to run for the championship this year,” said Hornish. “We know that they will be a great partner to Penske Racing and we will do our best to get the No. 12 WURTH Dodge into Victory Circle.”

While this season marks its entry into North American motorsports, WURTH has been actively involved in European racing for over 30 years supporting teams in various disciplines including the Formula One and DTM Series.

“Roger and his companies are the epitome of excellence and integrity,” said Robert Stolz, CEO of the Wurth Group, North America.”Their commitment to the highest quality and customer service mirrors our own corporate culture. While we have one of the most recognized brands in industrial distribution in Europe and Asia, we are just beginning to roll it out in America. Our partnership with Penske Racing will be of great value to us as we look to expand further into this market.”

WURTH offers an extensive catalog of hardware, chemicals, fasteners and more, providing customers with everything they need to succeed. Small body shops and nationwide fleet maintenance companies alike can benefit from the unparalleled selection and unbeatable service that is synonymous with the WURTH brand.

Penske Racing is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Penske Racing have produced 350 major race wins – including a record 15 Indianapolis 500 victories, more than 410 pole positions and 23 National Championships. For more information about Penske Racing, please visit www.penskeracing.com.

read more
General

AJ Allmendinger will look to break into the Chase and win races with new ride

no thumb

Of the many new team combinations that will be followed with interest this Sprint Cup season, one of the most interesting dynamics exists at Penske Racing.

Brad Keselowski suddenly is the “veteran” team statesman, and the new kid on the block is AJ Allmendinger, fresh from Richard Petty Motorsports and ready to take advantage of a huge opportunity.

The Dinger was one of the biggest gainers in the off-season shuffle of drivers, crew chiefs and other team personnel, and his goal at Penske this season will be to win races and duplicate the overall Penske effort last year, which put Keselowski and then-teammate Kurt Busch in the Chase.

“This is a challenge that I welcome and look forward to,” Allmendinger said. “The two Penske teams were strong enough to both win races and make the Chase last year, and we’re looking for that same level of success this season. It’ll be important to start off the season on a positive note.

“Testing proved to each of us that, even though we haven’t had much time together, we all have the same goal and are really excited to get going. Testing also showed, though, that the drafting and NASCAR making changes to try and put forth the best racing possible, makes the Daytona 500 just about anybody’s game. I think we’ve got one of the best shots out there, and definitely a team capable of winning at any of the 36 races.”

Penske scored five wins last season, Keselowski winning three times despite a major foot injury and Busch winning twice. Keselowski finished fifth in points, and Busch was 11th.

Allmendinger was 15th in points for RPM.

Allmendinger will be shooting for his first career victory this season. He finished 24th in points in 2009 and 19th in 2010.

“I think it is a very realistic goal to win races and make the Chase this season,” he said. “I think Penske Racing proved last season that working with Dodge as only a two-car effort isn’t necessarily a bad situation. They proved that a smaller group with a strong common goal and clear way of doing things can be just as strong, maybe stronger.

“This is my second time around working with Dodge, and I’ve seen how dedicated they are to our sport. We’re really looking forward to taking them to victory lane this season.”

Allmendinger perhaps will be under more scrutiny than other driver this year.

“We have spent most of our time in NASCAR just trying to survive,” he said. “Getting this opportunity to drive the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing is truly like a double blessing. I am finally getting the stability I have needed to do my best, but I am also realizing a dream in driving for Mr. Penske.

“Coming from my open-wheel background, Roger Penske and his organization and race teams are just the best of the best. I am committed to representing Penske Racing, Shell-Pennzoil, Dodge and all the other great partners the best I can on and off the track.”

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.

Source:SpeedTV.com

read more
General

Allmendinger’s Past Led Him To His Future With Penske Racing

no thumb

Can AJ Allmendinger make the grade as the new driver of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012?

If tenacity, desire and will–together with great talent–have anything to do with it, the Penske Racing team has a new winner to replace departed Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and 24-race winner.

The 30-year-old driver from Los Gatos, CA–currently residing in the Mooresville, NC area with wife Lynne–has had grand successes in auto racing but in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, the grand stage of stock car racing, he’s had a difficult time, never having the stability that’s essential to succeeding.

Allmendinger, named for A.J. Foyt Jr by his race-loving parents, first showed his innate skills in karting. I remember watching him at the Stars of Karting event at Bryan Herta’s track outside Las Vegas in late 2000, where he was a member of Paul Tracy’s team. Allmendinger did not win that event, but he did secure two IKF karting titles that helped propel him to the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

The Dinger won the Barber Dodge championship in his rookie 2002 season, putting a wheel wrong only once, in the Road America race. I recall watching the poor Barber Dodge mechanics digging dirt from inside his stricken race car and labeling it “Mount Allmendinger,” with flag affixed and all.

Allmendinger went to New Zealand as a Team USA Scholarship winner in 2002 and scored one pole and four top-four results flying the Team USA colors. From there he conquered the 2003 Toyota Atlantic championship, at that time the longest-lived ladder championship on American shores, winning Rookie of the Year honors simultaneously as he drove for Carl Russo’s RuSport Racing.

Both the team and Allmendinger graduated to the Champ Car World Series in 2004, and the driver again took Rookie of the Year honors, thanks to a run of six top-six results as the season came to its close; he beat out Briton Justin Wilson for the award. Wilson became Allmendinger’s teammate in 2005 but in June of 2006, RuSport replaced the Californian with Cristiano da Matta, the 2002 CART champion recently returned from Formula 1.

Forsythe Championship Racing quickly picked up The Dinger and he rewarded them with three consecutive race wins and a total of five overall in the 2006 season. And then Team Red Bull, for whom Allmendinger should have been driving in F1–instead of Scott Speed–came calling with a lucrative offer to go to Cup.

Allmendinger started his NASCAR career late in 2006 in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he drove for Bill Davis Racing, making three starts and earning a best finish of fifth–in his second race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He drove the No. 84 Sprint Cup Red Bull Toyota entry, beginning full-time in 2007, but it was a learning experience for both team and driver. He did much of the “Car of Tomorrow” grunt work as the season progressed and ran some select Truck races for Toyota as he learned the big differences between open wheel and NASCAR trucks and race cars.

Eventually, Allmendinger got canned from the Red Bull squad in favor of Speed–who was released a couple of years later after his own sub-par results. The two-time former open wheel champion eventually landed at Richard Petty Motorsports after it merged with Gillett Evernharm Motorsports following the 2008 season.

Allmendinger’s best Cup season is the one just ended, where he finished 15th for the year, just three places from the possibility of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR playoffs. RPM put Greg Erwin on the pit box starting with the 2011 Brickyard 400 and that pairing led to Allmendinger’s late-season surge of six top-10 results.

No doubt Allmendinger’s skills in working with his new crew chief influenced Roger Penske and Tim Cindric when it was time to choose who would succeed Busch after their six-year run together.

Cindric and Allmendinger got together before the close of the year to talk about their new liaison in Cup racing and how they got to this point, what it means and where they go from here. Not only do they have a new driver in Allmendinger, but Penske Racing needed to secure a new crew chief for the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge and chose to promote Todd Gordon from the Nationwide ranks.

Cindric knows it’s a tough row to hoe, with so many changes occurring within the organization since the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedwy. “To go through [these changes] and have a different crew chief and a different driver going into next year, when it really wasn’t the plan starting the year,” that’s going to be tough for the team.

They’re also–as is every NASCAR Sprint Cup team–dealing with the intricacies of changing from carburetors to electronic fuel injection for fuel delivery on the Dodge engines, so they need both driver and crew chief that are used to making informed decisions on the fly.

“We certainly wanted to be sure that we made the right decision,” Cindric said, “and sometimes you need more time to try and understand what the landscape (ahead) looks like.”

With the volatility of Richard Petty Motorsports, which lost the No. 43’s Best Buy sponsorship to Roush Fenway Racing after the close of the year, Allmendinger was relieved to land at a group as stable as Penske Racing after “the things I”ve been up against basically my whole five years in the Sprint Cup Series,” Allmendinger related. “To find an organization that has stability and obviously the whole Penske organization has a ton of stability and great sponsors, walking through the shop, just the way everything is laid out and presented is absolutely amazing and something I’d never seen before,” he allowed.

Allmendinger never expected to be in this situation after the race at Homestead; he fully expected to remain with RPM in the coming season. “It wasn’t something that, for me, it was easily made,” he said of the decision to ask for his release from RPM in order to join Penske Racing. “I love the race team, my guys over at Richard Petty Motorsports, and just felt like we’ve built such good chemistry over the last four to five months of the season, to get to this point was a tough challenge.

“But at the same point, looking at an organization and where I”m going and the people that surround it, also made the decision a little bit easier because I knew that this was a great place to be,” he said of Penske Racing. “I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around it,” he said of the quick change of venues. “As tough as the decision was to make, I’m happy to be here.”

With Speed Weeks at Daytona less than a month and a half away, “I think that AJ is really going to lean on Brad (teammate Keselowski) to try and understand wht it takes to move into this organization and be successful,” Cindric pondered, “and I think Brad is committed as a teammate to help him get up to speed as soon as possible because he’s certainly shown that he’s committed to making that happen. There’s really no better place to do that than Daytona, where you’ve got to work together from the beginning.”

Cindric and Roger Penske had many choices in the merry-go-round that is the driver marketplace at the end of each season. “We had to look at potential,” Cindric

admitted. “I think that we considered virtually everybody that was out there and made sure that we did our due diligence to try and understand if there was anything in the landscape that we didn’t know or that wasn’t obvious,” he said.

“AJ was someone we had talked to over the years but he really wasn’t somebody that we considered until really almost the 11th hour. There was noise about the fact that they might not be able to make things work (at RPM). And when we sat down and looked at the guys that were available and at AJ – the on-track performance, if you look at it, there’s nobody there that has a better progression through his career. When you look at the slope of the curve there with the way his statistics are, certainly no one has that type of slope.”

And so AJ Allmendinger goes from one legend’s lair (Richard Petty) to another’s, Roger Penske. He realizes that this opportunity–much like the one he accepted in working with Forsythe Championship Racing back in 2006–offers him the chance to show just how good he can be in a Penske Dodge.

“I’m going to be smiling showing up to the racetrack every weekend,” Allmendinger said. “This is what I love to do and if I wasn’t smiling, I shouldn’t be driving race cars. It’s going to be pretty special and to have Mr Penske just around the racetrack talking to me, just being able to be around him, it’s more of an honor to drive for him. I love the history of racing in general and obviously, Mr Penske has a rich history in racing. It’s going to be just fun being at the racetrack, being a part of his organization and being around him more than anything. That’s something I really look forward to.”

read more
General

Penske Racing hires A.J. Allmendinger to replace Kurt Busch in team’s No. 22 car

no thumb

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Roger Penske has hired AJ Allmendinger to replace Kurt Busch in the No. 22 car.

Last year, the 30-year-old Allmendinger had 10 top-10 finishes and was 15th in points driving Richard Petty’s No. 43 car.

The move, announced Wednesday, takes Penske back to his open-wheel roots.

Allmendinger won the open-wheel Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2002, the Toyota Atlantics championship in 2003 and was the 2004 rookie of the year in the now defunct Champ Car series. In 2005, he won five races and was third in Champ Car in points. He joined the Cup circuit in 2007.

Busch won two races, took three poles and was one of 12 drivers to compete in the season-ending chase. Two weeks ago, after six bumpy seasons, Busch and Penske parted ways.

Source: Associated Press

read more
General

No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts 250 Preview

2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Texas

No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Team News and Notes
• Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger, will make his sixth start of the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) season Saturday afternoon in the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway
• From 2006 to present, Hornish has made a total of 25 Nationwide Series starts. He has scored eight top-15 finishes during that time and has also captured two top-five, five top-10 and eleven top-15 starting positions while competing in a limited NNS schedule over the last five years.
• This weekend marks the sixth outing together for Hornish and crew chief, Chad Walter, who called the shots for the No. 12 Penske Racing Nationwide Series team in the past and helped guide driver Justin Allgaier to top-six championship finishes in each of the last two seasons.
• Hornish heads to Michigan with good momentum after he started seventh and finished 12th in the NNS race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28.
• This will be Hornish’s second NNS race at Michigan International Speedway and his eighth start at this track overall for Hornish, who hails from nearby Defiance, Ohio.
• Alliance Truck Parts, the primary sponsor of the No. 12 car, is also the title sponsor of the NNS race at MIS this weekend
• Hornish’s Dodge Challenger will carry one of the in-car cameras featured during the ABC-TV race broadcast on Saturday, which begins at 3:30 pm ET.

Sam Hornish Jr.’s comments on this weekend’s Alliance Truck Parts 250

“I am very excited to be racing this weekend at Michigan in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge. Living in nearby Defiance, Ohio, I consider Michigan my home track so it’s nice to be able to come home for a few days and have family and friends come out to the race as well. Another reason to be excited is that Alliance Truck Parts is sponsoring the race this weekend so I feel even more privileged to be sporting their black and yellow colors. It’s always great to get back together with the No. 12 crew as well. I feel like each week together, we keep improving so I can’t wait to see how the weekend turns out.”

Crew Chief Chad Walter’s comments on this weekend’s Alliance Truck Parts 250

“The No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts crew has been looking forward to Michigan for a few weeks now. We overcame some obstacles at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) but we are ready to move on and continue to improve. We have a brand new chassis this week, No. 220, that we have been working on in the shop these last few weeks so we’re ready to see how successful it can be. I also couldn’t be happier to represent Alliance Truck Parts for the Alliance Truck Parts 250, hopefully we can give them an extra reason to celebrate by bring home a win.”

[Source: PenskeRacing.com]

read more
General

No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Preview-Royal Purple 300

2011 NASCAR Natiowide Series, Daytona

Brad Keselowski
No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Challenger
Royal Purple 300
Auto Club Speedway
March 26, 2011

No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Challenger News and Notes
• The No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Challenger in 2011…
After four events, Brad Keselowski and the reigning champion No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Challenger team sit 17th in the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) owner point standings.
• This Week’s Challenger… The Penske Racing America’s Tire Dodge Challenger team will use chassis PRS-214 during Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway (ACS) oval. This is a brand-new chassis to the No. 22 fleet.
• 3, 2…1?… Since moving to Penske Racing in 2009, Keselowski has not finished outside the top-three in both of his NNS races at ACS. The Rochester Hills, Mich. native finished third in the 2010 spring race and second in the fall event. If the pattern holds true, Keselowski will be looking for the first victory of his career at ACS.
• New Car Smell… Penske Racing and the No. 22 Dodge team proved to be the class of the field in the four NNS races where the new Dodge Challenger was used in 2010. With two wins, four top-five finishes and one pole it was clear that the new car suited Keselowski and the team. With full implementation of the Challenger for 2011, Keselowski has plenty of confidence that he can improve upon the banner year he enjoyed last season.
• Keselowski Speedway Stats… In 83 speedway starts in the Nationwide Series, Keselowski has accumulated five wins, 36 top-five finishes, 50 top-10 results and four pole awards. In addition, he has led the field for 970 laps at tracks between one and two miles in length.
• See Brad at Speedzone… Keselowski will make an appearance at the Speedzone located at 17871 Castleton Street in City of Industry, Calif., on Friday, March 25 at 6:00 pm PT.

Brad Keselowski on racing this weekend at Auto Club Speedway
“Auto Club Speedway was a really good track for us last year in the Nationwide Series. To come out of there with a second- and third-place finish in the two races was very critical to our run to the championship. I’d never considered it to be one of my better tracks, but now I’m confident we can go there and win the race. It’s really all about momentum at Fontana. With the carburetor spacer that we run on these Nationwide cars, you want to be able to roll the center of the turns quickly so that you can carry momentum off the corner and down the long straightaways. If we can do that, I feel good about our chances with the No. 22 America’s Tire Dodge Challenger.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon on Auto Club Speedway
“Fontana is a track that is very aero-sensitive. You need to keep the car ‘clean’ if you want to have a chance to win. We know that we have a driver that will give us everything he has and we’re going out there with one thing on our mind – winning the race. We haven’t started the season like we wanted to and a lot of that has just been bad luck. There is one thing that can cure all of that and that is to go to Victory Lane.”

[Source: Penskeracing.com]

read more
General

Two cars better than three at Penske

Brad Keselowski

Can you get better if you continue to get smaller?

Last season, Dodge proved it could race competitively in Sprint Cup with one three-car team at Penske Racing. This year, Penske has downsized to a two-car team in Cup.

In this case, one fewer Cup team doesn’t mean less people for Roger Penske’s operation. The organization expanded its engineering and technical departments. So for Penske Racing in 2011, less is more.

“We had the opportunity to move our people from one area to another within the sport,” Penske said during the NASCAR media tour last month. “As we go into 2011, I feel a lot better because the economy certainly is stronger. You can see that in our businesses.”

But it wasn’t strong enough for Penske to keep three Cup cars operating. Mobil One, which was sponsoring Sam Hornish Jr., moved to Tony Stewart’s team. Penske added Shell/Pennzoil and shuffled things around.

Shell becomes the new sponsor for Kurt Busch, who switches car numbers from 2 to 22. Brad Keselowski’s becomes the driver of the Miller Lite No. 2 Dodge.

Hornish, the former Indy 500 winner and three-time IndyCar Series champ, moves to the Nationwide Series with new sponsor Alliance Truck Parts.

Penske Racing also could benefit from Thursday’s announcement that Robby Gordon Motorsports will run Dodges this season.

Those are the changes most fans will notice immediately, but the reorganization at Penske Racing affects many levels.

“We’ve done things internally to continue to get stronger,” Busch said.

Travis Geisler, who was Hornish’s crew chief, moves to the role of competition director. Geisler, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Vanderbilt, drove in both the ARCA and Nationwide series.

“We’re fortunate to have someone as talented as Travis inside the walls of Penske Racing,” said Michael Nelson, vice president of operations for Penske. “His experience as a crew chief, along with his engineering background, will be a valuable resource.”

Paul Wolfe, who helped lead Keselowski to the Nationwide title last year, gets a much-deserved promotion to Keselowski’s Cup team.

“We’re real proud of what we have here, having nicer stuff and stuff we can win with,” Keselowski said. “Anything is possible because of the progress we have made.”

Keselowski will continue to race full time in two series, but he won’t have a chance to defend his Nationwide title. Those days are gone for full-time Cup drivers with the new rule to declare one series for your title run.

Keselowski was impressive in the feeder league last year, winning six races en route to the championship. But he struggled in his first full Cup season, finishing 25th in the standings with only two top-10s.

Coupled with Hornish’s struggles last season in Cup, it made Busch the only guy left to prove Penske Racing and Dodge could get it done and compete for a Cup title. Busch won twice and made the Chase but finished 11th overall and wasn’t consistent enough to make a serious run at the championship.

He now begins his second season with Steve Addington as the crew chief, which should add stability and familiarity. But Busch also has a new sponsor and a new look with the yellow-and-red Dodge to spice things up.

“We definitely have a charged-up attitude this year,” Busch said last month. “We actually added a new engineer position, so we’re a stronger team with more people coming to the track each week.

“It’s just exciting to have a new look on the car and to have the new number. It will take a little while for all of our fans and everybody to get adjusted to. And then when everybody stops calling me Kevin, we’ll be settled in.”

It’s easy to confuse Busch with Kevin Harvick, who was in the Shell/Pennzoil car and firesuit for years.

Busch won the Cup title in 2004 for Jack Roush in the first year of the Chase. He hasn’t managed to equal the accomplishment for Penske, but Busch believes he’s closer to a second title than he has been in the past.

“Going into my sixth year [at Penske Racing], this is the strongest I have felt going into the season,” Busch said. “We’ve got quite a few things happening here with structural design changes to the chassis, personnel changes and just trying to be as competitive and as sharp as we can be so we start off right.”

Busch started last season strong with two victories and 11 top-10s in the first 18 races to rank fourth in the standings. But he was winless in the second half of the season and posted only two top-10s in the last 11 races. He felt the team got a little too conservative down the stretch.

“We’re proud of the cars we put out there on the track,” Busch said. “But sometimes when things are going well, you think you’ve got to sit there.

“Maybe that’s one thing that hurt us in the second half of last year. You should be continuing to make changes and not get stagnant.”

Penske Racing made plenty of changes in the offseason, so getting stagnant shouldn’t be a problem.

But it will take time to see whether the changes make the team better. Can less become more for Penske Racing? It’s one fewer Cup car, but a few more people in the right places.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, “The Blount Report: NASCAR’s Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks,” was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

[Source: ESPN]

read more