2011 Penske Racing Recap: Anticipation builds for a Great and Successful Year!

no thumb

There will be plenty of changes heading into the 2012 Sprint Cup season that begins next month with the Daytona 500, especially for Penske Racing.

Todd Gordon of Penske Racing will take over as the crew chief of the number 22 Dodge after a stellar Nationwide series performance in which his car had 6 wins and 6 poles. Roger Penske, perhaps the most revered name in auto racing, likes to develop and promote from within and he believes that Gordon is ready for this next big step, which is the equivalent of being a head football coach in the NFL. Driving the No. 22 will be AJ Allmendinger who is coming off a good season as he finished 15th in the standings.

Penske stayed in the news with the announcement that Kurt Busch will leave the organization after six highly contentious but overall successful years together. Penske said that the decision was mutual and that he was disappointed that Busch would no longer be racing for his organization. Busch won a total of 16 races for Penske.

The addition of Allmendinger in place of Busch for Penske Racing should be a long term positive for the organization as Allmendinger is a class driver and someone the organization can be proud of.

read more

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

2012 Hyundai Azera

no thumb

The 2012 Hyundai Azera debuts last month at the LA Auto Show. Watch the video to get a glimpse of the Hyundai Azera’s features.Hyundai released a teaser preview last month, which showed off highlights of the Azera, including the following features: HID headlights with LED accents, chrome-tipped dual exhaust, LED taillights, a 7-in touchscreen for navigation, and a panoramic sunroof. The video also highlights the fluidic sculpture design, which permeates Hyundai’s styling.

The Azera has a spacious interior with leather seating. Under the hood, it comes with a 3.3L V6 engine with 293-hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. It has a six speed automatic transmission and gets 20mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 23mpg combined. Standard features include 18-inch wheels and nine airbags. The Azera is expected to start at $32,000, although no official announcement has been made.

This is the Azera’s first unveiling in America. It has previously appeared around the world as the Grandeur. Apparently the designers took inspiration from flight elements when designing the front grill and headlights, which have a streamlined, wing-like look. On the inside, the Azera comes with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.

The LA Auto Show was November 18th to November 27th, right through Thanksgiving, but held two press days November 16 and 17. When the LA Auto Show first started in 1907, it showed off 99 vehicles at Morley’s Skating Rink.

Source: Automobile Mag

read more

2012 Audi A7 “Vehicle of the Year”

no thumb

Last week, the Motor Press Guild (MPG) will be presenting their first-ever “Vehicle of the Year” award to the 2012 Audi A7. Highlighting the Audi’s styling, handling and advanced technology, the automotive media association named the vehicle as the winner of their Car of the Year award last week.

A select panel of MPG members evaluated and chose five finalists over a two-month period. These members test and review cars on a regular basis. The final five were then ranked by the entire membership on MPG’s Track Day event, held October 11-12. Members rated the five vehicles based on safety, quality, value, performance and handling, design and style, environmental impact, and technology.

MPG’s president Laura Burstein described the A7’s win, saying, “It was a close battle, but the 2012 Audi A7 edged out the competition with its compelling combination of handsome styling, dynamic handling and advanced in-car technology. In this highly competitive market, it’s hard to be a stand out, but Audi did it with the A7.”

Last week, Laura Burstein presented the award to Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen. The award presentation was held during Audi’s press conference, at 4:40pm at the Audi Stand in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. This was a great way to kickoff the Los Angeles Auto Show, which started Friday, November 18.

The A7 has also received several other awards, including two other “Car of the Year” awards from Automobile Magazine and Esquire.

The Motor Press Guild, based in LA, is the largest automotive media association in the United States. It is a non-profit organization comprised of a membership of automotive journalists, photographers, broadcasters, etc.

read more

Limited-Time Offer: GM Partners with Costco

no thumb

Costco seems to sell anything and everything, from electronics to groceries. While they may not sell automobiles, they do, apparently, offer incentives and savings to their members through their Costco Auto Program.

Just as the holiday shopping season began, Costco unveiled its partnership between their Auto Program and General Motors. Through the Costco Auto Program, members will receive a Chevrolet and GMC Limited-Time Offer, allowing them to get preferred pricing on select vehicles and receive a $500 Costco Cash Card.

Between November 1 and January 3, 2012, Costco members can get preferred pricing on a purchase or lease at participating dealerships for new 2011 and 2012 models. Those models are: the Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe and Traverse and the GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL.

Interested buyers must be Costco members as of October 31, 2011, and need to register to participate at or by calling 877-746-7422. Once registered, buyers will receive an authorization number and PIN that they must provide at participating dealerships. Buyers must also purchase and take delivery of their Chevrolet or GMC truck or SUV before January 3. To receive the $500 Costco Cash Card, the buyer must complete a redemption form and survey.

According to Costco, such an offer is different from any other of the many incentives currently in the market. In addition to preferred pricing and the $500 Cash Card, members can still use any currently incentives or rebates offered nationally.

To learn more, visit or call 877-746-7422.

read more

Scion 2012 iQ… Surprisingly Charming

no thumb

Although the iQ won’t be available in the Midwest until early next spring, reviews already rolling in speak positively over Scion’s new micro-subcompact car.  The iQ has been compared favorably to the Smart car, suggesting it may see more success than its microcar competitor.


Reviewers have called the iQ surprisingly charming and cited that the front seats are comfortable and provide a decent amount of space.  As a micro-subcompact, of course it will be small, and it’s not intended for those requiring a vast amount of cargo space.  Rather, it’s marketed towards urban buyers, and for that market, the iQ ought to hit the spot.


The iQ is ten feet long, which might sound pretty sizable.  However, compared to the Toyota Camry, which is six feet longer, the iQ starts to look like what it is.  It is one foot longer than the Smart Fortwo.


In general, reviewers are saying the iQ has everything on the Smart Fortwo.  Although intended mainly for city driving, the iQ performs better than the Smart Fortwo on the highway and feels more stable than its competitor.


It’s important to remember, though, that the iQ is still a small car, and will feel more in its element in the city than on the highway.  City drivers will find it nimble and comfortable, and that it handles a little like a sports car.


In case you’ve missed the stats in the past, here’s a quick run down: the iQ has a 1.3L, four-cylinder engine that gets 94hp and 89 lb-ft of torque.  It gets 36mpg in the city and 37mpg on the highway, making its combined fuel efficiency 37mpg, which, according to Scion, is the highest for all non-hybrid cars.

read more

It’s Time For a Adventure!

no thumb

Planning a lot of road trips this year?

You may want to check out the new 2012 Honda Pilot.

In case you haven’t already heard, the Honda Pilot has been redesigned for 2012, and, since its release this fall, has seen sales jump.  The redesign includes a number of new features, as seen in the commercial, including an improved fuel efficiency of 25mpg on the highway.


To demonstrate all the nifty new features, Honda created a commercial that follows a family on a road trip and showcases the variety of possibilities the Pilot has to offer.  Using a mix of real life actors and diorama sets, the commercial begins with a family packing their 2WD Touring model at sunrise and shows off the power tailgate and rearview camera.


The Pilot seats eight, perfect for large families planning a vacation together.  With the Pilot’s navigation system with voice recognition and FM traffic (available on the EX-L and standard on the Touring), drivers can get to their destination sooner and minimize the number of “Are we there yet?”s emanating from the back seat.


Other features that are available include Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, Song by Voice, a USB Audio Interface and Honda’s DVD Rear Entertainment System.  It’s also available in 4-wheel drive and comes with Vehicle Stability Assist to help drivers maintain control of the vehicle in case they over or under steer.  And of course, to address every family’s main concern, the Pilot’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure helps protect the driver and passengers.


If the features don’t do enough talking, it also helps to know that the Pilot recently won’s Best 3-Row SUV for $37,000, which was judged not only by experts, but also by a family of four – the ultimate judge for any family vehicle.


The 2012 Honda Pilot is now available at Your Penske Honda Dealerships. If you’re interested in a test drive, one of our helpful staff members would be happy to assist you.

read more

2012 Buick Regal GS: Not Your Grandmother’s Car

no thumb

Buick may have a reputation for being for older drivers, but the editors over at Automobile Magazine will disagree.  The editors recently tested and reviewed the 2012 Buick Regal GS, and the impressions were overall positive.  The 2012 Regal GS is based on the European Opel Insignia.

Overall, the editors seemed to be in agreement over the Regal’s improved performance.  Many expressed that traditionally, they thought of the Buick as their “grandmother’s car,” or a car for older people, and were surprised by the new GS.  Kelly Murphy, Creative Director, said it “looked so nice, with its carbon metallic paint glistening in the sun.”


The general consensus seemed to be that the Regal was the best Buick any of them had ever driven.  The steering was sharper, quick, accurate, light and direct.  It drives more like a European car, which is not surprising considering the Regal GS’s roots.  David Zenlea, Assistant Editor, found that the Regal GS had less turbo lag in the 2.0L 4-cyilinder engine, and liked the handling, saying that it had “some of the sharpest steering I’ve ever experience in a front-wheel-drive car.”


Of the exterior, Amy Skogstrom was a fan of the styling and the Regal’s unique character.  On the inside, the seats are well bolstered and very comfortable – what you would expect with a Buick.


The Buick Regal GS starts at $35,310, although the reviewers tested the $38,350 model.  It comes with a 2.0L DOHC turbocharged and intercooled I-4 engine with six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive.  It gets a fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.  Features include variable effort power steering, interactive Drive Control System, front four-piston Brembo brakes, a USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, tilt-and-telescoping steering, and more.


Despite rave reviews, there was also a worry lacing the review.  A few editors voiced concerns that even though the Buick Regal GS is a good car, it won’t succeed in the US due to poor marketing.  Writes Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor, “GM’s true test isn’t if it can build a high-performance Buick – it’s if it can sell it.”

read more