By admin | March 8, 2010
By Richard Allen
You may have heard a number of gloom and doom predictions regarding Penske Racing coming into the 2010 NASCAR season. To be honest, I may well have made a few of those myself. A number of things appeared to be stacked against this team.
Their manufacturer, Dodge, has experienced well documented financial problems and it did not look as if supporting race teams was high on their priority list. For that matter, the Penske team is the only one in the garage area with any significant support at all from the auto maker. So the much needed help from Detroit that almost every major team receives looked to be in short supply.
Also, the driver lineup at Penske had almost as many questions as answers. Few would doubt the abilities of Kurt Busch but neither of his teammates has very much experience in the Sprint Cup ranks.
On Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway the Penske team went a long way toward proving their doubters wrong.
At one point just after halfway in the race Penske Racing had all three of its cars in the top-10. It was looking like the organization was about to have the same type of day their sister company is known for in the IndyCar ranks.
However, not long after placing all their cars in the top-10 things began to come unraveled, at least a bit. Sam Hornish reported that he was having engine issues over the team radio. For much of the last 100 miles in the race he ran well off the lead pace. He would eventually have to settle for a 28th place finish when at one time a career best run looked to be within the realm of possibility.
And, of course, there was the by now well documented and much debated incident between Carl Edwards and Penske newcomer Brad Keselowski which sent the #12 car flying through the air and slamming the outside wall. Keselowski had also looked to be on his way to an excellent finish but had to limp away with a 36th place result.
But all was not lost in the Penske camp. Kurt Busch made a bold late race move by darting between two cars just after a restart on his way to the lead and the eventual win. While Busch’s car had been running well all day, it looked as he were destined to finish behind Kasey Kahne, who lead many of the laps in the Kobalt Tools 500. However, the #2 car was very good on short runs and with the late flurry of cautions that was just what the doctor, or should I say ‘The Captain’, ordered.
The win moved Busch ahead nine places in the Sprint Cup standings to the 10th spot overall. It was the 21st win of his career.
Anytime a team wins a race it has to be consider a good day. But for the Roger Penske owned organization it was an up and down day for sure. The disappointments of the #12 and #77 cars will not overshadow their win but they had to have come away from Atlanta believing they could have had much more.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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