Penske more than just a first-rate owner
If Penske driver Brad Keselowski holds on to his 20-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and does capture the Sprint Cup crown Sunday, it will give Penske his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title. And if Penske IndyCar driver Will Power had won the title in September, Penske would have won two titles in the same year.
But Penske is not only the leader of remarkable teams on the track, he also a leads significant happenings off the track.
It was last month when the Driving Away Cold Program donated coats to Philadelphia area organizations based on how many cars auto dealer sold. One of those dealers involved was the Penske Group from Reading, Pa. Being part of the coat drive was a good thing to do, but not something highly unusual. However, one of the men at the Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County in Upper Darby, Pa., in mid-October helping unload those coats was David Penske, Roger Penske's brother. He didn't hang around to be interviewed, and was not seeking extra attention to let the world know how great the Penske organization is. In fact, he was trying to avoid it. Not because he was being uncooperative, but simply because there was the next delivery to make and there was work to do. He wasn't looking for credit.
A little while later, after asking a few questions about the Penskes to a public relations representative for the program, I found that the truck used to deliver the coats was donated by Penske. And also, that the Penskes had been very helpful to the entire program.
That's one of those classy type of acts that often go unnoticed, but as is often the case life, an indication of a true winner.
That Penske hasn't been a Sprint Cup title winner sooner is a bit of a surprise. He came close with Rusty Wallace in 1993, when Wallace won 10 races and finished second, and then finished third the following year. But he hasn't been that close for a while ... until now.
The reason it's a surprise Penske hasn't won that Sprint Cup title is because he leads an organization that works to do everything first class. To put Penske's ownership career in perspective, he was viewed by many in IndyCar the way owner Rick Hendrick is viewed by many in NASCAR today. Penske's team was the place to go if you wanted to win the Indy 500 and win the IndyCar championship.
While Penske's teams got off to a good start when he re-entered NASCAR in 1992, it's been a bit of a struggle at times, with hints of success.
Penske is all about doing the right thing all the time. But he without question took a bit of risk after hiring the brash Brad Keselowski to be his driver three years ago. Keselowski delivered Penske his only NASCAR title by taking the Nationwide crown in 2010. And after making the Chase last year, Keselowski clearly set his sights on winning the title this year.
It's been a maturation process for Keselowski, who at times in years past took to wrecking other drivers if they were in slower cars. But he's realized that creates more problems than it solves.
And some of that maturation has had to come from Penske, whose adept at solving problems.
One of the team's biggest issues this year was being the final Dodge team in Sprint Cup and announced it was moving to Ford beginning next year. But what about this year? Penske has somehow managed to continue a quality relationship with Dodge, which announced earlier in the fall that it would not be fielding a team in 2013.
It could be the second ironic situation in two years for the Sprint Cup champion. Last year, Tony Stewart bid adieu to crew chief Darian Grubb after winning the title. This year Penske will be doing the same with Dodge.
You can be sure Penske has done a lot of work behind the scenes to keep a strong working relationship with the Dodge. Once again, not seeking attention, just seeking victory.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
1. Jimmie Johnson. His past history at Miami is a bit deceiving because during his run of five straight titles, he often was in control of the points race and was just looking to stay out of trouble, taking few risks. That won't be the case this Sunday as he knows he'll need to win for any shot to catch Keselowski.