Monday, October 4, 2010

Penske faces cold winter after IndyCar setbacks

Sacramento, California – Now that Dario Franchitti has wrapped up yet another IndyCar Series championship, the question arises: What has happened to the cold-blooded efficiency of Roger Penske’s operation?

No question that Franchitti put up a strong 2010, including a dominating performance to win the Indy 500 in May.

But consider this: Penske driver Ryan Briscoe virtually threw away the IndyCar title in 2009 by crashing out of the pits in Motegi, Japan; this year, Will Power’s pit crew cost the Penske driver the championship with an are-you-kidding-me underfill of the fuel tank late in the Chicagoland Speedway event. That came after rival team owner Chip Ganassi totally snookered the Penske forces with a quick-pit for Franchitti, handing him the win at Chicagoland.

Two almost-certain Penske championships blown. Franchitti, who had his own hard-luck tales early in his Indy racing career, picks up two titles.

It has to be hard for Penske -- an off-the-charts organizer and competitor -- to swallow. This year’s failure to keep Power at the top also added to a once-in-a-lifetime year for Ganassi. If you’re keeping count: Ganassi’s racing operations have claimed the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400 and the IndyCar Series title … in ONE year.

Amazing. That might never be duplicated.

And what does the winter bring?

Just knowing Penske and the competitive fires that burn inside him, you can just bet that the cold nights will be filled with planning, scheming and doing just about everything possible to return his racing team to IndyCar glory. Penske has been down before, but he typically comes back strong after a very hard hit.

What to expect next year?: For starters, Penske driver Helio Castroneves could become the first driver in Indy 500 history to take the pole position for three consecutive years. And he could join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the exclusive Four Indianapolis 500 Wins Club. Beyond that, look for Penske to do a full-court press to get one of his drivers to the top of the IndyCar Series standings at the end of 2011.

But it won’t be easy. Ganassi is on a roll of Penske-like dominance. His IndyCar teams are well-oiled and stocked with top driving talent. The 2011 season can’t get here soon enough.

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