By Ford Performance Public Relations
Team Penske, coming off of its best NASCAR season in 2014 with 11 Sprint Cup Series wins and six Nationwide victories, met the media as part of NASCAR’s Charlotte Media Tour. Owner and Chairman Roger Penske, Vice Chairman Walt Czarnecki, President Tim Cindric and drivers Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney talked about the upcoming Sprint Cup and XFINITY seasons.
Penske, the team’s founder and chairman, was pleased with the results on the track, but also on the business side, he likes that he has stability behind the wheel, in the pit box and with sponsors.
“When I think about 2014, it was a year we’ll really remember because it’s probably the most successful season we’ve had, both on the NASCAR side and on the Indy Car side with a total of 22 wins,” Penske said. “But, to me, the key thing was the continuity, the drivers, the crew chiefs, the team and the sponsors. We need that as we go forward. I think we’re strong as we go into 2015. It’s amazing in this world today that we can say that all of our sponsors have renewed with us to go forward on multiple- year contracts, which gives us a great base to build on as we go into the future.”
Cindric, about team continuity, added, “I know I talked about it here last year, where 2014 was the first time that we brought the same crew chiefs and drivers back since I can remember, really. I think the results spoke for themselves. Obviously, you can’t look at last year and expect the same, but we do. We expect to get off on the right foot and continue to build on that, but I think although the variables are small, we continue to build continuity in our people.
“When you look at not only the people, but the product -- we’re racing Fords, racing the same car, the same department heads, a lot of the same things. The rules changes, those are always the things that differentiate you and the people behind you are the ones that really dictate who gets their first, who learns the fastest, and I think we’re really at a good advantage with the people we have internally and not only the drivers and the crew chiefs, but also the people back at the shop. With Michael Nelson and Travis Geisler and all their department heads we just continue, I think, to build better and better people.”
Penske also said he is pleased with his relatively new partnership with Ford.
“For me, it was a great year for Team Penske and no question for our partner at Ford,” he said. “Think about it, we’ve been with them two years now and we have over 15 wins each year with the Ford Motor Company. That’s a pretty good start for us. We have a lot to live up to as we go forward next year.”
Czarnecki was asked what Team Penske expected to result from the technical alliance with the Wood Brothers. “We really view this as an opportunity to enhance the overall technical prowess of both teams,” he responded. “We’ll be sharing a lot of technical information, working with them clearly with (crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) and Corey Tuckey, who will be the car chief and has also been with Team Penske. The shock person has also been associated with us, Darcy, so we see a very clear avenue channel of communication with both of them, communications with both of them enhancing both teams and overall enhancing the Ford effort on the race track.”
Cindric added, “Since we have half the races this year with the Wood Brothers, we’ll essentially have a third car on the track with our association there, so hopefully we’ll be able to learn faster than we did last year.”
Czarnecki was asked about the importance to Team Penske of the Miller Brewing Company sponsorship over the years.
“The relationship between Miller Brewing Company and now Miller/Coors and Team Penske actually goes back about 34 years because the Miller Brewing Company became one of our very first event sponsors when we owned Michigan International Speedway,” Czarnecki said. “Over these past 30 years and specifically 25 years on the racing side, I really think it’s interesting to see that the Miller Brewing Company, now Miller/Coors, has gone through management changes and ownership changes and one of the consistent, stable parts of their marketing program has been their relationship with Team Penske.
“That tells me that we’ve delivered, that we’ve provided the value to Miller and, conversely, they’ve done an awful lot for us, helping our drivers in the past elevate their profiles as well as elevating the profile of Team Penske. So it’s a great partnership with many more years to come.”
One major change at Team Penske is XFINITY Series owners’ championship-winning crew chief Jeremy Bullins moving to Wood Brothers Racing and Greg Erwin taking over the No. 22 car.
“Greg has been a big part of our organization,” Cindric said. “Obviously he raced for a championship with Sam back in 2013, and he’s been a big part of both of our championships as far as the owner’s championships the last two years. He’s ready to move into the 22 and have to deal with all these different personalities week in and week out, with the three or four different drivers we’ll throw at him, but it’s a proven group, and I know Greg is up to the task, and we’re certainly having the same expectation to be up there at the front at the end of the year.”
Blaney, who will be one of the drivers behind the wheel of the No. 22 Discount Tires Ford Mustang during 2015, was asked about working with Erwin.
“Greg Erwin has been a great asset as Tim was saying before,” Blaney said. “He’s been a great asset to this team and he was a big part of winning the ’13 and ’14 championships and it was great to get to work with him at the end of last year and have solid runs. We were in a spot to win all of those races and things didn’t play out, but I’m really excited to have him on the 22 car in this upcoming season. He’s been a great guy to work with and I’m excited to work with him more this upcoming year.”
On the Sprint Cup side, Brad Keselowski will again be in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion and Joey Logano will be driving the No. 22 Shell/Penzoil Ford Fusion for Team Penske. Both look to make return appearances in the Chase.
“It’s hard to believe this is my sixth year at Penske,” Keselowski said. “It’s been a tremendous ride, and I’m looking forward to the years to come. We might not have eight cars anymore, but I think we have three of the best and that’s three of the best teams and I feel like we have an advantage with that. That was part of our success last year and I think it will be part of our success for years to come.”
Logano added that the relationships between the teams and among the teams can’t be overlooked as key elements of Team Penske’s success.
“I think it’s key that all of us on the 22 team are all at the same level and it goes across all of Team Penske,” Logano said. “We all work really well together. Brad was just talking about how close the two teams work together. That is very important. Roger was talking about the logo -- Team Penske -- that trickles all the way down from Roger to everyone working at the shop building our race cars. That’s a big deal for us to be fast on the race track and we’ve shown how important that is. I think it’s something Brad and I work a lot is just our relationship together and doing things away from the race track. I think that stuff is important when you’re kind of in the heat of the game and things are going on. I think that team camaraderie throughout Team Penske and the 22 team has been a key to our success.”