NASCAR

Keselowski signing shows Penske's determination

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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For those that have questioned Roger Penske's dedication to stock car racing, think again. Penske's acquisition of Brad Keselowski to pilot cars in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series starting in 2010 is proof of the Captain's commitment to being a weekly multicar contender in NASCAR. Certainly, Penske Racing's record of more than 300 wins and 350 poles in open wheel, stock and sports car competition combined speaks volumes for the organization's success. But despite 22 titles between the series, there's always been a visible void in Penske's NASCAR effort. Keselowski, who signed a multiyear deal, made it clear Tuesday that he plans to complete the cycle. "I want to be the guy that comes to Penske Racing and gets them their first NASCAR championship," Keselowski said. "For everything that's been accomplished here, that's the one thing that's missing. I'm going to put a full effort into being the guy that gets it done." The addition of Keselowski not only compliments the Cup side of the Penske Racing, where he will offer under-the-roof competition to his teammates and constructive notes to be shared among the teams, it will also strengthen the company's driver development program. Having Keselowski, 25, in the fold will enable Justin Allgaier, 23, Parker Kligerman, 19, and Dakoda Armstrong, 18, to have a sounding board closer to their ages who is familiar with both the Nationwide and the ARCA series'. Although Penske has dabbled with A-B-C (ARCA, Busch (now Nationwide) and Cup series) tutorials for up-and-coming racers, Allgaier's foray into Nationwide this season marks the first time in Penske's 26 years of stock car racing that the company has invested in a full-time Triple-A effort. Next season Penske Racing doubles its Nationwide Series effort with Keselowski joining Allgaier for a full-time run. Allgaier, who is currently sixth in the standings, applauds the company's effort for taking "a proactive and not a reactive" approach to expansion.
And Allgaier realizes the benefit Keselowski brings to the program. "We've raced together a lot, and we both come from racing families," Allgaier said. "We grew up knowing if we wanted to race, we had to do it ourselves. So we share a common background. "It will be an advantage having someone with Brad's experience. We'll be able to share information and bounce ideas off of each other." With Allgaier, Kligerman and Armstrong in the wings, Penske has created the strongest farm club system in stock cars over the past year. Allgaier, the 2008 ARCA champ, currently leads the Nationwide Raybestos Rookie contest. Until recently, Kligerman was atop the ARCA points with a series-high six wins. The Westport, Conn., rookie currently trails Justin Lofton by 55 points. And Armstrong, who turned 18 on July 16, posted his first top 10 with Cunningham Motorsports in the Iowa ARCA race five days prior to his birthday. The New Castle, Ind., native also competed in four Camping World East Series races under the Ken Schrader Racing banner. Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said the company had hoped to have four cars competing at the Cup level by 2010, which was one of the reasons Keselowski was courted by the company last year. However, with David Stremme struggling to get up to speed and Sam Hornish Jr. mirroring a three-year track similar to Juan Pablo Montoya's progress, former Cup champ Kurt Busch has been the lone consistent and Chase-caliber competitor at Penske Racing in 2009. "We've certainly put an emphasis in the last year in dealing with the present," Cindric said. "Before you can deal with the future, you have to make sure you have a future. We need to be sure that we have the Cup program and our guys back on track. I think we're in a very good situation, but we're not where we need to be. "We need to make sure that we have more than one guy running up at the front, challenging for the Chase. By bringing Brad on board — he's going to be part of our future. He's going to hit the ground running." Cindric added that by improving the roster, Penske Racing could attract a stronger caliber of racers and sponsorship partners to expand to four teams when the time is right. Acquiring a driver such as Keselowski will move Cindric closer to that goal. With the resources Keselowski has enjoyed at JR Motorsports and through its association with Hendrick Motorsports, the driver knew what was needed to take his program to the next level. Keselowski was impressed with Penske's facilities when he initially toured the Mooresville, N.C., complex last season when he initially turned down an offer to join the organization. But he noticed "a completely different vibe" when he returned to the shop two weeks ago. "This whole company is on an upswing," Keselowski said. "You can see it, and you can feel it. And I feel like I'm jumping on the ship at the right time. Everything is here to get the job done. "There are very few companies that have the resources to compete with Hendrick Motorsports — and this is one of them." Although Rick Hendrick said his driver will "always be close enough ... to bring him back," Keselowski insists that it's his "intent is to come to Penske Racing and build a home." And with Penske's investment in the future, Keselowski could be happy in the No. 12 car for quite some time.
Tagged: Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Stremme, Ken Schrader, Brad Keselowski, Justin Allgaier, Justin Lofton

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