Penske inks Keselowski through ’17

It took 22 years for Miller Lite to make it to the top of
NASCAR, and Brad Keselowski made it worth the wait when he
cheerfully chugged the beer from on oversized glass during a live
televised interview while celebrating his first Sprint Cup
championship last November.

It was an iconic moment in the relationship between Penske
Racing and MillerCoors, one that spans more than 30 years and ranks
among the longest in sports.

Now it’s guaranteed to continue at least another four years as
Penske on Wednesday revealed multiyear extensions with both
Keselowski and Miller Lite through the 2017 season.

”This puts us in great shape because we’ve got continuity with
a sponsor and an elite driver,” team owner Roger Penske told The
Associated Press.

It’s the second contract extension for the defending Sprint Cup
champion in less than two years. Keselowski signed an extension
after the 2011 season that ran through next year, and the contract
was redone to put the driver and sponsor in concurrent deals.

Keselowski said discussions on the extension began after last
year’s championship as he and Penske charted a plan on how to stay
on top of NASCAR. Keselowski cited the continuity of Jimmie
Johnson, who won five consecutive championships with the same crew
chief and sponsor.

”I feel like together, Roger and I have done some great things.
I have a lot of confidence in him, I like the way he treats me and
hopefully he would say the same about me,” Keselowski told AP.
”It makes me feel very comfortable to go the extra mile to sign a
long-term deal.

”At this point in time, with all these deals lined up, the
health, the future of Penske Racing and its employees is now
secured, at minimum, for the next half-decade.”

Miller Lite has been the primary sponsor of Penske’s flagship
No. 2 since 1991. MillerCoors first partnered with Penske as a
sponsor at race tracks he owned, and was sponsor of Danny
Sullivan’s 1985 Indianapolis 500 winning car, building a personal
relationship with Penske that survived up-and-down seasons in
NASCAR.

”The relationship has lasted so long because of Roger Penske
without that much success on the track,” said Andy England, the
MillerCoors chief marketing officer. ”So when we actually won the
Sprint Cup together, that was just the icing on the cake. The cake
itself is the strength of the relationship we have with Roger and
his team.”

It also comes at a time when sponsors are rethinking their
participation in NASCAR. Not MillerCoors.

”There is a large wave of beer-drinking guys who really enjoy
NASCAR and it makes sense for us to be there,” England said.
”These are still enormously attended events, and they don’t just
shop for three hours. They shop for four days. There’s huge levels
of commitment for this sport, and we need to be there.”

The new MillerCoors contract covers just 24 races on the No. 2
Ford instead of the full 36-race schedule Miller Lite had always
sponsored. But both Penske and England said the 12-race giveback
was at Penske’s request.

The cost of sponsorship fluctuates with the economy, and
MillerCoors was one of the few companies still sponsoring a full
schedule. Race teams set their own fees for inventory based on
supply and demand, and top teams can pull in anywhere from $20
million to almost $30 million in a season.

The Penske organization believes it can sell those 12 races
elsewhere to generate new revenue.

”You start to look across the Cup Series with the major
sponsors and we need to keep them in the business across the long
run,” Penske said. ”We looked at going into markets twice, in
fact, it was my idea, let us have those markets we got into a
second time and give us a chance to bring in another world-class
company. We have a number of people very interested in getting on
with Brad.”

NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup Series visits 13 tracks twice a season,
and Keselowski, the rare driver who pays close attention to the
business side of the sport, said MillerCoors will increase its
activity when it’s not on the hood of his car.

”It was Penske Racing that asked Miller to consider these
options. We could have done exactly what we’ve done and had Miller
come back long-term with 36 races,” he said. ”But it was driven
the other way, strategically, to open up races and increase the
expenditure. Miller will now move it over to activation, and what’s
going to happen in the long-term is there is going to be an
increase in revenue in the sport, not a decrease.

”This is a huge strategic play that with the naked eye looks
like a reduction, but I can assure you it’s not a reduction. It’s
actually an increase to the sport. That might sound like spin, but
there’s a strategic play here.”

There’s always a plan in play with Penske and Keselowski, and
they executed this one to perfection.

”We’ve put Brad now in step with Miller far into the future, he
fits the mold that they want. He’s open, he’s certainly willing to
speak his peace, that’s what Miller wants, an athlete willing to
represent their brand,” Penske said.

Joey Logano, the driver Keselowski recommended Penske hire as
his teammate, earned his first career berth in the Chase for the
Sprint Cup championship in his debut season with the organization.
He’s got two years remaining on his contract and sponsor
Shell-Pennzoil is in a long-term deal. Penske is also in the first
year of a five-year manufacturer contract with Ford.

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