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NASCAR Notebook for January 31st

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, January 31, 2013

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Roger Penske already wearing the Ford shirt
DRIVER: BRAD KESELOWSKI. TEAM: ROGER PENSKE RACING FORD. CREW CHIEF: PAUL WOLFE. ENGINES: ROUSH-YATES.

The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champions have been very busy prepping their team for the 2013 title defense. There's only one major change from last year: the manufacturer. The decal located on the front nose of the car has been changed from Dodge to Ford.

The team's move to Ford was based on a decision made by team owner Roger Penske last summer. In fact, it's widely believed that Penske's decision was the catalyst that led to Dodge's departure from NASCAR racing. The MOPAR group simply could not negotiate a deal with another team that had the high profile, flagship, level of the Penske operation.

As a new member of the Ford Racing camp, Penske will be leasing engines from Roush-Yates this year. There are already reports from Penske himself regarding how pleased he is with the progress of this program. Penske is also happy that progress is being made in the relationship with his new Ford team mates: Roush Fenway Racing. During the recently held NASCAR Media Tour, Penske noted that the flow of information between the two organizations is already working extremely well.

There are some other noteworthy positives associated with Penske Racing's #2 team this year. Certainly one of the positives is the return of that killer combination of driver Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe. This highly potent pair last year collaborated for five wins, 13 top five finishes, an average finish ratio of ten and, of course, their first Sprint Cup championship.

Still another positive is the fact that Miller Lite Beer returns with its full time support of this team. The trio comprised of the driver, crew chief and sponsor are on the same contract cycle. All three are signed, sealed and delivered until 2015.

However, the biggest positive of all, for the Penske #2 team, is an extremely fired up and determined driver. Brad Keselowski has made it clear that he's not going to be a one time NASCAR champion and he's seriously planning of filling another Sprint Cup with Miller Beet when the 2013 season concludes in November.

Look for this team to be a major player in this year's championship run. 

JAMIE MC MURRAY. #1 EARNHARDT-GANASSI RACING, PRESENTED BY FELIX SABATES, CHEVROLET.
CREW CHIEF: KEVIN "BONO" MANION. ENGINES: HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS.

Let's face it, this team had a disappointing season in 2012. Their best efforts all season long only netted three top ten finishes along with an average finish ratio of 20.0. In addition there were often highly noticeable horsepower problems that hampered McMurray's presence on the speed charts. Adding to the frustration was an announcement that said Bass Pro Shops, the team's longtime primary sponsor of 18 races, was departing to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

In early November team owner Chip Ganassi addressed the engine situation with a surprising announcement that said his two Sprint Cup teams would no longer be using power plants from Earnhardt-Childress. That announcement further stated that Ganassi had signed a lease agreement with Hendrick Motorsports who will be providing engines in 2013. That could not have been very good news for Teresa Earnhardt, who is both a co-owner of the two Sprint Cup teams and the engine manufacturing shop. The ECR engine shop was actually created as a joint engine building venture to provide engines for both Earnhardt-Ganassi and Richard Childress Racing among other customers. Following the announcement, Richard Childress said he wasn't surprised regarding Earnhardt-Ganassi's decision and had known for quite some time that their departure was eminent.

The sponsor profile for this team turned up some good news for EGR. Long time sponsor McDonald's Restaurants announced they will be returning in 2013 and will place their golden arches on the hood of the car for 15 races. Then, in recent days, the team announced a sponsorship program from Cessna Aircraft for ten races. Cessna is owned by Textron Inc who will place two of their other business enterprises, Bell Helicopters and E-Z-GO Golf Carts, on the hood of McMurray's car.

Also on the team's sponsor profile is Bass Pro Shops, who reportedly really likes McMurray, who will remain with the team as the primary sponsor for two races. Lift Master and Banana Boat are also lined up to sponsor one race each. During the recently held Media Tour, Chip Ganassi said there were only four unsponsored races remaining on the team's schedule for 2013. That's quite an improvement in just a mere matter of months.

As they continue to prepare for the start of the 2013 racing season, there appears to be some very positive elements for Jamie McMurray and his team. The combination of the driver and crew chief Kevin Manion remaining intact is certainly one of them. The arrival of Cessna/Textron to help ease sponsor concerns is another major positive. The switch to Hendrick Motorsports power plants could turn out to be huge for this team.

However, the 2013 season is a major "GO" time for this team if they're going to keep their program intact. They're well aware of that.

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