by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.July 2, 2011 9:54 am UTC No Comments
It had been twenty-three years since Penske first brought the sponsorship to his Indy car team. Busch has shown great success through the first half of the season with one win, four top five’s and three poles in the first sixteen races of the season. Busch’s win at Infineon Raceway was done in dominating fashion; leading fifty-two laps of the 110 lap event.
Pennzoil first joined forces with Roger Penske in 1983 along with premiere Indy car driver Rick Mears. The combination would go on to capture victory at the Indy 500 just one year later. Over a five year period Pennzoil cars would win the 500 four out of five years. In 1984, Mears in the Pennzoil Z-7 Special would post a record-winning speed of 163.612 mph. Danny Sullivan would win in 1985-the famous spin to win race. Also in 1985 Mears, in the Pennzoil car, sets Indy’s fastest lap ever-204.937mph and Al Unser wins the CART PPG Indy Car World Series Championship.
In 1996 Pennzoil would enter NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series for the first time with Bahari Racing and 1995 Busch Series champion Johnny Benson. He would go on to become the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year and drive the car for two years. Also in 1996, Pennzoil became the official oil of both the Brickyard 400 and the Indy 500.
The Pennzoil sponsorship moved to Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for their inaugural year in the Cup series in 1998 with Steve Park behind the wheel. Park would pilot the Pennzoil Chevys for all or part of five years and pick up his only two Cup Series wins. Park finished in the top ten 35 times and won four poles. Kenny Wallace would be behind the wheel of the ride in 2002 while Park recovered from injuries. Following the 2003 season Pennzoil would diminish their role in NASCAR; becoming a part time sponsor, utilizing several brand names for several teams.
Richard Childress Racing would bring Pennzoil and Shell back to the Sprint Cup Series in 2007. In the season-opening Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in a restrictor plate race with a dramatic final lap pass over Mark Martin by .020 seconds in a green-white-checkered finish. It was the closest margin at the 500 since electronic scoring started in 1993. The race was on the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor at Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt.
Four days after Harvick won the Daytona 500 in his inaugural race with Shell-Pennzoil as a primary sponsor, Team owner, Richard Childress, was asked by NASCAR to downsize the Shell logo on the car and on Harvick’s fire suit; making the Pennzoil logo more prominent to avoid conflict with official NASCAR fuel sponsor Sunoco.
Harvick would go on to win three more times with Pennzoil and Shell; while capturing thirty-two top-five finishes in four years.
Pennzoil got its start in racing in the early 1930′s at the Indianapolis 500 as a sponsor of the highly successful car of Russell Snowberger. In the next five years, he finishes every Indy race he enters-always in the top 10. Amazingly, 27 other race drivers voluntarily select, and run on Pennzoil as well. Pennzoil had made an impressive beginning, and over the years became the lubrication of choice for drivers in all forms of racing.
With drag racing in its infancy in the 1950′s, Pennzoil representatives furnish oil to up and coming race drivers. The familiar Pennzoil oval is seen on many early dragsters throughout America, most notably on the winning machines of teenage driving prodigy Eddie Hill. In 1958 Pennzoil officially sponsors the fastest rising star on the NHRA circuit, Don “Big Daddy” Garlits.
The 1960′s saw NHRA drag racing grow as fast as quarter mile speeds, a growth to which Pennzoil was a principal contributor. They were the first major oil company to develop a racing oil exclusively for cars running on exotic fuels. Throughout the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s Pennzoil lubricated machines dominate top fuel, funny car and pro-stock categories. Pennzoil has used by many top names in drag racing including Garlits, Connie Kalitta, Bill Jenkins, Jimmy Nix and Don Prudhomme.
Jim Hall and Al Unser blow the crowd away with the revolutionary “ground effects” Chaparral at the brickyard in 1979. Painted bright Pennzoil yellow and with Pennzoil in its veins, it leads the race for 100 laps before retiring with a broken water pump. The next season Johnny Rutherford is behind the wheel of the Pennzoil Chaparral and drives to an impressive win at Indy and goes on to win the national championship and is named “Driver of the Year.”
As the second half the Sprint Cup season gets under way and the quest to make it into The Chase for a Sprint Cup Championship heats up Kurt Busch, Roger Penske and Pennzoil look for more wins and more championships to add to an, already impressive resume.
Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 30, 2011 7:38 am UTC No Comments
Don’t expect the most prolific NASCAR brother combo of our time to challange for the most Cup wins ever by siblings.
Kurt and Kyle Busch currently sit in sixth place all-time with a combined forty-two wins in the Sprint Cup Series; Kurt with twenty-two and Kyle twenty. But there is a formidable task ahead as sitting atop the brothers win list are Bobby and Donnie Allison with ninety-four Cup wins.
While Kurt and Kyle have one thing on their side in a quest to move to the top of this category–time; their ability to win Cup races at a fast enough rate isn’t looking plausible. Even if the brothers could average winning a combined five races per year it would take them into the 2021 season to even tie the Allisons. Averaging those five wins per year would be based on Kurt and Kyle continuining to win a combined 15 percent of the races they enter. Currently Kyle is winning at just shy of nine percent of the Cup races he enters and Kurt is at six percent.
With 369 Cup starts Kurt has been starting races at NASCAr’s highest level for ten years and one would wonder if he has ten more in him. Last night Kurt talked ON PIT ROW about his career, racing in his home town of Las Vegas and his new found love for drag racing. You can watch the entire interview with Kurt here. Is Kurt’s foray into the drag racing world a preview of things to come as a veteran looks toward his future?
Younger brother Kyle has only 227 Cup starts under his belt and would seem to be better suited to carry the brothers torch toward knocking off the Allisons. Kyle not only has a better winning percentage than Kurt but most likely has more years left in him winning at that higher percentage.
Most of the brother acts ahead of the Busch brothers show lopsided win totals. The Waltrips have a combined win total of 88; Darrell with 84 and Michael with four. The Flock brothers with 62 wins; Tim with 39 while Fonty has 19 and Bob only four. Donald Thomas has one win to combine with brother Herb’s forty-eight.
Only the next tandem above the Busch’s of Terry and Bobby Labonte show an equal number of wins, with twenty-two and twenty-one respectively.
If Kurt and Kyle are to have any chance of rising to the top in this NASCAR catagory it looks as if brother Kyle needs to concentrate on winning in the Cup series at a much more prodigious rate.
photo credit: Glenn Bure/ON PIT ROW
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 1, 2011 7:46 am UTC No Comments
Gordon had gone 66 races without seeing victory lane. Not a long time for some of the sports veteran drivers but an eternity for the four-time Cup champion. Interestingly Gordon hasn’t won a championship as a driver since he became a Cup car owner. Gordon is part owner of the #48 team that has won five championships since he won his last.
There was a time in the sport that the cries of “anyone but Gordon” were heard loud and clear well before the statement came to be used for Gordon’s protege Jimmie Johnson. But with the long winless streak now behind him the question is has Gordon moved into the next level of fan recognition?
There seems to be a point in a lot of athlete’s careers where they move from a polarizing figure to the beloved veteran and it seems that Gordon may have made that move with his win this past week in Phoenix. Other drivers have been there; from Darrell Waltrip to Rusty Wallace to Dale Earnhardt, Sr., drivers who early in their careers had a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” persona. Then a defining moment moves them into a new realm of fan acceptance.
Many times it revolves around a single win, championship or moment after suffering months or years of toil. Hardship and lack of success for a period of time after a career full of triumphs somehow makes the fans find a new respect for their former nemesis. The phenomenon isn’t relegated to the sport of racing; but can be found throughout the sporting world. Athletes like Reggie Jackson, Brett Favre and Jimmy Conners all have seen the acceptance of fans at a new level once their heyday has been completed.
Gordon may be beyond another championship; but never again will you hear fans bemoan him his victories. Gordon has proven once again that he can win a race and for NASCAR fans a smattering of them as he winds down his career will be just fine, thank you.
As an aside–Is it just me; or does Jeff look a lot like Ray Evernham in the above picture?
photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
by Steve Wronkowicz
As a fan of NASCAR racing the first driver I ever rooted for was LeeRoy Yarbrough in the late 60′s and early 70′s. Through most of the 70′s after LeeRoy dropped out of the NASCAR world with mysterious ailments; I didn’t have an allegiance to any one driver until Bill Elliott came on the scene toward the end of that decade.
Elliott captured my attention because of his family run team out of Georgia when most NASCAR teams had already migrated to the area around Charlotte. At the time there weren’t a lot of teams running Fords and I have always held an affinity for the brand. So Bill, Dan and Ernie were MY guys.
I have remained an Elliott fan throughout his career even when he closed his team and went to drive for Ray Evernham and the resurrected Dodge factory effort.
When it was announce that Bill would drive for the Wood Brothers in a part time effort I believed in my heart, if not totally in my mind, that the combination could bring back the glory of a time gone by when David Pearson took the part time program and won races. Pearson won races; he wasn’t interested in winning championships. Championships were for guys like Richard Petty.
My hope for catching lightening in a bottle with the Wood Brothers-Bill Elliott combination kept lessening with every missed opportunity. The Woods would enter Elliott in places that he had run well in the past; places like Atlanta. The combination never seemed to work. Maybe the team wasn’t ready to win yet.
I was still surprised when the Woods elected to take Bill out of the car in late 2010 to give the displaced Bayne a one-off. Bayne had been released earlier by Michael Walltrip Racing from his Nationwide Series ride. Needless to say he ran well enough at Texas, finishing a respectable seventeenth, to make the Woods have to make a decision for 2011.
The decision to part ways with Elliott and give Bayne the ride for 2011 obviously was a winner for both Bayne and the race team that hasn’t seen a win at Daytona since 1976. One win does not a career make; but to take the iconic #21 to victory lane in only his second Sprint Cup race and just a day after his twenteth birthday could make the Wood Brothers seem like geniuses.
It may be way too early to proclaim a changing of the guard, but for this NASCAR fan it’s time to move on to a new phase in the sport we love.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowFebruary 19, 2011 12:31 pm UTC 4 Comments
But since Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500 pole on Sunday, the reaction has been enthusiastic. That is not the same thing as unanimous though.
This 500 will be Junior’s 400th career Sprint Cup start. As milestones go, even Earnhardt has put it in the perspective of the sport. Not that big of a deal, ya know?
But after qualifying on the pole, it didn’t take a full minute for the conspiracy theorists to rise to the bait. Though most did it tongue in cheek. I tweeted this as Junior got the checkered flag Sunday…
How long for the first “fixed” tweet or post if Junior’s pole holds up? #NASCAR over/under is right now
RacingWithRich replied within seconds…
@onpitrow If my dad was on twitter you would have already gotten it. LOL
Within the space of about 15 minutes, I had emails and texts heard unsolicited comments, all claiming that the fix was in. But the funny thing was/is, that nobody seemed to be complaining that there might be some tilting of the table in Earnhardt’s direction. It was more like they were cheering the fact. Junior just doesn’t have many haters. And that’s good. He doesn’t deserve haters.
So, fixed or fair, I hope that NASCAR gets its storybook finish this Sunday. Would be fun to talk and write about.
Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
by Steve Wronkowicz
Their new points system doesn’t change the way it rewards winning like they were professing. NASCAR continually talks about listening to the fans and making changes to appease them. Somehow many of their intentions fall short.
2010 saw the elimination of the dreaded wing; something fans really seemed to hate, even though most of their street cars sported a cosmetic rear wing on their front-wheel drive cars. NASCAR got this one right. Not only did fans loathe the wing but most of the teams weren’t too crazy about it either.
2011 sees the re-desingn of the front fascia and elimination of the splitter; making the Sprint Cup cars look more like the models they are trying to represent.
Re-working the front and back of the Cup cars is a precursor to wholesale change expected for the 2013 Cup season. 2011 sees the first full season of new models in the Nationwide Series with the integration of the Mustang and Challenger. The Ford and Dodge representatives as that series Car of Tomorrow, is intended to give that series another unique quality.
Now Ford executives are sending up a trial balloon to check fan and NASCAR reaction to using the Mustang as their model in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013. According to Jamie Allison, Ford’s director of motorsports; “Mustang is the most identifiable brand we have in terms of racing and motorsports. So we’ve made it known that we’d like to see Mustang in NASCAR.”