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 Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.February 2, 2010 1:36 am UTC 3 Comments
Looking at the way the past couple of offseasons (and seasons themselves) have gone, it’s about time that we put this whole “top 35 in owners’ points automatically qualify for the race” thing to rest.
Despite NASCAR implementing rules designed to prevent owners’ points transfers, top 35 starting positions have been an abstract commodity for the past couple of years. Selling points from one team to another – the exact sort of thing that NASCAR has tried to block – has been circumvented by the new teams allowing the old owners in question to remain on the entry list.
Last year’s offseason was the worst. Think that Bobby Ginn had anything to do with Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 car last year? Does Theresa Earnhardt have anything to do with Front Row Motorsports? How about the former Bill Davis Racing – did Sam Hornish Jr. have more of a claim to that team’s owners’ points than Tommy Baldwin Racing, which had its old crew chief and a handful of its crew members?
That’s not, however, to say that this year hasn’t also been pretty bad. The latest transfer of points from one team to another is between Furniture Row Racing and Richard Childress Racing, which will allow the No. 78 to take the points from RCR’s fourth car. Childress will become an owner of the team, but FRR will continue to use Hendrick engines.
There’s also the creation of Latitude 43 Motorsports, established when Roush Fenway Racing had to sell off its fifth team to get under NASCAR’s team cap (a different embarrassing issue entirely). Because of the team cap, NASCAR allowed RFR to sell off its owners’ points and equipment to a new owner without having to remain on board with the new operation.
Confused? Angry? You’re not alone.
Plenty of teams have attempted to switch points within their organization, too, in order to give drivers better starting positions in case of rainouts. Last year, Juan Montoya and Aric Almirola of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing switched points early in the year. Yates Racing also messed around with its teams, to the benefit of Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard and the detriment of Travis Kvapil. This year, Richard Petty Motorsports may shift the points from its No. 44 last year to follow A.J. Allmendinger to the No. 43.
It’s funny that NASCAR allows this now, when two years ago, they refused to allow Michael Waltrip Racing to transfer David Reutimann’s points from the No. 00 to his new car, the No. 44.
The top 35 rule was originally designed to protect the fully-funded teams and their sponsors, guaranteeing them passage into the field, while start-and-park teams would have to earn their way in. On the surface, it’s a nice thought, as it gives the fans a better chance at watching a solid race. It doesn’t matter how fast a start-and-park car can run, nobody wants to see it pull back into the garage after ten laps.
But in 2007, when the Sprint Cup Series had 49 full-time, solidly-funded teams, and start-and-parkers were endangered species, the rule remained in place, and plenty of teams bit the bullet. Many of their sponsors either left their old teams for partial-season deals with the sport’s heavyweights, or left the sport entirely.
Combine that with the oft-cited economic woes that America currently faces, and we have about 39 full-time teams this year, fighting for 35 guaranteed spots and 43 spots on any given weekend.
Four of those teams will face a great disadvantage all season. Because they will have to focus far more on qualifying than the top 35 teams, who will have all weekend to work on race setups, their cars will not be as strong during the races themselves, leading to inevitably low finishes. As the mediocre and poor finishes pile up, they will fall further back from the top 35, as Kevin Buckler’s No. 71 car did last year, keeping them down for 2011.
Let’s face it: the old system – fastest cars make the field, provisionals for the slowest cars with the most owners’ points, DNQ’s for the cars that run out of provisionals – is still the best way of doing things. If Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are slow one weekend, brutally slow, they shouldn’t be racing. The fastest cars ought to be the ones racing, right?
With everybody having to devise two setups on any given weekend, it improves the chances of making the race for the cars running limited schedules. Michael Waltrip, Max Papis, and Bill Elliott won’t have to put everything into qualifying the way they do under the top 35 rules. They would be doing the same work, on the same things, as everybody else.
And if these start-and-park cars pull off qualifying miracles – winning the pole, for example – they can capitalize by running the decals of the cars that failed to qualify, or attracting some other sponsors to help them run the whole race. Nobody wants to start-and-park when they’re qualifying in the top five.
One more thing: no more of this owners’ points transferring crap. You get the points that your team earned last year. It’s only fair. If you stop guaranteeing the top 35 into the race, it doesn’t even matter all that much anyway – everybody gets the same amount of provisionals.
I know my cries will likely fall upon deaf ears in the NASCAR compound, but it’s worth a shot. The top 35 rule is a nice thought, but its practice only causes problems when more than 35 cars are fully funded and running the entire schedule. It’s time we go back to the old system and forget this one, once and for all.
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.February 10, 2009 1:25 am UTC No Comments
- NASCAR’s version of the old shell game has fans, and teams, guessing who is in and who is out of the top 35 owners points.
You remember the shell game don’t you. A huckster has three shells or cups or whatever to hide one ball. The mark has to follow the ball as the huckster moves the shells around and around until the mark is totally confused and picks the wrong shell. Along the line somewhere the huckster has preformed some slight of hand and mercy on the mark.
NASCAR has taken on the role of huckster this off season with its owners points. They have moved the top 35 around and around; preformed some slight of hand and given Top 35 status to some interesting folks; most notably Bobby Ginn. You remember Ginn don’t you; he’s the, probably well intended, car owner who came into the sport with a butt-load of money only to leave a couple of years later with nothing to show for it except a quasi-merger with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and a batch of hacked of drivers, crew members and fans.
Now in an even shadier move NASCAR has approved the “partnership” of Ginn with Richard Childress Racing. Ginn has brought the Top 35 points of the #01 car with him and has transferred them to the new #33 team. Clint Bowyer now doesn’t have to worry about qualifying for the first five races. What he does have to worry about is having Bobby Ginn as a car owner; even if it is in name only. Clint–go ask Sterling Marlin about Ginn.
And that brings us to this week’s BUZZ ON PIT ROW:
Did NASCAR handle the reallocation of owners points correctly?
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
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.January 26, 2009 9:33 pm UTC 2 Comments
Things are starting to come together for all the teams trying to make the Daytona 500.
The big four have been set for a while. Rick Hendrick Motorsports has his four cars all set with Mark Martin coming on board to run the full season. Jack Roush has had his five teams ready since getting the UPS sponsorship lined up at the end of the 2008 season. Richard Childress Racing has expanded his group to include a fourth car with Clint Bowyer moving over from the #07 to the new #33 car with General Mills sponsorship. Joe Gibbs Racing has the kiddie corp of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and ROTY contender Joey Logano ready to hit the track.
After those four owners has been where all the craziness of the off season has revolved. It has been well documented the strife a mergers that have surrounded Chip Ganassi, Dale Earnhardt, Inc, Gillet-Evernham and Petty Enterprises. For better or worse success or failure will follow the mergered teams depending on their ability to adapt to their new surroundings, management teams and driving team mates.
With the loss of teams like Bill Davis Racing and part time seasons from Furnature Row and The Wood Brothers, the bottom feeders saw much of the change revolve around them. There has been an odd resurgence of single car–privateer teams spearheaded by Tommy Baldwin‘s new entry in the Sprint Cup. While many if not most of these new teams may not even make it past Daytona; it would seem to make the fields easier for the big boys to become bigger.
Less competition outside the top four teams could make it easier for a first time winner in both the 500 and the championship. Which leads us to this week’s BUZZ ON PIT ROW:
Will 2009 be the magical season that Mark Martin wins the Daytona 500 and/or the Sprint Cup championship?
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerSeptember 5, 2008 9:30 pm UTC 3 Comments
It’s time that fans move on and embrace the next generation of drivers to identify with.
It’s time to see Austin Dillon full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series piloting the #3 Chevrolet.
Oh, I can hear groaning already. I’m ready for it. Fact of the matter is, groan all you want, the weird sort of reverence for Dale Earnhardt isn’t helping NASCAR move on. Nearly everyone else has made peace and moved on. We’ll never forget what Dale Earnhardt meant, but that doesn’t mean we need to be reminded every five minutes that Earnhardt did this and Earnhardt did that. We know what he did in much the same way we know what Richard Petty did, what David Pearson did, what Darrell Waltrip did, what Cale Yarborough did, and so on. I was a big Davey Allison fan growing up and I’m glad the #28 still competes. I wouldn’t like a constant reminder of what happened. The seasons in which Yates ran the #38 and #88 were just… strange. After this many years, it’s time to see the #3 competing again. Honestly, isn’t that something Dale Earnhardt himself would want?
Austin Dillon is a rising star in racing. He’s up there in the East Series points this season and continues getting seat time in late models and an occasional ARCA start. I believe the story goes that he asked his grandfather (Richard Childress, if you didn’t already know) if he could run the number. Childress was cool to the idea at first, worrying about the reaction – but relented when he said he was running it to honor him. Childress made hundreds of starts with the #3 before hooking up with Earnhardt. From most reactions I’ve seen, the results have been positive. I imagine it’ll be a different story if/when Dillon runs the #3 in one of the higher divisions. He’ll drive the #21 at Richmond this weekend, but his full-time car could very well be the #3. I’m hoping it is. Dillon may be able to get away with running the number because of the special circumstance, which is unfortunate. Let other guys build a brand with a number. It’s seemingly blasphemous to not support never running the #3 in NASCAR. I want to break that ceiling because the sport needs to revere history, not live in the past.
Photo credit: Team Dillon Racing
by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.July 18, 2008 7:43 pm UTC 6 Comments
Over the past ten races, the New Jersey driver has finished in the top 20 nine times, with a 34th at Lowe’s Motor Speedway the lone exception. While Truex currently finds himself 17th in points, he has attracted interest from such teams as Richard Childress Racing and Team Penske for next season. Truex has also been rumored to join the new Stewart-Haas Racing team for 2009, alongside Tony Stewart.
Certainly, Truex ought to feel like the subject of the Clash’s 1981 hit single, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” After the incident at Daytona that left the No. 1 team $100,000 lighter in the wallet and 150 points in the hole, Truex was said to be furious and looking to abandon the only Sprint Cup team he’s ever known for 2009.
However, given the other opportunities available, Truex might be wise to bide his time at DEI. Every available ride that he’s been considering has some sort of major flaw that could seriously damage his championship prospects for 2009 and beyond. So, without further ado, here’s why Martin Truex Jr. should remain with Dale Earnhardt Inc. for the 2009 season:
1. Lack of owners’ points on the No. 33 car
The fourth Childress team has competed in one Sprint Cup Race this season, the Coca-Cola 600 with Ken Schrader behind the wheel. The car will be nowhere near within the top 35 in owners’ points, so Truex would have to qualify for the first five races of the season on speed. With the Daytona 500 qualifying race rules getting more complex by the year, it’s likely that Truex would miss the opening event of the season, if not more events early on. While Truex has a career average start of 18.8 in Sprint Cup, he’s only scored one pole in his career. The insecurity of trying to qualify for races on speed early on in the season with a start-up team is something Truex shouldn’t risk.
2. Team Penske’s consistent underperforming teams
Team Penske in NASCAR is not Team Penske in the Indy Racing League: Since 2004, when the Chase format was first implemented, the NASCAR branch of Penske’s race team has only won nine races. Compare that to 16 IRL wins and one championship in about half as many combined starts. Not only that, since their 1-2 finish at the Daytona 500 this year, the departing Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch have sunk to 16th and 18th in points, respectively, with Truex sandwiched in the middle. Former IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. 33rd in the team’s third car. Even its status as one of Dodge’s top teams and consistent financial backing have not put Penske in position to win championships. A move to Penske would be a step sideways for Truex.
3. The inevitable trying first season of Stewart-Haas
At this point, both cars that will become S-H vehicles next season are teetering around the 35th place mark in owners’ points, presenting Truex with the same problem he would have at RCR. However, at least RCR won’t have an entire team overhaul next season. As owner, Stewart expects to clear house, making his new team a hodge-podge of collected crewmen and mechanics that may take a while to build chemistry. Even heavy Chevrolet factory support may be unreliable in the wake of the company’s massive forthcoming budget cuts.
4. Everything fits at DEI
Only by staying where he is will Truex be a team’s number one driver – figuratively and literally. He will rank above Aric Almirola and Paul Menard, and Regan Smith if the No. 01 team does not fold. With Mark Martin‘s departure for Hendrick Motorsports, the company has an extra $8 million to work with in bringing back Truex for his contract option year. He would remain with longtime crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and crew members that saw him to the 2004 and 2005 Nationwide Series championships.
5. Many other, better rides will be open in 2009
The contracts of Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, David Gilliland, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers, and A.J. Allmendinger are known to expire after the 2009 season. Six of those drivers’ teams are currently in the top 20 in points, with McMurray’s a close 22nd and Gilliland not much further back in 25th. It’s also likely that some other drivers will lose their rides between now and the end of next season. If, say, Harvick decides to follow Stewart’s path into Sprint Cup ownership, Truex could find himself a much better ride just by waiting ’til next year.
By allowing DEI to pick up their option on him for the 2009 season, Truex sets him up for what could potentially be a larger windfall in 2010, with better teams and bigger money. All he needs to do is sit through one more season with the team that gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues before moving on.
Photo Credit: IconSportsMedia.com