In the 1981 movie History of the World, King Louis XVI remarked, “It’s good to be the king.” Those words were spoken during the French Revolution era of 1789-1799, as the King wanted to make it clear that he was enjoying that he could do what he want, that he was on top of the world.
In early April of 2010, nearly 211 years later, Roger Penske is no doubt saying, “It’s good to be the Captain,” of his IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR teams. Penske is no doubt sitting back grinning because in the last five weeks he’s seen his drivers in victory lane four times.
They’ve won all around the world on different tracks: from mile and a half's, to road courses, to short tracks, and street courses. Team Penske is the team right now and everyone can either get on board or get out of the way.
Stop number one, Atlanta, GA for the Sprint Cup Series’ Kobalt Tools 500, the fourth race of the year. On March 7, Penske driver Kurt Busch went to victory lane for the second year in a row, while fellow Penske driver Brad Keselowski went for the ride of his life. Keselowski made headlines for going airborne, while Busch made the headlines for dominated the event, leading 129 of the 341 laps.
One week later, March 14, the IZOD IndyCar Series opened their season halfway around the world, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Driving for Team Penske, Will Power made a late race pass on Ryan Hunter-Ray to take his second career victory. For Power it was nothing short of an extraordinary comeback.
Penske hired the 29-year-old Australian in 2009 after star driver Helio Castroneves went on trial for tax evasion. When Castroneves came back, Power had impressed Penske so much he kept him around, but in late summer at the Infineon Raceway in California, Power broke his back in a practice crash. However, Penske kept him on board assured that he would be back for the 2010 season.
He was and brought Penske his second win in two weeks.
“I feel awesome,” Power said in Brazil’s victory lane. “It’s been a tough recovery. I’m grateful to be given this opportunity. I laid in bed at the hospital and never thought it was going to happen.”
Those same words were going through another young Penske drivers mind a week later. March 20 was the date of the Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Justin Allgaier, in his second full-year with Penske Racing, was looking to improve on his Rookie of the Year honors and a sixth place points finish from 2009.
Brad Keselowski captured the first pole for Penske racing in the 2010 NNS and was leading on a late restart with Allgaier in second. But as that green flag flew with 27 laps to go, Allgaier got the jump on Keselowski and took the lead and the win.
The Penske drivers finished first and second for the first time in the companies history in the NNS.
“That battle with Brad was awesome,” Allgaier told the world in victory lane. “I couldn’t be happier at the end to see two Penske cars up there running for the win.”
Roger Penske was atop the spotters stand, where he spends most races, watching his two drivers battle for the win. Afterward he quickly left the roof to join in on another celebration.
Penske even admitted later, “I was nervous watching today.”
For Penske though, not only were his two teams in the two series winning but they were doing so in great fashion. But it wasn’t over yet, who would believe that they could go four-for-four?
That fourth stop was the street course in St. Petersburg, FL. The second race of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series held on March 29th was once again had Will Power grabbing the headlines. After winning the pole Power dominated the event, leading 50 of 100 laps to start the year two and oh.
Don’t be fooled however; Power isn’t the only Penske driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series that knows what he’s doing. Finishing third and fourth in St. Petersburg were Power’s teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, the same man that he replaced at one point last year.
For the competition it doesn’t look bright for the remainder of the year because Briscoe says, “I think we’re pretty good just about everywhere.”
The last four weeks have shown that and it most likely won’t end anytime soon. Every Penske driver, from the three from the IZOD IndyCar Series, the two from the Nationwide Series, and the three from the Sprint Cup Series, love to win and they all know how.
So far Roger Penske has a victory in each of those series in the 2010 season with a lot of racing left and what could be a big year for the organization.
Will Power leads the IZOD IndyCar Series points; his teammates sit sixth and seventh. Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski occupy the second and third positions in the Nationwide Series, while his drivers in the Sprint Cup Series are sixth, 27th and 30th in points.
With Roger providing great equipment, support, drivers that are fearless, determined, Penske should prepare himself for more celebrations, sometimes from one week to another, and who knows where in the world.
Yes, it’s certainly good to be the captain.