Roger Penske wasted little time making it clear he and his organization were committed to Dodge.
Over 100 members of the media, in attendance for the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, were invited to a sit-down dinner hosted by Penske Racing.
Surrounded by three large round tables filled with drivers and employees, all dressed in white shirts and black pants, Penske took the stage and immediately began laying his plans and needs for a successful 2010 campaign.
“This is our eighth season with Dodge, and I have never seen the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the entire Dodge team,” said Penske.
A weak economy, poor sales, bankruptcy, and the continued restructuring of Dodge has left Penske racing as the only team in NASCAR fielding Dodges and receiving factory support.
“We believe in Dodge, and we believe in their success; together we’re going to achieve that success on the race track and in the showroom.”
Penske went on to say sponsors are also a key ingredient to a successful campaign.
Penske will field three full-time cars in the Sprint Cup Series and has complete sponsorship on each of them.
Kurt Busch will once again be sponsored by Miller Brewing, returning for its 20th year with Penske Racing.
Verizon Wireless will ride the road on the No. 12 Dodge piloted by Brad Keselowski this year. Keselowski will also run in the Nationwide series with new sponsor Ruby Tuesday stamped on the hood of his No. 22 Dodge.
Jumping into the marketing role right away, Ruby Tuesday provided each member of the media a $25 dollar gift card.
Sam Hornish Jr. will bring Mobil 1 along for its 25th year as a primary sponsor in the Penske organization.
Steve Addington starts his role as crew chief for Kurt Busch, a role he says was just meant to happen.
“When I was with Kyle, a change needed to be made, and it was time. At about the same time an opportunity was opening up at Penske Racing, and they felt I was the best fit.”
Addington comes across as a quiet, gentle person. This observation seemed spot on when I asked him about his motivations for leaving one high-strung, verbally abusive driver for another.
“I don’t view it like that," said Addington. "They’re both very competitive drivers and want to win; for me it’s never been a personal thing.”
“I don’t really get caught up in all that. You just have to let it roll off your back and make it a better situation Things like that shouldn’t deter me from looking at a driver as talented as Kurt,” Addington added.
Continuing on with his positive outlook, Addington said he’s happy where he’s at and feels he can help Penske and the race team move forward. How far forward may depend on his driver.
Media members have already declared open season on speculation about Busch and his future, or possibly lack of, with Penske Racing.
“Obviously money is a big factor, but it’s time for me to look long term,” said Busch. “2010 is in the books solidly. I don’t want to re-up just for 2011, or 2012, I want something more stable and further into the future.”
Busch said he gave Steve Addington a personal promise that he was in this for the long haul. But, without a signed contract and the freedom from Penske to explore all options, Busch is either contemplating a move with Addington in tow or has made a promise destined to be broken.