Penske positions for IndyCar, NASCAR title sweep

It has been another successful year for iconic motorsports team owner Roger Penske.

But there remains the possibility of more to come.

Penske’s Will Power captured his first IndyCar Series championship on Aug. 30 in Fontana, Calif., after coming up just short in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

It’s the 13th IndyCar championship for Penske, whose most recent title came in 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr., who now competes part time in NASCAR.

After his victory Saturday night at Richmond, Va., Penske’s NASCAR driver, Brad Keselowski, is in excellent position to give the owner – nicknamed “The Captain” – his first IndyCar-NASCAR title sweep.

Keselowski owns the No. 1 seed as the 10-race Chase opens Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. He won the 2012 Sprint Cup championship, Penske’s first in that series.

“I think we said that when we moved everybody under one roof (in Mooresville) where we could cross-pollinize. We moved people from NASCAR to IndyCar and vice versa, even over-the-wall guys,” Penske said.

“That’s been an opportunity. I think we wanted to be one team. We were North, South. At the end of the day (team president) Tim Cindric said, ‘Let’s put them all together.’ It’s made a big difference.”

Penske came close in 2012 to winning both series titles with Keselowski’s Cup championship. Power entered the IndyCar finale with a 17-point lead but wrecked out early in the race, which handed the title to Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“We had a chance in 2012. This is a real effort for us,” Penske said. “Obviously I’m thinking about that, but I know we’ve got to get to Chicago and get on with it.

“The IndyCar victory takes the pressure off, but not for long. The focus now is on the Sprint Cup.”

Keselowski failed to make the Chase last season and lost the opportunity to defend his title. Penske said he has been impressed with the work Keselowski and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, have put in this season to earn another chance at a championship.

“It shows when we do get things together, the performance we have on a team. We also have to think about Brad last year, how he bounced back,” Penske said. “He was down maybe last year, but came back this season. He’s been outstanding.

“I give him a lot of credit because he’s pushing the team, he’s pushing Paul. He and Joey (Logano) together, they’re working each other, trying to find the speed in the cars.”

Logano, in just his second season driving for Penske, only trails Keselowski by three points to start the Chase, giving The Captain two formidable contenders for the championship.

With 10 races remaining, both Logano (three) and Keselowski (four) already have amassed career highs for wins in a season. Logano has led more laps this season (721) than during his previous five Cup seasons combined.

“We take this in stride. Obviously being the top seed is a tremendous effort for the team and certainly puts us in a great place, but we’re not blind,” Penske said.

“We know there’s plenty of guys out there that can beat us; they’re going to want to. What we have to do is stay on course.”

Related stories from Charlotte Observer