There’s no way Briscoe will be back, they said.
The Captain won’t spend any more of his own money, they said.
He doesn’t like running three-car teams, they said.
Well, if there’s one thing that INDYCAR’s most legendary team owner does like to do, it’s to prove the naysayers wrong.
And he’s done it again, this time by finding the resources necessary to keep the current Penske Racing driver line-up in tact and on track for the upcoming 2012 season.
Is there a single person out there who would stand up and question the wisdom of Mr. Penske’s decision? Not a chance.
It’s very likely that we’ll see the Penske Truck Rental livery grace the cars of Helio Castroneves and/or Ryan Briscoe on occasion next year. But The Captain is well-aware of what the return on his investment is going to be. 2012 is the first true development year that INDYCAR has seen in a very, very long time. The real-time race weekend data that will be gathered by fielding three drivers at once -- all with very different driving styles and on-track strengths, and all of whom already have a rapport from working together for the past three seasons -- can’t be bought on a store shelf or discovered in a wind tunnel. It has no price. It’s invaluable.
And for the first time in many years, Mr. Penske has something to prove. Whispers abound that The Captain has finally been bested by Chip Ganassi. Penske Racing hasn’t won a championship since 2006. Two of its three drivers didn’t win a single race in 2011. Meanwhile, Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars have taken the title for the past four years in a row and have won two of the past five Indianapolis 500s to Roger Penske’s one. The present situation is certainly not the lowest point in Mr. Penske’s career as a car owner -- that came in 1995 -- but it’s edging into similar territory.
Indeed, Mr. Penske has a heavily vested interest in ensuring that the 2012 season brings improvement, not only for the sake of himself and his organization but also for Chevrolet. As the American automaker returns to IZOD IndyCar Series competition for the first time since 2005 with Penske Racing carrying its banner, being the best is paramount and another lackluster season simply won’t be tolerated. Creating a stable starting point by securing all three of the team’s current drivers for the upcoming year is a key step in setting the foundation for success.
Now, more than ever, success is not a goal for Penske Racing. It’s an expectation.
Because there’s something else Roger Penske likes to do, and that’s to win.