Seventh a series looking back on NASCAR teams' fortunes in 2007 and their prospects for 2008.
After a first foray into NASCAR ownership in the early 1970s, Roger Penske returned to stock car racing as a full-time owner in 1990. Veteran Rusty Wallace carried the team's colors as the anchor of the operation, winning 37 times between 1991 and his retirement in 2005. Ryan Newman came into the fold as one of Penske Racing's full-time drivers in 2002, and in 2006, former Cup Series champion Kurt Busch moved into Wallace's famed No. 2 ride to team with Newman.
|Ryan Newman had seven top five and 15 top 10 finishes for Roger Penske. (Getty Images)|
Busch bounced back as driver of the team's famed Miller Lite No. 2 Dodge to win twice and make the Chase for the Nextel Cup. The 2004 series champion notched six top five and 14 top 10s and finished seventh in the final standings, a far cry from his dismal first season with Penske the previous year.
"With wins, a pole and a seventh-place finish in the points, we definitely covered all the basics to say that 2007 was a great year for our Miller Lite Dodge Team," said Busch, a 29-year-old Las Vegas native. "When you look back on the year and take into consideration that we accomplished all that we did with three different crew chiefs, you certainly have to label it a successful transitional season for our team."
The crew chief merry-go-round finally ended in June, when veteran Pat Tryson came on board to call the shots for Busch. The two developed an instant chemistry that resulted in a second-half season surge for Busch.
"Pat definitely brought the spark that our team needed and it was evident for the rest of the season," Busch said. "Pat's leadership abilities and his knowledge of race cars were evident almost immediately, and our team continued to get stronger and stronger throughout the remainder of the season."
|Dec. 3||Wood Brothers||Dec. 24||Penske Racing|
|Dec. 6||Petty Enterprises||Dec. 27||DEI|
|Dec. 10||Waltrip Racing||Dec. 31||RCR|
|Dec. 13||Gillett-Evernham||Jan. 3||Gibbs Racing|
|Dec. 17||Yates Racing||Jan. 8||Roush-Fenway|
|Dec. 20||Ganassi Racing||Jan. 10||Hendrick Motorsports|
Although teammate Newman missed out on making the Chase, finishing 13th and one spot away from the final transfer position, it still had to be considered a successful season for the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge.
Newman had seven top five and 15 top 10 finishes as well as five pole positions, second only to Jeff Gordon's seven.
"We're disappointed we weren't able to get to Victory Lane last season for sure," Newman said, "but at the same time I think we were able to show we certainly are capable of competing again and winning races so overall we're pleased with the way the year wound up."
Busch and Newman return to the fold in 2008, but there are several changes in store.
The team will return to a three-car operation with the addition of IRL champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., who will pilot a No. 77 Dodge.
The former open wheel star will also receive the benefit of using the owners points from the team's No. 2 entry next season, which Penske was allowed to swap under NASCAR's rules. That will be a huge advantage for Hornish, who is now locked into a starting spot for the first five races of the season, including the Daytona 500.