Thomas Bowles · Saturday October 17, 2009
When Roger Penske signed Brad Keselowski to his roster, he thought he was simply signing a rookie with serious potential.
But it turns out his arrival comes with one small wish list: add a couple of extra people to the team.
“One of the gaps that I notice drastically at Penske is they’re about 100 people short of where they need to be to compete with Hendrick,” Keselowski said Friday as he held an open, honest conversation with the media on setting expectations for next year. “I communicated that with them, and just wanted to know what their thoughts were [on expanding their company].”
Considering Penske employs just about 300 people, suggesting a 25 percent increase between now and February is a fairly bold statement from a man stepping into just his first full season of Cup competition next year. But Keselowski claims it’s a necessary step to bridging the gap between them and the Hendrick juggernaut.
“Resources-wise, Penske’s phenomenal,” he said. “They have the same resources, if not more, than what Hendrick has to work with. It’s just a matter of installing the depth and the personnel.”
“It does not take 550 people [like at Hendrick] to build a winning race car at any given weekend. But it does take 550 people when XYZ gets sick, or his wife’s in labor, any of those circumstances that are going to come up… that’s where that piece is so important. If your main fabricator that does the best bodies is out for a month hunting, or out for a month with his wife on maternity leave, or whatever that might be — you need that depth to come in and cover for him. And that’s one of the things that Hendrick has done very well.”
With so many teams cutting back this season, there’d be plenty of people lining up for jobs should Penske beef up their roster. But what’s surprising is that Keselowski claims the most inquiries have come from none other than the only other Dodge team in the series.
“We’ve got a large influx of interest from the whole Evernham group,” he explained. “That whole team is scared to death. That whole company is scared. Everybody that works there is scared. And we’ve got a lot of interest from some of their people. So that’s interesting, that’s encouraging.”
“The moment I signed to do this deal, one of the gauges of success for me and for the team was who wanted to come with us. And although no one from Hendrick Motorsports would be following me – and that’s part of my deal, nobody could follow me – it’s interesting to see the other teams that have had people that have come from us. Some really heavy hitters, it’s been pretty cool, and I’m looking forward to seeing who’s going to come.”
With a second full-time Nationwide team (driven by Keselowski) already on the books for 2010, there’ll be an additional 20-30 no matter how much they decide to grow. Keselowski wasn’t specific on exactly how much his new car owner committed to adding, but hopes starting a dialogue now will be a way for them to compromise later.
“We’ve both got to change,” he said matter-of-factly. “We’re going to have to work together, and it can’t be on one end. We have to meet in the middle… and work together that way.”
In this case, that change means doing what it takes regardless of cost. The question now is whether Penske’s willing to open his wallet in response.
Did You Notice? Random Thoughts
A couple of quick observations while walking around Friday …
- Chad McCumbee was on his cell phone, walking in and around the Nationwide garage while networking for next year. McCumbee’s run a limited schedule with Green Light Racing in the Truck Series, but the money’s dried up over the course of the year with the future of the organization in question for 2010. No word on what teams he might have been talking to…
- Kelly Bires is getting a head start on his JR Motorsports affiliation for 2010. Not entered with any team at Charlotte, Bires was in and out of the JR hauler all weekend, working with the team and observing as he prepares to take the reins of the No. 88 from Brad Keselowski.
- Watching Nationwide qualifying from Jeremy Clements’ hauler, the difference between the “haves” and “have nots” couldn’t be more obvious. Over on Clements’ side of the garage, just two haulers had computers on top of them to follow the official times: RAB Racing (John Wes Townley) and Rensi-Hamilton Racing (Eric McClure). Compare that to the other side of the garage, where Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, and others had a crowd of people on top of each hauler, including crew chiefs with headsets and all sorts of electronic information accessible with the touch of a button. Although I guess the start and parkers on Clements’ side of the garage don’t need to know much …
- Juan Pablo Montoya is off this weekend. Like, badly off. Unable to crack the top 10 in practice, he’s going to be hard-pressed to duplicate his career-best eighth place finish at Lowe’s Saturday night. And if Johnson and Martin finish 1-2, is this where the Cinderella slipper begins to fall off?
- One other thing from earlier in the week … why was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. not at the Hall of Fame ceremony? No one will ever know the real answer, but my gut tells me it’s ‘cause Teresa Earnhardt was there …
For more notes from the track, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s notes on Lance McGrew, turn to our FREE Frontstretch newsletter for the latest and greatest NASCAR news from down in Charlotte. While you’re at it, sign up so it gets sent straight into your email inbox, so you’re kept well-informed with all the racing information you need. And for more on Keselowski’s move to the Cup Series full-time in 2010, check out my one-on-one feature with the up-and-coming driver at SI.com this Thursday.
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