2007 Team Preview: Penske
February 9, 2007 | 8:22 A.M. EST
The much-heralded arrival of 2004 series champion Kurt Busch to pair with Ryan Newman turned into one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Neither driver made the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" and only Busch made it to victory lane, once.
But team owner Roger Penske sees better things ahead for his NEXTEL Cup program, part of his mammoth racing operation.
“I look at the 2007 season and we’re going to compete in 90 races with 159 entries, obviously expanded schedules with our IndyCar Series and American LeMans Series," Penske said. "Sam (Hornish) will be competing in a broader program. He’ll be competing in some Busch Races. He had an opportunity to find out what it was all about last year. We cut it short and sweet, but that’s how it starts. I’m sure Kurt knows what that’s like. Helio (Castroneves) is going to compete at Sebring, and we’re going to be busier than ever."
"That said, I have great aspirations for Kurt and Ryan this season and feel like we're certainly in position to have a much better year than last."
What seemed like a slam dunk for success when Busch took over the team's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was more like an airball. But Busch is confident in his ability and the team's desire to get back on track.
"Sometimes you add all the ingredients into the same box and you can come out and dominate like five freshmen in NCAA basketball," Busch said. "The success could go straight through the roof. You’re going to have your good times and you’re going to have your bad. For us we started strong. We ran well at Daytona and had a win at Bristol early on. That was somewhat the adrenalin rush of switching to Penske Racing."
"It’s a better program. I’m completely satisfied with my change. What we learned from last year, we developed our setups and got them up to speed."
Newman's season was even more of a disappointment than Busch's, with the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge pretty much never a factor. Long-time crew chief Matt Borland has moved to Michael Waltrip Racing with Mike Nelson now calling the shots for Newman.
“I remember how to drive," Newman laughed. "The tough part about a season like 2006 is getting the confidence back on the team. Last year was fun for about three weekends. Hopefully 38 weekends will be a lot of fun this year. I guess part of fixing the problem is understanding it and where it’s coming from. Everything goes in a cycle. We’ve got to put the work in and make an effort.”