Penske Racing made it official earlier today, announcing that Brad Keselowski will drive the #12 Penske Dodge full-time in 2010, replacing David Stremme. Keselowski will also run for the championship in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Penske.
Team owner Roger Penske made the announcement this morning, saying, "We are very excited to welcome Brad to the Penske Racing family. Brad has shown terrific success on track the past several years, and has quickly established himself as one of the top young stars in racing. He comes from an impressive family background in motorsports. He is a proven winner and a welcome addition to our team."
Keselowski claimed his first career Sprint Cup win at Talladega Superspeedway in April, driving for Phoenix Racing. He has three top-10 finishes in eight Cup starts this season, and those eight races make him ineligible for Raybestos Rookie of the Year consideration in 2010. He ranks third in Nationwide Series championship points with three wins. His most recent victory came at his home track, Michigan International Speedway, earlier this month.
"Penske Racing is one of the top teams in all of motorsports and I am honored to join Roger Penske's organization and compete for wins with his Cup and Nationwide Series teams," said Keselowski today. "This is a great opportunity for me to continue competing in the Nationwide Series and to run my first full season in the Cup Series with a strong and experienced team."
There is no word on Stremme's plans for 2010, and no announcement on how Keselowski’s 2010 Nationwide plans will effect Penske’s current driver in that series, Justin Allgaier. Keselowski will join us today at 3:15 to discuss his new deal in an exclusive Sirius NASCAR Radio interview.
Labonte Unhappy With Yates Ouster: Bobby Labonte’s streak of 568 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will end this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when the seat of the Yates Racing #96 Ford will be filled by newcomer Erik Darnell.
Yates Racing co-owner Max Jones announced the move yesterday, saying that Darnell will run the car in seven of this year’s final 12 races due to a lack of sponsorship for Labonte.
The former Sprint Cup Series champion’s consecutive race streak began in February of 1993 at Daytona International Speedway, at the wheel of Bill Davis Racing’s #22 Maxwell House Ford. Labonte ranks second only to Jeff Gordon, who has now started 569 consecutive races.
The decision to substitute Darnell for Labonte was a no-brainer in these difficult economic times. Labonte’s deal came together in late December – literally the eleventh hour -- when Hall Of Fame Racing determined that its Ask.com and DLP HDTV sponsorships were not enough to finance a full season of competition. HOF found itself with sponsors and no racecars, while Yates Racing had racecars, and no sponsorship.
It was a match made in heaven, as far as it went.
Unfortunately, the team’s performance was not good enough to attract sponsors for the remainder of the schedule. The 45-year old Labonte managed just one top-10 finish this season, and Yates Racing was unable to secure backing for seven unsold races at the end of the season. When the opportunity to put a fully funded driver in the car presented itself, Labonte’s fate was sealed.
Jones admitted that Labonte took the news of his ouster badly, adding, “I wouldn’t have (been happy) either, if I was him. I had to explain my side, and why I was doing it. He wasn’t happy about it, but he understood and I respect that. He’s a class act, he’s a professional.”
New Backer For Baldwin: Wave Energy Drink will sponsor Tommy Baldwin Racing's #36 Toyota and driver Patrick Carpentier in six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season. Wave Energy Drink will grace the team’s quarterpanels at Atlanta, Richmond, New Hampshire, Dover, Kansas and Auto Club Speedways.