[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”226″][/media-credit]Now that the never-ending banquet is over, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is finally in the books. The champion has been crowned and it’s only 78 days until the qualifying for the Daytona 500. That’s about two and a half months. What we were treated with tonight was an out of place Howie Mandel and plenty of fluff leading up to what turned out to be tremendous speeches by car owner Roger Penske and Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski. Yes, Clint Bowyer was funny and Kasey Kahne was horribly stiff, but the professionalism of The Captain and Brad was the lasting impression left on this viewer.
All of a sudden, it hit me like a sucker punch out of the blue. Roger Penske and Brad Keselowski is just what Ford needs. Jack Roush has pretty much controlled Ford’s NASCAR program, whether by necessity or just because there was no one else there. Tonight, The Captain showed what has been missing from the Ford’s program—another perspective.
Roush controls his three teams and the two Richard Petty Motorsports teams and the Wood Brothers team. He also has his hand in at least chassis and engines for Front Row Motorsports and others. The results haven’t been stellar, though not horrible. While Hendrick Motorsports has been winning everywhere and winning the last six championships (if you count Tony Stewart’s title last year), Roush Fenway has been a distant second. A spark was needed, and maybe the big shots at Ford Racing saw that. I have no idea if this was the case, but if not, it was a lucky stroke. It just might be what is needed to jump start the blue oval next year.
Maybe it’s just the excitement of seeing a new champion crowned, but it seemed like a new day dawned. With Penske on board, Ford finally has a team that isn’t just a clone of what they already have. The competition within the brand just might spur on the seven teams to become more competitive. Seeing Roger Penske on the stage was a shot in the arm for the whole series. For too long, this series has been owned by Hendrick, and specifically the No.48 team, with the other Chevrolets owned by HMS close behind. Joe Gibbs Racing has made inroads, as has Michael Waltrip Racing this year. With Keselowski and Penske, the new face, always exciting to fans, is here.
If will be tough next year. A new manufacturer is always snuffed off as not a problem, but it always is. I remember when Harry Rainer, owner of probably the fastest team of its time, switched to Ford in 1985. The “can’t miss” team took a half season before they could be competitive for a whole race, so asking for another championship is probably a tall order. It is more competition for those who have dominated for so long, and that’s a good thing for the sport. New ideas are always welcomed for NASCAR and competition as a whole. At least I hope so.