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Monday, July 20, 2009

Penske sure can pick ‘em: Allgaier, Kligerman poised for NASCAR stardom

As a general rule, Roger Penske is a success at whatever he’s doing.

As a young racer in the 1950s and 1960s, competing in SCCA, NASCAR, Formula 1 and other series, he was on track to become one of the great racers in history. But he realized his true calling was as a business leader, and retired at age 28 from driving.

In the business world, he has become a billionaire and runs companies that employ tens of thousands of people. This empire includes his racing teams, with which he has won 15 Indy 500s, dozens of NASCAR races and so many other prizes I have no room to mention them.

Having said all this, it’s no surprise that there is good news in the pipeline for the future of his Cup series team – a pair of young drivers who are showing some solid ability at a young age and are on the fast track to be successful at the top level.

Justin Allgaier is last year’s ARCA champion, inheriting that title after Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. literally knocked each other out of the title hunt. He has been on fire in Nationwide this year, and may have won by now if Kyle Busch and his Cup brethren weren’t double-dipping in the lower series.

With 3 top-5 finishes and 9 top-10s in his 18 starts this year for Penske in the Nationwide races, Allgaier is on the fast track to the Cup series, deservedly so.

Then there is Penske’s developmental driver Parker Kligerman, an 18-year-old driver who has won 5 of the last 6 ARCA races, and Penske definitely has a winner on his hands with this kid. Kligerman, who earned his latest win Saturday at Kentucky -- when he finally got around leader Grant Enfinger on the last lap after an amazing, 30-lap, side-by-side battle that was better than anything I’ve seen in NASCAR all year -- is the clear favorite to snag this year’s title.

From my view, Penske’s best option for 2010 is Allgaier moving up and replacing David Stremme in the #12 Cup ride, and Kligerman taking over Allgaier’s ride in the Nationwide Series. If Kligerman continues his pace and wins the ARCA crown this year, I don’t see any benefit in leaving him in that series, despite the fact he is only 18.

Penske is on a hot streak when it comes to spotting talent, having snagged drivers like Allgaier and Kligerman in the past few years.

But looking back at his history, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Congratulations to Herschel McGriff
Hershel McGriff was born on December 14, 1927.
He finished 13th this weekend in the Camping World West race in Portland, Oregon.

Yes, he is 81 years old. And yes, that is pretty amazing.

This guy has been around so long he makes Morgan Shepherd look like a rookie.

His first race was the inaugural Southern 500, where he started 44th in a field of 75 cars, and finished in 9th position, 26 laps behind the winner, winning $500. (Yeah, things were a little different back then).

The fact that he can still drive a race car, and finish decently, is an accomplishment that speaks for itself. He rewrote the record book yet again this weekend as NASCAR’s oldest driver, and will probably do it again very soon.


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