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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hendrick blew it by letting Keselowski go to Penske

You can call it a Michigan marriage – Rochester Hills-raised Brad Keselowski will be replacing David Stremme and driving the #12 car in 2010 for billionaire Detroit businessman Roger Penske, according to several sources.

You can also call it Rick Hendrick screwing up big time, something he rarely does, by not making sure there was a Hendrick-affiliated seat open for Keselowski in 2010. By doing this, he has thrown away a guy who could have become the organization’s next superstar.

When this is all confirmed (something that should happen very soon), the Hendrick team will say there was nothing they could do. They’ll say Mark Martin’s comeback filled up the last seat and ruined Brad’s chances at making the main team, and they were not able to find him a place at a satellite team.

But that will be a bunch of baloney. Rick Hendrick is so ridiculously rich and has so many sponsors connected to his teams, he has the pull necessary to throw together a deal if it is really needed … as was the case here. Considering how well Brad has done for the Hendrick organization and its affiliates – winning and consistently running up front in both Cup and the Nationwide series – he should have used that pull to help a deal come together at Stewart-Haas Racing for a third car, or even at the #09 James Finch-owned team, for whom Brad won the Cup race at Talladega earlier this year. Worst-case scenario, he should have created a new affiliation with another team, and placed Keselowski there until Martin’s #5 seat opened up.

By not making something happen so he could keep Brad, Hendrick forced Keselowski to do something he did not want to do … go outside the Hendrick organization. Brad turned down an offer from Penske last season to drive the #12 car, thinking he was going to get a Hendrick Cup ride in 2010. Even after Martin said he was coming back in 2010, Brad held out hope for a Hendrick-affiliated ride (with SHR, Jr. Motorsports moving up, Finch’s team, a new affiliate), but it never came to be.
So it appears he did what he had to do, abandoning the team with which he rose to fame in the process. And the team has itself to blame.

Brad was loyal as long as he could be, but it’s clear he belongs in Cup, not Nationwide, next year, and apparently Hendrick just didn’t care enough about keeping him to make that happen.

The #12 car has been pretty weak this year, but that’s likely due in large part to the lackluster driver behind the wheel. While Penske is nowhere near Hendrick as far as overall team strength, Kurt Busch’s success shows the team can produce quality race cars, and a quality driver like Brad is the other piece of the puzzle that will earn a team wins and championships.

The only saving grace for Hendrick is that I could see a scenario where Brad struggles at Penske due to equipment issues, then goes back to Hendrick after Martin retires in a few years. So in the end, Hendrick may get Keselowski back after all. But that’s a tough risk to take, as Brad might take off in that Penske car and get used to his new team, and not want to go back. Also, I have a feeling Penske won’t want to give him up.

The bottom line: I say good for Brad, as he has to think of his future … and I’m glad to see him land at a team that potentially could give him winning cars. He’s a strong driver, and can win if given the right equipment, as he has shown so far in his short career.

And if the #12 car passes a Hendrick car for a victory sometime in 2010, Mr. Hendrick will no doubt be wondering what the hell he was thinking by letting Keselowski go.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The solution was right in front of him. As noted, Hendrick seldom makes mistakes when it comes to racing but he did make one 2 years ago with the addition of Junior. All he needed to do was to correct that mistake by putting Brad in the 88 in 2010. That would then free up Junior to spend more time at his bar with his "homeys".

August 22, 2009 at 11:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you expect? The guys life and career are constantly under the damn microscope being scrutinized and picked apart, i'd be a little dejected and unable to focus if I was him too. He's not his old man and he never will be but he can damn well drive with the best of them, he's proven that 18 times, now go ahead and tell me those 18 races were all fixed or flukes. Junior is lacking focus, maybe he has bitten off more than he can chew between his Nationwide team, sponsorship appearances and business',regardless the media and the fans need to lay off the guy. By him not being in the chase this year its gonna give him time to get situated for 2010, mark my words... next year you're going to see a completely different Junior.

August 22, 2009 at 12:26 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gotta agree with the previous comment. Smart thing to do was to put K in Jr's ride. Jr's been a bust and K has proven he can drive the CoT.

August 22, 2009 at 2:23 PM 
Anonymous J.J. said...

Here's the thing. Martin (if you read into what he's said on Trackside when asked about the #5 ride) may not be leaving Hendrick after 2010. He might continue on for a few more years. In fact, the #24 ride might open up before the #5 ride does--especially if Gordon continues to have back problems. Replace JR? Yeah, that'll happen.

And Finch? That Talladega win was a lucky shot. Stewart? Newman hasn't won yet, so adding a third team would be a stretch, besides Harvick would probably end up in it anyway. Who's left? JR umping up to Cup. Not gonna happen. Team with Stephen Wallace went Rusty moves him up to cup? Uh, no thanks. DEI? Ummm... They can't decide what manufacturer they're going with, so not there either. RCR? Not exactly Hendrick are they? So, no.

Who is left? Red Bull? Strickly a two car outfit. Gibbs? Teammates with Busch? Ha! So that leaves Penske. Oops. Left out Roush/Yates...aww... Nevermind.

Keselowski deserves to be in Cup, he's 25, and can't wait another year, maybe two, maybe even more... He made the right move. And I go even further: All Penske's cars will win next year and at least two of them make the Chase.

You read it hear first.

August 22, 2009 at 10:14 PM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

Well J.J., I can see Brad and Kurt winning next year ... but I'm not thinking Hornish will make that leap.

And your breakdown was pretty much on target ... Brad really didn't have many options.

August 23, 2009 at 12:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the person who posted comment #2: Junior earns $32 million dollars per year, far in excess of any of the other drivers. His every move should be under a microscope. If he can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. A quick review of the stats will also tell you that he has 3 victories since 2005 and one of those was last year in Michigan that was a fuel mileage event that finished under caution and featured Junior passing the pace car 3 times in an effort to coast while his engine was shut off. NASCAR rules clearly state you may NOT pass the pace car. Would you call that a fix or a fluke. Half of all Juniors wins were on restrictor plate tracks where driver talent is the least important part of winning the race.

August 23, 2009 at 11:17 AM 

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