Penske Racing South welcomed the 2006 NASCAR
Nextel Media Tour to its sprawling 240,781 square-foot
complex housing the organization’s two Nextel Cup teams to
wrap up day three of the
four-day press tour.
Penske Racing introduced their driver lineup for 2006, with Kurt
Busch taking over the wheel of the no. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for the
retiring Rusty Wallace. Joining him on the stage Wednesday was his
Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the no. 12 Alltel
Dodge, as well as their respective crew chiefs.
Team owner Roger Penske was attending to his role as chairman of the
Super Bowl XL Host Committee in Detroit, Mich. and was unable to
attend Wednesday night’s event, however, in a statement released by
the team, he explained his decision behind his choice of driver to
“Kurt’s a winner, he’s a champion. I’ve followed Kurt for a number
of years. He and I have known each other for several years and I am
proud to have him aboard our team,” said Penske.
“With Rusty retiring, Miller Brewing and I looked for someone who
could be or already was a champion. He was the right age, and
obviously, he’s a winner.”
One year ago, Busch was basking in the glory of his 2004 Nextel Cup
Championship, looking forward to defending his title entering his
fifth year with Roush Racing.
Instead, Busch’s title defense ended in disgrace, with Busch sitting
out the final two races of the season after being suspended by Roush
Racing following his arrest for driving while intoxicated near
Phoenix Int’l Raceway last November.
Busch’s relationship with his former team was already on shaky
ground after Busch announced last summer he’d signed a new deal with
Penske with two years remaining on his contract with Roush.
After Busch’s run-in with the law, Roush was all too eager to end
their five-year relationship.
Busch didn’t dwell in his past relationship with his former team,
instead on the faith instilled in him by his new owner, who said he
supported his new driver “300 percent.”
“Roger came to my support when it needed to come out, and I was
humbled by the way that we started together,” said Busch. “It was
tough to have that start, but we’ve definitely put it behind us.
“I got a call from him on Christmas day, to wish me a Merry
Christmas and to invite me to the Super Bowl, I was almost in tears,
thinking this was starting off to be a greater relationship than
what I thought it could be.”
Penske hopes that Busch will be a better fit as a teammate for
Newman and his team, who rarely shared information with Wallace due
to their dissimilar driving styles.
“Anything would be better than the way it was before, we definitely
struggled as teammates in the previous years, for more than one
reason,” said Newman. “It wasn’t just Rusty and I, there were
circumstances outside of that.
“Kurt and I have always had a good relationship, we’ve never had an
on-track incident. He’s had a good opportunity several times to turn
me around on the racetrack and I’ve had a lot of respect for him
ever since. We look forward to racing together and working
Newman’s sponsor, Alltel, also took the opportunity to announce they
had extended their sponsorship agreement with the team through the
Wednesday night’s program was highlighted by the 21st annual
presentation of the Miller Lite Motorsports Journalism Award of
Excellence in honor of Russ Catlin, which traditionally recognizes
outstanding Motorsports coverage while honoring the memory of
Catlin, a Motorsports journalism pioneer.
For 2005, two additional categories were added to recognize
outstanding print and electronic coverage of Wallace’s “Last Call,”
the 1989 series champion’s final season of NASCAR Nextel Cup Racing.
The 2005 winners of the Miller Lite Motorsports Journalism Award
of Excellence were:
- Print – Daily – Nate Ryan, Richmond Times-Dispatch
- Print – Other –Mike Hembree, NASCAR Scene
- Print – “Last Call” – Rea White, NASCAR Scene
- Broadcast – National – Mike Massaro, ESPN
- Broadcast – Local – Paul Johnson, WCYB-TV
- Broadcast – “Last Call” – Paul Johnson, WCYB-TV
- Photojournalism – Phil Rider – Sports Illustrated.
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