“Jr Motorsports’ Nationwide driver Brad Keselowski has enjoyed a breakout 2008. He has two wins and sits second in the point standings. He is now considered one of the brightest prospects in NASCAR. It’s hardly surprising that Penske Racing offered him the chance to replace Ryan Newman in the #12 car in 2009. What is more surprising is that Keselowski turned it down. That says a few things about the two parties. One, Keselowski must be on the fast track for a seat in the #5 car in 2010, which is obviously a better car than the #12. With great connections at Chevrolet with not only JR Motorsports and Hendrick, but also with Haas Racing (he has tested for Haas this year), Keselowski is in the rare position as a young driver that can turn down Cup rides.
Two, Penske South is no longer a choice destination for drivers. In 2005 Kurt Busch, fresh off his Nextel Cup title, was lured to the #2 car to replace the retiring Rusty Wallace. While it was a surprise that Busch would leave Roush, it still made sense because the #2 was a premier Cup car. Now things are different. The team has won five races in three years and Penske has only made the Chase once (Busch in 2007). Ryan Newman was willing to leave Penske for an upstart Stewart-Haas Racing organization and no other top drivers have hinted at any interest in the #12 ride.
Now Penske may be resigned to the idea that David Stremme is the best driver available. Stremme is a decent driver, but far from a Chase caliber driver. Penske has almost all of the resources to compete with the top teams, but simply can’t put it all together on a consistent basis. That lack of coordination would seem to point to a lack of leadership and management. It’s that lack of quality at the top that will also apparently cost the team a chance at any top driver.