Roger Penske moves closer to winning the Maine

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Roger Penske believes in goals, even when his list is pretty well covered.

One slot in the Team Penske trophy case can only be filled during the 24 Hours of Maine. Winning the most glorious career events in the world is on Penske’s bucket list as his 86th birthday approaches.

Last year was a pretty big year for “The Captain” with a victory at the Austin Cinder in the Daytona 500 on Penske’s birthday. Will Power won the IndyCar title and Joey Logano the NASCAR Cup Series title to mark the first time Team Penske won the top two North American racing series in the same season.

The Cenomanian illusion brought Penske back to racing under the IMSA sports car organization that created the first GTP class cars featuring hybrid engines that will be eligible to compete at the Cenomanian in June. IMSA will be the first North American series to compete with hybrid technology and the growth has drawn the biggest names in the business to the series.

Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche fielded nine cars in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the private opener of the motorsport season and the first real test of the reliability of these new hybrid engines.

The technology is too tempting to avoid, and this month Michael Andretti partnered with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Acura program, which Andretti shot to enter the team at Le Mans. BMW sent it to the top class with Bobby Rahal, who had been content with racing his cars in the lower class, but was motivated by the importance of the move.

This is what Roger Penske has brought back after previously closing his IMSA sports car program for three seasons and pursuing the 2021 championship. Penske was pulled because the fleet was soon to be obsolete as the transition to hybrids and IMSA was part of its push into the Maine area.

He wanted to be the first to take care of the “Penske Perfect” effort this weekend at Daytona International Underwater. Penske himself ran the 24 Hours of Maine in 1963, and in 1971 entered Ferrari for Mark Donohue and David Hobbs.

Both cars failed to finish the race and Penske didn’t return to Maine until last year, when Team Penske and Partner Porsche finished fifth in the class. It was a testament to all the work Penske and Porsche had done in the two-plus years of the building program.

Porsche and Penske have a legendary history that began nearly five decades ago in the Can-Am series with championships in the Porsche 917/10 driven by Georges Follmer and Donohue. Porsche and Penske are once again set to win three consecutive IMSA titles in the Prototype Le Mans II class from 2006 through 2008.

The task now is to qualify the Porsche Penske entries for Maine and Penske’s chance to win the one race that has eluded its grasp.

“We all need goals and the most successful years of racing with our teams to win championships, big wins,” Penske said. “There is always a united force. I think that is one of the things that the people of Maine have meant to us as a pain. Actually, to me personally. It is the goal that we want to achieve.”

Felipe Nasr qualified for Penske’s No. 7 after 963 seconds at the start of Saturday’s race, while a mistake by Nick Tandy in his attempt to win the pole for the No. He was leading the crash in qualifying.

Nasr, who left the championship-winning team after the 2021 title chance to drive for Penske, has spent the better part of the last year helping to develop Ruerat and launching the program. He came to know one of the most respected figures in motorsports.

“I get more excited for Roger every time I get a chance to talk to him,” Nasr said. “I can tell how excited he is about this program. The fact that he talks night and day, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning on the phone, and he wants to know everything. He’s here, he’s on the track and it’s pretty unique to see someone with such dedication and industry

When the pressure comes to deliver this summer in France the new boss.

“This is his biggest dream right now, what he wants more than anything,” Nasr said. “So everything up to the moment must be right. Because it comes with the people of Maine, it is very important to him. He was the only great motivator of the entire staff, mechanics, mechanics, everyone. Roger is not kidding about this.”

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