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Keselowski rival to Wallace as Penske's best

July 15th, 2014 9:07 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Keselowski rival to Wallace as Penske's best

Look out Rusty Wallace, Brad Keselowski is closing in as Roger Penske’s top NASCAR driver.

While Wallace scored 37 of his 55 career Sprint Cup Series wins in Penske cars, the Hall of Fame driver never was able to deliver “The Captain” a NASCAR championship. Wallace’s lone Cup Series title came in 1989 in drag racer Raymond Beadle’s Pontiacs.

It was Keselowski who won a first NASCAR championship for Penske with his Nationwide Series title in 2010 and followed it up with a Sprint Cup title two years later. In the Cup Series, Keselowski still has ground to make up to catch Wallace with 12 wins in Penske machines. However after sweeping races at New Hampshire last weekend, Keselowski has 35 NASCAR wins overall for Penske. He has been the driver for 23 of Penske’s 42 wins as a car owner in the Nationwide Series. 

Although Penske is most famous as a 15-time winning car owner at the Indianapolis 500, he has been fielding cars in NASCAR’s top series over four decades. Mark Donohue, who won the first Indy 500 for Penske in 1972, made four NASCAR starts that same season with mediocre results. His best finish was 15th at Atlanta. Donnie Allison made one start in the No. 16 Matador that season with a third-place finish on the Riverside, California road course.

Not to be outdone, Donohue gave Penske his first NASCAR victory at 1973’s season-opener at Riverside. Allison’s older brother, Bobby, won the first oval race for Penske in 1974 at Ontario, California. Bobby Allison then swept races at Darlington the following year.

Dave Marcis also drove for Penske in those early days, racing the Matador seven races in 1972. Marcis drove both a Chevrolet and a Mercury for Penske in 1977.

Penske then took a hiatus from NASCAR with an exception being a car owner for Wallace’s debut in 1980 when he finished second to Dale Earnhardt at Atlanta.

Wallace brought Penske back into NASCAR as the car owner for the No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac in 1991. They challenged the combination of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress as the dominant driver-owner combination over the next few seasons. While Earnhardt and Childress won championships in 1993-94, Wallace and Penske led the series in wins both years, scoring 18 victories overall.

Penske is officially credited with 80 Cup Series victories, although he was also co-owner with Michael Kranefuss on the No. 12 Ford which Jeremy Mayfield raced to three other wins.

Besides Wallace and Keselowski, other drivers who have posted double-digit wins in Penske cars are Ryan Newman, whose 13 wins included the 2008 Daytona 500, and Kurt Busch with 10 wins.

Still as a NASCAR owner, Penske has most been associated with the No. 2 most notably driven by Wallace and Keselowski.

With Keselowski’s home track at Michigan and his favorite track at Bristol coming up next month, he could soon surpass Wallace as Penske’s all-time winningest NASCAR driver.

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Ronnie McCarty dominated action at his hometown track last Friday night, leading all 60 laps of the Late Model Stock feature at Kingsport Speedway for his first ever NASCAR All-American Series win.

McCarty moved to the lead over defending track champion Chad Finchum at the start and then held off points leader Kres VanDyke for the victory.

Finchum finished third behind McCarty and VanDyke with Ryan Stiltner and Zack Walton rounding out the top five.

Johnson City driver Zeke Shell was sixth, while Gray drivers Tyler Goodwin and Joey Trent finished ninth and 11th respectively.

In the Street Stock division, John Harrell of Surgoinsville won his fourth Street Stock victory of the season. Jason Ketron swapped the lead with Keith Helton twice in the final laps before winning for the second time this season in the Pure 4 ranks.

Rusty Clendenin of Church Hill won the Rookie Pure 4 feature after the car of first-place finisher Brandon Chumbley failed post-race inspection. Derek Lane of Kingsport outran his brother Trey for his third Legends victory of the season.

Kingsport Speedway has another six-division program scheduled again for this Friday night.

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Bristol Dragway hosted the BTE World Footbrake Challenge last week with Ohio racer Vic Ellinger driving a Volvoto victory over North Carolina driver Steve Alford in Sunday’s $10,000-to-win final.

Nashville’s Darry Rediker drove a Camaro to victory in Saturday’s big money race, while Pennsylvania driver Matt Obteranec won Friday’s $10,000-to-win event. 

The action started last Thursday when Jim Wood won a $3,000-to-win race, beating Bristol Dragway regular Dylan Kiser in the final.

The Huddleston performance Jr. Dragster Nationals are slated for Bristol Dragway this weekend with the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Leaue Eastern Conference Final scheduled for the following week.

In addition, Thompson Metal Monster Truck Madness is scheduled at Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday, July 26.

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The big-money winners weren’t only at Bristol last weekend. Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville led all 40 laps of the Carolina Clash Super Late Model feature at Volunteer Speedway last Saturday night to earn a $4,000 top prize. 

While Ogle had no one pressuring him out front, five-time track champion Vic Hill of Morristown passed Chad Ogle of Sevierville for the runner-up spot.

Jason Welshan of Maryille pulled away in his Camaro to win the 30-lap Crate Late Model feature. Behind him, defending track champion Tim Byrd of Jonesborough passed Johnson City driver Tim Maupin for the runner-up spot.

Jason Trammel of Knoxville held off Welshan in the Steel Head Late Model feature for his first Volunteer Speedway victory, while Kurt Owens of Newport won in the Modified Hobby ranks.

There is no racing scheduled at Volunteer Speedway this Saturday with a special $2,000-to-win Steel Head Late Model feature, along with Crate Late Model and Modified Hobby races scheduled for July 26. 

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Local motocross veteran Kevin Walker won two races at the Kawasaki Tennessee State Championships at Muddy Creek Raceway last Sunday and also finished third in the 450 Pro race.

Florida rider Ricky Renner won the 450 Pro class, while Indiana rider Joshua Struebig was the winner in the 250 Pro division.

Logan McConnell of Kingsport won three races, and Morgan Payne of Butler was victorious in the ATV Intermediate division.

Peyton Wells of Johnson City posted a runner-up finish in 250B, while other second-place finishes included Alex Dorton of Jonesborough in 2-Stroke Amateur and Nate Martin of Elizabethton in ATV Novice.

There is no racing at Tri-Cities area tracks this weekend with the Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series set to resume at I-81 Motorsports Park on July 26.

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Former Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield is back behind the wheel, leading the KOMA Modified Series race at Hickory Motor Speedway last Saturday night until falling behind during pit stops.

Zach Brewer won the race, while Burt Myers, known to many from the History Channel show, “Madhouse,” finished second. Mayfield ultimately finished seventh.

Mayfield is not the only familar name at Hickory lately, with Piney Flats driver Hayden Woods finishing 14th in the Late Model Stock feature. Josh Berry, who is from the Nashville area, has dominated action at the historic track with five wins this season.

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