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Introducing The No. 77 Penske Saturn?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 8 2009
Roger Penske  (HHP Images/Harold Hinson)

Roger Penske (HHP Images/Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

In today’s Monday Morning Memo, we find:

* I have followed Roger Penske for decades. From afar as a race fan growing up, and face to face through meeting and dealing with him as a auto-racing beat writer.

The thing that strikes you first about him upon meeting him is how his reputation as a organized perfectionist is grounded in granite.

Every tool is in its place in the team paddock, the team motor scooters are lined up as if by global positioning satellite with the front wheels of each angled at precisely the same angle and the sit in front of a motor coach which is constantly being washed and shined.

And the white shirts. Those razor-creased white shirts which every Penske crew member wears. They look hospital emergency-room clean even after spending hours in the loud, hot, dirty confines of Gasoline Alley.

I remember talking to Eddie Cheever at Indy the year that Penske returned from self-imposed CART exile. I remember mentioning the white shirts. “Yep,” Cheever said with a mixture of respect, admiration and exasperation (he was going to have to compete against Penske) in his voice. “A lot of little Rogers running around.”

Now word comes out that Penske has reached a deal to buy the Saturn brand from corpse-like General Motors.

Do not doubt for a moment that Penske will succeed at being the owner of a car company. He knows cars, he knows business, he knows people, he knows America.

Car people in America who know business will tell you much the same.

“I haven’t talked to Roger on his business acquisition,” Kurt Busch, who has worked for Penske as Sprint Cup series driver since the start of the 2006 season, said.

But, “When he does something, he usually has all his ducks in a row and things are very thought out and he has a process for doing such.  Penske Auto Group, with the position that it’s in, he’s trying to build it up and anytime that he incorporates into his umbrella, you hope that and you know that he’ll create success around it.  I wish him the best of luck.  Those cars (Saturn), when they were first introduced years and years ago…I don’t know if it was the last 80s or 90s, it was interesting because I didn’t know that they were under the GM umbrella for the first five or six years. Just learning from my dad, who was an auto mechanic, said that those cars were GM cars, I thought they were independent. So it will be interesting to see how that cycle comes back around.”

Memo to self on Penske situation: Check to see if this means that Chip Ganassi will now have to go out and buy, like, Pontiac?

* The Dale Earnhardt Jr. situation is a bit like the stock market these days.

Last week, Earnco skyrocketed with news that a change was being made at the top – top of the pit box, that is. It jumped even higher when the No. 88 ran well all day and finished relatively well at Dover.

This weekend, the bears are in the house. Earnco had a black Sunday. Up jumped the problem of missing his pit stall. And his stock plummeted, no matter that Lance McGrew was up top calling the shots.

And the talk continues: Is this a recession for Earnco, a depression or the great crumbling which many have said is inevitable outcome?

Memo to self: Diversify now.

* Peter Townshend of The Who once answered those critical of his on-stage guitar smashings by saying they were his guitars and he would do whatever the hell he liked with them.

Kyle Busch could probably make the same claim this morning: The guitar he smashed Saturday in victory lane in Nashville was his, he had won it and if he wanted to smash it, then who the heck’s business is that anyway?

Except there is a difference. The hand-painted Gibson Les Paul which goes to the winner of the race in Nashville has become a beloved icon to race fans from that area. They view it as unique and a symbol of their individuality on the NASCAR scene.

Smashing the guitar/trophy is like launching a loogee at Whisters Mother in the Musee d’Orsay. Nobody really gets injured by the act, but it sure tells a lot of people to go to hell.

Memo to self: Never lend one of your guitars to Kyle Busch.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 8 2009
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