LAS VEGAS — At no point in the days leading into NASCAR’s season finale did Roger Penske assume his 40-year wait for a championship would finally end.
Brad Keselowski had the Sprint Cup title well within reach and a decent day would give Penske Racing its first title at NASCAR’s top level.
But weird things happen in racing, and the team owner wasn’t taking anything for granted.
And then he slipped, just slightly, admitting two days before the Nov. 18 finale that he’d told his upper management group he was sick and tired of being just another face in the crowd at the season-ending awards ceremony.
“I kid these guys and say, ‘I don't want to sit down in the front row anymore, I want to be up on the stage so I see who’s at the party,’ ” Penske said.
Well, “The Captain” was assured of a spot on the main stage Friday night at Wynn Las Vegas Resort, where the party was very much for Penske.
Penske is the titan of motorsports, the gold standard of open-wheel racing. He’s got 23 championships in various series and 15 Indianapolis 500 victories, but his NASCAR operation never could reach the pinnacle.
Now he’s done it with Keselowski, and the entire industry couldn’t be more pleased for Penske.
“I've known Roger Penske since I was a teenager,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France. “I have worked with Roger Penske my entire professional life, and it’s really, really exciting for me to know and see Roger because in everything he’s done, he's done it with high integrity, he's done it with incredible effort and he's done it with amazing class.”
That’s been the sentiment all week in Las Vegas.
The announcement of the awards were too late for this edition.