CHAMPCAR/CART: Roger Penske Still Looking Forward

Penske Looks Forward by Gordon Kirby Roger Penske's team is the winningest in CART history -- even though it hasn't captured a race since 1997. As a result, a fair amount of criticism has come its way, but Penske believes his team will ...

Penske Looks Forward by Gordon Kirby Roger Penske's team is the winningest in CART history -- even though it hasn't captured a race since 1997. As a result, a fair amount of criticism has come its way, but Penske believes his team will recover from the hard knocks it has taken.

"It's easy for people to look at us from a distance and make their own calculation of what we're doing and what we're not doing," the Marlboro Team Penske team owner remarks.

"If you look at 1998, we were obviously plagued with reliability. We were competitive in some races, but from a reliability perspective, we had a lot of transmission problems and some engine problems. So we didn't have the ability to test the car to the extent we should have. That's not an excuse, just the facts. I think there's no question that we have a very good car [this year]. Overall, I'm quite positive of where we are."

Penske praises his ace driver, the injured Al Unser Jr., who will be a spectator at Long Beach this weekend. Unser suffered a broken ankle during the season opener at Homestead on March 21 and plans to return to action at Nazareth in a couple of weeks.

"Al Jr. has been an absolute professional from a standpoint of working with the team. Obviously he's a tremendous race driver -- he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. This crazy accident we had at Homestead was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it gives us a chance to maybe develop a partner that can run with Al in the future," Penske says, referring to the up-and-coming Tarso Marques, who subbed for Unser at Motegi last weekend and will drive at Long Beach on Sunday.

Penske says he will return to racing two cars next year. "We're counting on moving into a two-car operation in the year 2000. That's the plan," he declares.

"At this point, it's too early to say who the second driver would be, but other drivers will be available during the season that we'll take a look at. We'll see what we can do with Tarso Marques, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Jason Leffler and other people and see which one gives us the most promise for a longer commitment as we go forward."

Penske refutes any suggestion that his interest and enthusiasm for CART and Champ Car racing is flagging. "I don't think that my involvement in open-wheel racing is any less of a commitment than it's ever been. OK, I have one car vs. two. If that's perceived as less of a commitment, a financial commitment, maybe yes. But as far as performance and what we have to deliver to our sponsors and our own company, it's absolutely the same.

"I can tell you, it's in my blood."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Tarso Marques , Roger Penske , Gonzalo Rodriguez
Teams Team Penske