The Penske Way
Operating under one Mooresville roof, with a collaborative culture and unyielding drive, Team Penske raises the bar for motorsports performance
By Mike Savicki
In early 2005, Roger Penske and Tim Cindric began meeting to explore options for a strategic realignment of the team owner’s motorsports operations. More specifically, the pair discussed ways in which Penske’s IndyCar and NASCAR programs might become better aligned and share resources in order to compete for more championships. It was a bold move for the organization whose winning formula had not changed to such a degree since Penske first began fielding open wheel teams in 1968 and NASCAR teams in 1972.
“The Captain” and his IndyCar lieutenant quickly decided that consolidating all operations under one roof might yield the results they sought. The move, they believed, would provide not only economies of scale but also a chance for the teams to grow together and develop a unified culture built on the strength of the two staffs. Penske and Cindric selected the recently purchased 105 acre campus in Mooresville, North Carolina, to serve as their headquarters and began the process of bringing together NASCAR staff from three smaller Mooresville facilities as well as the entire IndyCar staff from the Reading, Pennsylvania facility they had maintained for decades.
“No team had done anything like this before but because of the strength of our people, and the dedication they brought to their jobs, we knew it made sense on so many levels,” Tim Cindric, who had been promoted to president in conjunction with the announcement, says. “What Roger and I saw, as we discussed moving everything to Mooresville, was that we could have the shared strength of an entire organization coming together to work in many new ways.”
Logistics came first and Jon Bouslog, an IndyCar veteran who began working at Penske first as a truck driver then mechanic before assuming a management role, was one of the first to change zip codes. He was tasked with establishing Penske’s IndyCar operations in North Carolina, blending it with the existing NASCAR staff.
The operational changes, he says, began quickly.
“Before we all came under the same roof, the operations and organizations were different,” Jon Bouslog, now a 28 year Team Penske veteran, shares. “Other than the dedication of the people, we were two very different organizations. This was mostly because the sports [open wheel and stock car] are so different and we had historically operated and worked on our own without overlap. We didn’t know how to take each other at first not because of a lack of respect but because of a lack of knowledge.
“But then things began to change,” he adds. “The guys from the IndyCar side, for example, saw how the stock guys operated and we began learning almost immediately. For example, the NASCAR fabricators were so skilled at building a car with exact tolerances almost entirely by hand and we weren’t. We started to see the race car, and how it could be built, so differently.”
Travis Geisler, a former driver and crew chief, who now serves as Penske’s competition director for NASCAR, reflects on the changes from the stock car side.
He says, “Especially for me, as well as some of the other guys who have primarily been stock car our whole lives, having different sets of eyes supporting us gives the opportunity to get feedback on different ideas and approaches. The aero side and vehicle dynamics side from the NASCAR side has helped IndyCar and carbon from IndyCar has helped NASCAR. To have exposure like we have has helped us leapfrog ahead.”
Proof that the formula was working came in 2012 when Brad Keselowski claimed the first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for Penske Racing two years after winning the Nationwide crown in his first year with the team, and IndyCar driver, Will Power, finished runner-up.
But changing the culture, as Cindric had anticipated, took a bit longer.
He recalls, “The defining part was that for years, at the track, if you saw Penske at NASCAR, you saw Penske Racing and when you saw us at IndyCar, you saw Team Penske. We were effectively two different organizations sharing an owner’s name.
“The plan was to change the name but changing the culture took a lot more,” he adds. “Because of the history and winning traditions of both, I didn’t want it to seem like IndyCar was taking over. That wasn’t the end game. It took years of work, with people moving between NASCAR and IndyCar to make the change happen. It took us promoting good people from within to establish a new culture.”
Trent Cherry, Penske’s NASCAR pit coach, adds, “Mr. Penske is a big believer in the philosophy that it is the people that make the organization and that’s now how we operate. He gets us what we need to be successful then the rest is up to us. It’s a ton of pressure but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The 2014 NASCAR and IndyCar seasons were further proof that the series of decisions Penske and Cindric made in 2005 have more than paid dividends. When Team Penske’s NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams departed Homestead, Florida, following the season ending series of races, the organization had brought to a close one of the most successful racing seasons in motorsports history. Collectively, the organization earned 24 poles and 22 wins to compliment the IndyCar Series and Nationwide Owners’ Championships. Team Penske drivers led an astonishing 10,570 laps and, along the way, they also delivered win number 400 to Roger Penske.
“I guess what I feel now is what I hoped would be the end result,” Tim Cindric shares. “People’s natural reaction to change is resistance and it was competitive at first, and I’m glad that spirit was already in place, but now it is about collaboration. There is a mutual respect for the jobs people are doing in each discipline and we are one organization now, driven and determined to be better still.”
This article was originally published in Currents Magazine in 2015.