HAMPTON, Ga. — By all accounts, Roger Penske had a very strong weekend.
Brad Keselowski took his No. 2 car to victory in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Team Penske, and down in Australia, Penske’s Shell V-Power Racing Team picked up a pair of podiums in the Clipsal 500, after spending time in the lead on both Saturday and Sunday.
Fabian Coulthard led 38 laps in Race 1 on the Adelaide Street Circuit to claim second in Race 1 of the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship on Saturday, and teammate Scott McLaughlin paced the field in his Ford Falcon for 37 laps en route to earning his own second-place finish for the team in Race 2 on Sunday.
Overall, Coulthard and McLaughlin’s performances in the season-opening round received marks of approval from their boss.
“When you think about down under, and in Australia, racing against Triple Eight and the rest of the teams, for us to qualify second and third for the race yesterday and I think we were third and fourth for the Saturday race and have two podium finishes is terrific,” said Penske on Sunday evening. “It kicks off the season where we need to be.”
It also bears noting that there is a certain synergy between the NASCAR and Supercars operations of Team Penske. Penske stayed up late to watch Coulthard and McLaughlin’s runs in Adelaide on Sunday morning — and his drivers in Australia did the same to watch Keselowski clear Kyle Larson and run away with the Atlanta victory in the final laps.
Coulthard and McLaughlin both sent their own emojis of support to the Captain.
Yet there was the feeling that McLaughlin may have let one slip away on Sunday after leading the majority of that race’s second half. McLaughlin was leading with four laps to go and holding off a furious charge from Shane van Gisbergen in a manner reminiscent of the battle McLaughlin and Whincup had on this circuit in 2014.
However, he over-drove the Turn 9 hairpin on lap 75 and let van Gisbergen by on the inside. At that point, van Gisbergen cruised away to win Race 2 and become the first driver to sweep both Clipsal 500 races since Garth Tander did it in 2010.
Penske’s respect for van Gisbgergen was clear on Sunday.
“I was really disappointed with four laps to go — we had led 55 or 60 laps in the race and Scott got in a little too hot,” he said. “But van Gisbergen is so good anyhow — I mean, you’re dealing with probably the top guy on the track there.”
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