STAPYLTON, Queensland, Australia — Team Preview by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s Preview of the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship! We continue our run through the field with the biggest headline team of the offseason — the merged and retitled outfit that was Dick Johnson Racing and is now DJR…Team Penske.
Dick Johnson Racing / Team Penske
DRIVER: No. 17 – Marcos Ambrose, XBOX Ford Falcon FGX
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 10th
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Scott Pye’s 4th-place finish in the Queensland finale
Life after Chaz Mostert was a struggle for Dick Johnson Racing in 2014.
So how does DJR prepare to change their fortunes in 2015? Bring in a man with an unbelievable wealth of experience and success, and bring the V8 Supercars’ resident long-lost son back home for a shot at a third career title.
Rarely has a team that struggled so much the season before made so much noise in an offseason, but that is precisely what Dick Johnson Racing has done. Roger Penske joins the team as a partner of Dick Johnson with 50% ownership, and with him comes a full integration into the Penske ecosystem (the team will report to Team Penske president Tim Cindric).
It was primarily the Penske half of the operation that made the decision to scale back to a one car operation and leave Scott Pye without a ride. It was also Penske that made the call to sign on Marcos Ambrose and be responsible for making Ambrose’ triumphant return to V8 Supercars possible.
Once upon a time, Ambrose was what Jamie Whincup is now to V8 Supercars before Jamie Whincup was Jamie Whincup.
Statlines from his four truly competitive seasons in the series are as follows: 28 wins, 57 podiums, and the 2004 and 2005 series championships. Ambrose, quite literally, left for NASCAR at the peak of his V8 Supercars career.
His return is part homecoming and part unfinished business. For all of his success, Ambrose’s most famous memory at Bathurst does not involve him on the top step of the podium, but instead involves him getting into a fight at The Cutting in 2005 after crashing out of the event.
When asked about what he wanted to accomplish in the teleconference where the Penske/ Dick Johnson deal was announced late last season, Ambrose’s answer was immediate.
“Bathurst comes to mind,” Ambrose said. “I’ve yet to win the Bathurst 1000. I’ve had five shots at it and have done an average job every go.”
All of that being said, there is no denying that 2014 was a struggle for DJR. Their two cars missed the podium entirely in 2014, and Scott Pye recorded the only pair of top 5 finishes for the team. On the other hand, Pye also saw all five of his results from the Gold Coast and Phillip Island disqualified by the V8 Supercars officials. By those standards, one would not expect much to come out of the Queensland-based outfit.
However, it is not every day (nor almost any day, for that matter) that a V8 Supercars team receives the resource boost that comes from a man like Roger Penske the way DJR has. Their target for success — especially given their single-car setup — will be to emulate what TEKNO Autosports did in 2014 by sending Shane van Gisbergen to second in the drivers’ standings off the back of five victories and 13 podium finishes.
One would think that that level of success should be attainable in time, given the experience a man like Roger Penske brings. The greatest question for the team, then, will be: How long does it take for that success to manifest and become the reality at DJR Team Penske?
The return of Ambrose will be the headline for DJR in 2015, but the ultimate story of their season will be determined by how quickly the arrival of Penske changes their fortunes for the better.
For more information on DJR Team Penske, visit http://www.djrteampenske.com.au/.
For more information on the V8 Supercars Championship, visit http://www.v8supercars.com.au/.