CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It took 22 years for Miller Lite to make it to the top of NASCAR, and Brad Keselowski made it worth the wait when he cheerfully chugged the beer from on oversized glass during a live televised interview while celebrating his first Sprint Cup championship last November.
It was an iconic moment in the relationship between Penske Racing and MillerCoors, one that spans more than 30 years and ranks among the longest in sports.
Now it's guaranteed to continue at least another four years as Penske on Wednesday revealed multiyear extensions with both Keselowski and Miller Lite through the 2017 season.
"This puts us in great shape because we've got continuity with a sponsor and an elite driver," team owner Roger Penske told The Associated Press.
It's the second contract extension for the defending Sprint Cup champion in less than two years. Keselowski signed an extension after the 2011 season that ran through next year, and the contract was redone to put the driver and sponsor in concurrent deals.
Keselowski said discussions on the extension began after last year's championship as he and Penske charted a plan on how to stay on top of NASCAR. Keselowski cited the continuity of Jimmie Johnson, who won five consecutive championships with the same crew chief and sponsor.
"I feel like together, Roger and I have done some great things. I have a lot of confidence in him, I like the way he treats me and hopefully he would say the same about me," Keselowski told AP. "It makes me feel very comfortable to go the extra mile to sign a long-term deal.
"At this point in time, with all these deals lined up, the health, the future of Penske Racing and its employees is now secured, at minimum, for the next half-decade."
Miller Lite has been the primary sponsor of Penske's flagship No. 2 since 1991. MillerCoors first partnered with Penske as a sponsor at race tracks he owned, and was sponsor of Danny Sullivan's 1985 Indianapolis 500 winning car, building a personal relationship with Penske that survived up-and-down seasons in NASCAR.
"The relationship has lasted so long because of Roger Penske without that much success on the track," said Andy England, the MillerCoors chief marketing officer. "So when we actually won the Sprint Cup together, that was just the icing on the cake. The cake itself is the strength of the relationship we have with Roger and his team."
It also comes at a time when sponsors are rethinking their participation in NASCAR. Not MillerCoors.
"There is a large wave of beer-drinking guys who really enjoy NASCAR and it makes sense for us to be there," England said. "These are still enormously attended events, and they don't just shop for three hours. They shop for four days. There's huge levels of commitment for this sport, and we need to be there."
The new MillerCoors contract covers just 24 races on the No. 2 Ford instead of the full 36-race schedule Miller Lite had always sponsored. But both Penske and England said the 12-race giveback was at Penske's request.
The cost of sponsorship fluctuates with the economy, and MillerCoors was one of the few companies still sponsoring a full schedule. Race teams set their own fees for inventory based on supply and demand, and top teams can pull in anywhere from $20 million to almost $30 million in a season.
The Penske organization believes it can sell those 12 races elsewhere to generate new revenue.
"You start to look across the Cup Series with the major sponsors and we need to keep them in the business across the long run," Penske said. "We looked at going into markets twice, in fact, it was my idea, let us have those markets we got into a second time and give us a chance to bring in another world-class company. We have a number of people very interested in getting on with Brad."
NASCAR's top Sprint Cup Series visits 13 tracks twice a season, and Keselowski, the rare driver who pays close attention to the business side of the sport, said MillerCoors will increase its activity when it's not on the hood of his car.
"It was Penske Racing that asked Miller to consider these options. We could have done exactly what we've done and had Miller come back long-term with 36 races," he said. "But it was driven the other way, strategically, to open up races and increase the expenditure. Miller will now move it over to activation, and what's going to happen in the long-term is there is going to be an increase in revenue in the sport, not a decrease.
"This is a huge strategic play that with the naked eye looks like a reduction, but I can assure you it's not a reduction. It's actually an increase to the sport. That might sound like spin, but there's a strategic play here."
There's always a plan in play with Penske and Keselowski, and they executed this one to perfection.
"We've put Brad now in step with Miller far into the future, he fits the mold that they want. He's open, he's certainly willing to speak his piece, that's what Miller wants, an athlete willing to represent their brand," Penske
Joey Logano, the driver Keselowski recommended Penske hire as his teammate, earned his first career berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in his debut season with the organization. He's got two years remaining on his contract and sponsor Shell-Pennzoil is in a long-term deal. Penske is also in the first year of a five-year manufacturer contract with Ford.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
U.S. Census data shows that one Fort Wayne neighborhood is among the poorest in the state, and it the poverty rate has a direct correlation the rising crime statistics.
It was something that was never supposed to happen. A veteran who killed a woman in Indianapolis then took his own life was buried with full military honors. Since that day, the victim's family has been advocating against it.
The house fire affected traffic on U.S. 33 just north of Churubusco for over an hour. All lanes were back open less than two hours after the fire was called in.
Police said speed appeared to be a factor in a crash that all the occupants of the car seriously injured.
Three intersections on the north side of the city will have new left-turn signals that with a flashing yellow arrow. The new signals will be activated in January.
A plan is in the works to move Cindy's Diner from its current location in downtown Fort Wayne to another location one block northwest from its current location. The iconic restaurant has been a fixture downtown since 1990.
Former Komets executive, owner, general manager and coach Ken Ullyot passed away Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the age of 92.
The organization claims such legislation would hamper the city's ability to grow economically and that Fort Wayne should be "competitive on a national level and be recognized as a community that thrives on diversity, innovation, and inclusion,”
A state commission seeking ways to improve the lives of Indiana's most vulnerable children is forming a task force to investigate whether there's a link between methamphetamine arrests and child welfare cases.
Scammers are claiming to be from a law enforcement agency and are threatening to arrest victims if they don't pay the fine for an alleged crime or debt.
The free course will go over the laws and regulations about squirrel hunting and will teach attendees how to field dress and prepare squirrels for the table.
The Allen County Sheriff's Department arrested two people for having and making meth on Monday and Wednesday.
People across Indiana are bundling up against colder temperatures than parts of the state saw in either of the past two winters.
Tesla has opened two charging stations in northern Indiana, one of them at a hotel in Angola, as it works to establish a network of such stops across the country for its electric cars.
Fort Wayne police are looking for a man who is suspected of robbing a local bar early Thursday morning.