Kenseth Notion Questioned
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on March 15, 2014 | 12:45 P.M. EST
Matt Kenseth suggests that Team Penske has been helped by other Ford teams testing at the start of the year. (Photo: Getty Images)
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Michael McDowell calls Matt Kenseth’s suggestion that McDowell has tested for Team Penske’s benefit a matter of “sour grapes.’’
Kenseth raised the issue after qualifying Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway when asked about Penske’s success this season. Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have started no worse than the second row in the last three races and Keselowski swept last week’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Las Vegas.
Kenseth pointed to McDowell and Leavine Family Racing with helping Keselowski and Logano.
“Without opening a can of worms, it’s my understanding that they (Team Penske) got to do a lot of testing - I think they’ve been to all three tracks with their ‘satellite teams’ - Michael McDowell and cars like that I think in the Penske trailer,’’ Kenseth said.
“I think they’ve gathered a lot of information at all these tracks and was really prepared when the season started. It really shows because the first three races they’ve been the best two cars on Friday for qualifying and they’ve been pretty darn good in all the races, too. We haven’t really had that luxury, so we’ve been trying to look into that and figure out how we can get a little more track data gathered.”
Leavine Family Racing, a Ford team, purchases chassis and parts from Team Penske. That’s a new arrangement. Leavine Family Racing bought its cars from Roush Fenway Racing the past three years.
McDowell and Leavine Family Racing have used two of their four allotted tests at Cup tracks at Phoenix and Bristol this season. McDowell said the team tested at Phoenix because that’s his home track. He also said the team tested at Bristol because a tenth of a second can be the difference between making the field and not.
“What was he really suggesting or saying that somebody had an unfair advantage?’’ car owner Bob Leavine said of Kenseth. “They could go out and do what they want to do.’’
McDowell noted the relationship between Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing for Toyota.
“This sport, the way it is, as fast as it is developing, you have to be aligned with a manufacturer that is working with all the teams,’’ McDowell said. “The reality is there might be some sour grapes there because they haven’t been able to align themselves with an organization that can help them to do some of those things like RCR, Hendrick and Stewart-Haas and all the other teams have.’’
Hendrick Motorsports has a relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing. Richard Childress Racing has a technical alliance with several teams, including Furniture Row Racing and Germain Racing. Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, has stressed one Ford among all its teams.
Allison’s approach was important for Team Penske, which left Dodge for Ford after the 2012 season.
“We were on an island before,’’ said Travis Geisler, competition director at Team Penske. “Anytime you can align yourself with more teams, there’s definitely an advantage there.’’
So, how much did the information from McDowell’s testing help Team Penske?
“I think having Ford teams testing is a good thing,’’ Geisler said. “That makes Ford stronger. Certainly having guys at the race track is never a bad thing, but it is also really difficult to take what Michael McDowell and (crew chief) Wally Rogers do and say that you’re going to be able to directly bolt it into Joey’s car with (crew chief) Todd Gordon and it have the same setup. Our two cars don’t have exact same setup.’’