Team Preview: Team Penske
By: Robbie Mays - @robbiemays | MRN.com on February 7, 2016 | 9:06 A.M. EST
“Most wins. Most poles. 22 top-fives. Those are championship stats. We don’t have the trophy.” (Photo: Getty Images)
The 2016 season marks a milestone for Roger Penske as he celebrates his 50th year in racing. And with the success his NASCAR teams have enjoyed in recent years, it’s easy to say that Penske is now at the top of his game.
Throughout his career, Penske has seen his teams win on some of motor sports’ biggest stages and with 85 different drivers. The man known as “The Captain” has been to Victory Lane 430 times.
“I think about all the great people that have worked for the company and have driven these racecars,” Penske said. “To me, it’s all about those guys that have put their necks on the line and the crew chiefs.”
“There’s a lot of different race teams that have come and gone and not many have lasted anywhere near as long as Team Penske,” said Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski. “It seems the ones that have stayed around as long are not as successful and the few that are close to being as successful have undergone significant ownership changes along the way.”
Penske drivers have combined to win 16 times in the Indianapolis 500, twice in the Daytona 500, and have 14 championships in USAC, Indycar and NASCAR.
Team Penske added to it’s impressive resume as its Sprint Cup Series drivers combined to win seven races in 2015, including Joey Logano’s triumph in the season-opening Daytona 500. If not for an unfortunate run-in with Matt Kenseth at Martinsville in the fall, Logano could have easily had a chance to compete for the series championship.
Now both Logano and Keselowski return in 2016 with more confidence and more motivation than ever before to win, especially in Penske’s 50th year celebration.
“There’s a lot of motivation to win a championship with this year being 50,” Keselowski said. “We’ve already won one before but for me I want to win a lot of races.”
“My goal as a racecar driver is to win every race I’m in,” Logano said. “I’m a pretty driven individual. I don’t need much to get going.”
Logano’s win in last season’s Daytona 500 was the first of six total wins on the season. After struggling to find speed in the middle of the year, Logano went on to win five races after August 1st, including a sweep of the three Contender Round races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in October.
Logano was on his way to winning a fourth straight race at Martinsville until he was intentionally wrecked by Kenseth, eliminating him from the race win and ultimately taking away Logano’s chance to compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the season finale.
“We had championship season stats, we just didn’t time them right obviously,” Logano said. “Most wins. Most poles. 22 top-fives. Those are championship stats. We don’t have the trophy.”
During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Logano scored 11 Sprint Cup Series victories - the most of any driver. To build on that success and win a championship, Logano says in 2016 he needs to keep doing what he’s doing.
“We don’t need to change what we’re doing. What we’re doing has been successful,” Logano said. “We haven’t reinvented the wheel since we started working together. We just kept making it a little better and refining it and smoothing out this area and smoothing out that area. We’re pretty close to where we want to be.”
Logano, now in his fourth season with Team Penske, is grateful for the opportunity Penske gave him when, after an unsuccessful stint to start his career with Joe Gibbs Racing, he didn’t have many options to stay at the Sprint Cup level.
“He took a huge risk on me. Let’s be honest,” Logano said. “I was out. My options were full-time XFINITY. And you know if you take a step back it’s hard to make the step forward again. You’ve already had your shot and it’s hard to get a second chance.”
Logano’s taken that second chance and rolled with it and is now one of the premiere drivers in the sport. With the only changes in his No. 22 team being a new front end nose on his Ford Fusion and the new low-downforce rules package on a full-time basis, Logano is optimistic he can pick up where he left off last season.
“I think we’re gonna be in good shape. If you look at our new body, I think it’s gonna be good for us,” Logano said. “Team Penske has done a great job working with the new rules and trying to make sure we come out of the gate strong.”
Like his teammate, Keselowski’s No. 2 team also remain intact in 2016. Keselowski was paired with crew chief Paul Wolfe mid-way through the 2011 season and the two have had success ever since.
Keselowski is excited about 2016 for no other reason than he’s a big fan of the new low-downforce rules package that NASCAR will introduce full-time this season.
“I like the new car, I like the direction we’re going in,” Keselowski said. “More self spins. I kinda like that. Harder to drive. Less dependency on car performance. The cars are gonna drive much different with the new rules and that’s to be expected. It’s gonna be a challenge.”
Keselowski has already had an opportunity to test the new Fusion and new low-downforce rules package as he participated in a two-day tire test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in mid-January. But despite the opportunity to get a jump start on the competition, he said not much could be taken away from the test.
“Weather conditions this time of year makes it almost impossible to get quality data. It ends up turning into more of a getting in a rhythm type test,” Keselowski said.
In 2015, Team Penske formed a technical alliance with Wood Brothers Racing. That alliance will move to a full-time basis in 2016 as the Wood Brothers return to full-time Sprint Cup competition with rookie Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. Blaney has driven and won for Team Penske at the XFINITY level and has also spent time driving in the Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing. From a team owner, and fellow driver perspective, Keselowski sees a bright future for Blaney.
“Blaney is adept with incredible potential to become a superstar in his own right,” Keselowski said.
Penske is happy with the current working relationship with the Wood Brothers and isn’t necessarily ready to add a third team of his own.
“We have a technical relationship with the 21, so we’re integrated there quite deeply,” Penske said. “Hopefully at some point we can take those folks with that experience and run a third car in the Sprint Cup Series, but we have to look at that for the future. Right now, I think our plate is full.”
With Blaney’s career as a driver at a Team Penske satellite team at its beginning and Keselowski and Logano rocketing to the top of the Sprint Cup Series, Penske takes pride in maintaining relationships with drivers and team members over the years and credits those long-lasting relationships for much of his success.
“I think at our 50th anniversary party we’ll have 3,200 years of service at Penske Racing represented,” Penske said. “That, to me, is low turnover and great results.”
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the 58th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 21, starting at 12 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
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