The driver-crew chief shuffle at Team Penske has already paid dividends early in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Team owner Roger Penske made headlines this winter with a complete overhaul of his Cup Series roster. "The Captain" broke up every coupling that had been in place for several seasons for a new lineup, raising some questions about the dynamic change. When the dust settled the new-look Penske roster had Joey Logano working with Paul Wolfe, Ryan Blaney paired with Todd Gordon and Brad Keselowski teamed with Jeremy Bullins.
"As we do after the completion of each season, we evaluated what we can do to better achieve our goals, and we felt it was time to make these changes to better position us to reach our potential," Penske said when the changes were announced in early January
"We are fortunate that we have three very strong leaders in Paul, Todd and Jeremy, who work with experienced and talented crews. Pairing each of these winning teams with different drivers and cars should provide new energy and a fresh approach for the 2020 season."
Fast forward to two races in the books on the 2020 season and at least early on Penske has already reaped benefits of the maneuvers.
Blaney sits on top of the NASCAR Cup Series standings and Logano went to Victory Lane in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Not a bad return on investment albeit with a very small sample size.
"What I love about Paul is he’s very competitive," Logano said after his Vegas win. "So am I. He wants to win really bad, and I can see his frustration if we don’t win. You know, you hear him up here a minute ago, we won the race, and that’s great, but we’re also looking at areas of our car where it was weak. There was obviously plenty of strength to our car, and that’s why we won the race."
While Blaney leads the points, he had a shot to win Sunday’s race in Las Vegas but for a late decision to put for new tires but rather stay on track for position. It turned out to be the wrong call by crew chief Gordon, however Blaney is still a proponent of working with the 2018 Cup Series champion crew chief and bullish about what lies ahead.
"It was just a crappy situation," Blaney explained. "We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding the 88 (Alex Bowman) off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them.
"It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out. That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car."
The only constant in NASCAR appears to be change. So far in 2020, for Team Penske that change has been for the better.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.