Team Penske: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Joey Logano says that Team Penske may be smaller than others, but its internal harmony has helped bring success. Logano finished fourth in points last year.

Joey Logano says that Team Penske may be smaller than others, but its internal harmony has helped bring success. Logano finished fourth in points last year.

Given the way Team Penske performed last year, you really shouldn’t expect major changes for 2015. In fact, you should not expect any changes at all.

The team’s drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, performed admirably. Both made the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Logano was one of four drivers in the running for the championship at Homestead.

Logano completed the year fourth in points with five victories.

Keselowski fell short of the final four. But he did finish fifth with six wins. Combined, the Penske drivers won 11 Sprint Cup races in 2014.

That was just two victories short of the total compiled by Hendrick Motorsports’ four drivers, none of whom made it to the championship round at Homestead, by the way.

Penske scored more wins than Joe Gibbs Racing (eight) and Roush Fenway Racing (none).

Hendrick, a strong, winning organization for years, has been the team by which all others are measured.

And in 2014, Penske measured up pretty darn good.

Team owner Roger Penske said that last season was his team’s best ever. And he intends for things to get better.

“Teamwork paid off,” he said. “To me it’s going to be our foundation in 2015. Something that isn’t broken, let’s not fix it.”

Brad Keselowski admits that he drives extra hard at times, but if it means a victory, then he's going to keep on doing it.

Brad Keselowski admits that he drives extra hard at times, but if it means a victory, then he’s going to keep on doing it.

After his tenure at Gibbs, Logano hit his stride at Penske. Yes, he won three times in four years with Gibbs, but he has six wins in two years with Penske – not to mention a shot at the title.

Logano believes that his accomplishments may not have been reached without the rapport he has at Penske. That won’t be forgotten. Nor will some of his past on-track escapades.

“There’s no such thing as bygones being bygones in this sport,” Logano said. “Everyone seems to remember. Stuff carries over for a long time.

“There was a lot of drama last year but I don’t think it will affect 2015. Hopefully none of us are involved in it this year and we will just get to race.”

It’s fair to say most of the drama in 2014 centered on Keselowski, an outspoken competitor who isn’t afraid to take chances – particularly if they end up in victory.

“I made guys mad racing for the win,” Keselowski said. “It wasn’t racing for 20th. You get into a wreck racing for 20th, heck, that doesn’t make Sports Center.

“If you do it racing for the win or a championship then you are probably doing the right thing.

“When I get called for it, I see it as a compliment. That may not be the way others see it, but I do.”

Keselowski has seen first hand the changes at Penske. When he arrived six years ago, he said he saw three different teams operating under the same banner but sharing very little.

So it’s not difficult to understand why results varied. In 2010, Keselowski and teammate Sam Hornish Jr. did not win and ranked 25th or worse in points. Kurt Busch, with two wins, made the Chase.

“Now, the difference is we have all our teams working together closely,” Keselowski said. “We’ve earned more wins than we’ve had as a team in a long time.

“And we probably have the best relationships inside the company and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

This year, Ryan Blaney joins Penske as its principal XFINITY Series driver. He will compete in selected Sprint Cup events and race a limited schedule with the Wood Brothers, which has a technical alliance with Penske.

Although smaller than Hendrick, Gibbs or Roush Fenway, Penske has thrived. There’s a reason for that, according to Logano.

“We’re all on the same level,” he said. “You hear all the time how important it is to work really well together and for us, that is what is happening.

“And, yes, that is very important.”

If you say Keselowski and Logano will enter 2015 as title contenders, well, they won’t argue with you – nor will anyone else.

They have already proven their mettle.

“We have two or three of the best cars,” said Keselowski, an expectant father. “No, we aren’t the largest. But I think that is to our advantage.

“It was part of our success last year and it will be this year.”

 

NASCAR’s Allmendinger Wins Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger drove the last stint of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday to win. The Penske Sprint Cup driver has had experience in both open wheel and NASCAR. Rick Hendrick says that the #51 Phoenix Racing Chevy is not a satellite car. He would consider selling Finch the best engines now that Kurt Busch is the driver. IndyCar tests with Rubens Barrichello at Sebring this week.

Kurt Busch Has Thrived Under The Tutelage Of ‘The Captain’

There was a time, not long ago, when Kurt Busch was considered one of the “bad boys” of NASCAR. What a difference Roger Penske can make – and has.

When Busch drove for Jack Roush, it just didn’t bring out the best in an obviously talented driver, by which I mean his concentration wasn’t as much on his job as it was his frustrations. They were frequently on display for all of us.

Penske has a way of dealing with such as this with all of his drivers. They don’t call him “The Captain” for nothing. Penske has rules of conduct that must be followed.

A case in point would have to be Busch’s well-noted, multiple rants on the radio, seemingly race after race. Penske remained calm – although he could have easily been upset, as others were. Even Jimmy Spencer wasn’t able to “adjust Kurt’s attitude” in a physical confrontation – much less Busch’s teeth.

Penske adopted a much different tactic. He addressed the issue in private. As a result, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Busch seems to have a different attitude these days.

Penske doesn’t get mad. He makes decisions. Busch is now fully aware of that. Sometimes the woodshed isn’t so bad for you.

What really prompted all of this was to witness Busch at Daytona last month. Amidst all the autograph seekers and well wishers that were following him from the media center, he was late for another interview and apologized to the fans for not being able to stop.

He kept moving with purpose and then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a young boy in a wheelchair. He immediately turned around and headed straight for the child.

What happened next was a testament to the real Busch inside. He knelt down, put his arms around the boy, spoke to him – inaudible to the rest of the crowd – and spent almost five minutes with him.

No one dared interrupt this communication of one truly compassionate human to another – and one whose life may have been uplifted. This is the real Busch. I was there and to say I was moved would be an understatement.

We can never be sure if the last two races are a harbinger of good things to come for Busch and the Penske team. But what is certain is that his ability to mature under the tutelage of “The Captain” has made a difference overall – and also almost certainly in Busch’s life.

He’s now a contender once again and that has to motivate him to excel, a virtue that Penske is renowned for extracting from his drivers and others around him.

On that day in Daytona, Penske would no doubt have been proud to see what he had been instrumental in creating. Not only for Kurt Busch but, more important, also for a small boy running his own race.
Next on Roger’s menu is Brad Keselowski

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