Outcome Of Final Race Is The Only Change Team Penske Needs


(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Penske Racing's Joey Logano at last year's festivities leading up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series banquet in Las Vegas (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Penske Racing’s Joey Logano at last year’s festivities leading up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series banquet in Las Vegas (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—While other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams have made substantive offseason changes to correct perceived performance flaws, the watchwords at Team Penske are “status quo.”

As the organization’s drivers, crew chiefs and executives gathered on stage for a group photo on Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center during the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour presented by Technocom, no one thought to ask “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Why? Because the obvious answer is “Absolutely nothing.”

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion and 2014 series leader with six victories, summed it up.

“The first thing that came to mind when I sat up here was how sorry I felt for the photographers, because it’s the same exact picture you took last year,” Keselowski said. “The same shirts, the same people. The only change is the ‘Ford Performance’ logo on the shirts, so that really speaks to where we’re at as a team and as a company.”

In perhaps its best season on record, Team Penske won 22 times across all motorsports platforms last year, including 11 times in the Sprint Cup Series, with second-year Penske driver Joey Logano adding five victories to Keselowski’s six.

Keselowski reached the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup before bowing out. Logano made the final four and raced for the series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only to see his efforts undone by an uncharacteristic late-race miscue by his pit crew.

If there’s one thing Team Penske would change about 2014, it would be the outcome of that final race. In other respects, the organization is more than content to stay the course.

Keselowski is back for his sixth season with the company, with 2012 champion crew chief Paul Wolfe on his pit box. Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon have grown into a formidable combination as well, and their pairing remains intact for 2015.

With Logano, 24, beginning to realize the potential he showed from the moment he began racing as a child, one might think the pressure might have lessened on the driver of the No. 22 Ford. But, realistically, that’s also a case of status quo.

“It is nice to say, ‘OK, we’ve proved ourselves that we belong here,’” Logano said. “We’ve raced for a championship now. That’s nice. Does that change the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to win a championship? No. Not at all.

“I want to win it just as bad as I did last year, and I know the whole team does. I wouldn’t say it’s any less. I wouldn’t say it’s any more.”

And just because Team Penske is standing pat with personnel, don’t take for granted that there’s not a system in place to identify areas for potential improvement.

“Something Todd and I have done the last couple of years is kind of sit down and do reviews with our team and even do reviews with ourselves,” Logano said. “Like ‘Where do you think I can be better as a driver?’ or ‘Where do you think you can be better as a crew chief?’ and just communicate through that stuff.

“There may be something I wasn’t think of and something maybe he wasn’t thinking of. Eventually, you get it all out in the open, and that’s how we’ve been since the beginning.”

If you’re looking for a major change at Team Penske, go back more than two years ago to the the switch from Dodge to Ford after the 2015 championship season. As team owner Roger Penske put it, that move quickly bore fruit.

“Think about it,” Penske said. “We’ve been with them two years now and we have over 15 wins each year with the Ford Motor Company (in the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series combined). That’s a pretty good start for us. We have a lot to live up to as we go forward next year.”

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