Penske Crew Chief Swap Paying Off Big

Bold. That’s the best word used to describe Team Penske’s shocking decision to swap all three of their NASCAR Cup Series teams with one another. They finished 5-7-8 in the final standings last year and here they are making drastic changes.

Basically, the only thing that would remain would be Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford, Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford and Ryan Blaney piloting the No. 12 Ford. The crew chiefs would move to different pit boxes for all three and take their pit crews with them.

Keselowski, went from Paul Wolfe to Jeremy Bullins. Logano, went from Todd Gordon to Paul Wolfe while Blaney went from Jeremy Bullins to Todd Gordon. It was a drastic move that some, including myself, questioned.

Brad Keselowski won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

After 11 races into the season now, I and everyone else, should have known better than to question any move signed off on by Roger Penske. Period.

The move appears to be working flawlessly. In a sport where crew chief and driver combos are normally the reason for winning championships or not, to do so that late in the offseason was shocking.

As we sit now, heading to the Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, Penske drivers have combined to win four of the 11 races run. In terms of the overall points standings, all three are in the top six. All three are also in the top eight of laps led on the season too.

Logano, won twice in the first four races to go along with a fourth place run on Wednesday night at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. He’s scored six top 10 finishes this year.

The 2018 series champion isn’t shocked that the speed didn’t leave despite some new faces to work with within the same building.

“No, not necessarily,” Logano said. “I think if you look at what was going on last year we all had good speed, all of our cars were strong at different points of the season or different types of race tracks, so I really didn’t see much of a risk by doing it and I think I’ve seen just a longer runway for everybody because you’re really sharing information. 

“Obviously, we share setups and we talk to each other, but I never drove Brad’s car.  I never worked with Paul.  Blaney never worked with Todd and Jeremy with Brad.  We can talk about it and we can try to mimic setups, but it’s not the same, so this has been enlightening.  At the same time, I’m bringing what we did last year to Paul and Paul is bringing what he did last year and we’re able to just kind of try to make the best of both worlds. 

“It’s been fun.  There have been a lot of interesting conversations that get sparked that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.  As weird as it is to see what was your team for six or seven years working with Blaney, but I honestly can tell you that the relationships that you build with your team it becomes family, so I hope for their success and I’m glad to see Blaney is running really well and leading a lot of laps and a win is right around the corner.”

Blaney, has benefited the most. He’s arguably the fastest car with Penske right now anyways despite not having won yet. That was shown in Martinsville as he twice came from the back to the front on a .526-mile short track that nobody says you can pass on and finished runner-up.

Blaney, finished runner-up in the Daytona 500 and easily should have finished in the top two in each of the next two weeks in Vegas and Fontana. A late race caution in Vegas and tire problem in the closing laps at Fontana took second place finishes and turned them to 11th and 19th place results respectively. In Phoenix, he was collected in an early race crash.

Then, COVID-19 hit.

After, Blaney has four top four finishes in the last seven races including all in the last five overall. The speed is there and if they can put together a full race and not run into any bad luck, a win is coming soon.

That leaves Keselowski who won the Coca-Cola 600 as well as the race at Bristol two Sunday’s ago. He’s been the most consistent with eight top 10’s, six of which being consecutively.

Now, can they sustain this pace? A NASCAR season is long and while you may start fast, you have to keep adjusting your race cars because others are coming. Joe Gibbs Racing is starting to find pace while Hendrick Motorsports is vastly improved. Throw in Kevin Harvick and you get enough people jockeying for Penske’s positions up front.

But, that’s why these moves were made. It wasn’t just to find the speed, it was to adjust and adapt to keep it too.

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