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 back in January. 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.
As we soon near the midway mark of the season, 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.
Penske has won five times this season, including at least one win from all three drivers. For Logano, he feels like it was a move that was needed.
“All of us got a win so I’d say pretty good,” Logano said on Friday prior to the doubleheader weekend at the Pocono Raceway. “I think it’s really worked well for Team Penske. I think it’s really opened up a communication barrier and broke those walls down. You’re forced to talk to each other about your previous races.
“I think that’s been great.”
Logano, was ecstatic to see Blaney win this past Monday at Talladega not just because that’s his teammate, he was happy for the crew behind Blaney as well. After all, that entire crew was Logano’s crew for the entire team he was at Penske prior to this season.
“Honestly I was happy to see the 12 team win,” Logano continued. “You work with those guys for so long. That was my old team. You’ve been with those guys for eight years. I was happy to see them be successful early in the year with all those top fives and to now grab that win at Talladega. I think it’s brought the team closer in my opinion.”
Logano, would love to have the speed that Blaney has in his car right now. Blaney, has four straight top four finishes and six in the last seven races. For Logano, many are left wondering where his speed in his No. 22 Ford went.
He started off earning a win in one of the Duels at Daytona. He won the second race of the season in Las Vegas. He followed that up with a win two weeks later in Phoenix. Now, he’s only scored one top five finish in the nine races since the COVID-19 break.
Did the 70 day layoff affect his speed?
He doesn’t necessarily think so. Logano, thinks that the speed factor went away when practicing went away.
“I look at coming out of the gates, especially the 22 car since I can speak to that the most since I drive that one, with Paul Wolfe and that whole team we came out of the gates super strong being able to win at Vegas and right after in Phoenix, getting a Duel win down in Daytona. We came out of the gates super strong,” the 2018 series champion said.
“Since then, we’ve had opportunities for wins. Bristol comes to mind. We had some other races that were close. We’re in the ballpark. Particularly in the 750 races. The 550 races have been our weakness that we need to continue to work on throughout the season.
“The challenging part of all to all of this is there’s no practice. That’s the challenging part of all of this with a new crew chief and trying to build that relationship up. What works and what doesn’t work?
“We’re going to these race tracks together for the first time. Although I’ve been there 100 times and he’s (Wolfe) been there 100 times, we’ve never been there together. We’re trying to put 2-in-2 together for what I like and what worked in the past with Brad (Keselowski) and that’s a tough combination to put together without practice.
“I think that’s why we came out of the gates so strong is since we had practice to get the car ready to go for the race. Some practice would be great at this point. There’s some questions that we’re definitely wanting to answer. This weekend kind of gives us that opportunity with a doubleheader.”
As of now, there’s no practice time scheduled between now and the beginning of August. How much longer will this affect Logano and his team or will they begin to figure it out in the sims?
Nevertheless, all three of the Penske drivers do have wins and can now start using the final half of the regular season focusing on the playoffs.
“For sure,” Logano said on if having all three drivers in the team to have won already helps for the playoffs in the future. “For a momentum stand point it’s definitely there. Any time someone wins at Team Penske, it builds momentum for the shop from the guys building the cars, everyone working in each department. When somebody wins at Team Penske, everyone’s happy. There’s momentum, confidence with everything that we’re doing. That just trickles down through all three teams no matter what.”