Penske drivers rally for top-10 finishes
April 13, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Judging by the grin on Joey Logano’s face after he climbed out of his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford following Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 500-miler at Texas Motor Speedway, you would have thought the 22-year-old had just won the race.
He actually finished fifth, but considering he wasn’t even inside his race car when the rest of the 43-car field rolled off the starting grid, it was quite an impressive comeback.
“If you would have told me I would finish fifth today, I would have given you a hug,’’ Logano said smiling.
"I don’t even know what happened, I was focused in on driving my race car."
-- Joey Logano
Both Logano’s car and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford failed pre-race inspection, and while the drivers were participating in driver introductions in front of a large Texas crowd, their teams were furiously switching rear-end housings on the cars.
NASCAR confiscated parts, and penalties may be forthcoming. NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton cautioned before the race that the parts were “not in the spirit of the rule.”
Even with the last-minute changes to the cars, Keselowski was able to keep the 16th-place starting spot he earned in qualifying. Logano’s car, however, still did not meet weight requirements during the final inspection, and the extra delay sent him to the rear of the starting field for not making it to the grid in a timely manner.
While Keselowski also put on a highly motivated driving display and rallied for a ninth-place finish after going down a lap early in the event, he was much angrier than Logano following the race and told reporters he felt the team had been highly scrutinized, even “targeted” over the last week by NASCAR officials.
“I have one good thing to say and that’s about my team and the effort they put in today,’’ Keselowski said, speaking to reporters briefly. “ ... I can tell you there’s no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team and the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. But my guys keep their heads on straight and showcased why they are a championship team. ‘’
Their team owner, the legendary Roger Penske, solidly defended his organization following the race.
“Our guys are innovative, we’re looking at the rules, looking at areas where maybe we can get an edge on like everybody else is,’’ Penske said. “I don’t think we did anything wrong, obviously it’s a judgment and we’ll deal with it with NASCAR. But we’re going to move on to the next race.’’
Logano, however, may still be thinking about Saturday. Not only did he overcome unforeseen obstacles for a top-five finish, it was even his best showing in the last five trips to an intermediate track. He was running third before a pit stop during the race’s final caution with 19 laps remaining.
“It was one of the toughest races we’ve ever been dealt with and to come home with a top-five out of something like that we couldn’t be more excited about that -- almost a third-place finish if the last caution hadn’t come out,’’ Logano said. “These guys worked so hard on this Shell/Pennzoil Ford getting us out at least and we dug our way up there a little bit, then had a bad stop and went down a lap … and slowly, methodically worked our way up.’’
In fact, Logano insisted that he was never particularly worried despite the harried start to his race day.
“I go minute by minute, so for me it’s not a big deal,’’ Logano said of the pre-race problems. “I strap in and I go. Having to go to the rear was a little bit of a bummer especially not knowing what your car’s going to be like. But I tell you what, these guys knew exactly what to do to get us out on time -- barely on time, but out there -- get some laps, make adjustments, keep up with the race track as the sun went down.
“At first I wasn’t (worried) but then we got to the scales and happened to be 10 pounds light and had to put weight in the car too, and at that point I got a little nervous.
“They’re running back to the truck to put some weight in the thing, man, it was hectic there for a little bit. I don’t want to ever cut it that close again.’’
As for the potential penalties his team is facing, Logano said he wasn’t worried about that.
“I don’t even know what happened, I was focused in on driving my race car and what was going on out there, trying to take care of my own thing and trying to drive my race car fast,’’ Logano said.
“At one point, I was thinking maybe we can get a top-10, maybe. Then it kind of cycled out and we were fourth, and I was like, ‘Cool,’ maybe we can get third.
“Never quit, never die. We’ll definitely take this.’’
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