Penske's No. 22 has what it takes to win
August 14, 2013, Kristen Boghosian, NASCAR.com, NASCAR.com
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Things could have gone better for one of Penske Racing's drivers at the close of the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International. Joey Logano sputtered to a 21st-place finish as he ran out of fuel on the final lap of the race. If it had to be one Penske car, though, it's a good thing for the team it was Logano's No. 48, and not the No. 22 -- a car battling the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the owners points.
After the checkered flag had flown, the No. 22 sailed into Victory Lane, piloted by Brad Keselowski. Sam Hornish Jr., another Penske racer and a contender for the series championship, was just behind him. With the 1-2 finish, Penske inched closer to both the owners championship and the points lead.
"We've done that quite a bit lately (finish 1-2) and one of those times we'll get it turned around to where I'm on the leading edge of it," Hornish said. "But it was a great organization effort and the fact that at a lot of points we were 1-2-3, so it was a good day for us."
Keselowski's win may have prevented Hornish from coming a bit closer to overtaking the points lead from Austin Dillon, but it also took a large swing at the lead of the car Kyle Busch has so frequently driven to Victory Lane in the owners standings. The No. 22 is now only five points behind the No. 54, with 819 compared to Gibbs' 824.
The team would have less cause to celebrate had Logano been coasting to the checkered flag in the 22 and Keselowski headed to Victory Lane in the 48, earning points for a car that had just made its debut.
"On the Nationwide level, although we won the driver's title in 2010, we did not win the owners title, and I think it's something (team owner Roger Penske) certainly holds and values, so it's nice to see that we're a little closer there," the defending Sprint Cup Series champion said. "But we still have a lot of work to go and obviously the 54 team is a very strong team."
Penske's No. 22 Ford has seen Victory Lane seven times this season: four times with Keselowski, twice with Logano and once with AJ Allmendinger. All of those times, crew chief Jeremy Bullins was atop the pit box, giving Penske the most wins the team has had in a Nationwide season, with several left to run.
Bullins also has two additional top-fives with Keselowski and four with Logano. In a sport that is often dependent on the cohesiveness of the team, the crew chief has no problem working with a different driver in the car nearly every week.
"What we feel like is going to be the best set-up is usually close," Bullins said.
He has to change his thinking most significantly during the race, when drivers with very different styles of driving are looking for changes to their car.
"I think the adjustments that we'll make during the race vary because I think the drivers have a different style of adapting to an ill-handling car. I think if Brad's got a loose car versus when Joey's got a loose car, he's probably gonna drive it a little bit differently to try and compensate for that, so the adjustments that we might use will be different."
These past few races, Bullins has been right on point. With Keselowski's latest win, he is now tied for the second-longest winning streak, with four in a row in the Nationwide Series. Keselowski said he will be back in the car at Bristol, which means Bullins will have to change his mindset once again when the series heads to Mid-Ohio next weekend. As the No. 22 team has proven again and again, they’ve got a winning car -- no matter which of their drivers is sitting behind the wheel.
“It’s been a really good year for us,” Mike Nelson, NASCAR VP of Operations at Penske Racing said after the race. “…This is our eighth win for the season and that’s the most we’ve won in a Nationwide season… Things have been going our way and we’re real excited to be sitting here right now.”
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