Sprint Cup team preview: Team Penske
January 26, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
Ford operation aims for double-barreled return to Chase
-- In 2013 Team Penske placed a driver in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the fifth consecutive season, but the team's two race victories -- one each for Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski -- marked its lowest output in three years.
-- Over the offseason changed the name of the former Penske Racing organization to Team Penske, bringing the NASCAR operation under the same umbrella as Roger Penske's interests in open-wheel racing.
2014 Driver Lineup
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford; Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford
Keselowski followed his championship campaign in 2012 with a trying season, one in which a pair of penalties -- most notably, one for rear-end violations on both Penske cars last spring at Texas -- and a late-summer slump combined to make him only the second reigning champ (after Tony Stewart in 2006) to miss the playoff. His lone victory came in Charlotte in the fall, after the playoff field had been determined.
That summertime slide stands at odds with much of Keselowski's career at Penske, which has seen the driver join the ranks of the sport's elite. Of his 10 career victories, nine have come in the past two and half years behind the wheel of the organization's No. 2 car. Logano experienced a similar uptick in performance last season in his first year with Penske, winning at Michigan and making the Chase for the first time.
Crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Todd Gordon (Logano) both return, although Keselowski's over-the-wall crew received a substantial overhaul for the 2014 campaign.
Keselowski ran well at both the start and finish to the 2013 campaign, and barring another major penalty there's no reason he can't return to the Chase in 2014. Both Penske cars ended last season strong, although rule changes on this year's vehicle will test the team's car development. Logano is as comfortable and confident as he's ever been, and appears to be coming into his own.
Penske clearly has the wherewithal to get both its drivers into the Chase. The key may be improved car development and better overall performance for Ford, whose affiliated teams struggled a season ago. Race wins early in the year would be big for both drivers -- one trying to rebound, and the other trying to back up a career year.