Editor’s note: NASCAR.com continues its countdown of team previews for the Monster Energy Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings. Today’s features Team Penske and its drivers Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano.
Engine: Roush Yates Engines
Drivers: Brad Keselowski, No. 2; Ryan Blaney, No. 12; Joey Logano, No. 22
Crew chiefs: Paul Wolfe (Keselowski), Jeremy Bullins (Blaney), Todd Gordon (Logano)
2018 standings: Logano clinched his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title with a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, ending his season with a first-place ranking. Keselowski finished the 2018 eighth, while Blaney ranked 10th at year’s end.
What’s new: The driver and crew chief lineup remains the same, but the end of 2018 brought a different morale to Team Penske, with Logano winning the championship. The title marked Team Penske’s first Cup championship since 2012, when Keselowski hoisted the trophy.
The three drivers will also wheel a new car this season, with the Ford Mustang making its debut on the track at Daytona International Speedway. It marks the first time the Mustang, Ford’s oldest car model, has raced at NASCAR’s premier level.
Outlook: In the first season with all three drivers under the Team Penske umbrella, they combined for seven victories — and all three of them reached Victory Lane. More of that is expected in 2019 with the sport’s reigning champion in house and plenty of momentum that’s derived from late surges in 2018. All but one of Logano’s, Keselowski’s and Blaney’s wins came in the final 15 races of the 2018 season, indicating the growth and gains of the organization — and perhaps, a foreshadow of 2019.
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford: Keselowski saw a slight dip in overall performance in 2018, notching less top fives, top 10s and laps led than his previous two seasons, but still carried strong statistics at year’s end. He also kept at least three wins in his yearly win column, a streak he’s had since 2016, notching three straight victories at Darlington, Indianapolis, and Las Vegas, the first race of the 2018 Playoffs.
The No. 2 team was also one of the 14 Monster Energy Series teams at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the rules package test on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Keselowski was positive about his progress in Las Vegas, putting up top-seven speeds both days.
“I thought we had a really fantastic test,” Keselowski said in a Thursday teleconference. “I’m feeling pretty confident that we’re going to be able to head to Vegas, Atlanta here in a few weeks after the 500, be pretty strong.”
The key for Keselowski and the No. 2 team as they approach the 2019 season with the new rules package is strategy. The package requires strategy, both mental and on the rack track — and strategy is an area where No. 2 crew chief Paul Wolfe excels. If the pair can capture some of the magic from last year’s three-race winning streak, the 2019 season could be a strong one for the No. 2.
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards Ford: In his first year with the No. 12 team, Blaney earned career-best numbers in yearly top fives (including two runner-up finishes), top 10s and poles. He more than doubled his laps led total from 301 in 2017 to 660 in 2018, ranking seventh among all active drivers last season. The 25-year-old driver also capitalized on late-race chaos at the Charlotte Road Course during the playoffs to notch his second career win.
Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins — whom he brought from his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford team — showed growth in 2018, implying there may be more glimmers of greatness from the young driver in the future. If Blaney can turn a day with multiple laps led and time up front – something he did plenty in 2018 — into a win, he may be a dark horse in the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs.
Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford: The 2018 season was a season of redemption for Logano and the No. 22 team; after missing the Playoffs in 2017, the group rallied back in 2018 for three victories and ultimately, the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship title.
The 2018 title provides momentum for the No. 22 group — and also a bit of pressure to repeat upon last year’s success. Only six drivers have repeated championships back to back in NASCAR’s modern era; five of those are Hall of Famers with the sixth (Jimmie Johnson) a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame once he retires.
While still strong throughout 2018, Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon experienced a late surge last season, finishing eight of 10 Playoff races in the top 10 and winning twice. They’ll look to build upon that in 2019 — but start that hot streak earlier in the season, perhaps earning a second Harley J. Earl trophy for Logano in the season-opening Daytona 500.
• Jan. 22: Assorted teams
• Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
• Jan. 24: Germain Racing
• Jan. 25: Leavine Family Racing
• Jan 28: Front Row Motorsports
• Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
• Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
• Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
• Feb. 1: Richard Childress Racing
• Feb. 4: Chip Ganasssi Racing
• Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports
• Feb. 6: Joe Gibbs Racing
• Feb. 7: Stewart-Haas Racing
• Feb. 8: Team Penske