Despite having a “down year” as far as Penske standards, for the second straight year, they still had a car vying for the championship at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Now, can they improve on those down numbers for 2017?
If you’re buying into what Brad Keselowski is saying, it’s going to be hard to be honest.
Here are the five storylines for Team Penske for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and why.
Keselowski has been saying for months that his Ford has a steep disadvantage to the Toyota camp. He even went as far to blame NASCAR on allowing Toyota’s to gain such a vast advantage. Well, now that Chevrolet is debuting a new car for 2018, Keselowski warns that all the Ford teams will be even further off this season.
If you truly look into what he was saying last year, he wasn’t wrong.
Toyota brought out a new car for the 2017 season and they just flat out dominated every statistical category. Chevrolet is bringing out a new car for 2018 and is hoping they can close that gap on their end too. Ford, well they’re staying put for this year at least.
So, if Toyota and Ford remain the same for 2018 that they were in 2017, then there’s not much Ford could do to make up that much ground. Then, factor in a new car for the Chevy teams, and even more pieces of the pie are taken up by them.
If that’s all the case, then how can Penske gain in 2018 from 2017?
No More Penalties
Despite a disadvantage or not, the 2017 Cup season for Penske could be categorized as life before the Richmond penalty and life after. Prior to Joey Logano’s encumbered win at Richmond in April, he had eight top six finishes in the first nine races. Brad Keselowski had seven top sixes in that same time frame, two of which were wins.
Logano had just five top six finishes over the remaining 27 races while Keselowski had 10. They had just one combined victory after that point too. Keselowski, blamed aero and horsepower. While I agree to some point, I also blame the penalty for that regression of success.
Both Todd Gordon (Logano’s crew chief) and Paul Wolfe (Keselowski’s crew chief) are known to push the limits. They both were handed stiff penalties at that point of the season. It could have been a Penske brass or NASCAR top brass sitting these two down and telling them to knock it off. That means they played well within the rules, which meant the speed went away too.
Nevertheless, the organization was never the same after the Richmond penalty, a race they finished 1-2 in.
Will 3rd Car Affect Performance
There’s a reason Penske had run two cars on a full-time basis for as long as they did. They last time they expanded to three cars in the Cup Series it didn’t translate to success. But, with Ryan Blaney ready to move over to the organization that he’s been a developmental driver in for years and the other two drivers on their roster in their prime, it was time to add that third car back.
But, adding a car to an organization means hiring more people and hoping the resources already in place aren’t stretched thin. You never want to add a car to add a car. You hope that the new car addition is just that, adds to the team or teams already in place, not take away from them. With a possible disadvantage in the Ford camp for 2018, will Penske struggle a bit more this season before seeing gains for a potential new car for them for the 2019 season?
If there’s a fall off again this year, how much blame will be put on the third car?
I have no doubt in my mind that Penske will make this three car team work eventually. Whether it’s in 2018 or 2019 or even 2020, this is going to be a dominating group. Is it the next dynasty though?
Think about it, Keselowski has won 24 career Cup races and a championship already. He’s only 33 years old. Logano, has 18 wins to his credit, 15 of which since joining Penske in 2014, including the Daytona 500. He’s only 27 years old.
Now, they add a very talented young gun in Ryan Blaney. He’s only 24 years old.
If all three race to their abilities and live up to their expectations, then this might just be the best organization in the business for the next decade.
Another Championship 4 Appearance
Since the Championship 4 format was adopted for the 2014 season, Penske has had a driver eligible for the Cup title at Homestead in three of the four years. The only year they didn’t was in 2015.
Logano, finished fourth in 2014 and second in 2016. Keselowski, came home fourth in 2017.
Can they make it back for a third straight year in 2018?
If they do, they have to hope to not be the last car among the four for the third time though.