MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Team Penske announced today that BODYARMOR Sports Drink will be featured as the primary sponsor on the No. 12 Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 7. This marks the first-ever race team partnership for BODYARMOR, which began working with Blaney last season. Continue reading “BODYARMOR Joins Team Penske In 2018”
With the recent demise of Swan Racing, it got me thinking about the ownership landscape of NASCAR. It seems every year we see a team come in and leave within a year or two. Only a handful of organizations have stood up to the test of time. Here are my survival theories. Continue reading “The Unstable World Of NASCAR Ownership”
In this week’s column I take a look at the most recent Sprint Cup Series winner, Brad Keselowski, along with the three drivers who made their Cup debuts Saturday under the lights. My two cents on the Michael Waltrip Racing situation that came out Monday. And to round things out I will touch on what a wildcard Talladega is to the Chase and a former Talladega winner is back involved in NASCAR.
It was a very long time coming for Brad Keselowski, who had not won a Sprint Cup Series race in just over a year. His last win was Kansas of last year during his run for the Sprint Cup championship. It has been a big struggle for him and his team all year long. Luck just has not been on their side, some of their own doing (Texas with penalties) and others were just out of his hands. This team is going for broke during the Chase since they are not in it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick up another win or two.
It was Kyle Larson who got most of the media attention heading into Charlotte about making his Sprint Cup Series debut. He did not do it alone as Brian Scott and Blake Koch each made their inaugural Sprint Cup races. Of the trio, Scott produced the best finish coming home in the 27th position. Larson was quick and up near the top-10, but his engine expired after completing 247 of the 334 laps, relegating him to a 37th place finish. Koch was a late add to the #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford and ran 216 laps before retiring with a vibration, he finished 38th. Larson is going to be running full-time in 2014, whereas Scott hopes to run a handful of races next season, and Koch’s plans are still unknown at this time. Each has a bright future, but Larson will be the one who garners all the attention.
It’s down to a five man battle for the Sprint Cup championship this year, although you could argue it’s down to two already with five races to go. That’s good because Talladega is up next and the unpredictability of it will definitely shake things up. In the spring Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Matt Kenseth were the only Chase drivers to get a top-10 finish. Heck, David Ragan won the race with David Gilliland pushing him. When we say anything can happen, anything can and will happen in the race. The goal of every Chase driver is to survive and hopefully not lose too many points in the process.
The announcement that Michael Waltrip Racing would be reducing the number of full-time teams it fields from three to two is not surprising. There was no way they could secure funding for a full season in such short notice after NAPA informed them they were leaving. What I don’t like is the number of people who will be out of jobs because of the action of a few inside the organization. You can’t tell me from the top (i.e. Michael Waltrip himself) there was no discussions of manipulating the race if push came to shove out there. For a team that is starving for funds, a bonus for a car making the Chase was worth the risks at the time. Now that they have found out what the risks are, they would probably re-think their approach. I hope that driver Martin Truex, Jr., who did nothing but race his ass off into the Chase only to get kicked out, lands a good ride and can bring some of his former MWR colleagues with him.
Something that might have slipped through the cracks last weekend was Ernie Irvan getting back into racing as a car owner for his son Jared starting in 2014. The 15-year old Irvan will compete full-time in the Pro All Star Series South (PASS) that hits tracks like Hickory, South Boston, and Organ County. History lesson for you all is those were former Nationwide Series tracks back in the day. It’s good to see Ernie getting back into the sport after having such a great, albeit short, career that included 15 victories, the 1991 Daytona 500, and what should have been the 1994 title had he not gotten injured at Michigan.
NASCAR’s newest rivalry has been brewing for a while now. It’s not a surprise given how many races Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch run against each other that they’ve finally bumped heads one too many times.
Tensions came to a boil during Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, the Kansas Lottery 300, from the Kansas Speedway. Keselowski and Busch were racing hard for the second position with 31 laps to go. Presumably leader Matt Kenseth was short on fuel, so the duel could be for the win, and with the two teams neck and neck for the owner’s title, a lot was at stake.
As they came through with 12 laps to go, Busch was under Keselowski, and held in the gas a bit too much and hooked Keselowski. Keselowski slid through the infield and then into the outside, ending his day.
Keselowski then ran to the infield, gesturing towards Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team and had some harsh words once reporters caught up to him. “I got wrecked by a dirty driver,” Keselowski said. “There’s no other way of putting it. He’s cool with that. I have raced him really cool over the last year to be respectful to him and try to repair our relationship…He put me in the fence in Chicago in the Truck race, and the Nationwide races he has been pulling this crap. It is not going to last, I can tell you that. I feel bad for the guys next to me (indicating the No. 54 team) that are going to have to fix his stuff. That’s going to be part of racing and they are going to have to deal with it…Now we’ve got war.”
To his credit Busch did own the incident, stating “There were a lot of moments where maybe I felt a little crowded, but the contact there that ultimately ended it… I just got real tight off (Turn) 4. I’ve been battling tight underneath him and behind him and everything else, and finally I thought I had a run, and I tried to stay in the gas so I could get a run on him and get to his quarter and side-drafted him down the front straightaway. I got too tight, got inside his wake and just got too close to him and spun him out.”
The problem is Busch kept talking at this point, especially after hearing Keselowski’s remarks, to say “Brad Keselowski knows what dirty drivers are because he’s done it plenty of times. But I have yet to wreck a person on purpose…I got wrecked for the Chase spot by Brad Keselowski (in 2012) and then had an opportunity to wreck him a few times throughout the Chase and didn’t. (I) let him and Jimmie Johnson battle it out on their own, and ultimately he won the deal. If I wanted to, I could have cost Brad Keselowski a championship, but I’m a bigger person than that.”
In Sunday’s Sprint Cup race Keselowski did not have an opportunity to get to Busch as other drivers took care of that for him. During one of the cautions, Keselowski’s spotter radioed him “you’ll enjoy why we’re under caution,” referring to Busch having problems.
The irony in this is during one of the incidents for Busch, he came down on Juan Pablo Montoya, who did not give an inch. The end results was Busch going for a spin and remarking that he’s never spun himself on a straightaway.
You have one driver who has nothing to lose this season (Keselowski) going against a driver who has a short fuse and long memory (Busch). Needless to say this will get interesting.
Oh and for the record, Kyle Busch has crashed himself going in a straight line.
Engine issues at Chicagoland put Joey Logano and his Penske Racing team in a deep hole for the Chase. They were able to get a little bit out of last week’s 14th place finish, he was aided by Kasey Kahne’s problems to get out of the basement to 12th place in points.
Sunday at the Dover International Speedway, Logano came home third in the AAA 400. It was his first top-5/top-10 finish since a second place finish at Atlanta four races ago.
“We are concerned about points because we’re in the Chase and we’re not out of it yet. I just saw we’re 66 points back now so we gained a couple, which isn’t many, but these are the days we’ve got to have. We’re back on track. The last three weeks have been a little tougher for us and coming here to Dover, my favorite race track, this Shell/Pennzoil team did everything they had to do to get that Ford up front and get closer,” Logano told reporters after finishing the race.
The issue Logano had was a car that wasn’t good for the short term, but the long term runs. He was aided by a long stretch of green flag laps just before the end of the race.
“Our biggest issue is we didn’t take off with really good speed, but after 15-16-17 laps it came to me and it was really fast. It just took a little bit too long there on the last restart. I was able to get up to third, I was in the right lane, but by the time my car came to me I was too late. We were the fastest car the last six laps, but it doesn’t really matter when you can barely see the leaders. Unfortunately, that was our day, but, overall, we can’t be too disappointed with a third-place finish. It’s just that you always want to be a little better,” Logano explained.
Building confidence is what Logano and his team need to do. Capitalizing on the momentum they get from the third place finish will be key to how they finish the Chase off.
“Momentum is built back up. Richmond, Chicago and then Loudon weren’t our best races. At Chicago we had a fast car, but we blew up there. Really, if we had that Chicago race back, we’d be in the mix for this championship. Unfortunately, those things happen, but we’re slowly but surely making up from that right now,” commented Logano.
The Hollywood Casino 400 is next up from the Kansas Speedway for the Sprint Cup Series. The action gets underway Sunday, October 6th, at 2:00 PM EST and can be seen live on ESPN.
As the 2013 season winds down with just over two months left, most drivers have an idea of where they’ll be racing for the 2014 season. One driver who has yet to concretely answer that question is Sam Hornish, Jr.
Hornish is currently driving the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Penske Racing and is doing a great job currently leading the driver standings by 17 points over Austin Dillon. With a win to his credit this year, he’s finally performing at the potential team owner Roger Penske saw when he brought him over to NASCAR in 2008.
The problem was it was directly into the Sprint Cup Series without much preparation in the lower-tier Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series. The result was finishing 35th in points his first season (2008), he improved the next year (2009) to finish 28th in points, and then regressed finishing 29th the next season (2010).
At that point a sponsorship shortage forced Penske Racing to only run him in select Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races. Focusing on only those few races on the Nationwide side, Hornish got a win in 2011 and six top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
He drove the full 2012 season in the Nationwide Series finishing fourth in points, while also driving 20 races in the Sprint Cup Series after AJ Allmendinger was released from the #22 car. Going into the offseason Hornish thought he had a great chance at getting that car, but instead Penske went with Joey Logano.
While it was a blow to his ego, he’s raced hard this year, and the results are showing. The problem is sponsorship issues are again coming up with the rumor being Penske will only run one Nationwide team next season. Currently it’s Hornish in the full-time ride, then Sprint Cup drivers Brad Keselowski, Logano, and a few other drivers have been running the #22 Ford, which could win the owner’s title.
Odds are they will want to not only keep campaigning Keselowski and Logano, whom have gotten the team seven wins this season, but also provide an opportunity for development driver Ryan Blaney to get some races in. If sponsorship isn’t found, then I can see Hornish as the odd man out once again. For as much as Roger Penske likes Hornish, he just can’t get sponsors to feel the same way.
Hornish’s name has come up recently as a driver for the #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series. The rumor floating is there more interest from Hornish’s side than the team’s side. It’ll be interesting if they go the route of an experienced driver or a young driver and take their lumps.
I personally think Hornish deserves another chance in the Cup Series, it just might not be good to have it with Penske Racing. For all they’ve been through something is just keeping the combination from really clicking on the Cup side.
The biggest question raised after Monday’s announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya would be going back to the Izod IndyCar series in 2014 is will this open the door to seeing Kyle Larson in the car before the close of the season.
The first reason this would make sense is that Montoya isn’t in the Chase, so it’s not like he’s going for the championship, it’s mainly just wins from here on out. While the team has been fast, I don’t see them getting any wins in the final nine races.
A second reason is the rivalry between Chip Ganassi (co-owner Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) and Roger Penske (owner Team Penske) could be one where Ganassi could be furious that is where Montoya is going. Instead of keeping him around where maybe he gather information to give Penske, he could cut him loose early.
A third reason is this way both organizations can focus their efforts on 2014. Montoya can begin to re-acclimate himself to IndyCar and Ganassi can bring up rookie Kyle Larson to get some races under his belt. Penske might not have a team in place for Montoya yet, but Larson could begin to work with the crew he’ll work with starting at Daytona next February.
I think a move like this could benefit both sides, but most likely would take place after this weekend’s activates at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This weekend the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series are not racing at the same location, so logistically it would make sense to not start Larson until the week after.