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The Power Team Of Early 2019 Should Not Surprise

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 4 2019
The Team Penske cars of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were the fastest on the track at Las Vegas on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The day after … Las Vegas:

When major rules changes are placed upon competitors in the sport of auto racing, it’s axiomatic that one organization will figure things out quicker than the others and for a period of time, will dominate.

Guess we know which team got the jump on the others in the NASCAR Cup Series early this season.

Hint: It’s the team that won the first two races conducted with the much-discussed 2019 rules package – Team Penske.

On Sunday, Joey Logano drove to a narrow victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver Logano narrowly defeated was Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who won the new rules-debut race at Atlanta a week ago.

If you’ve been following racing at all, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Penske’s team has most successfully noodled the new rules – the effects of whic are adding more downforce and less horsepower – more effectively than the others. You don’t win 500 races by being baffled by change.

Roger Penske was asked after the race if he was surprised by going 2 for 2 under the new rules at intermediate tracks.

“Well, that’s what we go racing for, so I am surprised, but I’m not surprised,” The Captain said. “I think the — with the time and effort that all the team put together and Todd (Gordon, Logano’s crew chief) and certainly when you look at Jeremy (Bullins, Ryan Blaney’s crew chief) and Paul Wolfe (Keselowski’s crew chief), these guys are pros, and every one of our key guys have grown up from the Xfinity Series up into their Cup jobs, and they sit right next to each other at the shop so it’s not three different teams, it’s one team, and I think that’s why you see our cars typically running well.”

And you don’t win 500 races by standing pat. The quest to master the new rules has just begun, Gordon said.

“If you ever quit learning, you’d better quit because you’re going to get passed,” he said. “It’s a new package.  It’s something new that we’ve all got to kind to grasp around.  I think you see comers and goers and we’re all trying to sort it out.  It’s a unique situation because we’ve got a new package that we don’t know what we’ve really needed out of it, and we’re going to the West Coast Swing where you’ve got to build your cars ahead of time.  It’s something we’ve got to continue to learn on, and we’ll learn as we get to different racetracks because this is a racetrack that doesn’t have a lot of fall off.  Atlanta did have a lot, and California is going to be its own creature.  Every racetrack we go to has got a new learning curve.”

Two of Team Penske’s drivers are locked into the playoffs. That will allow those two drivers to concentrate on winning races and will allow their teams to take some chances on setups and strategies.

Look for both drivers and teams at Penske to become more aggressive in the shops and garages, and in the cockpits.

Team-owner Penske is often quoted as telling his drivers that his one rule when it comes to racing each other is don’t wreck each other.

As Keselowski moved in on Logano at the end of the race in Vegas, you had to be wondering if Bad Brad viewed that directive as a rule or a guideline.

Penske said it’s both.

“Only one is going to win coming out of the stable,” he said. “We’ve got three great drivers, and we’ve really told them to take care of each other, at the end of 10 laps the best man wins.  To me you don’t get on the radio and you want to say watch it, you just hope that they take care of each other, and maybe another lap and it would have been a different outcome.”

Keselowski was asked if he thought he could have won the race. And then, why he didn’t.

“Too nice” to Logano, he said.

We know how NASCAR’s “partners” feel about the new rules. Obviously hoping that fans will believe them rather than their own eyeball, the series’ media partners keep pushing the the contention that the racing the last two weekends falls somewhere between great and super spectacular.

That’s to be expected. It is what they are paid to do so it’s best to auto filter when watching on TV.

But when somebody like Roger Penske takes up the cause, then is the time to listen. That time came Sunday afternoon.

“Overall, it’s two weeks in a row,” he said. “I’m probably biased right now, I checked the box to say I love the package.  Maybe not next week, but so far so good.”

What tilted him was the way Keselowski and Kyle Busch were able to track down Logano over the final laps.

“But clean air is – every car likes that when they get out front,” Penske said. “But I think the key thing today in the package that nobody got out more than three or four seconds.  There were some pit stops where people were out there, but to me it shows that you can be the leader but also you can be behind and catch up.”

Next up…Phoenix

At the 1-mile race near Phoenix, the car will revert to the old rules. Horsepower will be back up to around 800 and no aero ducts will be in use.

         

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 4 2019
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