NASCAR Inside Track: Team Penske expands, Darlington turns back time
Rick Horrow talks about recent events in the NASCAR world as Team Penske sets to expand their NASCAR XFINITY Series operation back to two teams in 2017 and Darlington Raceway gets set to turn back time in September.
Bruce: XFINITY Chase intensity ratchets up aggression
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SPARTA, Ky. -- Was Saturday night's opening Chase race for NASCAR’s XFINITY Series an example of good, hard racing or a case of folks driving over their heads? That depends on who one asked afterward. Race winner Elliott Sadler wasn’t pointing fingers, and race winners have rarely been heard to utter a discouraging word. But the JR Motorsports driver said he did notice an uptick in intensity during the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway . "About halfway through the race, it was 'note to self; you can tell it's the Chase because it was caution after caution after caution," Sadler said afterward. "People were tense, eager, frustrated, nervous. A lot of different things going on with drivers right now ... trying to make it to the second (round). "I think people are giving each other less room. Restarts are crazy in the back." They were crazy up front, too. The race, which kicked off a seven-race, two-round elimination playoff for the series, saw the caution flag fly a track record 12 times. More than one-fourth of the race (64 laps) was run under the yellow. Yes, there was even a brief (5 min., 34 sec.) red-flag period. Erik Jones , the top seed and regular-season leader in race wins, got crossed up while racing with Ty Dillon and both the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota and the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet ended up in the wall. RELATED: See the wreck the caught two title contenders Each is now outside eighth place in points with two races to try and improve their standing; only the top eight (with the exception of a Chase race winner that might be 9th-12th ) advance to the second round. Not surprisingly, Jones wasn't particularly pleased with the early ending to his night and said later that the aggressive driving does cause one to approach the race differently. "Yeah, it makes me try to stay out of trouble," he said. "I didn't want to have something like that happen. ... You try to play defense some. I was for sure." Of course, there was the matter of a reconfigured track that sports new asphalt and distinctly different turns. That, too, played a role in the difficulties for some. And that was to be expected, said Brendan Gaughan , driver of the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing . "It didn't seem like it was any more aggressive than normal," Gaughan said after finishing sixth. "It's a very narrow race track here right now. That Turn 3 is treacherous, man. There's no grip on the entry, there's no width on the entry. It's a treacherous, treacherous place at the moment. ... "It's still Kentucky. I love it." The fight to advance into the next round began early, but it's not the only battle going on and Saturday night's race brought some of that to light. In addition to the driver's championship, there's an owners title at stake and a couple of teams didn’t forget about that. At the end of the regular season, the No. 2 team of RCR was atop the owners' standings, followed by the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing , the No. 1 of JRM with Sadler behind the wheel, and the No. 22 of Team Penske . Chevy, Toyota, Chevy and Ford. You think those folks aren't paying close attention? RCR brought in Sam Hornish Jr . to keep the No. 2 team in the hunt; Penske handed the reins to Sprint Cup driver Ryan Blaney . Sadler got the win, but a solid fifth-place run by Matt Tifft put the JGR No. 18 atop the owners' standings. JRM (No. 1) now sits second thanks to the victory while Hornish, who finished fourth, kept the RCR entry in the mix -- it's now third. Blaney did not fare badly but the way it all shook out left him third on the track and the team now fifth in the owners' battle. Dover, a fast, unforgiving mile of concrete, is up next. Some folks will be looking to rebound, some looking to continue to ride a hot start. If Kentucky was any indication, they better hope they can just hang on.
Team Penske's No. 2 team assessed P2 penalty after Michigan
The team for No. 2 Ford driver Brad Keselowski in the Sprint Cup Series was assessed a P2-level penalty after the car failed post-race inspection at Michigan International Speedway . NASCAR on Wednesday fined crew chief Paul Wolfe $15,000 and docked the team 10 championship driver points and 10 championship owner points after the No. 2 failed post-race laser inspection. The No. 2 Team Penske squad also received a written warning for failing pre-race laser inspection twice. NASCAR also gave written warnings to several other teams on Wednesday following last weekend's action at Michigan International Speedway and Road America . Twelve of the warnings were issued to Sprint Cup Series teams, while the XFINITY Series had one. The teams of drivers Regan Smith , Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell each received a written warning for failing pre-race laser inspection twice. The teams of drivers Josh Wise and McDowell received written warnings and a loss of 15 minutes of practice time after failing pre-qualifying laser inspection three times. The teams of drivers Kasey Kahne , Chase Elliott and Michael Annett received written warnings for failing pre-qualifying laser inspection twice. Trevor Bayne , Smith and Kyle Larson all received written warnings for failing pre-qualifying template inspection twice. As for the XFINITY Series, the only written warning given out was to Owen Kelly for failing pre-race laser inspection twice. Camping World Truck Series wheelman Spencer Gallagher received a behavioral penalty and was fined $5,000 for approaching the racing surface or apron during the event.
Team Penske expands XFINITY Series team
RELATED: Road to 100: All of Team Penske's Sprint Cup wins MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Coming off of their first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season last weekend at Watkins Glen International with driver Joey Logano , Team Penske today announced plans to return their XFINITY Series operation to a two-car Ford Mustang effort in 2017. The second Team Penske entry also clears the way for Ford Performance to use this entry as an extension of their new driver development program as both organizations continue to build for the future. "Our NASCAR XFINITY Series program has been one of the best in the series since we started running full-time in 2009," said team owner Roger Penske . "For several years, we ran it as a two-car operation and then decided to focus primarily on the No. 22 for the last few years. Along the way, we developed a lot of people that have moved into our Cup programs, including all of our current NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs. We want to win another XFINITY Series Championship while continuing to utilize our program to build human capital." Team Penske 's NXS program ran sparingly between 2001 and 2008, winning nine races with drivers Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch . The team began competing full-time in 2009 and earned the NXS Driver's Championship with Brad Keselowski in 2010. Since joining Ford in 2013, Team Penske has earned 29 XFINITY Series wins and has won back-to-back-to-back NXS Owners' Championships. "Obviously, we've really enjoyed our relationship with Team Penske and the success that they've brought to the Ford family in the NASCAR XFINITY Series," said Dave Pericak, Director of Ford Performance. "The addition of a second Team Penske XFINITY Series car will allow all of us to work on developing talent behind the wheel and across the board. A driver and sponsorship on the second Ford Mustang will be announced at a later date. Since its inception, Team Penske has earned 55 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins, 53 pole positions and four championships. Newman, Busch, Justin Allgaier , Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr ., Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Blaney have all visited victory lane for Team Penske in the XFINITY Series.
Team Penske : Back-to-back babies to go along with wins
RELATED: Where does 2 crew stack up midseason? Team Penske's No. 2 crew members had double the reason to celebrate Brad Keselowski 's back-to-back victories at Daytona and Kentucky in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. That's because jackman Braxton Brannon and gasman Nick Hensley both added to their families during the joyous past two weeks. Anyone who has ever been involved in the waiting process understands the stress of having a baby. The due dates were only three days apart and both guys had been on wait for the past two weeks. But the babies arrived safely on opposite ends of the Kentucky weekend and the crew members didn't miss a beat. For the Brannon family it was their first child. They welcomed a baby girl on July 7. For the Hensley family, they welcomed their second boy on July 11. "It was a tough decision to go to that race while they were still in the hospital," Brannon said. "Caroline told me to go and I think it was the right decision. Caroline is doing great now and the baby." Hensley echoed his feeling of relief. "I knew the next two races (after Sonoma) were Saturday night races, and close enough to home that Team Penske would do everything they could to get me home in a hurry if something happened," Hensley said. "I was more nervous for Braxton, this was my second child and I had stayed home from the Talladega race in 2014 for the birth of my first child, and I didn't want him to miss that special moment with his family." So three weeks ago the No. 2 crew had two wins on the season and a total of one kid between the six over-the-wall guys. Now, two weeks later, the team has two more wins and two more family members. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Did you know ...? Team Penske fast facts at win 100
Saturday night's win at Daytona International Speedway by Brad Keselowski was the 100th for Team Penske in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. The historic victory came during a season in which Team Penske is celebrating its 50-year anniversary. The journey to 100 is, of course, filled with numbers and some quirky stats. Here are some interesting tidbits, courtesy of Team Penske : • In two of Team Penske's 100 wins, the winning driver led only one lap. Both times in 2015 with Brad Keselowski at Auto Club Speedway and Joey Logano at Watkins Glen. • Fifteen of Team Penske's 100 wins have come from the pole position. • Brad Keselowski dominated at Richmond International Raceway in 2014, leading 96 percent of the laps. That is the highest percentage of laps led by a winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition for Team Penske . • Team Penske drivers have scored 12 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, the most wins at a single track for the team . Rusty Wallace leads all Team Penske drivers with seven victories at the .533-mile track. • Both Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch won their first race with Team Penske at Bristol. • The No. 2 for Team Penske has scored 64 victories. Rusty Wallace has 37, Brad Keselowski has 19 and Kurt Busch has eight. • In Team Penske's 100 victories, winning drivers led 12,295 laps en route to Victory Lane. • Rusty Wallace scored 10 victories in 1993, the most wins for a Team Penske driver in a single season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. • In 2014, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano teamed to score 11 victories, the most for Team Penske in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. • Rusty Wallace started 33rd at New Hampshire in 1993, the deepest a Team Penske driver has started and won. • Team Penske's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came in the 1973 Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway with driver Mark Donohue. • In addition to the familiar 2, 12 and 22 numbers for Team Penske , the team also fielded the No. 16 for NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1970s, with Allison scoring three of the car's four victories. • Rusty Wallace and Joey Logano are the only drivers to win three races in a row for Team Penske . Wallace accomplished this twice, in 1993 winning Bristol, North Wilkesboro and Martinsville in succession, and in 1994 winning Dover, Pocono and Michigan. Logano accomplished this in 2015 by winning at Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega in the Round of 12 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. • Forty-nine of the 100 wins came with the winning driver starting within the top five. • Team Penske has scored a Sprint Cup Series victory every year since 1991.
Keselowski: Team Penske's safety changes worked during Watkins Glen wreck
Brad Keselowski speaks to several changes Team Penske made following a 2011 testing wreck, which help Brad walk away from his No. 2 Ford following a crash during testing at Watkins Glen International on Tuesday.
Logano celebrates Team Penske's first NXS win of 2016
Joey Logano celebrates in Victory Lane after grabbing Team Penske's first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the year in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Team Penske celebrates 100th NSCS win
Roger Penske talks about the significance of reaching 100 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins.
Team Penske celebrates milestone with with Ford, Roush Yates Engines
Doug Yates and Team Penske's Walt Czarnecki speak to Joey Logano's win at Michigan International Speedway which was Roush Yates Engines 100th victory with Ford.